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There’s going to be a lot of Resident Evil and survival horror talk from me for the next two months as I continue to write my next book on horror design and the genre. In a previous post, I spoke about how the downfall of Resident Evil occurred around the time of Resident Evil 6. Following 6, a spin off named Revelations was released which got itself a sequel. The first game was just so-so and emphasized the worst aspects of the action-horror design that led to said downfall of the series. With the second game, however, it’s a far more interesting beast that I think represents the very best interpretation of what is Resident Evil design.
Before hardcore RE fans come at me with pitchforks like the villagers of RE 4, Resident Evil Revelations 2 is by no means the best game in the series. What I want to talk about is how it represents what could be the best kind of version of an RE game.
As with the previous games and RE 4–6, Revelations 2 is more action-focused. You are still able to upgrade your weapons, and there’s now even a skill tree, which may be one of the most out of place elements in a horror game. The problem with the first game was that it focused so much on gunplay that there was no room for any other mechanic. This could also be explained by the fact that it was released episodically over the 3DS which was far more limited compared to consoles.
Revelations 2 was also an episodic game but was released primarily on consoles. Right away, it’s easy to see just how much improved the basic flow is compared to the first game. Enemies react far more to attacks, levels are wider, and the inventory system was back. As with the first game, you are always paired with an AI partner, but this time you are free to swap between the two characters (more on that later). The game still focused on action, but you were far less powerful compared to the first game. Ammo reserves were always a factor, and enemies are quick enough that you need to make use of a dodge to effectively avoid their damage.
One of the more interesting parts of the story is that each episode of the game is split between a section with Claire and Moira, and one featuring Barry and Natalia. Both campaigns occupy the same area but take place at different time periods with what happens in Claire’s campaign affecting events in Barry’s. The campaign occupies that same area of just enough challenge to require the player to “survive” but still giving them enough power for it to be more action-focused. With that said, Revelations 2 features one of my favorite bonus modes in a Resident Evil title.
Raiding the Game
The Raid mode began in the first Revelations and was a mission structure through iconic areas of the first game—killing enemies and going for a high score. Persistence came in the form of leveling up your character and getting random reward drops in the forms of better weapons and gun parts you could use.
With Revelations 2 the mode was expanded so far that I’m surprised we haven’t seen this just become a standalone game from Capcom yet. Each character now gets different skills and a starting loadout for them. The leveling system returns and unlocks perk points that can be used to further enhance or unlock new skills. There are far more weapons that higher-level ones unlock the more you play, with different rarities to boot. The mission structure has been expanded and not only includes areas from Revelations 2, but also features iconic areas from previous Resident Evil games.
There’s no way to confuse the raid mode for anything horror-related: with enemy levels, damage popups and loot boxes (or loot records) to find. If there are any downsides to this mode is that it takes a little long before things get challenging, and it’s unfortunately limited to just two players at once.
What I like about this is the fact that we have a true coop Resident Evil experience outside of Outbreak. Coop is an even more niche form of survival horror than survival horror itself, and why I always like to check out games that experiment with it. While I’ve painted a rosy picture of Resident Evil Revelations 2, it’s time to talk about where the game failed.
Double the Problems, Squared
As I said at the start, Revelations 2 was by no means the best Resident Evil game and had some big flaws to it. The UI was annoying: with commands all over the keyboard or gamepad and felt very clunky in emergency situations. For some strange reason, picking up items and interacting with the environment were assigned to two different buttons. An immediate issue for fans was the monetization model Capcom came up for it. Both the main campaign and the Raid mode were sold piecemeal, with episodes priced between $4.99 and $5.99. Additional characters, costumes, and quality of life features for raid mode were also available for purchase.
Episodic game development was a very weird period in terms of game design which I may explore in another piece, but it was ultimately viewed by consumers to be mostly negative, with the only contemporary exception being the Life is Strange series. To get the good ending, you must make a choice at the end of episode 3 with no warning that this would come back in the final episode. The DLCs that expanded on Natalia and Moira’s stories were very barebones and focused more on annoying gameplay that wasn’t the focus in the main stories.
Even though the raid mode did feature online coop, the base campaign was designed around local coop only and was a massive oversight on Capcom’s part. There have been mixed reports that you could play the PC version with coop using remote play, but we spent 40 minutes on stream trying to get it to work and it never did. Unlike the first game and even going back to RE 5 and 6, Revelations 2 features more interaction between the two characters and their abilities. Both teams of characters have their partners providing a unique form of back up. Moira can stun enemies with her flashlight and assist with back attacks. While Natalia helps with stealth and enemy detection.
The game was clearly designed around both characters working together and trying to play both roles at the same time in singleplayer proved frustrating. So much of what makes this game work is the very fact that both characters are helping each other out. By only being able to directly control one character at a time, it completely ruins some of the advanced options unless you get lucky with the AI. Case in point, the second episode introduces invisible enemies that only Natalia can point out, but the AI has a habit of responding a second or two after you start moving your reticle, making it harder to nail them.
Next Time on Resident Evil
Resident Evil Revelations 2 to me represents the perfect package of what should be in a Resident Evil title. Give me a solid singleplayer campaign (focused on horror of course) and package that with a multiplayer experience for my friends to team up and play with. I’ve already spoken about my dislike of RE:Verse, and I’m still surprised that given the push of team-based horror like Dead by Daylight and Back 4 Blood, that Capcom hasn’t capitalized on that yet. I know that RE 2 came with the Resident Evil Resistance mode, but I have not heard anything good about it.
As I said in my previous piece, Resident Evil is not a military shooter and should not be treated as such. For the next horror piece I’m working on, I’m going to discuss the problem that has faced every horror game in terms of keeping the momentum going.
Game Design Deep Dive Horror will be out sometime late 2021/early 2022, and my third book Game Design Deep Dive Roguelikes is now available for preorder.
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