Resident Evil Revelations 2: Barry deserves better

The Further you get in Resident Evil: Revelations 2 the more serious the narrative attempts to be. It’s a poor design decision and one that ultimately undermines the ‘traditional’ survival horror sensibilities that Capcom has attempted here. The rigid game mechanics that strive so doggedly to revive the spirit of the series’ earlier years simply don’t fit with a plot that forcefully throws Franz Kafka quotes at you. As a result, you’ve a game in which the interaction and the plot/characters feel like two entirely separate entities.

Split into four episodes, it’s the early ones that work best. Here, the sloppy movements of the playable cast, the awkward shooting, and the numerous graphical bugs are forgivable thanks to a wafer thin story that relies on horror clichés to a charmingly humorous degree. Both the writing and the interaction feel like a much intended joke and so it’s enjoyable to let yourself get pulled along by it all, basking in the nostalgia that Revelations 2 is so often an expert in creating.

When the episodes start to get more serious, however, you realise that it isn’t a well-intended joke at all. This is a game taking itself extremely seriously, and it’s then that you begin to feel a sense of pity; that you’re playing something that has been locked in a coma for 15 years and hasn’t had the chance to see and understand how games have since evolved.
It’s not that any element is broken or poorly conceived, it’s more a case of the overall recipe being flawed. Rather than embrace the good of past and present game design, Revelations 2 seems intent on stubbornly proving that there has no reason for design evolution at all, arguing that the ideas of yesteryear are equally viable today. It’s a misstep that, by its finale, renders the campaign an uninspired mess. It is a befuddling symbol of how clinging to the past merely to spite the present is an exercise in futility, and one that will render you obsolete.

It’s lucky, then, that it offers something other than its campaign. If it wasn’t for Raid mode, it would be all too easy to consign the project to the scrap heap and remind Resident Evil that it’s running out of chances to prove that it’s still worth paying attention to. Alone, it’s unlikely to be worth the price of admission on its own, but Raid mode does tap into the kind of underlying model that the main campaign would probably have benefitted from.

The core idea is to simply waste each and every enemy thrown at you within environments that are incredibly tightly controlled. Progression through different zones within the levels is granted only once you’ve killed enough enemies, encouraging an outright offensive approach that works with the mechanics offered here.

With movement and shooting adhering to the same old-school rules as the campaign, there’s a palpable sense of nervous excitement as multiple enemies come bearing down on you. Kill them all before they reach you and you’ve guaranteed passage to the next arena. Let them get too close and all hell is going to break loose.

By taking away the sloppy narrative and feeble characters, Revelations 2 is able to breathe and have fun by altering the rules and objectives typically associated with Nineties survival horror design. Ammo is usually plentiful, so the threat of death is directly linked with your ability to kill quickly rather than your sixth sense for staying fully stocked. By taking itself less seriously, the outdated design works in a way that invokes parody and satire. Whether that’s the intention or not, the overall experience is pleasurable.

If Revelations 2 had provided Raid mode as the primary feature within a package offered at a lower price point then giving it an enthusiastic thumbs-up would be a no-brainer. As it stands, though, the stilted and crude campaign lets it down. This is a clear case of the support act upstaging the headliner. Most obviously, though, it’s a performance that further highlights Resident Evil’s continued inability to find its place within a fast-changing videogame landscape.

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