Review: Resident Evil: Revelations 2, Episode 1: Penal Colony (PS4)

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Title: Resident Evil: Revelations 2, Episode 1: Penal Colony
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (2.8 GB)
Release Date: February 24, 2015 (Episode 1) / March 18, 2015 (Complete Retail Version)
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Original MSRP: $5.99 (Single Episode) / $24.99 (Season Pass) / $39.99 (Disc Version)
ESRB Rating: M
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
“They call us TerraSave. Because Terr doesn’t have to end with orist!”

The episode begins with a television commercial extolling the virtues of a company called TerraSave. They combat chemical warfare to save the earth. I say earth with a small “e” because that’s really what terra means when we co-opt the word from French for use in English. It isn’t another name for the planet Earth when used in a sentence in English.

While Terre Haute may be the name of a small town in Indiana where my father Ottie Herman and his twin brother Offie Sherman were born on July 26, 1919 it is also a French term meaning “high ground”. Ground as in earth.

I’m sure they misspelled terre so people would say it right. ZOMBIES!!!! Okay, back to the game.

The opening conflict in the game is completely different from what my handler told me the premise was when I previewed this game at New York Comic Con last year.

Claire Redfield is indeed at a party and then awakens the next morning in a strange place. But my impression of what he was saying to me is very different from how that happens. Those clever folks who were coaching the folks who were showing the game to us normal folks managed to tell us just enough to avoid spoilers about the bigger picture. However, they did lie too. Claire knows the woman she meets up with. Her name’s Moira, Irish for Mary.

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Health is indicated in the color of the light on the controller.

Tension is high right from the moment you take control of Claire inside a dilapidated prison. Someone is watching from closed circuit security cameras and they control the locks on all the doors electronically.

Your goal is to escape from the facility.

Items may be passed from one character to the other. You will need to Josh the game to seek out and pick-up all the ammo and other items you come across.

I thought the color of the bracelets Claire and Moira are wearing also denoted their level of health but after using an herb to restore Claire’s health the first time, my controller light turned green while Claire’s bracelet remained orange. Never fear, the meaning of the color is explained.

… remember the clues you find along the way …
And NO! They did NOT fix the issue with Claire being incapable of climbing a ladder if she doesn’t hit the precise three pixel square area. The game plays like a GameCube game, never mind the advances in software since 2000AD. I assume it is by design that the character movement feels a little clumsy. They did put in an evade control with the Left thumbstick and Circle button.

Enemies can be evaded momentarily. Headshots don’t always kill them, in which case while they are stunned you can kick them with the all-purpose melee R2 button press. Sometimes that kills them for some reason. Bullets no, but a random kidney-kick and they’re dead.

Collectibles come in various forms including graffiti which can only be collected by Moira focusing her flashlight on them. These seem to be adding to the mythos of the game by giving little insights, particularly if you’ve ever read or know about Kafka.

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At workbenches you can upgrade and exchange weapons as well as respec.

Sometimes differing opportunities arise depending upon which character you are controlling. In a room with a broken ladder? Switch characters and see if the other one offers a boost!

Initially the character switching with the Triangle button is disorienting. The more you use it the better it feels, so don’t overlook it and think you can cruise through the game leaving Moira in the backseat. Even when Moira’s not specifically needed, her flashlight may discover something “Josh-y”.

Sometimes Moira will act as your guide by pointing her flashlight at doors and things that you need to focus on.

… there isn’t too much of a plot yet …
If you manage to make it through to the near-end of the Claire and Moira section of the episode without dying, your lucky streak will end unless you remember the clues you find along the way and use them and other mechanics in tandem.

I thought the end of the Claire and Moira adventure was the end of the episode but I was wrong. We then move on to two other characters, Barry and Natalia. Barry is a middle-aged man and Natalia is a mysterious girl of about nine years-old.

Natalia can sense enemies. If she’s crouching she is even better at it. When she crouches Barry crouches. Expect a lot of crouching. Barry can do a stealth takedown from behind an enemy. A theme emerges. This section is based on stealth.

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Natalia can point at hidden objects to reveal them the same way Moira did with her flashlight. She can also throw bricks and use bricks to smash things. Barry plays much like Claire.

The traditional Resident Evil item combination mechanic also comes into play here. Sometimes items multiply when combined. For instance one green herb and one red herb make three green herbs. Combine one green herb with cloth and get three tourniquets. Handy! Be smart. If you use the one green herb before combining it with red to make your tourniquets then you’ll end-up with one red herb and three tourniquets but no more green herbs. See how that works?

I’m not going to spoil the plot except to say there isn’t too much of a plot yet. More details become clear in later episodes.

Among the game’s extras are Rewards, Records, Raid Records, and a Gallery. There are also figurines and concept art to unlock along with secret files and movies (aka cut scenes).

After clearing the episode, one’s time appears in online rankings directly from which you can view each gamer’s profile and send a friend request. You can do this for various categories.

… visit the workbench for some real tweaking …
Rewards: For clearing episode one-

Wait. Did I say rewards? The game calls them rewards. They aren’t. They are unlocked modes and items you must buy with your BP. BP is just XP in normal gaming parlance. I thought it had to be the other way around. Who wants a virtual Claire figurine if you can get the BP for it? So I made the trade and ended-up with 80 BP, instead of 1080 BP, and a virtual Claire figurine. What a waste.

Ding! Did you hear that, Capcom? That’s sound of something stupid dinging the review score. Rewards? *DING*

Countdown Episode One: A time attack mode. Clear the episode in the allotted time. Time extended by defeating enemies and destroying hourglasses.

Invisible Episode One: All enemies are INVISIBLE. Enemies can be briefly spotted by using Moira’s flashlight or Natalia’s pointing ability.

Claire and Barry Figurines

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Extra Episodes:(DLC) But is anyone not just buying the Season Pass?

The Struggle and Little Miss:
There are only two difficulty levels for these extra episodes. Casual and Survival. No Normal to choose.

And now put on the breaks. These two extra episodes are available to play anytime. There are no hints or instructions about where in the timeline of episodes they fall. I began to check out The Struggle only to find Moira feeding me spoilers like they were milk and I was Mandy Patinkin in Alien Nation. *DING*

Therefore, I will save these episodes until the end, both for play and review.

Raid Mode:
When you begin Raid Mode you can customize as little or as much as you like. You can equip the basics and jump in or you can take some time and arrange your weapons and customize your taunts and gestures in case you match-up with a non-verbal player. You can also visit the workbench for some real tweaking but be aware that weapons, once upgraded in this manner, cannot be downgraded. They can only be scrapped or dismantled. Choose wisely! Or skip that step.

In Raid Mode online, the matchmaking for a session you create does not filter out friends without the game. It just shows you your list. So you should go to a forum somewhere like, I don’t know, PSNation.com and start a gaming night thread for this game.

Well, you don’t need to because I did it already, and friend-up with other players who want to play Raid Mode. Or you can choose to play with randoms given certain criteria like whether or not they want to play with chat and whether newbies are welcome among a few other things.

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The play style choices go from “Any” through the gamut of “Beginner Welcome” to the monthly challenge to “Level-restricted Challenge” to “Help me!”. What seems limiting and odd to me is that the game doesn’t do the matchmaking, the players do. The Join A Partner choice just takes you to a page or pages with people who fit the criteria you’ve determined but it doesn’t throw you in with them. You have to choose which person to team with and there will only be two of you.

I don’t know about anyone else but I am not crazy about sharing a cab in Hoboken with other late-night partiers let ALONE choosing to have one stranger talking in my ear fighting zombies. In short, these online matchmaking choices seem less than optimal. Hence the Gaming Nights forum on PSNation.com.

You can always play couch co-op in Raid Mode and even via PlayStation Share Play for an hour with a buddy who doesn’t own the game. Yet.

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Visuals:
It’s dark so be sure to turn the lights down for the full effect. Initially there was a hullabaloo about the PS4 frame rate but I never experienced any problems since the patch.

Sometimes the design reminds me strongly of Resident Evil 4. A good thing indeed.

Audio:
The sound design is terrific. You hear enemies in the distance before you encounter them. The atmospheric sounds are unsettling.

In the options menu there is a choice for turning off your subwoofer. I put a pillow under mine because of the neighbors and turned it up a little. There are also instructions in the handy game manual, which is in the game and won’t require going out to a website, for setting the sound on the PS4 to be sure you get the best surround experience.

The musical score is very effective as well. The main theme is hauntingly pretty but there are other more unnerving cues too.

… why are there precious gems laying all over …
Online/Multiplayer:
There is couch co-op with split screen as well as online Raid Mode for you and one friend to play in tandem. I have described these features in Gameplay above. Special thanks to friend of PlayStation Nation, and me in particular, Roger Cannon for joining me via Share Play for co-op.

The connection with the online component for linking the game to the website took ages to work. I got an error message about the service being off-line every time I tried to connect my game to the website over a period of at least a week. My advice, if they don’t know how the Internet and computers work perhaps they should stop disappointing people because you get stuck in a loop of online denial. That said, I was eventually able to connect my game with the website. Even after that I would sometimes get an error message when the game tried to upload my stats.

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Conclusion:
One of the most unique aspects of the Resident Evil franchise at the beginning was the zombies. Actual zombies.

When RE4 hit the GameCube, and later the PlayStation 2, that tiny disc held something thrilling(!) zombie-adjacent enemies and the first quick time events. Resident Evil 4 still felt like a Resident Evil game. It just had a more broad horizon and the QTEs were new and unique. Since then quick time events have been used in all sorts of games with varying results. Often they have been poorly implemented and rarely does their inclusion match the thrill of boating above an aquatic behemoth like in Resident Evil 4.

Similarly, although there are no QTE’s in this game, the zombie-adjacencies are present but Capcom seems to be pulling them back to a more traditional Resident Evil framework. At least in this episode.

If ever a gaming franchise was in desperate need of a from-the-ground-up reboot it is Resident Evil. This might be it! Still, more episodes to go.

The flashlight mechanic may work fine solely as a game mechanic but as part of a story it’s just stupid. We are at a turning point in gaming where story and gameplay have to link. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 contains a three foot high speed bump along the road to this gen gaming. Someone needs to send these people a memo. Like, why are there precious gems laying all over the decayed remains of a dilapidated prison?! Rubies! Emeralds! Topaz! Really?

The most important part of this critique, however, is whether the game is fun. And it is fun! Sure there are little things to complain about and nitpick. It’s my job to bring these things up.

There is a lot of good here, particularly the possibilities in Raid Mode and the replayability of different modes like Invisible Mode. I’d love to see people streaming that live!

Indeed, Capcom seems to be heading in the right direction with Resident Evil.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Keith Dunn-Fernández

Keith Dunn-Fernández

An actor/director and more lucratively an Administrative Assistant at a small paper company in NYC, Keith loves his games. And he loves to write. And he is a bit of a sarcasmo.

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