Resident Evil Revelations 2: “Penal Colony” Impressions

resident-evil-revelations-2 logoThe first episode in Capcom?s Resident Evil Revelations 2 launches this week, dubbed Penal Colony, for PSN and Xbox Live. I?ve been provided with codes for this episode, and future episodes (along with the two bonus episodes). The publisher is suggesting that scored reviews be held for the final, combined product, while encouraging impressions of the weekly episodes as they release, which is what you?ll see below. I?m OK with this, since we have access to the whole thing, and playing past episode 1 will clearly influence my opinion of that chapter in a way that I can?t describe until the later installments release. So check out my thoughts on Episode 1 ?Penal Colony? below, and come back the same time next week (and every week thereafter) to see how things progress for Resident Evil Revelations 2.

While I remember enjoying Resident Evil Revelations when I originally played it on the 3DS, I?ll freely admit that I can?t remember a damn thing about the story. I recall the setting, and characters involved, but I found myself drawing a complete blank when recalling the previous events in this spin-off series. That said, nothing in the first episode of the sequel to Revelations makes that seem important, at least not in a way that immediately stands out.

resident evil revelations 2-8At the onset of this episode, ?Penal Colony?, we are reintroduced to Claire Redfield of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil: Code Veronica fame. It?s been a while since we?ve seen Claire in action, and if you?re expecting to catch up on where Claire has been, prepare to be disappointed. Instead we?re introduced to Claire as some sort of boss/manager of a company called Terra Save, which appears to deal with biological terror clean-ups, explained through an overly cheesy commercial at the onset of Claire?s chapter. We?re also introduced to her partner character for this section, the daughter of Resident Evil 1?s Barry Burton, Moira Burton.

Things quickly go south for Claire and Moira, who are both kidnapped, and then awaken to find themselves the sole inhabitants of a run-down prison in an undisclosed location. You?ll immediately take control of Claire, with Moira joining shortly thereafter. That?s right, Resident Evil Revelations 2 incorporates a partner system similar to Resident Evil 5. The biggest difference here is that your partner in both Claire and Barry?s chapters takes on a sort of support role, as opposed to being an active combatant. For instance, Moira controls a flashlight, helpfully pointing out hidden objects. She also wields a crowbar, useful for opening certain doors and stunning enemies. Finally, Moira can also pick locks, used for unlocking crates that contain various goods.

resident evil revelations 2-7Partner A.I. seems competent enough, especially so when it comes to avoiding hazards. You?ll have a helpful pop-up displayed onscreen that lets you know where your partner is at any given moment, and the amount of time spent apart is minimal at best. You?ll gain the ability to switch between the two on the fly early in this chapter, but it?s rarely necessary to do so until you meet the aforementioned locked crate or barred door.

Combat feels similar to modern day Resident Evil titles, in that it?s still pretty focused on action mechanics and shooting as opposed to ammo conservation and avoidance. That?s not necessarily a bad thing, but for anyone hoping that this is more Resident Evil 1 through 3 and less 4 through 6, then Revelations 2 isn?t what you?re looking for. It?s a tad disappointing, because there were aspects of the original Revelations that felt closer in tone to RE1 than anything in the series has for the past decade, but nothing about this first chapter of Revelations 2 gives off that same vibe.

resident evil revelations 2-1Still, there are some very Resident Evil-y things about ?Penal Colony?. At a certain point in Claire?s chapter the prison opens up a bit, giving you multiple paths, doors, and enemies to contend with. The enemy variety here is mostly zombie type foes, with some alterations for Barry?s section of the story, and some lumbering, tougher monsters that Claire has to contend with. Again, ammo conservation isn?t really a thing, but you don?t want to just spray and pray either. The weapon selection at the onset of the game is right out of the Resident Evil handbook, with Claire sporting a shotgun and pistol, while Barry has the pistol, magnum, and assault rifle.

There?s some light puzzle solving, which equates to turning on power switches, hunting down one object that?s pointed out immediately by your A.I. controlled partner (despite being easily visible), and a somewhat harrowing finale on Claire?s end that?s reminiscent of older Resident Evil titles. Basically, while there are things here that feel like a Resident Evil game, they?re presented in a way that?s likely meant to be accessible, but done in a way that?s going to disappoint longtime fans. It?s unfortunate that Capcom can?t strike a better balance than what Episode 1 manages to do in that regard.

resident evil revelations 2-3Also disappointing are the two major areas that Claire and Barry get to play around in. The prison area is the better of the two, which Claire spends most of her time in. But even the prison has some wasted designs, with non-interactive doors that serve as window dressing, a strangely haphazard layout, and waypoints that make exploration mostly pointless. But this doesn?t hold a candle to how poorly designed Barry?s outdoor section is, especially the darkly wooded area that you just sort of wander through for 10 minutes, and the subsequent lumber mill with its handful of monstrosities to contend with.

The best reason to consider picking up Resident Evil Revelations 2 has to the be the return of the Raid Mode. This mode, if you never played the original, is akin to a horde mode for the series, with multiple characters, weapons, and skills to choose from. The first chapter will net you three stages with multiple missions within each stage, and three difficulties for each stage to unlock. There?s also Daily Missions to tackle, weapons to collect, costumes to unlock…basically there?s a decent amount of content to enjoy here. Raid Mode is easily the most fun I?ve had with this first chapter of Revelations 2, and I imagine I?ll enjoy it even more as I progress through the additional content.

All in all, I think Resident Evil Revelations 2 is off to a pretty rough start with this first episode. If nothing else, at least these individual episodes are pretty cheap, but even if you?re a big modern day RE fan, I?d really suggest holding off a bit before jumping in here. I?m hoping that the gameplay elements of future episodes improve dramatically, because nothing I?ve seen so far screams quality to me. Of course, I?ll be back next week with thoughts on Episode 2, with the embargo dropping on the whole package later in March.