Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is an episodic survival horror game developed and published by Capcom for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC and Vita in 2015, with a Switch port being released in 2017. The story is an indirect follow-up to the first game, as it focuses on another mix of characters, both old and new. During an office party with the anti-bioterror organization TerraSave, Claire Redfield and Moira Burton get kidnapped to a prison full of infected people. While they try to endure their horrific ordeal, Moira's dad Barry follows in their steps joined by a little girl named Natalia. The two teams then work together independently to figure out what's going on and escape alive.
It finally happened. Capcom made a Resident Evil game with a good story. There's theming, pathos and even some sensible literary allusions. The basic concept of an episodic narrative seen through multiple characters filled with twists returns from the first Revelations, but comparing the two stories is borderline unfair.
Where Revelations is an unintelligible mess glued together by pointless Dante's Inferno references and carried by some good environments and monsters, 2 takes the important step of actually establishing some motivation for the characters beyond "survive and stop the monsters". As such, you can actually relate to them.
Let's start with our inital duo, Claire and Moira. Claire, being the older and more experienced character, is the least engaging of the bunch, as her relationship with the Burton family isn't really expanded upon, so it feels like she's mostly here out of obligation, since she hadn't been in a game for over 10 years by this point. That's not to say that she isn't still delightful, as she acts like a cool older sister to Moira and gets some good lines in as the two of them deal with their kidnapper, The Overseer.
Moira on the other hand, really stands out as a Resident Evil protagonist. Even compared to other rookies (like Claire's first appearance in RE2), Moira is having none of this shit and is really vocal about that. Making a whiny teenager like this enjoyable is no small feat, but the writer managed it wonderfully.
Beyond it being funny that she is the first character in the series allowed to swear (to a ridiculous degree, no less), the game uses her anti-authority characteristics both as expression of her relationship with her dad and as a jumping off point for her character arc. She starts the game moaning about Berry all the damn time, but over the course of the game she comes to understand her folly and realize the love she has for her dad as her punk appearance breaks down.
Of course, Barry isn't blameless in their relationship either, as he is obnoxiously protective. In the context of a kidnapping narrative, that's really helpful, but in daily life it can suffocating for a child wanting some independence. So in a clever move to force Barry to accept an independant little girl, he is paired up with the young Natalia.
Much like Moira, Natalia goes against the grain of her archetype as a child character and isn't irritating in the slightest. She is bordering on being too competent in a viral monster outbreak for an 11-year-old, but her not being able to feel fear is actually a plot point, which again, was clever. She doesn't get much of an arc, but her relationship with Barry is cute, so I'll give her a pass.
All of this is woven together into a really enjoyable adventure (with a great ending and some good scares) themed around father/daughter relationships and is marred only by a few things. The secondary characters really don't amount to much (especially the one who loves shouting about balls) and while the core conceit of the plot is fun, it's also innately dumb, even by series standards. I do like how it ties into the secondary theming of Kafka novels though (particularly Metamorphosis), so I don't mind it being so ridiculous.
What really annoys me though is how easy it is to miss out on the aforementioned great ending, as in order to see it, you need to complete a time-sensitive setpiece in the correct manner. And I, just like many others screwed it up the first time and was met with a wet fart of an ending and had to replay about an episode's worth of content to set things right.
I get what they were going for in that setpiece, but playing on my own, the feedback the game gave me led to the wrong conclusion. It's an evident black mark against what is otherwise the hitherto best story the series has produced. That's not a high bar, but I'm glad they eventually figured out how to make something not entirely reliant on camp to succeed.
After two bombastic co-op games where both characters are borderline superheroes, Revelations 2 reels things back a lot to create a more fulfilling co-op experience at the cost of some depth. If it wasn't evident from the story section, each character pair features a veteran character and a rookie. The veteran can use guns and acts a lot like a Revelations 1 character, while the rookie has a unique support ability and melée attacks.
Moira has an aversion to guns, so she uses a flashlight and a crowbar. The flashlight works a bit like it does in Alan Wake, only instead of burning away enemy shields, it can stun them. This sets them up for a charged melée strike from Claire, which Moira can follow up with a special attack of her own while they're down. This is a reinterpretation of the combo system from RE5, only here it's much easier to understand, as the UI is extremely clear about when an enemy has been stunned. They can only be stunned in a single way however, making most encounters pretty similar, unlike RE4-RE6.
When it comes to Barry and Natalia the balance of power is even more shifted, making Barry stronger than Claire (since he gets access to magnums and assault rifles), while making Natalia weaker than Moira as she is only able to attack a scant few times any time she finds a brick. But it works out, since their chapters are more about stealth (bringing The Last of Us to mind, which must have been an influence) and Natalia can see enemies through walls. So their levels are more about stealth and planning encounters. It's pretty simple stealth, but it's different enough to be engaging compared to Claire and Moira's more direct encounters.
Given the depth of RE6 (dropkicks and zombie parries!) and how bad the game was at explaining said depth, making Revelations 2 simpler makes a lot of sense. It's slower, easier and even goes so far as to make the rookie able to regenerate health. With how frustrating parts of RE5 and RE6 can be in co-op, I'm satisfied with the changes here for the most part. Things even work well in singleplayer, as you can easily swap between the two characters as needed.
The sub-weapons from Revelations 1 return, only now they're tied to a rudimentary on-the-go crafting system (again, bringing The Last of Us to mind). Instead of ammo mixing, here you can mix a few components to make various bottles to throw or some healing items. It's not that interesting, as the new status curing items are borderline useless, so you're better off making explosive bottles.
There are only two status effects in the game, bleeding and getting blinded. But they're so insignificant in the heat of battle that by the time you've realized that you've been hit by them and managed to find some safety, they have often passed. I think the rookie is meant to stay out of danger and use status cures, but that didn't really happen when I played in co-op.
Beyond the main four episodes and the two extra modes modes you can play them in (time attack and invisible enemies) there are also a pair of shorter extra episodes. The first one, Little Miss, really sucks. It depicts what Natalia was up to before she met Barry, but because she is incredibly confused (and the writer didn't want to give you full context and spoil things in case you play this first). the whole thing is borderline nonsensical and feels like a drug trip.
Not helping matters is that it's a stealth challenge where you backtrack through most of the game and are given no tools to help you sneak by. You are given a new co-op partner however, one which cannot be seen but also can't do anything. It's similar to the setup with Barry and Natalia, but since Natalia is the "strong" character this time around (even though she is weaker than in the campaign and instantly dies to enemies), her partner might as well not exist.
The Struggle episode is a lot better, being a spin on the old battle game where you run through a few areas fighting enemies on a timer. Here it's a bit more interesting, as you need to hunt for food in order to earn extra lives and then survive a bunch of enemies before being able to hunt again. It's decent, but not really worth it unless you get the package deal on the game with all the DLC.
What is worth it though is the returning Raid Mode, having recieved a real facelift since the first game. The gist of it remains the same, but instead of just running through the campaign again mission by mission, they throw in some curveballs by adding in a ton of maps from RE6. A move I'm sure was born out of a need to recoup the stupid amounts of money they burned on that game.
Raid Mode is divided into multiple gauntlets (spread across a few difficulties) consisting of 6 missions each. By performing well in each mission, you will then unlock more gauntlets or harder versions of once you have already cleared, with the end goal being to beat the ultimate challenge and complete the excuse story used to justify the mode.
The depth of the gameplay is heightened here, as not only can you play with two gun-wielding characters in online or local co-op (compared to the local-only campaign), but the game also goes off the wall with video gamey nonsense. Enemies spawn out of nowhere and can be infused with random buffs to make them faster, tougher, on fire, radiate a death cloud, spew poison and the like. It's completely immersion breaking, but it's a grindy challenge mode, so that's ok.
What helps this incarnation of Raid Mode work compared to its predecessor is a combination of a bunch of factors. For one, the level scaling is not as harsh, so you can get away with not updating your arsenal as often. Buying ammo is basically a formality now as well, as it's very cheap. Characters now have more skills (giving you more customizability) which can actually be inherited by other characters, making it easier to level up different ones. The random daily missions which pays out loads of exp and gold also helps in this regard.
I found it really fun to slowly make my way through Raid Mode while experimenting with the new systems, particularly the more in-depth weapon mods, which now include various context-sensitive effects like what enemy you're shooting and the same elemental effects the buffed enemies have. By the end of it, not even the beefiest of enemies could stand up to the unhinged weaponry I managed to craft through a bit of luck and a complete disregard of restraint.