Resident Evil: Revelations 2 Episode One is the 22nd entry into the Resident Evil franchise, the sequel to the Revelations side story and the first of four episodes. Confused? If so, just know that Episode One is a fantastic start to the Revelations 2 series and one of the best uses of Resident Evil in the past decade. Whether you’re a jaded fan or just looking for a horror themed action game, this first episode is an excellent way to spend a few hours.
After decades of global biological terrorism, an international humanitarian organization called TerraSave is formed to combat the now all-too-common problem of monstrous mutations. When a formal event is interrupted by a heavily armed SWAT, a number of high profile TerraSave employees are arrested without explanation. Survivors awake to find themselves in a decrepit prison haunted by the effects of twisted experiments. Murderous inmates endlessly shamble in search of the living, all to the delight of the sadistic Overseer.
Episode One’s story works because it’s willing to embrace and acknowledge the lunatic nature of the series while delivering genuine scares. Series references serve as both biting commentary and a loving celebration that longtime fans are sure to appreciate. Characters often tell stories of their past or joke to relieve tension and the results are endearing. Readable diary entries compliment the dreary jail cells and their disturbed inhabitants. This episode juggles the franchise’s terrifying roots with a personable and humorous approach. It’s a risky move that more than pays off due in large part to the voice actors' performances.
Revelations 2 is equal parts new and old. Fan favorites Claire Redfield and Barry Burton are paired with newcomers Moria Burton, Barry’s daughter and Natalia, a mysterious child with supernatural abilities. Both Claire and Barry serve as the muscle of the team, utilizing handguns, shotguns and automatic rifles as well as specialty weapons such as molotov cocktails. Ammo is plentiful but not powerful, and paired with the stiff aiming, the combat provides the right amount of tension for players attempting to fend off the bloodthirsty hordes. If they ever do get too close for comfort, a dodge will quickly move you away from danger. It’s a satisfying and smart way to balance the third-person controls while maintaining stress.
Due to a bad experience, Moria refuses to use a firearm and instead uses a crowbar for melee attacks (as well as for breaking locks). But her real power comes from her flashlight. After shining it directly into a creature's eyes, enemies become temporarily vulnerable to being knocked down and finished off. Natalia, on the other hand, serves as a look-out with her ability to view enemies behind walls and identify weak points. The small girl can also attack monsters with bricks, though the results are understandably ineffective. Both Moria and Natalia are also able to spot hidden items and pick locks. Natalia is the weak link of the bunch, limited to simply pointing towards danger. This does more to remove scares than it does to enhance gameplay. But the support class does, for the most part, enhance the threats surrounding the cast while introducing new ideas to the series.
One of the most unique elements of Revelations 2 is its co-op based gameplay. Players are able to swap between two characters at anytime by simply tapping a button, with the remaining character becoming computer controlled. Thankfully, the AI is excellent. It knows when to stay out of the way and contribute to fights. Knock an enemy on the ground? Your partner is already there with a finishing attack. Weaving through a dangerous environment? Don’t worry about Natalia, she’ll join up when the timing is right. Of course you could always play with another player locally (Online will be available later this month), but the partner behavior makes this well-suited as a single player game.
Items can also be exchanged quickly in the game’s brilliant inventory system. With the press of a few buttons, inventories can be combined, switched and used. Players are also able to enhance their weapons at workbenches, providing firearms with faster reloads and more powerful shots. Gained abilities carry over to new playthroughs, giving Revelations 2 a surprising amount of replay-ability for an episodic title.
Lastly, there’s Raid, a survival mode that removes the second playable character. Players are tasked with defeating a select number of opponents before exiting increasingly challenging stages. Experience comes in the form of currency that can be exchanged for powerful weapons, ammo and enhancement perks. There are already a sizable amount of stages, some of which heavily resemble environments from the series past, but Revelations 2 goes a step above with daily challenges. Raid highlights the excellent combat and is reason alone to playEpisode One.
If there is one underwhelming aspect of Episode One, it’s the performance. The graphics are mostly up to the current gen standard when the frame-rate meets its 60-frames-per-second goal, but during nighttime scenes the frame rate fluctuates drastically. It distracts from the atmosphere and hurts the precision-based shooting. Environments can occasionally come off as flat and characters as undetailed. Some of these issues may be resolved in future updates but as it stands they take away from Episode One’s otherwise great execution.
Episode One is the beginning of a new kind of episodic game. Tight controls, smart AI and one of the best inventory systems in recent memory make for a deep and engaging gameplay experience. The interesting characters and sharp dialogue add an anchor to an otherwise insane story. But it’s the focus on replay-ability that makes Episode One stand out. If the rest of the episodes maintain this level of quality, Revelations 2 will become one of the best entries in this acclaimed series. If not, the content of this episode alone is an easy recommendation for fans of horror and action.