Note: this review contains spoilers for Revelations 2. Which you'd probably expect, given that it's reviewing the final chapter of the game, but we thought we'd make sure.
A strong final chapter in what has been a successful experiment for the Resident Evil franchise, Revelations 2's fourth episode closes the experience out nicely. A few curious design decisions aside, Capcom has shown that it can adapt its venerable horror IP into episodic play and still craft an interesting action-horror title.
Whereas the previous episode seemed content to pare things back, acting as as foil (with somewhat mixed results) to the bombast of this finale, it isn't long until Episode 4 kicks off - the now-infamous self-destruct countdown comes around far sooner than you'd expect. Perhaps a little too quickly, even: Claire's scenario feels like it starts too late and ends too soon, as she and Moira attempt to flee Alex Wesker's mountainside base/Death Star. You're not in her (impressively high-tech) lair for long before she outlines her ultimate plan: to transplant her mind into Natalia's body, and escape the death sentence foisted upon her. She does this by, er, shooting herself in the head. Predictably, this doesn't end well.
After that it's a mad dash to escape the building before it explodes. There's no denying that the huge drops, precarious crossing of platforms, invisible enemies, and ever-decreasing countdown timer add tension to proceedings. But as soon as it's started, it's over, with Claire taking a high dive to safety (and not, as it appears, onto the jagged rocks that jut out of the water below - physics never really were Resident Evil's strong suit). It's enjoyable, as ever, but feels undercooked.
In contrast to the last episode, then, it's Barry's campaign that's the most enjoyable, as he and Natalia move through the island's mine shafts in an attempt to find Alex (who has survived thanks to, yes, a virus) and blow her fucking head off, again. The mines themselves have been filled, rather inconveniently, with toxic gas, and the team have to find a series of electronic locks and deactivate them to progress.
It makes for an interesting change of pace, as players have to combat onrushing enemies as well as the environmental hazards present. Barry and Natalia can only spend so much time in the gas before choking like an Arsenal player in the Champions League, which leads to tense encounters: fending off crowds of zombies, or dislodging obstructive minecarts, in order to reach higher ground.
These mine sections are reheated from previous games, but like most of Revelations' environs they're tweaked just enough to keep players involved. Much the same can be said for your reward for fighting through to the bottom of the island, wherein you get to snoop around yet another mansion. How these guys keep getting planning permission for these places is a mystery, but it's there and, after hours of fighting through rusted warehouses, abandoned industrial zones and other dilapidated backdrops, it works well as a change of scenery. It also doubles as a secret laboratory (this comes as standard, I hear), and it's not long before you run into the results of these tests.
It's a nice place to potter about: it's lit well, mainly in red and with long, dark shadows, and its atmosphere of elegant menace gives it the chance to create some good scares, including one particularly memorable skylight-based example. Resident Evil fans will feel right at home as they hunt for emblem keys and wonder who is still paying the lighting bill. Non-Resi fans will wonder what the fuck is going on, but if they've come this far they've essentially waived that right.
Combine the environmental storytelling with the various notes and - gasp - revelations dotted around and it feels like Episode 4 is building momentum well. Sadly, the boss battle at the game's climax is a letdown, consisting of Barry running around a large lab shooting at Alex, who has turned into an Uroboros-infested Puma-woman of some kind. It's the standard shoot-the-weak-spot-to-kill-the-monster fight, is lacking in genuine danger (Alex telegraphs a lot of attacks), and falls flat as a result.
The actual ending of the game fares better: Alex's plan to be reborn via Natalia succeeds, and Moira dies after being crushed by both falling concrete and her own stupidity. Sadly, what seems at first like an interesting downer ending about the dissolution of family units and the fact that sometimes people don't reconnect in time before they die (well, as close as Resi can feasibly get to that) is actually the 'bad' ending, obtained by, erm, completing a QTE too quickly.
If you make Moira fire the gun on Neil in Episode 3 - by switching to her instead of using Claire to complete the QTE - she will magically turn back up at the end of the game, fire yet more guns because she's over her phobia now, thanks, and have a conversation with her dad about fucking technology in the ass. This is not a joke. Everyone then goes off to play happy families - after a helicopter-based extra battle against the Big Bad - until it's hinted that Natalia is actually Alex reborn, still.
Hallmark endings with ill-judged references aside, Resident Evil Revelations 2 is a success, mixing and matching elements of Resi's old and new - while throwing in Raid mode - to good effect. It also uses episodic play wisely and efficiently, and goes some way to expunging the memory of Resident Evil 6, which is no mean feat.
Version Tested: Xbox One.