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    Resident Evil: Revelations 2 – Episode 1: Penal Colony

    Rating: 4.0 – Great

    Break out the beer and nachos!

    The Resident Evil series hit a huge snag with the release of Resident Evil 6 a couple of years ago. Despite being a commercial success, the game was panned by critics and is largely considered to be the worst main series Resident Evil game. However, another game came out the same year as RE6, a handheld game set between the events of Resident Evil 4 and 5 entitled Resident Evil: Revelations. This game stuck more closely to the roots of the series, and as a result, enjoyed much more critical success and was even ported from the 3DS to home consoles. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 carries on the legacy of the original Revelations, but is doing so in an episodic format.

    Episodic game releases have become increasingly popular over the years. This can mostly be attributed to the success of Telltale’s The Walking Dead. However, Capcom is releasing the episodes much faster, with a new Resident Evil: Revelations 2 episode coming every week. If this first episode is any indication, then we might just be in for a treat.

    This first episode is separated into two halves. The first half stars Claire Redfield and Moira Burton, the daughter of Barry from the first Resident Evil. They work for a company named TerraSave, which is a company designated to help people in regions that have been afflicted by bio weapons and the viruses that have been a main factor in the Resident Evil series since the inception of the franchise. However, they are abruptly kidnapped by heavily armed men and taken to a remote island known as the Penal Colony, where they are imprisoned and left to fend for themselves, with strange numbered armbands around their wrists…

    The story is an interesting set-up. It somewhat reminds me of 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors in that there is a mysterious figure watching and talking to the protagonists. This person, an unknown woman, appears to be the primary antagonist of Resident Evil: Revelations 2. She watches Claire and Moira progress through cameras that are set up all over the Penal Colony, and remarks on their choices and actions throughout the episode.

    Ever since Resident Evil 5, co-op has been a major focus of the series, for better or worse (better being Resident Evil 5, worse being Resident Evil 6). The first Revelations didn’t have co-op, but Revelations 2 adds it and does so in a unique way. The first player controls Claire (and later Barry during the second half), whereas the second player controls Moira (and later a little girl named Natalia during the second half, more on her later). Claire is capable of using firearms, whereas Moira is regulated to flashlight duty, with nothing to defend herself from the creatures on the island except for a crowbar.

    Moira is mainly used for puzzle solving purposes and to give Claire an edge in combat. If you are playing solo, then you can freely switch between the two characters, however the ideal way to play this game is in co-op. Since that is the case, it is very confusing then why Capcom has botched co-op in a major way. Co-op partners in Resident Evil: Revelations 2 cannot earn achievements. They cannot earn trophies. They do not unlock ANYTHING. So if you are playing in co-op and then want to enjoy some of that content on your own profile, you are out of luck. This is seriously one of the biggest and most annoying flaws in the game, and it is inexcusable when you consider how much this game is built around co-op. Very disappointing.

    Another annoying thing about the co-op implementation is the black bars on the sides of the screen. These are super annoying and should be optional. Some people have difficulty playing split-screen with the screens full, but just because SOME people do, it does not make sense to restrict the viewing experience for those that aren’t bothered by it. Poor choice on Capcom’s part.

    Yet another issue is lack of online co-op. I love split-screen co-op and will champion it forever, but the lack of online co-op to supplement the split-screen in this day and age is ridiculous.

    Besides these issues, the rest of the game, or the first episode anyway, is actually pretty great. It’s more linear like Resident Evil 4 and not wide open like the earlier games in the series, but it has interesting enemy designs and plenty of scares. The atmosphere is built nicely and the game definitely has the trademark Resident Evil vibe.

    Despite the botched aspcts co-op, the rest of the game is actually fun, and feels like a nice balance between classic survival-horror and the newer style of Resident Evil. There’s puzzle-solving, extremely powerful enemies to deal with, and numerous scares. The co-op is implemented in a creative and fun way despite its issues as well.

    There’s also the inclusion of Raid Mode, which benefits by not recycling areas from Resident Evil: Revelations 2, but rather has maps from past games. This makes for a much more interesting Raid Mode, though it’s not overly amazing or anything. It does provide a decent distraction from the main game and is good for short bursts.

    The second half of the game stars Barry Burton, Moira’s father, and a little girl named Natalia. Barry’s half is more action-focused than Claire’s half, as Barry starts out packed to the gills with weaponry. Natalia, however, is much less capable than Moira. She is able to point at things (…) and has more exploration skills (since she’s small, she can squeeze through holes in the wall and the like) and is also able to detect enemies in other rooms. The girl has some strange sixth sense about her, which I’m sure we will learn more about in future episodes. The only weapon that she can use are the bricks that are scattered all over the place, and they are not very effective in combat.

    The major downside to Barry’s half if the backtracking. Basically, you go through the areas first as Claire and Moira, but then you are forced to revisit them as Barry and Natalia. This means that they are simply far less interesting the first time around, and while Barry and Natalia also have new areas to explore, the backtracking definitely hurts the game’s pacing.

    You can play the game stealthily or go guns-blazing, which was a nice touch. Most Resident Evil games restrict you to a very specific style of play, so being able to have some choice in the matter was nice.

    The upgrade system is not something I’m crazy about. I prefer the upgrade system from Resident Evil 5, but instead Revelations 2 retains the "custom parts" upgrade system from the first Revelations. This requires you to find the custom parts hidden throughout the areas and then apply them to your weapons, which is just not as fun as the currency-based upgrade system from Resident Evil 5. You can upgrade your characters in Revelations 2 though, which I thought was a good idea and this works well, using skill points that you’ve unlocked from accomplishing things in the game and simply progressing.

    Due to the episodic format, Revelations 2 ends on a cliffhanger and features a "Next time on…" reel that will get you hyped for next week’s episode. This television-like style of storytelling is an interesting approach and has worked to varying degrees in gaming so far. It’s working in Revelations 2 and I am very excited to see where the story goes for the next episode.

    Revelations 2 is a cross-gen game, which means it doesn’t even come close to utilizing the full potential of the Xbox One’s graphical capabilities. In fact, the game would even be considered fairly ugly for an Xbox 360 game, and it is clear that they made it on a lowish budget. The enemy designs are wonderfully creepy and grotesque, plus there’s never any slowdown despite a large amount of highly detailed and animated enemies on screen at once. The frame rate is smooth as can be, and the game does a good job of building atmosphere. The character models leave much to be desired, however, especially Claire’s character model. She looks uglier than some of the enemies sometimes, and there’s a lot about her appearance here that is inconsistent with how she looks in the Resident Evil animated movies or Code: Veronica.

    The voice acting work is well done, and the dialogue is hilarious and corny, which is great for capturing that Resident Evil vibe, in my opinion. Barry’s lines are some of the best, though Claire and Moira also have some hilarious dialogue as well. The musical score is great and the soundtrack does a good job of building that tension and atmosphere as well.

    Resident Evil: Revelations 2 – Episode 1: Penal Colony is designed to be played through many times over. There’s numerous collectibles, plus medals to unlock, "rewards" to complete, achievements/trophies, and new modes that can be unlocked as well, such as the returning Invisible Enemy mode. Again, the second player in this equation will not get to unlock any of this, which is a damn shame and a glaring oversight from Capcom. However, in terms of single-player, there’s a lot of replayability in this first episode of Revelations 2, plus there’s Raid Mode on top of all this.

    The first episode of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 has me hopeful for this game as a whole. I am excited to see where the story goes and Capcom is doing a good job of telling a compelling story in an episodic format. There’s some major issues regarding the co-op implementation (though the co-op is also one of the stronger points of the game, so it’s a mixed bag) and the game does not look like it belongs on Xbox One from a visual standpoint, but as a fan of Resident Evil, Revelations 2 is pretty great so far.

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