At first glance, Resident Evil Revelations 2 has all the makings of a cheap, water-treading sequel—the kind a long-running series typically churns out while its developers save their bigger, bolder ideas for the next numbered installment.
Everything from the unnecessary episodic release schedule—an obvious attempt to garner the same continued interest Telltale found with their own zombie game—to the shameless return of fan-favorite characters like Barry Burton indicate Revelations 2 couldn't possibly be anything special. And, in many respects, it's not. But, after 2012's Resident Evil 6, which plays out like an absurd parody of big-budget, triple-A games—with all their inherent problems—sometimes a lack of ambition can be comforting. In truth, Revelations 2 doesn't aim to be anything more than a good Resident Evil game, and though I'd love to see the series make another big jump like it did with 2005's RE4, this latest release feels like a real return to form; a righting of the Resident Evil ship that's been steadily listing these past few years.
If you played the first Revelations, you'll find the sequel follows roughly the same format: The story bounces back and forth between two parties with each digestible episode, in a way that feels very much like a serialized TV drama. Each of the four episodes features one segment with Claire Redfield (Resident Evil 2's protagonist) and Barry Burton's daughter, Moira, and one with Barry himself, and a mysterious young girl named Natalia. There's a bit more to the two different perspectives this time around, though, and one that actually figures into Revelations 2's mechanics: Since Barry and Natalia's half of the game takes place six months after Claire and Moira's, you'll end up covering a lot of the same ground, with the latter team's actions, at times, significantly affecting parts of the environment. This narrative approach helps give Revelations 2's fairly straightforward story some degree of mystery, since you're essentially playing out the first and last acts, while the events in the middle happen (mostly) offscreen.
Teaming up with a second character has been de rigeur since 2009's Resident Evil 5, but Revelations 2 approaches the idea a little more thoughtfully. Both Barry and Claire's young partners can't carry or use guns, so they're relegated to other tasks: Moira can pry open things with her crowbar, and use her flashlight to stun enemies and find hidden items, while Natalia employs her mysterious powers to detect enemies on-screen for the sake of saving ammo with stealth kills. While their roles may seem extremely limited at first, Revelations manages to stay inventive, and constantly creates new scenarios that require careful use of both characters, especially in tense situations. Natalia, for instance, can identify the weak spots on certain powerful enemies, so fighting them means switching back and forth between her and Barry while keeping both of them safe. And later, you'll have to use this same ability to spot hidden creatures that can kill Barry in a single hit—these instances definitely require a lot of coordination.
This being a Resident Evil game, Capcom feels obliged to hit certain notes, so all your favorites are back: There's yet another remake of Resident Evil 4's cabin siege scene, a crashing helicopter, a friend who turns traitor, an escape from a self-destructing base, and even a Wesker—because there always has to be a Wesker, doesn't there? Still, Revelations 2 manages to be at least somewhat reserved in its storytelling, limiting its narrative bits to chunks of dialogue that take place within the context of the game itself, rather than interrupting play via glorified cutscenes full of annoying QTE prompts. And while Revelations 2 might focus on a single location, Capcom manages to get a lot of mileage out of it. In one scene, you'll be exploring a dilapidated prison, and not soon after, you'll find yourself proceeding blindly through a dark, open forest, using your partner's psychic gift to detect the deadly enemies lying in wait. Even when Revelations 2 reuses areas, it doesn't feel cheap: In most cases, the designers cunningly use what you remember about these locations to completely screw you over on your second go. I'm sure this minor recycling was engineered with budget in mind, but every time I revisited an area with Barry and Moira, I couldn't help but be genuinely interested in seeing how much the experience would change.
All in all, Revelations 2 clocks in at about 15 hours, which makes for a perfect running time when we're talking Resident Evil; not to make RE6 the whipping boy of this review, but I remember getting to what I thought was the end of a chapter in that game so many times, only to react with "Really!?" when it just wouldn't end. Of course, like the last few Resident Evil games, Revelations 2 is built with replays in mind for the completionist set—if reaching the ends of those skill trees really means that much to you. But if you're looking for even more content, Revelations 2 has plenty: Like the last game, there's "Raid Mode," which feels like the standard Mercenaries mode with some light RPG elements grafted on—you'll upgrade weapons and skills, and unlock characters and costumes, but there's really not much more to it. And if you buy the complete, boxed version, you'll also receive two extra modes: a stealth-focused one featuring Natalia, and a strange hunting sim with Moira. Again, these extras aren't all that compelling, but they at least make for mildly interesting distractions if you've finished Revelations 2 and still want more.
I'll admit, I feel a bit strange praising Capcom for creating what amounts to a comfort food experience for Resident Evil fans; at the same, time, though, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a good time. Resident Evil Revelations isn't ambitious, though that necessarily isn't a bad thing; from my perspective, Resident Evil 6's biggest issue was too much ambition. To its credit, though, Revelations 2 is extremely dependable, a quality Resident Evil as a whole has been lacking for years now. I'm not sure if I'd be as charitable if the next Resident Evil simply reworked the Resident Evil 4/5 formula yet again, but, until then, Revelations 2 should hold you over until we find out if Capcom has learned their lesson with the inevitable Resident Evil 7.
If you've played any Resident Evil over the past ten years, you shouldn't have problems adapting to Revelations 2's demands.
The main campaign lasts a healthy 15 hours, and there's plenty more to dig into if you haven't had enough.
The sound design is classic Resident Evil, feeding players just the right amount of auditory information about the horrors around them.
They're on-par with a last-gen experience circa 2011, but still, the visuals get the job done.
Resident Evil Revelations 2 might not move the series forward, but, at the same time, it isn't at all the cheap cash-in it easily could have been. If you're a survival horror fan in need of a Resident Evil fix, Revelations 2 will definitely be fulfilling.