This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Resident Evil: Revelations 2.
Playing most episodic games is like riding a rollercoaster run by British Rail, where, every time you start to get into it you're brought to a lurching halt for an unspecified amount of time so the buffet car can take on more egg sandwiches. My point is: if you're gonna start nicking ideas from television, nick one of the good ones, like putting out a little magazine every week saying exactly when the next episode of a show is gonna be out. I mean, this is kind of what killed episodic gaming back when Half-Life 2 tried it. A cliffhanger's all very well, but if you're still hanging there six months down the line, going "Whoooo, probably gonna fall any moment now", it's kinda hard to sustain the enthusiasm. I mean I played the first episode of Life is Strange, and I'd like at least a rough idea of when the next one's coming, so I can do enough research to figure out what the fuck language everyone's supposed to be talking.
I mention this because I admire Resident Evil: Revelations 2 right off the bat for having an actual release schedule: one episode a week for four weeks. Let's all beam down to planet Sensible. I'm guessing they can do this because they made sure all the episodes were basically done beforehand. Then again, I could be wrong, as each episode does have a distinct "thrown together in a week" sort of vibe. This is a Resident Evil game, which in recent years have had less thought going into them than the average fart.
Every Resident Evil game since RE3 has chosen its main protagonists by lining up the main characters of the first two games and throwing a dart. Do these people never age or do anything else with their lives? Has Chris Redfield ever made it all the way to the chemist and back without getting embroiled in zombie horror? Anyway, in this case the darts landed on Claire Redfield, Chris' sister from RE2 and Barry Buttons from RE1. They're part of a new humanitarian group called TerraSave which has a long intro in the first episode going on about how nice they are and how you should totally trust them. So I'm assuming they'll turn out to be run by the Boston Kitten Strangler. I say 'assuming', because at time of writing, I've only played three out of the four episodes. I can only speculate as to which non-playable characters will betray us before the end (I'll put an educated guess on all of them). I won't even waste the effort of trying to be engaged by these characters, not that I had a choice. The standard RE-previous-protagonist protagonist is capable as all bollocks and reacts to each new mutant monster with a concerned frown to disguise their stifled yawn, no engagement there.
To balance this out, both protagonists are given a sidekick with a personality, in the way a blind person employs a sighted dog. Barry Buttons gets a mysterious little spooky psychic girl who it seems will tag along with literally anyone who acknowledges her presence for more than a second, while Claire gets Barry's daughter Moira, whose main character trait is that she hates Barry for no adequately explored reason. In fact, let's not mince words, it's her only character trait, but she makes the most of it, always taking the time to remind us that she hates her dad, even while halfway past a demon's tonsils.
Speaking of halfway down the tonsils, so far I've been mostly trying to make Revelations 2 choke on my balls, but there are things I like about it. I quite liked the setup. The first half of each episode is Claire and Moira trying to escape from an island where the standard Resident Evil unaccountably smug cartoon villain has trapped them in a sadistic game of survival, and the second half is Barry Buttons six months later retracing their steps and trying to figure out how big a spatula he's going to need to scrape up his daughter. I think it's a pretty good format for building the intrigue, would have been even more effective if any of the characters consistently acted like they were in horrific life-threatening danger rather than like they were, say, attempting to a navigate a crowded wedding reception without running into their ex. It's also a surprisingly low-key affair for the series, at least compared to 5 or 6, although a shooting massacre in the Transformers movies' visual effects department would be a bit low-key compared to 5 or 6. But it's a small focused group of characters in an enclosed situation, so it's managed to stay on the subtle site of absurdity so far - a helicopter crashes at one point and the factory catches fire, but it felt so utterly token that it's probably only there for the sake of habit. Even the graphics feel kinda understated and a bit behind the times, to the point that I wouldn't be surprised if the game had originally been intended for 3DS like the first one was, and all they did was polish the textures up a bit, taking the environments up from shitty and uninspired to merely uninspired.
The monsters are a bit overdesigned, but you know the standard monster introduction cutscene, where the camera swings and getting a nice, juicy look at all the drippy contours, before stopping at its face so it can roar at it like it just stepped on one of its carelessly-strewn tentacle bollocks? That mostly doesn't happen, they're just kinda there. And even all four episodes combined will probably turn out to be a pretty short game, but pretty short also mean not padded, and it's not like they're charging full price for it. No, the overall understated effect means 'Reverations-rue' does very little that offends me, but it also means it never makes me sit up, uncup my balls and take notice.
I guess I kinda hate the crafting system, cause it's so token and has a strong "We had to put this because expect it now"-vibe like a Stan Lee cameo. I liked the character switching in the Barry segments, cause his pet gnome can see monsters through walls, but only Barry can kill them, and that makes for an interesting mechanic. But I hate it in the Claire segments cause it's just swapping out the gun for the torch, and it's the Doom 3 question again, don't see why we couldn't just duct-tape the torch to the gun and just give the other character a nice thumb to suck, while they stay out of the fucking way. I guess it's the fucking co-op focus they introduced in 5 and which now sticks to the franchise like gum in its hair. But I do appreciate that the different characters have different roles and astonishingly, there is a splitscreen mode, which I will trumpet because lately gaming has been treating local multiplayer like the one old cucumber at the dildo party.
So let's give it six strangled kittens out of ten. Play it once, then forget all about it. Let it slip in and out of your mind like an image of your mother during sex.
- Ruining sex for himself
- 'TerraSave' sounds more like a special financial package that banks offer to haunted houses
- Episode two of this review will be available never