Resident Evil Revelations 2: Episode 1 (XBOX One) Review

Capcom—crazy Monster Hunter mania aside—hasn’t been doing too well in recent years. The company that formally made a living re-inventing the fighting wheel over and over has managed to plow their beloved Resident Evil series into the ground with back-to-back terrible sequels. It’s somewhat ironic that the best game in the series since RE4 appeared on the 3DS.

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Resident Evil Revelations was a slick and tense game that worked well overall, even if it didn’t attempt to break the mold. It’s no surprise Capcom ported it to other platforms in hopes of cashing in on its portable success. For the sequel, however, they’ve decided to think surprisingly out of the box—in terms of the release method anyway.

It’s important to note straight away that Revelations 2 is, so far, exactly everything anyone expects from these games. It’s not innovative, it doesn’t look great, the dialogue is still terrible, the pacing is uneven, and there’s a hefty use of herbs for healing. On the other hand, the era of awful tank controls seems finally over, and Revelations 2 controls more in line with a reasonable third-person game.

This is unmistakably a Resident Evil game right from the start. All the same familiar graphics and sounds are here. The pacing starts out slow, but moves more into gun-heavy game play by the last half. The graphics of the series have barely improved at all over the years, but get the job done. The controls are still clunky, even if the tank is gone, and it’s doubtful anyone will find anything actually scary here, though a few passages were tense.

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The first Revelations worked so well because most of the game took place on a ship, which made it easy to create a palpable feeling of isolation and claustrophobia. For the sequel, they’ve started off in a rather clichéd manner, with long-running favorite, Claire Redfield, and a younger lead, Moira Burton, trapped in a dank and grimy prison.

The object is pretty straightforward—escape the prison. It’s full of mutant freaks, limited ammo, and an overly dramatic villainous voice to laugh at them at various points. Once the ladies reach a certain point in the story, the narrative shifts to Moira’s dad—Barry Burton. Assault rifle-carrying Burton arrives on the prison island to locate his estranged daughter and immediately discovers, in a shocking twist of originality (*cough*), a young, creepy, dark-haired girl name Natalia with strange psychic abilities.

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So, the story isn’t really much to go on about and the game itself keeps pushing Capcom’s obsession in making Resident Evil a cooperative game. This seems to especially be the case given how awful the secondary character AI is. In combat, whichever character you’re not playing is nearly useless. It’s actually possible to use the in-game currency to at least enable the gun-toting AI-controlled characters to use firearms. It still doesn’t help much though.

Moira outright refuses to use a gun and instead opts for a crow bar, which is conveniently necessary for prying things open. She also has a flashlight that can shine on hidden things. Natalia, being a kid, can stealthily use a brick at times, but mostly has a second sight that spots enemies through walls and, again, find hidden things. Also, she points at stuff, a lot.

Finding hidden shiny things seems to be a theme in the survival horror here, which just seems a bit odd. This episode’s locations include the prison of course, a confusing night time maze through the woods, and some surrounding shoddy buildings. Yet, as easy as it is to make fun of the many clichés and old-school trappings Revelations 2 revels in, it’s hard to suggest you won’t get your money’s worth.

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For a paltry $6, Penal Colony includes about two hours of single player story and a horde of zombie-filled hours in the numerous Raid levels, complete with multiple characters to build and upgrade. The Raid mode is a VR-mission structure where players plow through small levels just killing a specific number of zombies. Add in the co-op multiplayer and, well, just the first episode of Revelations 2 offers more play value than some recently released full-priced AAA games. The entire game will only be $25, so while it might not be anything close to innovative, gorgeous, or amazing, there’s enough solidly familiar game play here to make zombie-killing fans happy.