“Previously on Resident Evil”, says the narrator in that familiar, hammy way to introduce us to Contemplation, the second episode in Resident Evil: Revelations 2. Starting an episode with a summary of the previous episode’s events is common practice in the world of series and seasons, but it feels a little contrived here. Barring cut-scenes at the start and end of Episode 1, I didn’t feel like enough happened in a dramatic/narrative sense to warrant a flashback. With that said, I enjoyed the first episode enough to be curious about where the next one would take me – more in a gameplay than narrative sense.
Episode 1 saw Barry and Natalia attempt to track down Claire and Moira – Barry’s daughter – at an abandoned research facility on a Russian/ex-Soviet island. The episode concluded with Natalia having some kind of psychic brainwave and telling Barry that his daughter Moira is dead, leaving us with a classic cliffhanger. Oddly, Natalia’s freakout is never referred back to in Episode 2, and her and Barry continue to interact under the apparent assumption that Moira’s alive. It’s as if Capcom – inexperienced in episodic storytelling – referred to the TV show tome of end-of-episode cliffhanger cliches to cap off Episode 1.
Whatever the case, Episode 2 kicks off with Claire and Moira (before Natalia’s declaration of her death) joining up with some TerraSave survivors at an abandoned fishing village. They’re all wearing wristbands, revealing them to be test subjects who also escaped the evil mystery woman’s research lab. Before long, said woman announces through these FitBit-style bands that all of you have been injected with T-Phobos – a virus that responds to the host’s fear by turning them into mutants. Naturally, things go awry, people transform, others die, and you’re once again fighting for your life, battling your way through a fishing village and ghost town, before arriving at the foot of an evil industrial tower.
In my review of the first episode, I complained about spending too much time as Barry and Natalia going through the same areas I’d just been through as Claire and Moira – albeit months later with different monsters. Episode 2 does a better job in this respect, by having Barry-Natalia merely weave through some of the same areas, rather than completely retread them. When I arrived in the fishing village as Barry and Natalia, I came into it from a completely different angle, and it took me a while to realise I’d been here before. Having this moment of realisation was a much more satisfying feeling than the ‘here we go again’ over-familiarity I felt when playing as Barry-Natalia in Episode 1.
While Episode 2 improves on some aspects of Episode 1, certain gameplay mechanics that I previously described as having a ‘rugged charm’ come under some strain. Playing with a controller, the increased number of enemies began feeling tiresome as the aiming reticule ponderously hovered between targets, struggling to keep up with faster ones.
Switching to a keyboard and powering on through though, I’ve begun to reap the rewards of spending skill points to fine-tune the characters to my play style; crouch-shooting for more damage, stunning enemies with the torch, and an improved ‘evade’ move are among the tricks that have helped keep the gameplay engaging.
In addition, crafted molotovs and explosive ‘sub-weapons’ have become an integral and satisfying part of my arsenal to deal with larger enemy numbers. By the time I reached Claire and Moira’s climactic boss battle against a fire-cannon-wielding fatty, I was a dab hand at torching three monsters at once.
Narratively, things only start picking up towards the end of Claire and Moira’s chapter, when a character appears that ties the two story arcs together while raising further questions about who’s pulling the strings behind the characters’ misadventures – who is the ‘nice man’ that keeps getting mentioned? These questions start getting answered at the creepy conclusion to Barry-Natalia’s segment – perhaps in a overly predictable way if you’re familiar with the series.
As far as creating unforgettable characters that we’re desperate to return to week in, week out, Rev 2 hasn’t so far capitalised on the downtime in the gameplay to build bonds between them. Claire and Moira’s story particularly suffers, as their quiet time is filled with typically teenage ‘hate my dad’ quips from Moira, while Claire spends most of her time worrying about Neil (that one-dimensional hunk in Episode 1’s opening cut-scene whose boringly good looks are seemingly the only indicator that him and Clare ‘have a thing’, and that we’re supposed to care about him). None of it really gels in their story segment, and Capcom could really learn something from the Naughty Dog book of building character relationships during gameplay – as seen in Uncharted and The Last of Us.
Claire and Moira’s boring bond is made up for somewhat by Barry and Natalia’s steadily growing relationship, as Natalia reveals some dark truths about her family life, and Barry begins pouring out his insecurities as a father.Yes, the game blatantly wants you to start perceiving the two as a surrogate father-daughter pairing, but in my desperation for some humanity to latch onto after Claire-Moira’s story, I’m gratefully lapping it up… for now.
For achievement hunters out there, there are even more medal-chasing, time-attacking modes for you when you complete Episode 2. Out of all the extra content, I’ve found myself really embracing ‘Little Miss’, Natalia’s pink-tinted nightmare world, where you need to avoid monsters using the psychic vision of your blond alter-ego, Dark Natalia. The music is straight out an 80s horror film, and its sheer dreamy weirdness and enigmatic characters are a refreshing change from the generic, rusty environs of the main game.
Episode 2 introduces some strong action set-pieces and creates more visual variety between the two story paths, fixing some of the first episode’s issues. Halfway through the game though, I still don’t feel like Claire or Moira have grown on me in any way, and are being propped up somewhat by Barry and Natalia’s steadily-evolving story.
I’m still here with Rev 2, but I need more persuasive reasons to care for its characters than the fact that they’re familiar faces from the old games, accompanied by vulnerable kids. The game needs to up the ante if it’s to avoid turning me into a monster-killing zombie, soullessly blasting my way to the conclusion on my completionist instincts alone. With its cornucopia of shiny medals, unlockables and bonus content, Revelations 2 is thus far appealing more to these instincts than it is to my more meaningful desire for good storytelling.
You can read our review of Resident Evil: Revelations Episode 1 here.
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