Hands-On Preview: Resident Evil: Revelations 2 - Master of Unlocking

Resident Evil has suffered an identity crisis over the last several years and from the last few installments – it’s a fact that’s hard to face given the series’ nostalgic (and terrifying) roots, but one that many fans of the series have come to accept, following the low point of Resident Evil 6 in 2012.

Though Resident Evil has toed the line between its survival horror roots and in trying to deliver more “action-movie” styled experiences, much of this has been mixed at best, with Resident Evil 6‘s epically-styled gameplay marred by its epically-long runtime and uneven pacing. On the other end, Resident Evil: Revelations on the 3DS was praised for its roots in Resident Evil gameplay of the past, and for successfully bringing a tighter, focused horror experience.

With the reveal of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 last month, Capcom is bringing the successful blend of horror and action that Resident Evil has tried experimenting with into the current generation, and this weekend’s New York Comic Con happened to have a playable demo of the game on hand for the public to try out. With DualShockers on hand to check out the new playable demo of the game, how exactly does Revelations 2 fare in not only continuing the episodic-based plot of the original Revelations, but in bringing Resident Evil to the current generation for the first time.

The NYCC playable demo featured a short section of gameplay from the beginning of the game, where players get quickly introduced to the two playable characters, Claire Redfield (previously of Resident Evil 2 and Code Veronica) and Moira Burton (sister of Resident Evil‘s Barry Burton). Taking the gameplay of more recent entries like Resident Evil 6 but combining that with mechanics reminiscent of Resident Evil Zero on the GameCube, the primary goal in the game is to switch between Claire and Moira to solve various puzzles and complete objectives.

Even from the short 15-20 minute demo presented at New York Comic Con, it’s already clear that switching between Claire and Moira will be one of the primary mechanics present in Revelations 2, taking a departure from the original Revelations where multiple characters were present in the story, but only being able to play as one character at a time. Like the mechanic from Resident Evil Zero, Claire and Moira will each have certain abilities that will force players to switch between them to solve puzzles.

In one instance where Claire and Moira needed a key in order to get past a locked door, I was able to switch to Claire to shoot down the key hanging up in the air, while then needing to switch to Moira to use her flashlight to find the key in a dark area after it dropped. Shortly after, Moira was needed to use a crowbar while prying open a door, while needing to switch to Claire to fend off incoming enemies, given Moira’s reluctance to use firearms.

Presentation-wise, Revelations 2 continues the use of the “episodic” structure that made Revelations a perfect portable experience with its shorter, more focused “chapters” that could be completed in relatively quick durations. However, this time around Revelations 2 will actually utilize an episodic structure by releasing the game (at first) in chapters, while a full retail release will be coming shortly after.

Though the demo was a quick and easy 15-20 minute experience, the ending of the demo showed a brief glimpse of this episodic structure, as the demo concluded with a “Next time on Resident Evil: Revelations 2” closing bumper, along with a cutscene to give a brief glimpse at what to expect in the next chapter. Given how the original Revelations revolved so heavily around its episodic, almost TV-like experience, the promise of Revelations 2 continuing that style through shorter downloadable episodes will be interesting to see, at least in terms of how it plays out over several weeks’ time.

Like previous Resident Evil entires before it, Revelations 2 continues the experiments that Resident Evil 6 made to make Resident Evil a leaner, more action-focused game than previous games in the series, in particular to the control-scheme and combat tactics. Moving past the infamously clunky controls of the original Resident EvilRevelations 2 features possibly the smoothest controls that the series has had yet, taking the controls from Resident Evil 6 but refining some of the clunkier control options that still lingered in that title. With options to evade attacks as well as more refined, faster movement, both Claire and Moira controlled nearly effortlessly in both evading enemies and taking them head-on when the occasion called for it.

Revelations 2 already shows some of the promise in bringing one of the better recent Resident Evil titles to the current-gen in terms of its gameplay and presentation, faithfully bringing the shorter, episodic structure of the original Revelations to the bring screen. Though controlling the characters was largely enjoyable, the demo’s environments and enemies often left me wanting more, leading to some disappointing level design that lead to some of the problems in more recent RE titles.

Setting the demo inside the prison area that has been shown in previous concept art and screenshots, the environment came off as a largely disappointing area in terms of its visual design and ability to explore. While the area house many creatures and opportunities for scares around every corner, the environments themselves were largely uninteresting and linear, leading players down corridors with little encouragement (or options) to explore other areas.

While Resident Evil 4, 5 and 6 started the trends toward more action-oriented Resident Evil titles, it was slightly disappointing to see the demo’s area being so linear and giving little chances to search for supplies or other secrets, and especially given the prison’s rather drab and uninspired appearance. Yes, a prison is pretty drab in reality, but given Resident Evil‘s penchant for great (and iconic) scenery, the level design was largely the weakest point of the demo – hopefully it’s just a case of it being a level for demo purposes, or at least a level still in its early stages.

Resident Evil has largely been a series in fluctuation between several high points, like the revolutionary Resident Evil 4, and some lower low points with the obtuse Resident Evil 6. Though the series has largely been in need of a reboot/refresh for quite some time, Resident Evil: Revelations was a surprising breath of fresh air to the stagnating series by taking its action-oriented improvements while still staying faithful to the series’ roots. Although its sequel is still several months away at this point, Resident Evil: Revelations 2 already shows some great promise toward continuing the success that Revelations started, even if there are still some apparent phantom limbs of the series’ past that may hold the game back from something exceptional.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 will release on PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, and PC in early 2015.

Ryan Meitzler

Ryan is the Editor-in-Chief at DualShockers and has been a lover of games as long as he can remember. He holds a BA in English and Cinema and lives in New York City.

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