“Previously on–” I instinctively press the Start button immediately followed by the select button as I hear the obligatory – yet unnecessary – introduction to the third episode of Resident Evil Revelations 2 – Judgement. I’m having a good time so far in the first ever episodic Resi game, but it’s thanks to the gameplay and not the story – which urgently needs to dig beyond the surface if I’m to stay interested for the second half of the game. As such, I refused to watch the “Previously on” montage as a kind of personal protest against the TV show format.
Thankfully, I can report that things do pick up – not only in the story department, but also in the gameplay which takes a chip off the old pre-Resi 4 block. While it may not revert to being a desperate horror experience, Revelations 2 introduces some entertainingly absurd puzzles that hark back to the Resi days of old, bringing a bemused and satisfied smile to my face.
Claire and Moira continue searching for Neil (a husk of a character whose blankness gets satisfyingly turned inside-out at the end of their segment). While theirs remains the weaker of the two storylines, the puzzles introduced are pure grindhouse gold.
You spend much of their segment trying to find two parts of a human liver to put into a statue of Prometheus that’s blocking a door; Moira’s nonchalance at removing a piece of liver from a dead security guard while Claire says “What’s this supposed to be? Some kind of body part?” can proudly rank among the more ridiculous bits of dialogue in the series. Ahhh, why wasn’t such eccentricity introduced sooner in Rev 2? It doesn’t end there, as you’ll also encounter puzzles involving glass eyes, shrinking spiked rooms, and mincing meat in an abattoir – all while blasting away an increased menace of monsters.
Barry and Natalia’s story, meanwhile (or several months later in the game world), finally introduces some humanity. They share a tender moment when Barry carries Natalia through grim sewer water when she hurts her leg. Even if the dialogue is a bit on the hammy side, it’s endearing, and enough to tip me firmly into caring about these characters – where before I was at most mildly invested in them. I called for more of this kind of ‘Naughty Dog’ type storytelling in the last episode and think it’s taken too long for Rev 2 to get here, but at least it’s caught my attention in time for the final chapter.
Gameplay-wise, things get frustrating in the sewers, when Barry and Natalia must wade through knee-high water which prevents them from running, dodging, and using explosive weapons. For a game that’s a bit on the sclerotic side anyway, it really didn’t need to throw in narratively justified sluggishness.
However, Rev 2 bounces right back in the final third of their chapter, which takes place beneath a rust-coloured sky outside an atmospheric abandoned mine – where the locals used to work before it was turned into something sinister by someone sinister whose name we shouldn’t mention here. There have been references to a mine – and its importance to the local economy before things went awry – scattered in letters throughout Rev 2, giving your arrival here a sense of significance.
In this area, you once again encounter an uncomplicated yet satisfying puzzle that involves restoring power to the area and using conveyor belts to get a generator to the mine’s entrance. The simple task is spiced up by the presence of a nasty boss who – like so many Resident Evil bosses – is an unsettling mashup of claws, arms, legs, and pained human faces in all the wrong places.
Episode 3 concludes with a twist where, for the first time in the game, you don’t feel like it’s desperately trying to coax a cliffhanger feeling out of you, but has you genuinely wishing you could play all the episodes in one go just so you can find out what happens next. Having evoked this feeling in me, the third chapter is the first to truly justify and utilise the episodic format of Revelations 2.
In the make-or-break chapter, Revelations 2 has made amends for previous chapters’ lack of amusingly wacky puzzles, storytelling finesse and interesting locations. It’s taken a while, but the third chapter is really rather good, and has my attention for the conclusion. In fact, I enjoyed Episode 3 enough that for the final chapter I might even lift my boycott of the ‘Previously On’ prologue and allow myself to enjoy it.
Tune in for the review of the concluding episode of Resident Evil Revelations 2 next week.
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