Given the flack that gamers have been giving the Resident Evil franchise in recent years, the premise of an episodic take on the longstanding series may have rubbed some fans the wrong way. While many followers have their quarrels with the recent string of entries, the first episode of Resident Evil: Revelations 2, aptly titled Episode 1: Penal Colony, sticks with the series' familiar third-person shooter mechanics and throws in some enjoyable co-op moments. Still, there are some issues present that prevent this first portion of the greater game from being a slam-dunk.
Throwing players into the role of both familiar and new faces alike, the first episode of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 manages to provide longtime fans with new story arcs for beloved characters. Fortunately, the story that's been presented thus far does a decent job at drawing in players. By switching between the different pairs of protagonists, the game manages to mix up gameplay in meaningful ways that keep up a nice pace.
Along the way, users will take control of Claire Redfield and Moira Burton (Barry's estranged daughter), before switching into the roles of fan-favorite Barry Burton and a very mysterious little girl named Natalia. Segments featuring Claire and Moira put an emphasis on surviving with limited resources, and mix up combat by giving Claire an arsenal of weapons and Moira a flashlight and crowbar. Meanwhile, a similar dynamic is at play with Barry acting as the triggerman and Natalia only arming herself with a brick, if she happens across one.
This is only made better with co-op play, which allows users to jump into a split-screen session whenever they feel the need. Teaming up with a friend immediately shifts the way users are forced to play, making puzzle solving easier, jump scares less terrifying and surviving as a whole a much easier task. It's a great option and one that could function as the sole reason to pick this game up from the digital marketplace.
This gameplay design makes the game feel ever-changing, and leads to some great story-telling possibilities as a result. By the time players have completed the first episode, it'll be hard to wait to find out the fates of all of those involved thus far. The final act of the first episode will keep fans excitedly anticipating what'll be coming next, but it's not quite all sunshine and rainbows along the way.
Where the game excels by being episodic – effectively building anticipation rather than allowing fans to tear through the entire story in record time – the look of Episode 1: Penal Colony is lackluster at best. The graphics look dated compared to even past-gen standards, so very little about the cosmetics of the game will impress. Combine that with boring environments and an overly dark and gritty color scheme and it immediately becomes apparent why fans may not have been initially blown away by the look of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 itself.
Last, but not least, there's Raid mode. This mini-game of sorts throws users into a battleground that's filled with hostile infected and it's up to either the player (or a player and a partner) to dismantle these disfigured foes and reach the end goal. Doing so will earn them medals, new weapons, experience points and more, all of which help to set players up to complete challenges later on in the mode. Raid is where the replayability factor of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 comes in and the mode only promises to grow with each new chapter released.
Overall, Resident Evil: Revelations 2's first episode manages to be rather enjoyable. While the story itself will strike some as engaging, the look and feel of the first installment can grow old at times. That said, for the price tag the first episode carries ($4.99 USD) it's hard to not find value in this early portion of the game. Resident Evil fans will still be left waiting for the next full-fledged entry in the franchise, but this is a nice start to a stop-gap in the meantime.
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 - Episode 1: Penal Colony is currently available on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One – with an unannounced release date for the PS Vita.