Information is slowly starting to leak out regarding Resident Evil Revelations 2, with a full reveal due during Tokyo Game Show. In retrospect, the return of Revelations is not all that surprising, but it is nevertheless welcome.
Though comparatively little is known about Resident Evil Revelations 2 at this point, it has a strong pedigree. Its predecessor flew in under the radar on the Nintendo 3DS in early 2012, where it quickly garnered positive notice from both the press and fans for bringing the game back to the franchise's survival roots. Capcom responded by latching on to its modest success as hard as possible, releasing ports for the PC, Wii U, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.
Ultimately, it was a pleasant surprise on the 3DS—which was still floundering somewhat at the time—because of its production values. Few expected a fully-realized Resident Evil game, but that's what they got. Comparatively speaking, it looked great, and it hit the right beats for a Resident Evil story. In some ways, it took things all the way back to the original game, only with Jill and Chris exploring the creepy cruise ship SS Queen Zenobia instead of a creepy mansion.
Admittedly, it wasn't without its faults, the biggest being that its stand-in for zombies—the ooze—was not particularly fun to fight. Bullet sponges to the last, they typically showed little to no reaction to being shot, which in turn made the combat somewhat less exciting than in previous installments. Revelations also hewed a little too close to its roots at times, recycling many familiar-looking areas from previous games and taking few risks. In that way, its main source of appeal could also be a slight liability.
The positives ultimately outweighed the negatives though, and that's likely why its getting a sequel on next-generation consoles in place of a proper numbered sequel (at least for now). Having already announced a high-definition update (or "REmake") of the original game, Capcom is clearly looking to capitalize on any source of goodwill that they can for the series in lieu of a true sequel. Given the reports of financial trouble that have surfaced over the past year or so, they'll take what they can get.
Capcom's desperation may turn out to be our gain. This is a great opportunity to build on what the first game started, refining the formula for a new generation without subtracting from its inherent charm. It's no longer exactly alone in the survival horror space—even Silent Hill(s) is making a comeback under the auspices of Guillermo Del Toro—but it will at least benefit from a built-in fanbase. What willl be interesting to see if how well it fares as a proper console release given that the ports were marginal at best. Fix the middling graphics and the awkward controls, and its superior pacing and atmosphere should carry it through.
As Mike noted in his Pre-TGS recap a couple days ago, Capcom has thus far teased Revelations 2 with a trailer showing a young girl running through a sea of a people as they slowly devolve into the walking dead. The trailer concludes with the tag "Evil is Watching" and the promise that it will be out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and previous generation systems in early 2015. If the website and a handful of leaked concept art are anything to go by, Revelations 2 will be taking place on an island (which looks a lot like Rockford Island) rather than a cruise ship this time around, but will likely feature a similarly watery aesthetic. That almost certainly means the return of the ooze as well, but I'm sort of fine with that. All Capcom really needs to do is diversify the enemy design a bit, and maybe make them a bit more reactive to gunfire as well.
Granted, even if Revelations 2 is a success, it won't solve the franchise's underlying problem, which is that it lacks vision. As Bob wrote not too long ago: "Resident Evil works best when it specializes in the art of surprise, and, unfortunately, it's offered nothing but the expected after Resident Evil 4." Resident Evil Revelations 2 very much falls in the realm of the "expected." In that, it's not much more than a stopgap until a true "savior" comes along, whatever that might be.
The original Revelations was also one of the better games in the series though, and it certainly shouldn't be discounted. As we've already seen, Resident Evil could do worse. With luck, it's the first step on the road to rehabilitation for a once proud franchise.