‘Resident Evil: Revelations 2 — Episode 1: Penal Colony’ (2015) review: The power of fear

‘Episode 1’ a solid entry to newest ‘Resident Evil’ title

You don’t start out with much of anything: weapons, usable skills or even any idea of just what’s happening on the nightmare-fuel island on which you find yourself. As you progress through the first episode in “Resident Evil: Revelations 2,” most of that will change. What doesn’t, however, and remains a constant throughout is just what exactly is going on.

Thanks, episodic video games.

“Revelations 2,” the CAPCOM sequel to the 2012 Nintendo 3DS release, plays much more like an main series “Resident Evil” game than it has any right to, with generally functional controls, an uneasy atmosphere from the start and an intriguingly mysterious story that will keep you guessing and wanting more.

Taking a cue from newer games in the series, “Revelations 2” utilizes a pair system, two characters we can swap between who each have their strengths and weaknesses. To kick off, the first episode, titled “Penal Colony,” gives us series regular Claire Redfield and Barry Burton, who respectively are paired with Moira Burton (Barry’s daughter) and Natalia, a young girl with supernatural powers. Each person in both pairs tends to complement the other, with Claire being the sharpshooter and Moira being the diversion, Barry the brute force and Natalia the tactician. You’ll quickly learn who does better in what situation, and swapping between them on the fly will become second-nature. Controlling either set can at times feel like an escort mission, with you generally using one character to protect the other while an action is being completed.

The story, for once, isn’t bogged down in exposition. In fact, “Revelations 2” goes the complete opposite direction and decided not to tell us anything at all. Claire and Moira are abducted and dropped onto a mutated-infected (can’t really called them zombies) island, donning dystopia-esque wristbands that clearly mean something, just not to us. They get right into the action, having to scavenge weapons, ammo and health herbs to survive their little version of hell. Claire gets the firearms, Moira a flashlight and crowbar. (Guns aren’t her thing, apparently.) Both can pick up and store other items, such as explosive bottles and healing herbs.

Barry and Natalia, while function in the same mechanic, have a different purpose for being on the island, though how the storylines come together still is a mystery. Barry, like Claire, is the all-purpose one, though Natalia’s gifts allow her to see enemies before he does. (She’s also not a bad shot with a brick.)

Both sets of characters handle relatively well, considering the game. It’s a bit of learning curve, but once you get your bearings, dodging, running and quick turning become easy to pull off.

It’s probably as good as time as any to say “Revelations 2” is more similar to “Resident Evil 5” than to the original “Resident Evil” in terms of the survival horror genre. Meaning, in effect, you can’t in good conscience call it survival horror. It’s more action-oriented than that, taking yet another (perhaps not positive) attribute from the newer main games. Pretty of frights abound, but it never was so much surviving as figuring out puzzles and mowing down the infected.

Which you’ll be doing in some of the darkest locations known to man. For an island, it’s full of incredibly dank, miserable environments, most of which are fairly lackluster. It doesn’t help that, as with most RE games, you tend to have to backtrack quite often as you find locked doors that need keys or puzzles that need solving. You’ll become familiar with your surroundings far faster than you’d like to, be assured.

Enemies for the most part are simply part of the environment. Most aren’t terribly imaginative, but then again it doesn’t take much to be a bit frightened by a grotesque monstrosity shambling toward you with deadly intent. Hopefully more boss-like creatures will pop up with a touch more creativity behind them.

In the end, the first episode in “Resident Evil: Revelations 2” contains a great deal of promise. It’s spooky and engaging, even if you don’t know what’s really going on. (Though, how much do you ever know in any particular RE game?) Livening up the main prison area and thinking more about enemy design would have gone a long way, but those aren’t enough to detract from the gameplay itself. For “Resident Evil” fans, “Revelations 2” should sate your blood-thirsty needs. For the rest, just remember: Double tap.

Three “I was almost a Claire sandwich” stars out of five.

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2 responses to “‘Resident Evil: Revelations 2 — Episode 1: Penal Colony’ (2015) review: The power of fear

  1. Pingback: ‘Resident Evil: Revelations 2 — Episode 2: Contemplation’ (PS4) review: The power of teamwork | Silver Screening Reviews·

  2. Pingback: ‘Resident Evil: Revelations 2 — Episode 3: Judgment’ (PS4) review: The power of plans gone awry | Silver Screening Reviews·

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