Resident Evil Revelations 2 Preview

Our games editor got hands-on time with Resident Evil Revelations 2 at NYCC 14. Here are his thoughts on the upcoming game!

Editor’s Note: This preview is based on a 10-minute hands-on demo of Resident Evil Revelations 2. We did NOT play the final version of the game.

You slowly creep down a tight hallway with doors on either side. The doors seem locked, but as you make your way through the passageway, one of the doors blows open behind you and out comes a zombie hungry for flesh. You struggle to get the zombie off you, as it goes for your throat with its decaying teeth. The only way you finally put the zombie down for good is by pumping it full of bullets, a few in the head for good measure. 

The above paragraph could easily describe a moment in 1996’s Resident Evil, but it’s also a scene right out of Revelations 2 that gave me the willies. The latter game’s prison setting is a perfect place to emulate the tension and scares of the classics. After years of trying the on-rails version of the stories and the action movie installments, Revelations 2 is a most welcome return to the horror roots of the genre, even if it still keeps some of the bad habits from recent installments. 

I’m always giddy about new Resident Evil games, especially when they take us back to the golden age of the PlayStation. My biggest problem with recent installments is that they stray too far from the original concept: scaring the crap out of people.

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2012 was a strange year for Resident Evil fans. What seemed like a godsend at first, turned out to be twelve months of botched games for the most part. Operation Raccoon City, a third-person multiplayer shooter that retold the story of Resident Evil 2, might as well have thrown itself into a pit full of zombie. And while Resident Evil 6 has some noble moments (maybe I’m being kind), it became clear to fans that the days of dark, tense, and scary were over for the survival horror series. 

Only Resident Evil: Revelations withstood the onslaught. A game that was peculiarly released for the 3DS ended up capturing exactly what fans wanted from the series, what they’d been asking for in the aftermath of Resident Evil 5 (Black Hawk Down with zombies). It was cited as a return to form for the series. This side project put you back in the dark hallways you’d spent your childhood running through in order to escape the zombie horde. Wait, what horde?

While Resident Evil 6 had you killing the horde like a ripped action hero with lots of guns and explosives, Revelations was all about putting the emphasis back on the monsters. Less is more when it comes to survival horror. The more zombies you throw at someone at a time, things start to get cartoony, and all of a sudden you’re an action-adventure series. 

At first playthrough (the demo was about 15 minutes), Revelations 2 seems to hold true to the rules of its predecessor. This isn’t the action-packed zombie killer you might be worried about. The emphasis is on exploration, finding equipment to keep you alive, and puzzle-solving. The demo showed off all of these elements, plus a little bit of the combat — which is where my qualms with the game really lie.

I don’t know what it is about Resident Evil that always makes the combat feel so static, like I’m playing through the game with marionette I haven’t yet learned how to work. But even the puppet’s joints are too loose to describe character movement in this series. Sure, you can run-and-gun these days, but running past enemies, trying to wrangle them up, or using the new dodging mechanic gives the combat a lack of fluidity. Is Claire’s back broken? She can “dodge,” but can she REALLY dodge enemy attacks? It just doesn’t seem that way. The dodge is way too slow and doesn’t always respond in the right direction. You have a better chance if you stay on the other side of the room and shoot at the monsters from afar. I wouldn’t complain about this except that Capcom confines you to small spaces most of the time, and the addition of the dodge mechanic also says to me that they really want you get into enemies’ faces.

There was one big combat set piece in a large room, followed by three smaller moments, including the scene I described at the beginning of this piece. The bigger set piece has you climbing down into this wide-open space, where you find a gun and a set of keys you need to progress to the next area. In true genre fashion, nothing is that easy. As soon as you pick up the keys, you’re attacked by three monsters — two grunts and one berserker (not their actual names, but this seems like the best way to describe the gruesome, spiky, flesh things that try to bite your throat out). You have to dodge the enemies, find more ammo for your hand gun, and take them out one by one. 

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The best way to take out one enemy is to stab and dodge. When faced with several enemies, take a step back, get a headshot, and then run and kick them in the face while they’re blind. After you get the hang of it, things are mostly okay on the combat end. Still, they could be more dynamic.

The rest of the demo takes place in long hallways or small, cramped rooms. There’s one brilliant moment where you’re trying to make your way through this little room with a bunch of stuff hanging from the ceiling, when suddenly the monsters attack. It’s easy to lose track of enemies when there are hanging objects in your way, so you have to pretty much deal with the environment in order to take down the threat.

The environment is where Resident Evil: Revelations 2 truly shines. Your surroundings feel like a whole other threat on top of the bloody flesh monsters. The prison never seems to be in your favor, forcing you into the least favorable positions. You need ammo/herbs in order to take down a monster? The monster is blocking the way into the only little room that has supplies. Once you get in, the monster is already on top of you, pushing you into a wall in order to deliver a killing a blow. I’m pretty sure an invincibility perk was on during the demo or else I would’ve absolutely died in the supply room. In that same manner, you’re forced into that long hallway full of doors (or cells, in this case), where enemies pop out at you. Cramped rooms don’t make for ideal places to wrestle down monsters. Level design is in good shape, indeed.

There’s not much to say about the characters or story based on this demo. There just wasn’t enough in the 10 minutes to get a sense of what was happening. It’s great to play as Claire Redfield again. I loved her in Code: Veronica, which coincidentally (?) also takes place in part in a prison (and the Code: Veronica nods seem to go on and on), and I’m looking forward to seeing what she’s been up to for the past few years while her buff brother took all the spotlight.

As for Moira, she’s the daughter of Resident Evil‘s Barry Burton, and that’s about it. She has an aversion to guns, which is subtly hinted at when Claire is trying to find her a weapon, but we don’t really get any reasons. I’m guessing it has something to do with her dad…

You can switch between both characters at will. Claire is the muscle and Moira uses her flashlight and crowbar for exploration. Fairly simple way to make each playable character distinct. You bet your butt these characters are going to get separated at some point. Poor Moira speed walking through hallways before any monsters get her sounds like a scary, good time. 

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All that I picked up from the demo in terms of story was that Claire and Moira were put in the prison by a villain who has eyes on them at all times. Claire and Moira wear these bracelets that respond to fear. I’m guessing the more scared you get, the scarier the situation becomes? Not sure. Couldn’t tell you. But the concept seems interesting.  

Overall, the game looks promising, and definitely a step up from the more action-oriented installments. Running at 60 fps, Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is the smoothest-looking game in the series. The stiffness in combat is still there (should we just forgive Capcom for this, and start calling it a franchise staple), but the level design keeps the set pieces interesting. The story looks intriguing, and I can’t wait to unravel its mysteries.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 arrives in early 2015 for Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

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