Resident Evil Revelations 2
Resident Evil Revelations 2 was a wonderful surprise to me. I mean I expected it to be good since I liked Revelations 1. But this was still better than I dared hope. This was apparently a lower budget game, as it isn’t sold at full price. But there isn’t much evidence of cheapness in the final product.
Compared to the main Resident Evil games, Revelations 2 feels a bit crude and rough around the edges. The quality of the visuals is somewhere between Resident Evil 4 and 5, achieving a style that feels oldschool, but also ageless. It gets the basics right of how you’re supposed to stage and light a scene for the intended effect, with the least amount of technical brute force. There are a ton of locations, and loads of different enemies. It doesn’t feel compromised.
The game feels like a greatest hits of features from Resident Evil 4, 5 and 6. Movement feels similar to those games, but now with the addition of being able to dodge in any direction. All the enemies are designed with this in mind, as even the most basic enemies can run and jump at you. The system felt great when I started to get into the habit of spamming the dodge button as soon as I saw enemies winding up their attack animations.
The whole game is designed around co-op, but I played it in singleplayer, and that works just fine. Switching characters is done with a quick and satisfying zooming animation, and the game seems to give your AI partner more health when you’re not controlling them. They were never a nuisance, and I felt like I could just relax and let them do whatever they wanted while I fought off attackers myself.
Enemy design is superb, working both as a greatest hits of the series, but also bringing many inventive new creatures to the table. Most importantly, the difficulty balance feels just as good as it was in Resident Evil 4 and 5. You often get out of big battles with only a single bullet left in your inventory. This is done intentionally, so you’re never screwed over by the game, as it knows to give you a break after giving you a hard time. It’s superbly paced, never doing too much of anything before changing things up, clearly having learned from the best of the series past. It shows restraint, not overdoing anything. For example, there’s maybe only two jump scares in the entire game, and loads and loads of sections where you expect jump scares, but nothing happens.
The most wonderful thing in Revelations 2 is the quality of the writing. It’s unapologetically Resident Evil. Head writer on this game was Dai Sato, who has one hell of a track record, having written some of the best episodes of shows like Space Dandy, Ergo Proxy, Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex and Eureka Seven. He was also head writer on Revelations 1, and it feels like him and the rest of the Revelations 1 & 2 development team work together beautifully. This isn’t some literary masterpiece, as it’s still just as hokey as you’d expect from a Resident Evil game. There’s hilariously evil villains conducting bio weapons research, murdering loads of people without conscience. So this isn’t trying to reinvent Resident Evil in any way, and isn’t going for a new audience or anything like that. This is still the same wonderful ridiculous Resident Evil, but written with something resembling a heart, with a love for what the series is.
What makes this so good is how it treats all other Resident Evil games as canon, but with a level of self awareness that the series hasn’t had before. It embraces the camp, showing clear love for it, and still poking fun at it. For example Barry Burton is a playable character for the first time in the series. He famously had the greatest lines in history in the first game, about Jill being the master of unlocking, and the Jill sandwich line. In Revelations 2 he’s older, a father out to save his daughter who went missing on a mysterious island. Other characters talk behind his back about how he keeps going on about the glory days of when he and Jill went on adventures in the RE 1 mansion, and he keeps making the same shitty jokes just as he did in that game. And sure enough, when you play as him in Revelations 2, he drops several weapons grade puns. But there’s more to him than that, and it’s the same for all the main characters. At first when I saw that it was a co-op game I thought “eww, but I want to play alone!”. But thanks to the writing, I was happy to always have another character there, because the quality of the banter elevates the game.
You might want to sit down for this next bit: The characters have wants and needs outside of the events occurring in the game, and go through arcs where they learn and change as people by the end of the game. I know, that sounds like the bare minimum of what you’d expect in a story, and yet that is still quite remarkable to see in a game. It’s fairly easy to predict what’s going to happen next in the story as you’re playing. But the journey to get there was more exciting than I expected. Just as it sets out to actually fulfill the bare minimum of what a good story is like, it also executes it on the level of quality that you should expect, where character moments feel earned, and you actually empathize with them. This is again something that is depressingly rare, not just in games, but in your average action film as well. We should expect stories to at least be this good. But they aren’t, which made this stand out to me. They actually gave a shit, and had people who know how to tell a story be allowed to put it into the game in a way where it works effectively. What a concept.
The game isn’t even close to perfect, as there are a couple areas that feel like filler, and on a couple occasions the story conveniently bails out of scenes prematurely just so they can extend the length of the game a bit. But even with all those flaws, I loved this game. For long stretches of the game I was smiling, and whenever the game tried to be tense and spooky, I was feeling tense and spooked! Everything about it from the title to the tone feels silly and stupid. But it’s the best kind of silly and stupid, done in a completely earnest way, by people who took the project seriously, and didn’t hold anything back because they looked down on the game, the series, or the audience. If you liked Resident Evil 1, 2, 3, Code Vernonica, 4, 5 or Revelations 1, you will most likely have a wonderful time here. It’s everything I like about Resident Evil, without the dreary and slightly desperate tone of Resident Evil 6. Just like Revelations 1, the first 30-60 minutes of the game aren’t the greatest. For a moment there I thought “oh no, have they made another bad RE game?” But then Barry Burton was introduced, and I started loving it.