Resident Evil Revelations 2: Episode 1 – Penal Colony

Resident Evil Revelations 2 - Episode 1 IngoNOTE: This is the first in a series of four informal pieces which will detail my experiences with each individual episode of Resident Evil Revelations 2. Following this, a full more “traditional” review will be posted at the end of March to coincide with the game’s retail release. As such, no score will be assigned to the game until all episodes are available to the public.

Resident Evil Revelations 2 is a hard game to work out. There’s parts that work really well and parts that don’t work at all. But for the most part, it’s got its heart in the right place. It’s a Resident Evil game that tries it’s hardest to bring the best of both worlds – that is the new and old Resident Evil games – together. The first episode, unimaginatively titled Penal Colony, does a fairly good job at introducing players to the game’s locale and characters while also hooking you on its story.

Just like the original game before it, Revelations 2 is presented episodically. In the original game, this meant you just had to watch a recap between each chapter as it jumped from locale to locale. In Revelations 2, this actually means something. The developers at Capcom and TOSE have crafted a story that has been built from the ground up to be episodic. As a result, every episode ends on an intense hook that leaves you wanting much, much more. Similarly, the story is localised to a single location so everything feels interconnected to a degree much greater than before as well, unlike the original Revelations which used its episodic nature to offer a disjointed experience.

Revelations 2 Episode 01 - Screen 05The first episode begins with Claire attending an event for her employer, TerraSave, an NGO dedicated to bringing down corrupt companies like Umbrella and Tricell. Claire meets up with Moira, the daughter of Barry Burton and newest recruit of TerraSave, and they’re both abducted by a mysterious third party known as the overseer. They both wake up in adjoining cells in what seems to be an abandoned prison. Someone is watching them, of course, and also quoting Kafka, because, well, it’s Resident Evil. Claire and Moira make an effort to escape the prison island and reach a radio tower to signal for help.

The second half of the episode follows Barry Burton, who receives the distress signal and heads to the prison locale to find his daughter and Claire. Once he arrives, he is met by a strange little girl dressed in white holding a teddy bear. Her name is Natalia, and she’s seemingly lost on the island following whatever incident has happened there. Natalia has a strange ability that means she can sense where monsters are when Barry can’t. For reasons I’ll never personally understand, Barry decides to take the creepy child with him.

Revelations 2 Episode 01 - Screen 02The first thing I realised about Revelations 2 after completing the episode was just how strange the series has become in terms of gameplay. Back in the day, with both the original Resident Evil and Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil was the series that other games used to pull elements from in an attempt to imitate their success. But now, Revelations 2 seems to be doing the imitating with its gameplay. Drawing inspiration from games like Outlast, The Last of Us and even Alan Wake there’s a lot going on here.

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The most obvious thing is that this game controls a lot more like Revelations rather than Resident Evil 6. The controls feel tighter, there’s less mobility (although this isn’t necessarily bad) and the weapons feel reasonably powerful enough. There’s no more sliding or aiming while lying down but instead there is a very simple dodge / evade manoeuvre not unlike the one found in Alan Wake. It’s a simple addition that has appeared in Resident Evil games previously but not in such a streamlined and easy to use way. It’s definitely appreciated.

Revelations 2 Episode 01 - Screen 03Differing from other Resident Evil titles, Revelations 2 forces another character on the player but this time they’re not the same as the one you play as. Moira and Natalia are both controllable but don’t use guns. Moira uses her crowbar to take down enemies or her flashlight to make them open to a melee attack (similar to wearing away the “shadow” on enemies in Alan Wake). Natalia can throw bricks at enemies to help out Barry in the midst of battle or crouch to detect them (similar to the “Listen” feature of The Last of Us). Neither character can die – their health regenerates – which makes them less of a nuisance even if their AI seems pretty atrocious early on.

The episode itself is paced reasonably well. Claire and Moira must explore the prison for a way out while Barry and Natalia have to reach a key landmark by trudging through a dark and creepy forest. Claire’s half of the campaign is a bit more open ended, with multiple entrances and exits from various areas of the prison. It feels like a poor attempt to recreate the openness of the mansion from the original game, but does the job. The samey-ness of the prison can definitely make it confusing though. Barry’s section of the campaign, surprisingly enough, is better approached from a stealth angle to save ammo as the enemies in his campaign take a lot more damage.

Revelations 2 Episode 01 - Screen 04Visually speaking the game is a bit of a mixed bag, although at such a low price this is probably to be expected. Revelations 2 runs at a silky smooth 60fps which is a nice bonus for those more concerned with a games framerate. The visuals themselves are definitely not the best – to the point where Resident Evil 5 probably still looks better than it – but the game is so dark it’s almost always hiding most of it’s low resolution textures here and there. Fans of the series will get a chuckle at just how low the game’s budget is, given that it reuses so many assets from previous games.

Without ruining the entire episode there’s really not a whole lot to say about Episode 1 of Revelations 2. It’s reasonably paced. It gets players really into the mythology of the island (and similarly, gets them hooked on the story with some truly awesome cliff-hangers at the episodes conclusion). But it’ll be interesting to see how the story plays out given what happens in Episode 1. But anyone into horror, Resident Evil, or any of the games that I’ve talked about Revelations 2 taking inspiration from; it’s hard to imagine you wouldn’t enjoy the first episode of this four episode adventure.

Revelations 2 Episode 01 - Screen 01But we can’t talk about anymore until next week, so be sure to check back where we’ll have our full impressions for Episode 2 then!