Even though I wasn't impressed with the pilot for Resident Evil: Revelations 2, there was no question I'd be hanging on for the whole ride. While I'm not convinced the story is going anywhere interesting, I'll give them credit in the second episode: it's a huge improvement.
For starters, if you were distressed at the abbreviated length of the first episode, the action takes a little longer to resolve in episode two. We're talking nearly three hours this time, thanks largely to a lengthy and satisfying stretch of sequences with Barry Burton in the second half.
Before we get to Barry, though, we're catching up with Claire Redfield and Moira Burton. In the first episode, the TerraSave employees are abducted and brought to a mysterious and seemingly distant island. A woman named The Overseer communicates through bizarre bracelets, there's evidence of grotesque experiments all around you, and monsters lurk in every corner. The two aren't sure where to head next, but suspect a massive tower at the centre of the island holds some answers. When we left Claire and Moira, they apparently failed to send a distress beacon.
As a reminder...
The second episode picks up with Claire and Moira on the run, eventually running into a set of other TerraSafe employees who were also abducted. The group tries to make sense of what's happening but have few answers. A good chunk of the action plays out through an extended sequence that's very reminiscent of the opening to Resident Evil 4, which last year's The Evil Within also cribbed from. Here, a creepy village appears to be empty, except it's totally not!
Dun dun dun!!!!
It's a little more complicated than that, obviously. We gain some insight into what's going on with these bracelets on everyone's arm. While I'll leave the particulars to anyone playing the episode, if the people on this island aren't careful, they're going to become horrible creatures, too. Thankfully, the group just-so-happens to discover a helicopter, and the village just-so-happens to have fuel and an engine. How convenient! Actually, these contrivances are all over Revelations 2, generally speaking, and they eventually add up to a giant eye-roll. It'd be one thing if the machiavellian Overseer was messing with everyone, but instead, it's the designers conveniently dropping whatever the characters need at that moment right in front of them.
Plenty of digital ink could be spilled over these sorts of design choices, but what's impressive about this episode of Revelations 2 is up how it quickly pushes players up against a wall. There's far more combat this time, smartly mining tension from forcing you to finally start using herbs, worrying about what skills you've spent battle points on (how come so many are about crouching?), and making sure every head shot counts. I found myself with precious little ammunition at various points, forcing me to avoid combat, run away, and change my tactics.
This is even more apparent when the episode swaps to Barry's perspective.
Remember, Barry has arrived on the island months later, and he's playing catchup. When he pulls up to the island, a young girl named Natalia approaches him and claims to have met his daughter. While understandably wary of having a child hanging around, leaving them to fend for themselves seems like a terrible idea, so Barry and Natalia team up. Unlike Claire and Moira, the two have complementary skilsets. Barry is a walking tank with heaps of weapons, a light on his chest, and one-hit kill stealth moves. Natalia, on the other hand, can sneak into small holes and sense enemies around her, letting Barry consider when and where to go on the offensive.
Natalia's mind powers are nifty, but in the first episode, I'd use Barry's magnum to make short work of everything around him. The enemies are tougher in the second episode, though, and Barry starts running low on bullets. This means I'd actually spend time setting up stealth kills as much as possible. Fortunately, Revelations 2 is pretty forgiving when it comes to stealth, so as long as you're not right in front of the enemies, you can usually pull it off. Plus, unlike many other stealth games, if you're caught, you're well-equipped to quickly take out who spotted you.
Revelation 2's moment of brilliance comes from an invisible enemy requiring cooperation from both characters. Since Natalia can sense what's around her, the creature's cloaking is vulnerable. She can't see more than an outline of what's approaching, but she knows it's close. If you're controlling Barry, she'll shout out where to move your gun -- to the left, to the right, fire! -- and if you switch over to her, you'll see where the creature is shuffling around. The game introduces this concept in a huge space, offering plenty of time to run around and figure out what's going on, before forcing you to adjust tactics in a series of claustrophobic hallways. As the enemies near, Barry's vision becomes blurred, his heart races, and my nerves rattled. There aren't many "scary" moments in Revelations 2, but these enemies gave me the creeps.
By the end, everyone's found themselves at roughly the same spot, albeit in different timelines.
In short, thanks to episode two, I've started giving a shit about what's happening around me in Revelations 2. No, I still don't understand why certain items can't be spotted without the secondary character pointing their finger at them. No, I'm not sure how the cliffhanger at the end makes any sense. Yes, regardless, I'll be there next week for episode three. Will you?