Episodic titles have proved to be a big success for games like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us and more recently, Life is Strange. But how will the episodic model fare with a genre like survival horror? Well, if Episode 1 of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is anything to go by, it could go rather well.
Unlike the aforementioned episodic titles, Revelations 2's four episodes will be released weekly instead of every six weeks or more that we're used to seeing. The benefits of this are obvious to everyone involved and it keeps the episodic/TV ideology plausible.
It would seem that Capcom have made the full game and then set out a decent release schedule, instead of frantically trying to put each episode together on the fly - which is probably why Episode 2 of Life is Strange has been delayed recently and everything coming out of Telltale is riddled with bugs.
The story takes place between Resident Evil 5 and 6, but if you're not up-to-date with the series, you'll be fine. I'll not delve into the story too much, but you're essentially stuck on an island in a facility packed with, you guessed it, zombies! For one half of the episode you control fan-favourite Claire Redfield and new girl, Moira, daughter of the original Resident Evil's Barry Burton. For the second half of you'll finally get to play as Barry himself, with a little girl called Natalia.
Why all the pairs? Well, the entire thing is playable in local co-op (but not on PC). Online co-op is set to be added once all the episodes are released. So, you're looking at splitscreen action when playing with a sofa buddy. Claire and Barry being old pros at this sort of thing are entrusted with the weapons. Claire focuses on handguns with satisfyingly precise headshots while Barry comes properly prepared with an assault rifle and a bloody big magnum.
Aiming feels spot-on and you're able to move and shoot (not always a given in Resi), albeit at a very slow pace. There's a dodge button that sees you shift to one side, but not bother to do a complete roll. It gets you out of harm's way most of the time though.
When playing solo, you can change between characters by pressing Triangle, but it's not as instantaneous as it needs to be really. Moira (or player two) has a crowbar for extra melee damage and prying open doors, but her best use is her torch, as she can find items (health, ammo etc) in the gloom that Claire can't see. The torch can also be used to stun enemies and buy Claire some time.
Natalia's tiny size means she can crawl through small gaps to reach switches (I never said it was groundbreaking), and she also has a sight ability where she can detect threats through walls by pointing at them in a creepy way. When the Revenant enemies turn up, Natalia can point out those vital weak spots too. She can also use this 'sight' to spot items like Moira's torch. Her offensive abilities include picking up bricks and either bashing zombies or throwing it at them. The AI Natalia is often hilariously late to the party by throwing it at a corpse, or completely missing. But to be fair, she did nail a few just as they were about to eat my face. There's no getting around it, playing in these supporting roles can be a little dull for player two. So maybe swap from time to time?
The game itself is solid Resident Evil fare though. The locations change throughout the episode (no faffing around one mansion for hours here), and the forest scene in particular is as chilling as the series gets. Faithful fans will love it.
Throughout the campaign there are collectibles to find, adding replayabilty along with speed runs and invisible enemy modes, which is good seeing as you'll probably finish Episode 1 within two hours. Points collected along the way can be used to buy skills and stats bumps, but they don't really come into things yet unless you're replaying the episode multiple times. So I'll go into more depth on these in my Episode 2 review.
Now this is why you'll still be playing the game between episodes. Again, it's local co-op or solo play only until the last episode releases, but I can see it turning into a real time-sink for Resi fans.
These challenge stages task you with clearing an area of enemies with multiple Medallions to be won for reaching certain criteria. The locations aren't limited to the campaign's island, so expect city streets, casinos, war torn villages and more. There are a set number of challenges but there are weekly ones too.
There are multiple characters to choose from, each with their own set of upgrades to work towards. Weapons and mods can be bought with in-game currency or found on the Raid missions. Found weapons must be appraised before you can see their stats beyond what level they are (like in Dragon's Crown), but the costs for this aren't high. Gold must also be spent to restock ammo and herbs, but the costs are far below what you'll earn each time, so again, it's not as issue.
Real money micro-transactions are here, but they never feel intrusive and are entirely optional to buy weapons and mods. Costumes and extra characters are only available as paid DLC, but there are enough free characters to not feel pressured into opening your wallet.
More challenges and maps will open up over the coming weeks, so I'll go into more detail about Raid mode in the near future. As per my Life is Strange review, I won't be slapping a numbered score on this until the final episode.
- Guns are extremely satisfying
- Creepy vibe feels very Resi
- Raid mode is off to a great start
- Player two gets less action gameplay
- No online co-op yet
- Some recycling of areas for Barry's turn
The Short Version: Both the Raid and Campaign modes are off to great starts, although the episode ends just as things are getting going. As a new idea for the Resident Evil series though, I think the episodic feel could be a hit. I'm loving that each one is only a week apart too. Raid mode has eaten up my weekend, the unlocks are starting to come together and the mode will surely continue to grow with new content each week.