Resident Evil Revelations 2
brings together a couple of Resident Evil
favorite characters Barry and Claire Redfield (Chris Redfield’s sister). The game begins with a rather tongue-in-cheek ad for Terra Save, a kind of Peace Corps style group that was developed to help victims of bioterror incidents. And in the Resident Evil
world, there’s a whole lot of that going on. Claire’s campaign starts with a kidnapping that occurs during one of Terra Save’s banquet events, while Barry’s starts with a search for his missing daughter. The two campaigns have them both exploring a mysterious island and a (yes, yet another!) new virus. As you weave in and out of the past and present in both campaigns, you discover Alex Wesker, a "new" villain who is related to Albert Wesker.
The particular flavor of virus in this game is one that seems to respond to the recipient’s fear. Many of the characters trapped on the island wear a bracelet that measures their fear level. Too much fear, and the virus takes over, mutating its host into a monster. While you’d think this would be a core game mechanic, it oddly seems to remain mostly in the background of the game except for key plot points.
The main RE games have been pulling monsters and environments here and there from the previous history of RE games. Revelations is no exception. Set between the events of RE5 and RE6, you’ll find a mix of elements from both games. You’ll find a blend of enemies such as the shuffling, rather slow zombies that go all the way back to the original and there are also the glob-like Uroboros enemies from RE5. Then, of course, there are a variety of settings that could have come from almost any of the games like rusted old factories, mysterious shanty towns on an island, and deserted parks and playgrounds. RE Revelations 2 sets itself apart, however, with the cold war era Russian vibe of many of its backdrops.
The writing needs to be mentioned again, because it’s particularly good for a game, let alone a RE game. You might go in expecting the B-movie, slightly cheesy, but fun and quotable dialogue from other RE games. All that stuff is still there, it’s just much more natural than previous games. There are several conversations that just feel like you’re sitting at a table next to two real people who are just getting things off their chest. The conversation between Barry and Natalia where he discusses how the rift between him and his estranged daughter formed comes to mind. A rare (and brief) moment where Claire talks about her brother is also a good example. And then the puns and one liners will come in full force in the next scene, bringing you back to the classic humor of the game. It’s that kind of attention to detail and variety that make Revelations 2 fun to play and even fun to watch.
You’d be forgiven if you have questions even after completing the 4 main and 2 bonus episodes of the game. Why did that character just commit suicide? Wait, Natalia is who? What the heck was this island for again? The thing is, there are still a lot of secret documents you’ll likely need to go back to find in order to completely fill out the story of this game. That’s not to say its not enjoyable on its first playthrough, but to fully get your head around what is happening, a second playthrough is likely in order.
You can’t mention this game without mentioning its connection to the works of Kafka. At least two Franz Kafka novels are referenced in the game either through quotes during load times or by text in the game’s documents: "In the Penal Colony" and "The Metamorphosis." Adequately analyzing this game’s relation to Kafka’s literature would take much more space than this review allows. The game may only be referencing the novels on a surface deep level, but if you try to take things further, there are some really intriguing themes here. Kafka’s work is known for (among other things) existentialism, unease, and a waking dream quality. Resident Evil Revelations 2 has all of those themes, especially when we get to the endings of the two timelines. Any game that makes you want to go back and read classic literature can’t be all that bad.
The game has several modes of play, but the main two are the Campaign and Raid Mode. Campaign is your story mode, but you can buy modifications that will allow you to go back and play in different ways. For example, one modification will allow you to play through the campaign again in a Time Attack Mode. You can earn more time by defeating enemies and destroying hourglasses (reminiscent of some modes of Mercenaries in RE5). Raid Mode is a set of challenges that force you to clear each stage in different ways as well. The main difference here is that you can find and improve a number of weapons, level your characters, and go online to play this mode in online Co-op mode. At the time of this review, online features were not enabled for the Xbox One, however, so I was unable to review them.
This leads to talking about one of the best things about this RE game: the co-op play. The best kinds of co-op are the ones where you can just barely survive on your own, but you thrive with each other. That’s what RE Revelations 2 serves up. When you use your complementary abilities together, you feel like you’re absolutely owning the world. Natalia is a perfect example of this. If you’re a good Natalia player, you can alert Barry, set up stealth kills for him, highlight weak points, and use bricks to help clean up enemies when things get rough. There are even invisible enemies that only Natalia can see, requiring a whole lot of teamwork to take down. Likewise, if you’re a good Moira and Claire team, you can stun enemies with Moira’s flashlight and then follow up between the two players to take them down. You can get through much of the game not wasting a single round this way. The downside to all this awesome co-op with your human friends (it is split screen couch co-op), is that you will be utterly spoiled for the CPU's lackluster performance as a support or main character. You'll find yourself switching between characters quite often to make the most of their abilities, which can be tedious.