Resident Evil: Revelations 2 squishes action and horror into a game sandwich

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Resident Evil: Revelations 2
Hey, Barry's back! Photo: Capcom

The Resident Evil franchise has suffered a bit of an identity crisis in recent years, straying from its survival-horror roots toward something considerably more action-based. The latest entry, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, tries to have it both ways by splitting its four-chapter tale between two storylines. One features two frantic survivors struggling for resources, and the other has you playing as a heavily armed man of action.

It seems like mixing these two extremes would end up diluting them both, but somehow developer Capcom managed to take the best of both play styles and create something distinctive, harrowing and still damned scary.

Two series favorites return in Revelations 2 (out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Vita, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC): Claire Redfield, co-star of 1998’s Resident Evil 2 and 2000’s Code Veronica, and Barry Burton, who hasn’t appeared in a console title since the original game and its subsequent remakes. Claire and newcomer Moira (Barry’s daughter) find themselves kidnapped and taken to an island to participate in a test-run of a new zombie-making virus, and Barry’s story has him going to the same island six months later in search of his lost child.

Claire and Moira are low on supplies, having not planned this little excursion, but Barry comes prepared with an automatic pistol, a machine gun and a ridiculously powerful magnum revolver. So while the two women have to hunt for ways to protect themselves, Barry has that part pretty much on lock.

Not that you aren't going to see some stuff that'll just straight-up murder you. Photo: Capcom
Not that you aren’t going to see some stuff that’ll just straight-up murder you. Photo: Capcom

Revelations 2 is ostensibly a multiplayer game, but your co-op buddy may not be pleased with being on flashlight duty and wielding a crowbar instead of a bunch of guns or playing as Natalia, a little girl who can somehow see through walls and spot monsters’ weak points, and has nothing to protect herself but Barry and a brick.

Single players can switch between characters, and that works well enough, although you’ll get into a routine of using Moira or Natalia as scouts to find enemies and hidden items and then switching back to Claire or Barry when you find something in need of re-killing. So in a weird way, the game rewards you for putting your helpless characters in the most danger. Although their health regenerates automatically, so I guess they have that going for them.

Varied enemy types and a smattering of grotesque bosses keeps the gameplay sufficiently mixed up, and the characters work together in interesting ways. Moira can blind monsters with her flashlight, giving Claire an opening to kick them in the face before Moira stabs them with her crowbar. And later in the game, you find enemies that only Natalia can see, and she guides Barry’s aim with shouted directions. Times like these would make co-op fun, but the AI does well enough if you don’t have a human to play with.

This guy will just explode all over the place and do a lot of damage, but Moira can detonate him with a distance with her flashlight. Somehow. Photo: Capcom
This guy will just explode all over the place and do a lot of damage, but Moira can detonate him from a distance with her flashlight. Somehow. Photo: Capcom

Revelations 2 keeps up its intensity and variety across all four chapters, and it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Once you’re done with the story, you can take on the arcade-style Raid Mode or replay levels to improve your ratings and pick up collectibles (Capcom has a weird habit of constantly judging its players’ performance). So Revelations 2 has plenty to keep you busy even outside the main game.

All told, this is a solid entry in an increasingly fractured franchise. It’s nice to see some survival horror get back in the mix, but that’s not to say it isn’t still fun to bust in with your extensive arsenal and turn the place into The Wild Bunch.

Revelations 2 Claire and MoiraResident Evil: Revelations 2 by Capcom ($39.99 for a physical copy; $24.99 digital)
The good: Tons of scares and action; interesting uses of co-op; some surprisingly solid writing.
The bad: Your co-op partner may not like being underpowered; some slightly cheap boss fights.
The verdict: It’s a winning combination of the two kinds of Resident Evil, and it’s the most solid series entry in years.