Resident Evil: Revelations 2 – Episode One ‘Penal Colony’ Review (PlayStation 4)
Capcom’s tried a variety of different formats for the Resident Evil series in recent years. Sometimes the risks didn’t pay off, as was the case with Resident Evil 6, and sometimes they did, as the company learned with the portable title, Resident Evil: Revelations. Instead of returning to the handheld platform for a sequel, Capcom instead opted for an episodic action game on consoles. Following in the same narrative style as its predecessor, with two storylines working their way towards each other, Resident Evil: Revelations 2 brings back veteran heroes Claire Redfield and Barry Burton for another go at saving the world from the biohazard menace. As great as it was to see familiar faces once more, the opening episode passes by so quickly; you hardly have time to get reacquainted.
“Penal Colony,” the first of Resident Evil: Revelations 2’s four episodes, takes place between Resident Evil 5 and 6, catching us up with Claire Redfield and Barry Burton. Claire’s working with the TerraSave organization (which you might remember if you caught the animated feature, Resident Evil: Degeneration), hoping to help curb bioterrorism through more altruistic means than shooting monsters in the face, and she’s just recruited Moira Burton to the team. At a company gathering, there’s an attack by an unknown organization, and both Claire and Moira are taken captive. The two wake up in some sort of prison on a secluded island, surrounded by all manner of creepy monsters, and must work together to find a way back to safety.
Elsewhere, Barry Burton, Moira’s father and friend to the Redfield family, has begun his search for his little girl. He, too, arrives at this mysterious island, but of his own accord, hoping that he’s not too late to save the person who means the most to him in the world. Once he arrives, he meets a strange girl named Natalia, who’s seemingly been stuck on this island for a while. Against his better judgment, Barry allows the girl to tag along, which ends up being a boon. You see, Natalia may be an adolescent girl, but she’s got some powers that could help Barry make it through his journey across the island alive.
A great portion of the first episode is spent teaching players how the new co-op mechanics work. Players can control both characters in either sequence, though only Barry and Claire can or will use firearms. Moira’s “big help” is her flashlight, though she can use a crowbar as a blunt weapon in a pinch. Natalia has the distinct ability of being able to sense enemies from a distance, giving Barry a leg up in locating threats. She can also wield loose bricks scattered throughout the prison and island itself. For the most part, you’ll be able to play solely as Claire and Barry, orchestrating the action as best you can with raw firepower. There will be times when you’ll have to switch in order to reach new areas, but those instances are few and far between. Resident Evil is still all about taking down monsters, and you can’t do much about that with just a crowbar and a brick.
The skill trees from Resident Evil 6 resurface here, giving you a way to spend all those hard-earned credits and jewels. The skills you can unlock do provide a nice bit of customization, allowing you to tailor these characters to suit your playstyle best. You’ll actually be able to earn a lot of these skills in the first episode, though it’s clear that later and better abilities will take quite a few credits to unlock. Each character’s skills benefit you in multiple ways, from betting firing while crouched to stronger stun capabilities for the flashlight. You can upgrade the skills at any point from the pause menu, so you won’t only see the benefits of these skills between chapters.
While the mechanics are sound, and it’s fun to let loose with a few rounds and solve a few puzzles, by the time you get settled with either set of characters, your time with them comes to an abrupt end. All told, the episode will take you about two hours to complete your first time through, with that time split by half for each of the groupings. Though this kind of bite-sized storytelling worked on the 3DS for the first Revelations, you could always continue to the next chapter if you wanted. Here, you’re only able to wait to find out what happens next. If less of the episode was spent tutorializing, the experience might have been more enjoyable, but as it stands right now, there’s just too little to get excited about just yet.
Raid mode does return though, offering more bio-organic weapon-blasting action to hold you over until the next episode arrives. The time-attack mode is almost identical to the original iteration from the firstRevelations, offering you a few different characters and abilities to utilize in order to get the best scores in the time allotted. You can unlock more weapons and abilities through play, but your mileage will vary depending on how much you enjoy replaying the same challenges over and over again to improve your personal bests.
Resident Evil: Revelations 2’s first episode is a welcome return for the franchise, but it’s a little lacking in the depth department. The mystery is interesting, but we hope there’s a bit more explanation and story to explore in the next installment. Fortunately, the game is complete, and all further episodes will arrive exactly one week apart, so the wait for more won’t be terribly long. We just hope that what we’re waiting for is worth it.
This review is based on a purchased download of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 - Episode One for the PlayStation 4.