I hate Resident Evil: Revelations 2. I hate that it has to be a spinoff to return to survival horror. I hate the blatant false advertising on Capcom’s part in regards to the PC version and that it took a PC modder less than a couple hours to fix what a team of developers allegedly couldn’t do in months. I hate the microtransactions, the crappy business decisions, what the game stands for, and what its existence means for the future of the franchise and very likely survival horror in general.

But what I hate the most is that, despite all that, Revelations 2 is still shaping up to be the best entry since Resident Evil 4.

Dialogue Doesn’t Suck, Not Even Ironically

I’ve never seen a single Resident Evil game that didn’t have atrociously bad dialogue. Well, perhaps Resident Evil 4 (and Jake and Sherry from Resident Evil 6) was bearable but even then it was full of weird conversations between weirder characters in an even weirder setting and context. But back in 2012, the game’s dialogue took an even bigger dip with the (surprisingly good) Resident Evil: Revelations 1. Between a story that was so random and convoluted that nothing at all that happened through the course of the story had any impact on anything (or revealed anything; how’s that for false advertising?) thanks to a single cutscene at the end of the game, and dialogue that had so much stating the obvious and forced drama amidst the absurdity of it all, it was difficult to tell if this was a throwback to the yonder days of “Jill Sandwich” or if this was just... you know, bad.

So how a direct sequel to all that managed to surpass all that and manage to poke fun at itself consciously surprises me to no end. All the dialogue between Moira and Claire felt natural, even if for the most part Moira’s secrecy regarding her personal problems (she’s got a lot of them, it’s obvious in the opening cutscene) are handled in a way that it seems like they’re artificially elongating her character development. Regardless, the dialogue was never cringeworthy, and even when it was supposed to be, it was meant so ironically, and clearly at that, without ever breaking the fourth wall. That’s impressive, whether you like it or not.

Combat is Totally Survival Horror

After Resident Evil 6, Revelation 2’s combat is a noticable downgrade, and that’s actually a good thing. Character movements are rigid, and not a lot of options are given to the player in terms of evading and fighting. Whereas the latest main Resident Evil had everything from sliding and shooting, doing flips and melees like Neo, Revelations 2 once again puts you in the shoes of a survivor using what they have at their disposal. Bullets are excruciatingly scarce, and in Claire’s campaign I ran out of all my ammo really fast, really early, forcing me to co-operate with Moira’s blinding flashlight shining skills. Taking down a single foe under those circumstances could take up to thirty seconds, and if the fact that the levels are claustrophobic isn’t enough to make this difficult, they also move fast and literally throw themselves at you. Everything about this game’s combat is what I loved about Resident Evil since it was conceived all the way through to 4: combat that uses your brain and reflexes moreso than your brawn and bullets.

There were a number of times throughout the main campaign where fighting monsters just wouldn’t cut it. Sometimes I had to evade, sometimes I had to take a more sneaky approach, and sometimes I had to use the environment to my advantage, but I always, always, had to manage my inventory to keep ahead of the game.

The Co-Op Actually Has Purpose

I always thought to myself that in previous games, co-op should have just been optional. Heck, Dead Space 3 did it. Though it wasn’t scary, it was for reasons other than multiplayer implementation. How many times have you thought in Resident Evils 5 and 6 “wouldn’t it be great if I could just make my co-op partner invisible?” I’d love to go Rambo in those games. Heck, barring the co-op mechanics, they felt like they were almost designed around that.

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But Revelations 2 takes a neat approach in asymmetrical co-op which, rather than have two characters simultaneously open fire on the same enemy, only one of them is geared for combat. Yet, the other is integral for the success of the main player.

This comes across as very obvious in Claire’s story. As she constantly lacks ammo, she needs to avoid firing her guns as much as she can, but using melee attacks against these monsters is suicide. They never react except to a bullet to the face, meaning that they can just walk through your knife and never lose their stride, backhanding you for thinking that was a good idea. Moira, then, has to follow up with her own crowbar attacks, as well as distracting and melting the faces of interrupting their vision with her flashlight, causing hordes to slow down as well as leave them vulnerable to strong melee attacks. It makes co-op or a second character actually matter, and provides a unique experience that no other survival horror seems to have.

Though I still wish I could go solo and Rambo.

It’s Tense, But Not Necessarily Scary

Revelations 2 always kept me on my toes, and always had me be careful. A number of times it surprised me, sometimes even impressed me, and there were even times when I felt a slight chill at the story presentation.

But it just wasn’t scary.

In retrospect, the only Resident Evil I ever found scary was the fourth one, which often puts me in a situation where everybody starts throwing stones at me, but something about the later Resident Evils just don’t surprise me the way they used to anymore. Even though we’re not dealing with zombies or mutants this time around, there’s a lot of “been there, done that” and not a lot of consequences if you manage to get a game over. Heck, nearly all the monsters in this game are just reskins of monsters from previous games, and they don’t even have a unique skill to set them apart this time around. “Zombie” type monsters have just become too predictable, and the fact that they all have very simple AI in this new generation doesn’t help one bit.

Raid Mode

Raid Mode is back, bigger than ever, with a lot more going on in it than in past entries. There are more enemies, guns, upgrades, skills, and even a new progression system, and it plays exactly as it always did. You can play online (at launch) and offline with a friend, or tackle things yourself, and you can loot for better weapons and grind for experience to your heart’s content. Heck, it even includes some levels from Resident Evil 6. I mean, how cool is that?

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However, in addition to improvements like new enemy types and mutations, it still has the same problem which plagued the old one: “MMO syndrome.”

You see, the problem with the first Raid Mode is that, once you’ve reached the max level, there’s nothing left for you to do. Playing earlier levels will not yield any good loot as opposed to playing the last level over and over again for better gear, and while you can always level down to challenge yourself on earlier stages, there’s no way to level up enemies for more challenge. Eventually, Raid Mode just ends, and you never get the satisfaction you get when you finally finish a story with a great conclusion, but instead you just realize there’s nothing left but an empty husk of an RPG and move on. The replay value is very, very small for a mode based around shooting and looting, and I can’t really recommend buying the game for this mode only. I would have much preferred a mercenaries / survival mode, instead.

Natalia

If the co-op had one short-coming, it’s that it just isn’t fun to play as Natalia. At all. In fact, her presence in the core gameplay just seems to strip the horror right out of the survival horror, as she is able to see enemies through walls, albeit vaguely (which does lend to stealth gameplay for Barry). Her only method of defense is picking up shoddy bricks and throwing them, which do nothing but stun the enemy. Admittedly, it’s terrifying when Natalia is alone and you have to lead her without Barry protecting her. On the other hand, they’re almost never separated for more than five minutes, rendering that almost redundant. Moira had a good hand in the overall combat while fighing alongside Claire, but Natalia is just there. Though there is one enemy type she’s particularly useful against, it’s only fun using her when playing alone, not with a friend, and given that I don’t imagine there being more enemy types that suit her particular skills, Natalia is probably going to be reduced to a chore.

Microtransactions

Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?

I mean, what possible reason could you possibly think that microtransactions in a paid game are ever a good idea? Call me a geezer for thinking of “the good old days,” but where do you honestly see microtransactions playing a hand in survival horror? Doesn’t it just render the whole thing pointless?

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Granted, there are two “good” (I say that with an absolutely livid tone in my voice, followed by a shudder) things I can say about the microtransactions: the first is that they’re not in the main game, but rather in the bonus Raid mode. The second is that they’re, by and large, almost totally useless (minus the storage space, which just seems ridiculous to charge for). The guns you can buy currently are probably useless, as you can get totally sufficient weapons from just playing without grinding, and the life crystals you can purchase can be received from daily missions, which still probably takes longer than just buying them, but you hardly ever need them.

But with that being said, this doesn’t bode well. The fact that microtransactions are here to begin with is a disconcerting concept in a survival horror. I find it difficult to imagine that they would not be included in the next Resident Evil’s main campaign mode, given that it seems to have been “successfully implemented” (people are still buying the game despite it). It may sound like a conspiracy theory to assume that pretty soon, we’ll have microtransactions littering every nook and cranny of our survival horror games, but you have to understand that this isn’t a conspiracy, it’s business. Businesses do what they can to make money. And given that this is making them money, there’s nothing stopping them from trying to make more.

Performance Issues, Even On Console

Playing on the PS3, I found that there are multiple times throughout the game where the character models begin to freak out, and framerate drops to absolute zero. Why this happens to be the case, I have no idea, given that it runs on an old engine that seemed to work fine for its past games, and the visuals are hardly an improvement, between the film grain used to cover up the blemishes (and only making the whole game look like one massive blemish to begin with) and the texture work on some outdoor items stretching everywhere. While the game is still totally playable on console, I have no idea why it isn’t as stable as it should be.

No Online Co-op in Campaign

But it exists in Raid mode. I really have no clue why this was removed.

Revelations 2 hits all the right notes in the main campaign for what makes a Resident Evil game, even if it puts new things into the mix. Between actual survival horror gameplay and a unique co-op mode, it straddles a line between new and old, and while it does so with hiccups, the first episode in Revelations 2 holds its head up high as an actual entry in the series while also poking fun at itself at times. It’s a shame there’s a gem buried underneath the dirt that is strange business decisions, false advertising, and the foul taste of microtransactions.