Resident Evil: Revelations 2: Episode One: Man About Town* begins with Barry Burton boating his broad behind to an island of zombies, hot on the heels of his missing daughter and co-protagonist Moira. Barry is the guy from the very first Resident Evil game, and a fan favourite owing to some rather remarkable dialogue and voice acting. He’s the chap who famously slipped Jill a lockpick and insisted that “it may come in useful for you, Jill, the master of unlocking”.
So we like him. He is good.
*No, it's not really called that.
Revelations 2 only shares a small amount of its necrotic DNA with the likes of the recently released Resident Evil HD Remaster. We’re a long way from tank controls, mansions, bizarre object-oriented puzzling and fixed camera angles, and instead we’re within the now well-established (and much adored) post Resi 4 realm of over the shoulder undead shootery.
Barry rocks up to the island all covered in guns, ready to shoot at the weird spider things that crawl out at him from behind salty rocks and big piles of seaweed. Where have these weird spider things come from? It is a spooky mystery, and nobody seems very surprised by them, so you roll with it and push on towards an abandoned prison facility filled with more interesting kinds of zombies. The kind that walk around on two legs.
There’s also a small girl in a nightie who looks like she’s just climbed out of a television. I think I might’ve missed an explanatory cutscene along the way, but for some reason she joins up with Barry on his quest to locate his daughter, thus triggering a sort of Poundshop The Last of Us in which it’s possible to switch between both characters at any time to make use of their unique abilities.
Playing as Barry you’ve got guns: a powerful combination of pistols, assault rifles and shotguns. As the young girl you’ve got the ability to point at hidden items and collectibles that Barry, the inattentive and distracted adult, cannot see. The girl can also use her magical powers to sense zombies through walls, cave their heads in with bricks and climb through small openings scattered throughout the prison complex. Again, for reasons that aren’t terribly clear, the prison has been kitted out with lethal spinning blades and strange mounted flamethrowers, all of which must be shut off or circumnavigated in order to proceed.
All of this zombie shooting is good fun, if a little unsurprising in how it plays out. This isn’t a thousand miles from the sort of action that unfolded in the original Revelations, and this rusty old prison is hardly the most compelling Resi environment we’ve found ourselves in. Easily the highlight of the demo came right as we exited the facility, as the duo’s adventures eventually culminate in an encounter with a creature made up of lots of different human limbs stitched together, with the monstrosity falling out of the ceiling and chasing them around a shed for a while. Larks!
Of course, Barry’s co-op prison exploration is just one part of this one episode. The other is made up of the simultaneous adventures of Claire Redfield and Moira, who presumably are also having issues with zombies elsewhere on the island.
But the third part of the game, and to my mind the best part of both this episodic sequel as well as the original Revelations, is the game’s RPG-styled Raid mode. This is a run and gun arcade side-feature made up of a series of short, linear missions. Enemies come with health bars hovering above their heads, damage stats ping out of them with each round fired. Loot crates scattered about these levels reward you with new weapons, each with variable stats. Weapon modifiers can be found that increase capacity or reload speeds, or even add Borderlands-style effects to your guns. In my playthrough I manage to build a Magnum that would set fire to enemies 60% of the time. That’s often.
Success in Raid mode showers you with coins that can then be used to identify the weapons you’ve picked up or to unlock additional passive skills for your character, who’s also levelling up as you gain experience. It’s a remarkably involved and intricate game mode, and one that’s been refined since the original game. Gone are the twenty minute missions that could see your character cruelly defeated and your progress dashed in the closing seconds, replaced instead with more bite-sized and risk-averse four minute speed runs.
Raid mode and its exploding ammunition packs sit in stark contrast to the more subtly paced horror (terrifying limb-creature aside) of Revelations 2’s co-op campaign, but it’s the perfect complement to it: a frantic shooting gallery distraction from exploring a haunted island of mutant zombie-likes.
It’s honestly brilliant enough that I don’t mind if the bit where you’re a girl in a nightie pointing at boxes of ammunition in an abandoned prison ends up being no good.
The first episode of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 launches on PC on February 25th.