Barry Burton is back! Wait. We've done that one. We did it last week when I reviewed Episode 1, and called it "an intriguing start to Capcom's episodic adventure". Well, I'm not going to lie, there's more of these things to come, so probably just skip ahead to the next paragraph from now on. There's only so many of these intros you can write.
Anyway, Barry Burton is still back, and Revelations is still chugging along nicely. As expected, Episode 2 broadens its scope in terms of both narrative and content, introducing new characters, new weapons, and new enemies. It also introduces some much-hated brand new artificial difficulty, which is as transparent as it is frustrating. Far be it from me to make judgements on professional zombie killer and disaster survivor Claire Redfield, but waiting for a door to open while being chased by Massive Sub Boss Drill Man, rather than conveniently hopping out of one of the five large open windows next to her, seems more than a little stupid.
In better news, Claire's encounter with Set-piece Induced Idiocy is a low point in an episode that has few. Episode 2 is solid, building out the island's mysteries while also chucking in satisfying new weapons for players to use (Claire gets a different shotgun, plus a machine pistol. Barry gets a sniper rifle). It's heavy on scripted events, but none rankle as much as Claire's aforementioned brain-dead moment, which riffs on Leon and Luis' Resi 4 cabin encounter but contains none of its guile.
Each of these events requires skill and planning to overcome - ammo is still rare, and even common enemies can do huge damage. They can be frustrating, even on normal difficulty: it's somewhat too easy to get overwhelmed in the high-geometry environments, and a combination of close camera angles, running animations that make it seem you're stuck to a rail, and a major boss dealing out huge projectiles ensure you'll often be hit by things you can't see.
The attritional nature of these battles do ensure however that when you prevail, there is a sense of achievement, an exhale through gritted teeth. But Episode 2's very best moments are elsewhere, contained not in showpiece showdowns but in taking full advantage of the asymmetric co-op. The best example of this is Barry and Natalia's encounters with invisible enemies in a dilapidated apartment block. One player has to (literally) point out the monster's aura, which the other can't see. It's then up to whoever is controlling Barry to follow the point and fire on the position. Occasionally the monster will move, with only Natalia's panicked shouts providing immediate info as to where it has gone. It's clever, fostering teamwork and tension without forcing it, and hopefully there will be more of these sections to come in later episodes.
As before, Capcom makes good use of its environments, reusing them intelligently when Barry follows in Claire and Moira's footsteps (he's going over some of the same ground, albeit much later). The developer could have easily just reused assets as a way to save time and money. Instead, by peppering them in at different times and in different circumstances it adds to the feeling that Barry is actually on their trail, and may in fact be too late.
It gives each character's game a distinct difference in tone, and this time around there's also a more pronounced split mechanically between the two campaigns. Claire's is heavy on action, while the opening of Burton Sr's exploits is focused on stealth, and somewhat reminiscent of certain town sections in The Last of Us.
Both are slightly longer, too, clocking in at around the hour mark. Despite the increased playtime - and Barry's story kicking off with a good ten minutes or so of hide and seek (and stab) - there's a feeling that Revelations 2 is starting to up its pace, having gained momentum in both its action and storytelling, including an expertly-placed cliffhanger. Beyond that, there's also additional Raid mode content to keep players interested.
Series fans will love it - indeed, series fans would probably love it if a Capcom came to their house and punched their mothers - but Episode 2 not only provides a motivation to pick up Ep 3, it also neatly brings overarching backstory into play. Which is an achievement in and of itself: episodic gaming relies on being able to pull you back into its world after you've left. So far, Revelations is succeeding.
Version Tested: Xbox One. Pre-order the boxed edition of Resident Evil Revelations 2 now.