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Review: Resident Evil: Revelations 2 Shows Us True Horror—and It’s 20 Years Old

This Claire sandwich needs more kick.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 Barry

Revelations 2 does introduce a cool mechanic with Natalia—I guess to make up for giving her a lousy brick (which she can’t even take with her through doorways and which she loses every time she throws it). Later on, you fight invisible insects that kill you in one attack, but Natalia can sense where they are and point at them to help direct your gunfire. It works surprisingly well in single-player: Natalia will tell you to aim more left or right or to shoot straight ahead. Occasionally she’ll forget to warn you at all, but I managed pretty well regardless.

Sadly, there’s not much else to Revelations 2. The handful of enemy types don’t stray far from what we’ve seen before: executioners with axes, mutant dogs, fast zombies that climb and run. The environments mostly feel similar or just bland, with the exception of the few areas with creepy dolls impaled on spikes or hanging from ceilings. The island isn’t much to look at, either. It’s all bushes and tall grass and trees, and that’s about it. Nothing to see here. Move along. Or at least that’s how you’ll feel by the time you play as Barry, who has to tread through the same locations that Claire and Moira did, only they look worse thanks to all the destruction.

The controls work well: You can quick-heal by holding R1, swap items between the characters’ inventories fairly easily (I love that it uses the front touchpad on the PlayStation 4 controller), and even view a mini-map with your objective shining in blue. And of course, you can’t beat quick-turning. You can move and reload or move and shoot at the same time. The quick slots for weapons and subweapons (fire bombs and the like) are handy as well. The only thing I miss is the items that used to drop when you killed enemies. That doesn’t happen in Revelations 2.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 Creepy Dolls

These are all graces to the new Resident Evils, but modern doesn’t always mean good. It’s weird, because the Revelations series is about returning to the classic horror that defined Resident Evil decades ago. But all I see in this game is proof that we can’t get that back—that the way we envision the series now, with its emphasis on action and speed of movement, has made it impossible.

If going back means lifting the iconic mansion from the original Resident Evil and reusing it in new games to try to re-create that old feeling of horror, then Capcom has failed. If it means boring the player with inane box-moving puzzles that made some poor sucker out there who jumped into the final episodes regret their purchase, then it’s not working. Claire comments how she was almost “a Claire sandwich” and Barry says that he’s the “master of unlocking now” to remind us of the game we wish we were playing. Because this one’s not scary.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 Co-op

Revelations 2 wants to be the game Resident Evil was 20 years ago, and it’s not sure how because it has to struggle to be modern at the same time. The innovations that freed it with Resident Evil 4 have now trapped it back in a cage. I’ve never heard so much swearing in a Resident Evil game, and it’s not even interesting swearing. Moira, as much as I love her, is like that one person in a horror movie who keeps trying to convince you that this shit is scary by repeatedly saying just that—and convincing you less and less of it with each exaggeration. One guy runs from a horde of zombies and says (I quote), “Mother of balls, my life is awesome.” Which is confusing not just for the imagery but for the choice of the word “awesome”—when did running for your life in Resident Evil become cool? Aren’t I supposed to be horrified here? Aren’t the characters?

Apparently being modern is swearing a lot and using the word “dudes” and “not cool” in memos you find laying around. It’s not how I remember Resident Evil, but the way these memos are written—with their authors lapsing into madness or succumbing to infection as you turn the page and their thoughts become less coherent—mimics the “itchy tasty” diary entries we found in Umbrella’s labs 20 years ago. Maybe I’m nitpicking, but Revelations 2 took a serious wrong turn somewhere, and it’s a long way from where it wants to be.

The story doesn’t make much sense, either. It’s filled with plot holes that are only made worse because of the cliffhangers at the end of each episode. And while I never expect much quality storytelling from a Resident Evil title, I do wish this didn’t feel so much like “to be continued.” Nothing feels resolved by the end of it. The extra episodes, “Little Miss” (all boring stealth) starring Natalia and “The Struggle” starring Moira, do fill in the gaps, but they don’t help much.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 Barry Monster Zombie

At least there’s Raid Mode, where you can run around and just shoot bad guys for points, and you can play it either locally or online. You feel a little boxed in as the missions force you to fight enemies until you receive keys to progress or finish, but it’s otherwise fun—if not for the energetic music, then for the varied set pieces that were missing from the main campaign.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 isn’t a bad game. I’m planning on replaying the campaign with friends, and I still have plenty more in Raid Mode to complete. But it’s not “bad” in the sense that you’re killing zombies and that’s always fun, even when it’s not exciting. Revelations 2 at its worst is just bland—in its story, in its characters, and in what it thinks horror should be.

So long, itchy tasty.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is available now on disc or digitally for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. 

Stephanie Carmichael writes about video games, comics, and books when she’s not helping teachers and students have fun together with Classcraft, an educational RPG. Find her on her blog or on Twitter.

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Stephanie Holland is a nerdy lover of Star Wars, Doctor Who, MCU, WWE and Disney. She spends her days planning her next career as The Doctor's companion. Declared for House Evangelista. Sorted into Ravenclaw.