Resident Evil Revelations 2 - Episode 1: Penal Colony Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox 360, PC, Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox One
There's no doubt about it, Resident Evil is one of the greatest videogame series of our time. Spanning six main-line entries, a multitude of spin-offs and a few remakes, the franchise has earned its place in the history books. But with the release of Resident Evil 4, it was clear that Capcom wanted to take the series down a more action orientated route, as opposed to the classic survival horror we all loved in the first three games. To answer the cries from fans who wanted a return to the tense and horrifying nature of the mansion and Racoon City, Resident Evil Revelations was introduced, and this blends the eerie atmosphere of the franchise's beginnings with the action focused entries we see today. Now into its second game, Resident Evil Revelations 2 comes to the current generation of consoles in episodic form, with the first episode titled Penal Colony. While this first chapter won't blow any human minds, it's a good start that sets up future installments nicely.
Penal Colony opens with Claire Redfield and Moira Burton, Barry Burton's daughter, being kidnapped from a party put on by the new anti-bioterrorism corporation they are both a part of, Terrasave. The two of them wake up inside an abandoned prison, which is later revealed to be situated on an island. From here it is your job to help the pair escape and unearth the mysteries surrounding why they are here and how to leave the island. Upon the completion of Claire's chunk, the player is then reacquainted with fan-favourite Barry Burton and a young girl named Natalia, who Barry meets when he reaches the island. The main objective of this segment is to try and rescue Claire and Moira from the clutches of evil upon the islet. Just like pretty much every Resident Evil game, the story takes a backseat to the action and plenty of survival horror. However, due to the game's episodic nature there are a number of twists and turns throughout Penal Colony that kept us interested and engaged, and looking forward to seeing where the story takes us next.
Due to both Claire and Barry having a partner with them throughout the entirety of this first chapter, Penal Colony presents a variety of co-operative actions for the player to take advantage of. The characters within each pair can be switched between on the fly, with certain situations requiring the help of Moira and Natalia. In the case of Claire and Moira, Miss Redfield is the clear leader while Moira carries a torch which can be used to blind enemies and discover hidden objects within the environment. In combat, Moira uses a crowbar to make light hits on the enemy, therefore distracting them and allowing Claire to make the killer blow. In his own section of Penal Colony, Barry Burton is a walking battle tank compared to his female counterpart. While Claire only gets access to a handgun and a shotgun towards the end of her mission, Barry gets a handgun, a machine gun and a magnum. Thanks to all this firepower, you may think that Natalia is rather useless, but guess again. Natalia has the ability to 'sense' nearby enemies which are then displayed on-screen, and this means that Barry knows exactly what he's going up against next. Furthermore, due to her petite figure, Natalia can squeeze through small holes in the environment to collect ammo and flip switches. She proved useful on a variety of occasions and you will find yourself relying on the mysterious girl. We were switching between characters regularly throughout the entire chapter, and that is made simple by a quick press of the triangle button. This co-operative gameplay works well and its simplicity means it never becomes a chore. What is puzzling though is the complete lack of online co-op, with two player action restricted to local only. Doesn't a game of this nature lend itself perfectly to online co-operative play?
The enemies you'll be fighting in Resident Evil Revelations 2 are similar to the Los Ganados from Resident Evil 4, but they look far more like zombies here. Gameplay mainly consists of dealing with these foes and solving simple puzzles to progress. This means there is a certain amount of backtracking but this never becomes dull because of the dark and foreboding atmosphere created by the locations visited, particularly the prison. In a call back to the Resident Evil games of old, you'll want to keep tabs on your ammo because it is very easy to run out of bullets in Claire's campaign. This is where a contrast between the two sections starts to appear, which we think represents the changes the series has gone through. Claire's campaign mimics the original three experiences back on the PlayStation One, where players were wary of every move they made thanks to the lack of ammunition, the frightening opposition and the complex nature of the mansion. Barry's campaign represents Resident Evil 5 and its sequel, which both contained a lot more action and little need to watch the ammo counter. In Penal Colony, these two experiences work in tandem to create not only a daunting and scary playthrough in Claire's operation, but also a fun and engaging fight with a few horror elements thrown in in Barry's section. This all works together to create a game that not only terrified us, but also provided us with a lot of fun.
We finished the first episode in two hours, but that wasn't the end of our time with the game as Resident Evil Revelations 2 brings back Raid mode from the original game. Here, players are tasked with killing a certain number of enemies for points, which unlocks better weapons, new stages and extra characters. It may seem simple on paper, but it's a bunch of fun. The mode also has a weapon upgrade system, with enhancements to damage, fire-rate and firing speed being just a few. Earning medals based on your performance will have you coming back long after you've completed the campaign, and this mode will only get better with future episodes thanks to the inclusion of new maps, weapons and characters.
Unfortunately, Penal Colony starts to show its flaws in the graphics department. Textures are muddy and often of a lower resolution compared to the environment around it, plus many frame-rate dips all show a rather ugly side of the game. A steady 60FPS is held for the most part, but once stepping outside in Claire's chapter, we experienced multiple frame-rate drops that damaged our experience a little. The game's lower budget is reflected in its visuals, and while we didn't expect something on the level of The Order: 1886, a bit of polish here and there would have gone a long way to making the game look much better.
Overall, this first foray into Resident Evil Revelations 2 is a good one. The two campaigns are both fun, tense and engaging with a strong Raid mode to back it up. The co-operative gameplay is interesting to experiment with and provides the player with a variety of ways to tackle situations. While the lack of online co-op is a bit of a head scratcher and the graphics aren't up to par, Penal Colony was very enjoyable and more than worthy of a playthrough. If Resident Evil Revelations 2 continues in the same vein, then we can't wait to get our hands on future episodes.