Why Can Capcom Do What Telltale Can’t?

Why Can Capcom Do What Telltale Can’t?

A funny thing happened over the last few weeks. Capcom, a company known for making full size, retail games, tried their hand at making an episodic game. Surprisingly, they promised the game would be released on a weekly basis. Even more surprisingly, despite this being their first venture into the world of episodic gaming, they did something that neither Telltale or even Valve has managed; they stuck to their schedule and released every single episode on time, as promised. Obviously arguments can be held about the overall quality of the series, but the one thing that can’t be denied is that from a “promise to the customer perspective,” Capcom has had an amazing debut.

Resident Evil Revelations 2
Resident Evil Revelations 2

One thing that isn’t a mystery here is how Capcom has actually managed to achieve this miracle of release scheduling. Considering the fact that the entire Resident Evil Revelations 2 series was put out every single week, there’s only one logical conclusion; the entire game was done before they even released the first episode. If a product is complete, bug tested, submitted and approved by the publisher, then it’s a simple matter to set the calendar, upload each episode to the online marketplace server, and just sit back waiting for the respective online vendor to “flip the switch” and make each episode available as the weeks pass.

So the real mystery here is, “Why don’t more studios do this?”

Game Of Thrones
Game Of Thrones

Valve is obviously the most famous case of a game studio NOT doing this. They mangled the notion of an episodic game series so badly that to this day, Half-Life 2 Episode 3 is still waiting in the wings, despite the fact that Episode 2 came out in 2007. Telltale, while not delaying games to anywhere near that degree, has had a lot of trouble sticking to their own release schedule. Earlier games such as the award winning The Walking Dead series were originally announced as monthly releases. That slipped, and the games were set for a bi-monthly release, but even that proved difficult and now Telltale plays it safe, simply announcing that new episodes come out “periodically,” thus ensuring no egg on their face if a promised release date slips. Even newcomer Dontnod, with their fascinating Life Is Strange series, has already slipped somewhat with their monthly release ambitions, narrowly missing their March release date and just managing to squeeze in their second episode on the last full week of the month after announcing a delay.

Valve, despite having enormous resources, found it really didn’t like working to an episodic schedule and has pretty much sworn off the concept entirely since then, preferring to retreat back to the old school “When it’s done,” mantra that is part of the PC gaming legacy. As one of the early pioneers of episodic gaming, they were in the unique position of getting to do it early and then simply deciding it wasn’t for them. Telltale and Dontnod however, are fully committed to the idea of episodic gaming but, even with Telltale’s years of experience, it’s hard to stick to the schedule.

Life is Strange
Life is Strange

One simple reason for this is probably a lack of money. Compared to Capcom and Valve that are large, multinational companies with a fleet of employees on comprehensive benefits packages, both Telltale and Dontnod are smaller, indie studios. They simply don’t have the funds to regularly pay out cheques to their crews on an indefinite basis until a project is done, because they don’t receive a huge cash advance from a publisher the way Capcom might, and they need to rely on actual sales profits to fuel their corporate activity. As a result, they NEED to have games out there and selling. That’s one of the reasons why Telltale tangoes with such an intimidating release schedule. They juggle multiple episodic franchises at any one time, such as Borderlands and Game of Thrones in active release right now, while new Fables, Walking Dead and other IPs are burbling in pre-production. In the case of Dontnod, not only is this an entirely new genre for them, this is the first time they’ve ever done an episodic series AND they committed to a monthly release schedule.

Maybe in the future, with a bit more money safely tucked away in the bank, companies like Telltale and Dontnod can do what Capcom does, and simply plan far, FAR ahead, releasing the games only once the episodes are finished. For now however, the need to make sure there’s a product on the digital shelves, generating income, is always going to put these companies at risk of slipping a release date when plans—inevitably—go awry. Making games is hard. Making games according to a tight, reoccurring schedule you promised your customers is doubly so.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 – Episode 4 (Xbox One) Review

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 – Episode 4 (Xbox One) Review

Looking for a different episode? You can find all of Jason’s Resident Evil: Revelations 2 reviews here. 

Capcom’s grand experiment comes to an episodic close with the fourth part of Resident Evil: Revelations 2. While this finale isn’t quite as satisfying and interesting as the third chapter, Capcom certainly let their crazy out with a truly bombastic finish. While there are two “bonus” episodes for those that buy the retail version or the season pass, we’re just focusing on the actual ending of the game.

The weirdest thing about episode four is how it just chucks Claire and Moira’s story to the wind. You’re with those unlucky ladies for maybe 15 minutes before it becomes the all Barry and Natalia show. This is a pretty good indicator where the direction of the game play is heading too. Barry’s caveman approach to zombie killing is in full-force here. His assault rifle will get a pretty good work out, although the pistol and headshot method is probably the way to go most of the time.
RErev2ep4insert5There are some odd design choices though. Much of this episode is still oddly exploratory and repetitive. Prepare to spend a major chunk of time in poisonous gas-filled mines, which continually requires the odd couple to find higher ground to breathe non-poison air from for a moment. There are dead ends galore as well, and a lot of circular back tracking. Such segments quickly got tedious and felt almost like artificial game extenders.

On the other hand, there’s a fantastic throwback to the original game in the form of an underground mansion, but—rather ironically—this segment is painfully short. Aside from mines and mansions, we get to finally see where all the horrible magic of disease manipulation went down, complete with monsters in giant test tube vats and human body parts everywhere.

Sadly, there’s no return to great pools of pig blood, but clichéd evil labs are a good substitute. It’s not surprising there are some questionable holes in the logic of the overall story as the game quickly winds down. Sadly, explaining them would require major spoilers, but it’s safe to say people in the Barton line consistently make questionable choices, particularly concerning child care.

The main attraction to this episode is absolutely the end game. It’s here where Revelations 2 shines like a wonderfully crazy beacon in the dark. The evil, utterly insane Overseer finally gets her due, but her design is so wondrously monstrous that we genuinely felt respect for the creature designer. Resident Evil has always had a great line of monsters that are really overjoyed to be monsters, but this lady takes the cake.

The end battle is multi-tiered as well, making it feel very non-standard and cinematic. This isn’t a perfect boss battle really—the way the game switches perspectives between Barry and a helper character is rather clumsy. Yet, it’s a fun and distinctive ending to a great villain. The battle takes place both within the facility and outside it, and gets major points for at least trying something newish.
RErev2ep4insert4Episode three is still the absolute highlight of Revelations 2, but this final bit certainly lends a satisfying conclusion to the game. There’s enough absurd dialogue on all fronts, silly puzzles, and creepy levels to keep the game’s inertia going. A lot of this episode felt like it was killing time just to get players to the boss battle though, as if the designers would have preferred to just dump us right at the Overseer to begin with. Adding mazes to a game just for the sake of adding a maze isn’t a great design philosophy, but the overall game is short enough that this isn’t a huge complaint.

So, Resident Evil: Revelations 2 works out in the end. This isn’t high-brow entertainment. The game isn’t innovative or even all that creative, but it understand its genre well. Capcom seems to have honed in on the fact that Resident Evil is, despite its previous posturing of drama, silly. It’s embraced its B-movie nature and ends up being a lot more entertaining because of it.

Resident Evil Revelations 2: Episode 3 (XBox One) Review

Resident Evil Revelations 2: Episode 3 (XBox One) Review

If you’ve stuck with Resident Evil: Revelations 2 up to Episode 3, then prepare to be rewarded. The game has been steadily improving since it started three weeks ago, but this third bit is, by far, the best of the bunch. As already mentioned in the previous reviews, Revelations 2 is quite good—easily the best console iteration the series has seen since Resident Evil 4.

Part of the reason Revelations 2 works, however, is brought to a fine point in this episode—the fact that the developers clearly understand this is as much satire as serious. Episode 3 is gleefully absurd, even stupid. The locales include a meat factory, sewer and factory, and the game just runs them into the ground with absurd horror tropes.

Why, for instance, would any reasonable, sane human being wade hip deep through a vat of pigs’ blood to destroy a crate that might have a few shotgun shells in it? Why would even an insane overseer install a room with a dropping spike ceiling to protect a key? Hey, who cares! Resident Evil jumps deep into the crazy pool this time around to create a delightfully idiotic B-movie horror motif.

Barry_Rotten_1417447805-Copy

The over-the-top villainess gets more screen time in both plot threads, Claire learns the sad truth that love really is a battlefield—or at least a sick and twisted mutant rampage—and more! Moira, as it turns out, is surprisingly useful with her flashlight and crow bar. Indeed, there’s a certain thrill in sticking with Moira. She blinds her enemies, waits for Claire to kick them down, and then finishes them off with a crowbar.

Also, Moira’s dialogue includes some of the most hilariously bad one-liners in the entire series. At one point, when finishing off a larger sub-boss she triumphantly utters—without apparent irony—“Go  jump on a dildo, boss!”

You can’t make this stuff up. It just magically happens. And so much magic happens this episode. We get to see the horribly clichéd traumatic past of Barry and Moira in fragmented flashbacks and sad, sad discussion. Claire acts like she has a heart underneath all that fashionable attire and a convoluted meat grinder proves once again why it’s always the absolute best place to leave one’s keys. Also, the pigs’ blood… There’s so damn much pigs’ blood.

The pacing is nicely tipped toward exploratory players more so than combat this time around. There are plenty of bad things to abuse, of course, but the game doesn’t bog players down with shambling moaners when they’d prefer to search around with their flash light or little psychic girl. This is personally appreciated, but for those wanting more action in their survival horror, you can just push through the doors faster to get to the monsters waiting inside.

Finally, there’s an abundance of glorious exploding canisters! Who doesn’t love those? Revelations 2 is really starting to stretch its legs and, well, revel in the absurdity of the genre it helped create. Even the moments that are supposed to be dramatic feel like sly jokes against both the series and the whole genre.

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For purists, all the things they expect are here of course. The absurd traps, mindless enemies, maze-like corridors, and crazy key hunts have always been prime ingredients in survival horror and exist in drove here. Obsessive gamers can comb every dark crevice of each location with the finder girls to discover all the ammo, money, hidden plates, and supplies.

So, as before, there’s a hefty feeling of getting your money’s worth. More than that, however, this episode clicks the whole game together. It’s better than the previous two in every way that matters. It feels bigger, more fun, and more engaging. As a result, episode 3 lifts the early chapters up to a higher level and makes us eager for next week’s installment. So, bravo Capcom. It seems your marketing gamble is paying off rather well.