With the numbered instalments to Capcoms legendary survival horror serving as nothing more than a reminder that experience doesn't always mean more expertise, the much more successful offshoot, Revelations is sticking to its old school guns and delivering fans exactly what they want!
Instead of going down the awful, over the top action route of titles such as Resident Evil 6 (I mean seriously, sliding between a zombies legs like Steven Segal?) Revelations 2 offers up scares, zombies, guns, puzzles, monsters and now Barry! No, not Barry white but Barry Burton himself, the husky, magnum wielding S.T.A.R.S member who has been missing for some years now and is getting the opportunity he deserves to finally grace our screens once more! With lines like “That was too close! You were almost a Jill sandwich!” and “Whoops! Now I've done it” the Jack Black of Racoon City certainly brings something special to the table.
Revelations 2 is set smack bang in the middle of the events seen in Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6, allowing Capcom to be fairly adventurous with the series long running lore as well as adding some accessibility to those newcomers out there.
In search of his missing daughter Moira, Barry makes his way to a mysterious island but instead stumbles across another little girl who happens to be handy with a brick, bashing zombies brains as she goes, as well as crawling in tight spaces.
She also has a nifty little gift of being able to sense nearby Zombies, meaning if you switch over to her, you’ll be able to see a yellow mist through walls and ceilings which show exactly where the biters are! In a nod to The Last of Us, crouching will extend the ranger of her senses. The fact that she may well actually be a mutant is besides the point, or possibly the furthest thing from Barry's mind as he sends her off to find keys, flip switches and sniff out the undead.
Thankfully Natalia is pretty hardy and doesn't need baby sitting, even when things begin to get hairy. If she can't hide from the fray she’ll happily run off to find a brick and isn't shy about using it when left to her own devices. Something that I actually felt happy about, as forced baby sitting is one of my pet peeves in recent games.
Much like the first Revelations and in many ways the original entries of the franchise, Revelations 2 has ditched the ridiculous action in favour of a tense, claustrophobic experience, with tight corridors and dark rooms galore, as you explore your surroundings and try to solve puzzles and push on in search of Moira.
It’s not all about going backwards here though, as the team behind the Revelations series are keen to add new ideas that fans will love while maintaining that respect for the fans. The most glaring addition is in the form of a light stealth mode, something which I was dubious about experiencing but came out extremely happy with how well it worked. With Natalia able to see through walls, you can switch between her and Barry to sneak up on the odd biter, letting Barry get the drop on them with a swift knife to the back of the head. The beauty of this addition is in its execution as you really don't feel at any stage like you have to play this way, if you want to pull out Barry’s magnum and pop heads go for it!
Considering how scarce ammo can be though, its nice to have the option to go quiet from time to time.
Stealth may well be of help when you come face to face with the new horror in Revelations 2. The Revenant, these disgusting abominations are over powered and fast as hell, formed of limbs stolen from other corpses to create towers of terror and needing more than a few rounds to take down. Pop enough bullets into their bodies and you may well expose a swollen weak spot, ripe for attack. Shame though that they’ll be much to fast and powerful to make that job easy!
Gameplay aside, the team have also done a great job of building some of the creepiest and generally grim surroundings I've seen in some time. The prison, filled with torture chambers and mechanical death traps on wheels, is truly dark and something not even my nightmares could imagine. That's not to mention dark forests, infested with evil and barely lit, with only the sound of distant generators to guide you.
Sound is also on point, with every inch of space letting out groans of age and horror as the world outside bears down on its walls. Every creak, bang and scratch will have you on edge as you try to decode it and decide if a threat is all set to bear down upon you! With atmosphere building up to monumental levels, you’ll be biting your nails and praying for it to end!
While this is an episodic experience, Capcom have thrown in Raid mode to keep you busy as you wait for the next slice of horror. Much like in the first Revelations, Raid mode lets you pick your favourite character and go toe to toe with waves of Zombies, ranging from your basic shufflers up to lurking behemoths who’ll take more than a few bullets to put down!
As you fight off hordes of the un-dead, you’ll be able to crack open chests in order to unlock new weapons and equipment to upgrade your arsenal, which is more important than you may think if you fancy going for those high scores and achievements.
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is looking set to be a perfect slice of original survival horror, with some truly terrifying moments. Something fans of the series have been craving for some time. Sure, it's not built on the same scale as I can only imagine Resident Evil 7 will be, it's a welcome return to old roots! Fingers crossed the full run of episodes will be up to scratch!
Did Capcom immediately know that a sequel to Revelations was a great idea? Was that always the plan?
It wasn't something like “We’re definitely going to have a sequel to this right away” it was something that, we brought out Revelations 1 on 3DS and people enjoyed that, which was really cool so we then went on with the unveiled edition, something that we could bring out on consoles which was really cool. So we realised that this was a cool title and thought let's try to make another experience, a console experience that's kind of where we came to Revelations 2. From the very beginning we wanted to look at fan feedback and really early on with fan feedback we could tell fans wanted Barry and Claire, so we thoughts lets give them that and from there it kind of branched out and everything else fell into place.
So you thought about the console experience first, does that mean there wasn't ever any talk of the sequel going down the 3DS exclusive route like its predecessor?
[laughs] Yeah, it was like we came out with the unveiled edition and we thought that experience was really cool so we wanted to build on that and because we wanted to build on it we started using something called MT Framework, if you know anything about Capcom we have some software frameworks that we kind of base our games on. We have MT Framework and we have MT Framework Mobile. If you actually boot up the 3DS version, the splash screen is different it actually says MT Framework Mobile. So because these are separate branches, we kind of locked ourselves in to certain platforms, so that's how that ended up happening.
With this one you've gone fully episodic, was that again the idea from the start?
It was, right at the beginning that was the idea and the reason for that was, we knew we were going to make a sequel to revelations. What are some of the pillars we had established with the first one? Looking at some of the fan feedback, we got that people wanted a return to roots, to that survival horror. So great, let's do that, lets run with it. Another thing was, Revelations 1 was episodic, the stages were separated and at the end of each episode you'd hear that “next time on revelations”
It had that chapter feel in its narrative for sure
Exactly. We were like, that's cool, lets take that and go that step further. Whats the next thing and the natural next step was to deliver episodically, so people, if they want, they can get one episode, two episodes, whatever. They're not locked into buying all the episodes right off the bat. The other thing was, if you wanted to just try episode one, you can do that. Try it out and see how it goes.
If we’re going to do it episodically, we might as well let people try it out!
Then we thought, ok. So, what else is cool? so we looked at different TV shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and we saw these passionate fan bases, they would watch an episode and after a great cliff hanger, get online and talk about whats going to happen next. We want that from Resident Evil.
So, that community buzz around the plot?
Yeah, exactly. That would be so cool to have that around Resident Evil.
The other big thing is, we have all kinds of fans, all different levels. Some fans, if I were to say “who's the master of unlocking?” they know who that is right, but there are fans that don’t. They like the horror experience but they don't know too much more.
So some fans aren't that invested?
Right, some fans you say FBC, you say BSAA and they’re like “right, I'm out” so ok, what would be really cool is if we could build that community some fans may think, oh man did you see this little reference to an old Resident Evil title and the less hardcore fans could see this stuff and get a better idea of what Resident Evil is and hopefully be excited for the next episode even more!
Do you think the episodic release is the future of gaming and may replace physical?
That's a good question. For us, I think, we want to see what fans want. With Revelations in particular, we feel like this is a branch of the Resident Evil franchise that we can take on new challenges with and try new stuff and then see how fans react to it and so in particular that's why we did the episodic thing this time around. As far as what the future holds, it's really going to come down to what the fans want.
For me, I still think there's a place for both you know? Episodic and physical releases, you still see plenty of people buying discs.
[laughs] Part of it for me, is my wife still makes me buy the physical discs because we have these points programs in Japan [laughs] if you buy the physically you get these points which get you more free stuff, so she tells me to get the physical copy and I'm like “oh, ok”
It’s great to have the option though!
You’ve added in a fairly constructed stealth section this time around. How did this come about? Was it a natural addition or a gamble you’ve been thinking of throwing in since the beginning?
So, we wanted to give people some choice. We weren't thinking, right we want to make Metal Gear Evil, we weren't going for that. What we were going for is, we have a Director called Yasuhiro Ampo, he's been on Resident Evil since the beginning. Ever since RE1 on PS1. He was a programmer and been with us ever since!
A real legacy developer then!
Yeah, exactly, he's been with us the whole time. So we had him and other guys like Gota San, Ampo San was director on RE5 then Gota San was also helping out on RE5. These guys have been on the series forever and Ampo San was like ok, we want to give people this survival horror experience, with resource management so let's do that but we don't want to make it so your only two options are, run away or find ammo and shoot.
Capcom should be able to do better than that right, we should be able to give people more options for gameplay so they can play how they want and the stealth kill is specifically that. It’s trying to give players the chance to strategize. I’m low on bullets or I’m not low on bullets but I want to save them up because I’m sure I’ll come to a really hard encounter soon so what are my options.
Well one of my options is, I can switch to Natalie and she can sense the enemies and she can also sense if the enemy has spotted you yet, so if I haven't been spotted, I can switch back to Barry, sneak up behind him and get this contextual, stealth kill.
It’s very much an option so you know, if you do that, you can save bullets but it's going to be harder than just running through and shooting. There’s a particular part that I had to film some footage for that and the producer said “I want you to stealth kill all the enemies here” and I thought to myself, you've got to be kidding me right? I kept getting spotted and it was like, great. Now I have to re start! [laughs] but because we have these support partners, it's just our way of trying to expand the options available to you!
With the Resident Evil series, co-op partners have been a mainstay for a while now. Is this something that's here to stay?
I don't think it's necessarily going to be that, I don't think that its something that needs to stay or that makes Resident Evil what it is. It’s more that, Ampo San wanted to take on this challenge, eve seen feedback from RE6 for instance that people don't want to play with two people guns blazing because it feels like an action movie, but then we've also gotten feedback where people have said that they love the horror but either A, they're not good enough to play it on their own, so they get frustrated and give up or B, they're too scared to play alone.
We’ve actually gotten feedback from a lot of people along these lines, so Ampo San wanted to see if we could do it in such a way, that every body wins. So he’s like, let's do it this way. Let's do Moira and Natalia, these are two people that can't just go in and run and gun. Natalia can't use guns, a 9 year old kid can't use guns [laughs] especially according to the SRB [laughs]
She can use a brick pretty well though!
Right! and Moira, she has a very specific story reason why she can't! So, if we do it that way, it’s less of a, yes my partner is as strong as I am. No, she's not. She's actually going to have limitations and hopefully because of that, we can do it in a way that still feels like survival horror, it doesn't feel like this really action focused thing because there's a lot more strategy to it. Moira, she can shine a light into a Zombies eyes, but that wont kill him. It does though give Claire more options, she could run up and do a contextual kill or melee attack and then at least it’ll knock him down and give you some time to get out of there!
No one has heard anything [apart from rumours] about Resident Evil 7, do you and your team think this spin-off series could take over as the main focus in the franchise?
I'm glad you said team! because, you know it is, very much that we've been a team for a while, really focused on working with Revelations 2 and because of that, we don't really know whats going on with the other stuff
I always imagined they kept you in different buildings!
Not in different buildings but we’re on different floors actually! in the Capcom R&D building over in Osaka, so we’re not really clear on whats going on with those guys but we’re sure whatever its going to be, its going to be awesome! Whatever they do, whatever they're working on its going to be something really cool and kind of show us “oh my god, this is something new!”
I imagine with whatever the other team work on or release, it’ll spur your team on a bit and show you things you perhaps hadn't thought about?
Well I think, for Revelations in particular, for us it's looking at fan feedback. Fans have noticed this, what is it then that we want to do so that we can make them happy!
With feedback an important thing for your team, have you ever had any about bringing back the old, slow door animations? Obviously Revelations has had some animation but it's basically someones arm pushing it open..
That's a good question man! I haven't personally seen any feedback on the door animation. If you watch the first trailer we released at TGS, when we announced Claire for the first time. We tried to put homages to the first games in there, when you talk about the doors anyway, so there's these cuts where it's from a first person perspective and a door throws open. That was a little nod back to the older titles!
Final question, and off topic, but if you could have worked on any other game or game series, past or present, what would you have loved to get to grips with?
That's a great question! For me personally, I’m actually a huge Monster Hunter fan, I play a ton of 4G. Getting involved with that series and saying ‘how do we show people in the west this games a ton of fun?’ because it is! It’s a ton of fun!
Yeah, it's so much fun once you’re into it and really addictive but getting into it is the tricky part!
Exactly, we actually had a couple of interviews with Fujioka San last week, he's the Director of Monster Hunter and he was really specific, explaining that what he's trying to do with 4G is, the story mode is like a tutorial and they've put a lot of effort into it and so by doing that, hopefully people will get a better understanding of how to play the game!
I started playing in earnest on 4, because its been in Japan for a while and it took me, I don't even know how long to finally get used to it but once I did it was great! I’ve actually put something like, probably around 700 hours into it!
Nice! Makes my time look bad! I’m sitting on roughly 300 hours!