Available on PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC
Resident Evil Revelations 2 release date: March 20
Horror franchises are tricky beasts. The longer they last, the more likely they are to telegraph every weapon in their arsenal. Whether they exist as films, games or TV shows, established horror series have a problem in that long-time fans expect them to tick a set of boxes and expectation destroys fear; how are you supposed to be afraid of something when you know what’s coming?
This has become very big problem for the gaming industry. As their swelling audiences expect longer and bigger experiences, how are developers supposed to satisfy their demands while trying to rope in newbies?
It’s a conundrum that has resulted in once feted horror franchises losing what once made them special. A few years ago, the trend with blockbuster horror video game franchises saw developers dialling down the fear factor in favour of creating limp shooters filled with jump scares and targets that were mildly more disgusting than your average military shooter.
Resident Evil fell foul of this (although we’re also looking at you, Dead Space). Both Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6 came across like hamstrung shooter games rather than the true blue survival horror experiences that fans had come to expect from Capcom’s flagship terror IP. The less said about Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, the better.
Resident Evil: Revelations changed the series’ fortunes; originally released for the 3DS, Revelations brought fans right back to the Resident Evil’s survival horror roots. Revelations traded epic set pieces for and eerie atmosphere and on Nintendo’s handheld it absolutely ruled when played with headphones. Resident Evil once again became a terrifying experience that messed with the player’s head and wrong-footed their expectations while simultaneously rewarding fans.
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Resident Evil: Revelations 2’s narrative takes place between those of Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6 so the developers have quite a bit of leeway when it comes to the franchise’s sprawling lore. It also makes Revelations 2 a decent entry point into the series for newbies, since they don’t have to be aware of any significant plot points that have occurred up until now.
Players take on the role of Barry Burton – the father of Moira Burton, the protagonist from the first Revelations game – who has been lured to an island in search of his daughter. Upon his arrival, he comes across a young girl named Natalia who begs him to take care of her. Since he’s about to head into the island compound in search of his daughter – and he’s aware the corridors are likely to be crawling with monsters – Burton initially disagrees but Natalia bulls her way into his company and Burton sets off with her in tow.
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Natalia, it turns out, isn’t just excess baggage. She has the handy ability to ‘see’ infected through walls and ceilings, giving Burton a fix on threats up ahead of the pair of them. She can also spot items of use, such as ammunition or gems. Players can switch between Burton and Natalia using the ‘Y’ (or triangle) button and if they make Natalia crouch, it increases the distance on her supernatural radar. It also makes her quieter and harder for the infected to spot.
In way the pairing is reminiscent of that Elizabeth and Booker in BioShock Infinite; the unarmed NPC doesn’t need to be protected and is never in any imminent danger when the guns come out. Their role in the proceedings is to spot enemies and toss the alpha character ammunition – although Natalia doesn’t do this in the middle of a firefight. Natalia can be exposed to threats – there are a number of times she’ll need to fend off an approaching infected creature – but when this happens, there’s usually a weapon for the player to pick up in the form of a brick that’s just lying around.
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Resident Evil: Revelations 2’s gameplay will remind long time fans of the earliest entries in this series. Unlike Resident Evil 5 or 6, which were essentially run and gun games augmented by boss battles and the odd jump-scare, Revelations 2 is a tense, claustrophobic experience. Drawing a bead on an approaching enemy slows Burton down and headshots are at a premium in this game. Players are faced with a double-edged sword in that exploring their environment is likely to yield rewards in the form of health herbs, gems and precious ammunition, but doing so exposes them to more danger. In short, Revelations 2 is classic, old school Resident Evil.
The developers have also done an impressive job of making the environments in their game feel as oppressive and creepy as possible. The interiors of the bunkers on the island Burton and Natalia traverse are all dilapidated hellholes paved with cracked tiling and filled with cruel-looking machines, darkened corridors and makeshift implements of torture that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Nine Inch Nails video circa 1994. The outside world isn’t much more inviting; the staircases lying in pieces, barely standing shacks and burnt out vegetation that pock-mark the place make it look as though the island was hit by a bomb. And then there’s the small matter of the deadly horrors lurking out there in the dark.
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Sound plays a huge part too. Every corridor and room the player investigates resounds with metallic creaking and ghostly wind. The breeze that catches the remaining foliage outside will likely send shivers down the player’s spine and crumbling rocks can easily be mistaken for the approach of some skittering creature. The game’s sonic smorgasbord has been meticulously crafted to maintain nail-shredding tension and the atmosphere in some environments is positively crushing.
Revelations 2 will be rolled out over a series of episodes, but once players have completed the first section of the story, they have Raid mode to keep them occupied. As was the case with the first Revelations, Raid plonks players into the boots of a character in combat training. They select a skin and then head into a simulator where they’re tasked with capping as many infected as they can within a certain time limit. Along the way they can investigate chests that unlock new weapons they can equip themselves with before they tackle the next round. Raid isn’t just a rather fun way to spend your afternoon, it’s also a useful tool that teaches players the animations of the infected – making them easier to hit in the campaign mode – and the fact that double-tap shots take enemies down a lot quicker.
All told, Resident Evil: Revelations 2 looks set to be an engrossing title for any true blue survival horror fans. While it may lack the epic scale of the series’ main entries, it’s a welcome return to Resident Evil’s heyday. It’s creepy, compelling and actually quite bloody frightening. Here’s hoping the rest of its episodes follow suit…