Resident Evil Revelations 2 Episode 1: Penal Colony – A Review in Progress

Resident Evil could really use a victory right about now. Following the disappointing releases of the sixth entry as well as Operation Raccoon City, Capcom seems to be taking a conservative approach to the franchise before figuring out where to take the series in the future. Starting with the HD REmake just last month and now Revelations 2; a sequel (although indirectly) to the last well received Resident Evil title. Unlike the previous entry, Revelations 2 isn’t limited to the hardware restrictions of a handheld device and it shows in both the visuals and surprisingly abundant content.

Much like the original title, Revelations 2 follows a T.V show like structure with a total of 4 episodes which will be released once a week, over the course of a month. Players are even treated to a short preview of next week’s episode, complete with the now mandatory “Next, on Resident Revelations” and “Previously, on…”. The first noteworthy difference between this version and first title, which was originally released on the 3DS, is that the episodic format being released weekly actually makes sense and lends well to the “tune in next week” experience that Capcom wanted players to have when playing the game. Just as you would expect from a first episode, “Penal Colony” does a pretty decent job of delivering a couple of tense moments, some unexplained mysteries, and a pretty shocking twist which I can honestly say caught me by surprise.

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Each episode is divided into two separate stories, and each stars a fan favorite that players have been dying to see more of: Claire Redfield, and even the king of Resident Evil catchphrases himself, Barry Burton makes a return. Claire’s story finds her waking up in a seemingly desolated prison along with Barry’s daughter, Moira, while Barry’s scenario picks up as he’s trying to rescue Moira and on the way encounters Natalia, a mysterious girl who we know nothing about. Both Claire and Barry serve primarily as your typical weapon wielders in their respective campaigns, while Moira and Natalia are meant to be used as backup to assist the main protagonists. For example: Moira’s main attribute is using her flashlight to blind enemies and find hidden items while Natalia comes in handy with her ability to sense the position of enemy zombies from a distance and sneak past them.

Switching between characters is a seamless transition that does a pretty good job of motivating you to change them up, especially during combat; however, I found the Barry/Natalia dynamic to be vastly superior due to Natalia’s wider array of abilities when compared to Moira. You’ll go from trying to land headshots and killing blows with Barry to taking more of a stealth approach on certain enemies. You’ll want to change things up a bit because it feels natural depending on the situation. It rarely feels forced and it’s an even more rewarding experience if you play it with a friend in split-screen co-op.

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The puzzles, on the other hand, are a problem. Unlike the combat which is handled nicely, with the two characters relying on each other’s strengths, the puzzles (which seem mandatory at this point just because it’s a Resident Evil game) you’ll come across will stop any kind of natural flow the game had going for it and force you to go on a fetch quest to find a puzzle piece, like a missing gear before you can make any more progress. It’s during these scenarios that the game momentarily stops being fun and feels more like a chore as you run around the map trying to figure out what exactly it is you’re supposed to find, which usually involves the secondary character as if to validate their existence.

Surprisingly, one of the game’s biggest selling points came after I finished both chapters, which clocked at around an hour and a half each. If you’re anything like me, finishing the episode and and putting the game away as I wait for the next chapter might’ve been your expectation. Revelations 2, however, offers so much to do after completing the chapter in the form of collectibles and challenging-but-fun modes to play the game in, such as “countdown” and “invisible”. I found myself wanting to re-play both chapters multiple times; a commendable feat for an episodic and story-driven title, and something other games in the genre should take notes from.

The best new addition  to the list of extras is the game’s “Raid” mode which takes familiar elements from the “Mercenary” mini-game seen in past RE titles and injects it with RPG elements, like leveling up and character customization. Raid mode is an addictive new addition that will keep you busy for hours, long after all chapters have been released.

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If we were to treat the first episode of Revelations 2 like the pilot of a new television show, Penal Colony hits the ground running and does a well enough job of setting the stage by giving players just enough suspenseful and tense moments to keep their curiosity levels high and look forward to what comes next week. Stay tuned.

*Because of the way the game is  being spread out and released in weekly episodes, scoring the game will be reserved until all episodes have been released so consider this a review in progress.

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