After the unmitigated mess known as Resident Evil 6—which contains the tedious bombast of 12 Michael Bay movies colliding with 8 Super Bowls—what Resident Evil Revelations 2 has to offer might at first feel slightly... insubstantial. But, from my perspective, that's this sequel's greatest charm.
Of course, I'm not here to pile on Resident Evil 6—I probably did too much of that in my first preview of Resident Evil Revelations 2. (And if you like RE6, more power to you!) At the risk of repeating myself, I have to say my second hands-on session with Revelations 2 further cemented the my original take: It may feel like "RE Lite"—for lack of a better term—but, at this point in time, that's exactly what we need.
In case you're not aware, Revelations 2 takes the form of a weekly, four-episode series, with the final installment launching alongside a boxed release (on March 17) that includes the entire package and a few extras. Each one of these episodes splits the action between two different parties: Claire Redfield and Moira Burton, and Barry Burton and Natalia: a mysterious young girl who's completely new to the series. In a recent preview session with the game, I wasn't entirely surprised to find that Barry and Natalia's segments play very much like Claire and Moira's: the central character blows away the undead with an arsenal of weapons, while the other, less combat-ready one assists with finding items, solving puzzles, and squeezing into places their partner can't go.
Natalia isn't just a clone of Moira, though. While her ability to find hidden items by pointing out glimmers in the distance—with her fingers instead of Moira's flashlight—remains identical, her possibly supernatural powers lend some stealth elements to Revelations 2 that work a lot better than I originally expected. Where RE6 went for some obvious borrowing of popular AAA trends (especially with its Call of Duty-envy), Revelations 2 is much more thoughtful with its borrowings. As with Dishonored, Far Cry, and other modern stealth games, Natalia can track the movements of spotted enemies, even as they move behind objects—as expected, they're depicted as a telltale silhouettes while roaming the environments.
Of course, you can still go for a more direct approach if you wish: One of the areas in my session featured a dark maze of shelves and boxes, and while I could have turned on Barry's flashlight and hunted down the enemies lurking within, I first had Natalia spot them for me so I could go for some much quieter stealth kills. And when a sneakier approach backfires, you're not completely screwed: I accidentally alerted an enemy, then fumbled my way towards a tactical retreat so I could fire as it approached. Natalia's powers are basically mandatory when dealing with some enemies, though: A particular type can only be harmed if you hit their weak points, which only Natalia can see. Dealing with these zombies requires switching between characters effectively, which makes for some delightfully intense encounters—thankfully, if you're not playing co-op, the AI does a fairly competent job of keeping your non-active character alive.
One thing that may put people off, though, is Revelations 2's reuse of content. Since the two parties' paths venture into the same environments, you'll be traveling through some specific areas more than once. Ostensibly, this design choice has to be wrapped up in budget concerns, but Revelations 2 at least tries to make its recycling seem less shameless. Like Resident Evil 2's inexplicably named "Zapping System," revisited areas change somewhat based on the actions of characters who previously traveled through them—and, to be honest, these revisitations didn't feel particularly egregious. If you're concerned about a lack of content, Revelations 2's Raid mode makes its offerings feel a little more robust. It's not particularly complex, but I really enjoyed what I sampled: Essentially, Raid mode features short enemy dungeons with a focus on speed and combos—sort of like Mercenaries from Resident Evil 4 onwards. It also incorporates some light RPG elements where you can buy skills, upgrade equipment, and unlock new characters; again, nothing too elaborate, but still a nice, arcadey bonus for when you're done with the main course.
I'm not entirely sure if Resident Evil 6 simply lowered my expectations for the series, but I've been pleasantly surprised by what I've seen of Revelations 2 so far. Admittedly, the weekly release does seem a little odd—especially when a boxed, retail version hits along with the final episode—but, on the bright side, this distribution method will give people a chance to invest a negligible amount of money before deciding if they really want the whole package. I'd definitely like to see Resident Evil completely reinvent itself, as it did with part 4 a decade ago, but until that happens, I'm perfectly fine with this lightweight-but-reliable take on the RE universe. Be sure to check out our upcoming review to find out if Revelations 2 can keep up its momentum over the course of four episodes.