The premiere episode of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 kicks things off in a decent way, but it's also an inconsistent experience that's plagued by issues during the first half of the game. Dialogue is poorly written, and you feel like a chump when you tackle yet another fetch quest disguised as a puzzle. However, there are moments that leave you on edge, and the mysteries keep piling up until the very end, stoking your curiosity to want to know more. If you tend to loathe action sequences in Resident Evil games, you may be put off to know there are a few in Revelations 2, but rest assured they're delivered with tact this time, sandwiched between foreboding moments of tension that set your pulse racing before you're thrown into the fray.
Though Revelations 2 starts with a whimper, at least it doesn't waste any time getting you into the game. Right as they were starting to enjoy a swanky company party, Resident Evil hall-of-famer Claire Redfield, and her co-worker, young Moira Burton, are kidnapped at gunpoint and shipped off to a wretched penal colony on a remote island. The game begins when Claire awakens in a damp cell, and the mystery kicks off when the door opens moments later, seemingly on its own. Their imprisonment is clearly the work of someone who fancies control as they're taunted over the PA system by a mysterious overseer. She speaks in very vague terms, introducing more questions than answers. By and large, Revelations 2 likes to keep you guessing.
Moira's father, the ever memorable Barry Burton from the original Resident Evil, attempts to come to Moira and Claire's rescue. With the help of a young companion, the mysterious Natalia, he searches the same prison, but the enemies he faces are quite different, acting more like classic zombies as they shuffle along, rather than the speedy juggernauts that hunt Claire and Moira. This setup affords you two points of view within the same nightmare, and slightly different gameplay experiences, but not all things are created equal. Barry's act is far stronger than Claire's, not only because it offers the best moments of tension, but because his companion is a far better compliment than Moira ever is to Claire.
Working in tandem is at the heart of everything you do in Revelations 2, for better and for worse. You can switch between your two characters on the fly, and sometimes you must in order to solve simple environmental puzzles. Moira's flashlight may uncover a hidden item that you need to proceed, and Natalia can go places that Barry can't thanks to her small stature.
Unfortunately for Claire, Moira's not much use outside of a few strict scenarios that call upon her unique abilities. She looks capable of manning a gun, but a tragic event from her past conveniently prevents her from doing so here. She comes in handy when she pries open a rare door or blinds an occasional enemy, but she's otherwise dead weight and a near constant source of bad dialog as she spouts vulgarity after vulgarity. It's not hard to take in because it's offensive; it's obvious that she's meant to sound young and brash. However, she comes off as an exaggerated caricature that sticks out like a sore thumb.
Outside of a few important plot points, the only helpful thing Moira brings to the table is a flashlight, but Natalia has a subtle personality that comes across as a breath of fresh air and she's far more useful during tense situations. She can sneak by enemies undetected and crawl into tight spaces. If Barry is low on health, Natalia is a solid backup, trading head-on action for simple but effective stealth. Though she lacks the firepower, Natalia proves to be even more useful than her caretaker at times, so long as she remains undetected by the bad guys.
Natalia and Barry's stint is the best source of tension in the game by a long shot. For the most part, Claire and Moira are stuck inside their prison, which is predictable and boring. On the contrary, Barry and Natalia spend a lot of time outside, and in the middle of the night, with only a few light sources off in the distance, a sense of dread creeps in when you wander into the unknown. Natalia is the best candidate for the job given her ability to spot enemies from a distance, but you always know in the back of your mind that she's practically incapable of defending herself apart from throwing a brick at an enemy, yet there you are, meters deep into a dark forest teeming with horrific abominations that want nothing more than to eat you alive. When an enemy takes multiple rounds from a gun to stagger, a brick offers little solace.
You can tackle the campaign via local co-op with a friend if you're so inclined, but your teammate has to come to terms with the fact that they're playing second fiddle. Teaming up is an effective means of getting through the campaign quickly because you aren't reliant on AI to watch your back, and you have the ability to multitask, but the split screen view and real world chatter can dilute the tension. If you're looking to get scared, playing solo is the only way to go.
There are a few puzzles to solve during each scenario that are reminiscent of classic Resident Evil moments, but instead of having to consider all of your options and search for a solution, it's given to you in the form of a simple task. Ultimately, these moments feel like chores rather than puzzle solving opportunities. Moira's asked to point a flashlight around a room to find a key, for example, testing your patience rather than your intellect. If anything, these quandaries feel like justifications for having a sidekick. Perhaps it's good that it's not as obtuse as some games in the series' past, but the formula has been simplified too much for its own good.
If you find your trigger finger itching after beating the first episode, you can hop into the optional and oddly enjoyable raid mode. This arcade-like experience pits you against small armies of enemies in various environments from this and future episodes, and you're encouraged to take advantage of your firepower. The more enemies you kill and the more efficient you are at doing so, the better rewards you receive, often in the form of additional weapons. It's a very different experience than the main game, especially with it's initially jarring dance soundtrack, but it's a fun diversion that gives you plenty to do once the rather short campaign comes to an end.
Though you have to wade through mediocre puzzles and endure cringe-worthy dialogue and references to past games, episode one successfully entices you to look forward to the next episode. Just before you feel like its antics are wearing you down, it commands your attention by redeeming itself during the second half, just before sealing the deal with an impactful cliffhanger. With tastes of both classic and modern Resident Evil, Revelations 2 has something for everyone, but it would be served better if it was a little more focused and had a little less Moira.