If you’ve been looking forward to this game on the Vita, you’ve probably been through a mix of emotions. The ecstasy and elation when it was so proudly and triumphantly announced back in December’s PlayStation Experience event. The frustration and agony when you watched other systems get the weekly episodic content earlier this year whilst we didn’t hear a peep. Then the worry and frustration (again) when it became clear that the port was being managed by a studio best known for its in-house indie titles.
How was it going to turn out? Was it going to be a repeat of Borderlands 2? Is it a stretch too far to expect another indie studio to manage a big name port? Or are all our worries unfounded and is this game exactly what we need?
Before we get into all of that, we should actually start with what Resident Evil Revelations 2 is. At its core, the game is a third person action/survival horror title and the tenth game in the Resident Evil series – set between the events of Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6. Originally released elsewhere episodically, this Vita version has all of the content in one package; in a similar manner to The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us titles from Telltale Games.
Initially you are playing as returning series regular Claire Redfield, who now works for an agency called Terra Save; a non-governmental humanitarian group which manages different situations the world over. During a private function, the group is ambushed and before long you find yourself imprisoned, alone, and in a very bad way. Due to the disappearance of not only Claire, but also Moira Burton – who is the daughter of Barry Burton, a familiar face from the Resident Evil series – Barry soon investigates himself to try to find out what happened.
Playing as Claire you’ll soon awake on a mysterious island, and after breaking out of confinement you’ll find a firearm, regroup with Moira, and look to escape the gruesome compound you ended up in. This is where the game explains the basics to you. Movement and aiming is controlled by the analogue sticks as you would expect and the shoulder buttons serve as your aiming and shooting outputs (using the R without aiming will melee). Square will reload a weapon or interact with different objects – like crates or items you discover, “X” is your general activate button, circle acts as an evade, and triangle switches between the characters in play. The game also makes use of the front touch screen, with these controls divided among the screen’s four corners; top-left for using your torch, top-tight for switching to your main weapon, crouching set to bottom-left and finally the use of herbs (for healing) mapped to the bottom-right. The controls also vary slightly depending on which characters you are playing with.
This is because of the interesting way that the campaign is presented; you will start off by playing as Claire and Moira, and once that part of the mission has been taken care of you’ll then play through as Barry and Natalia – the latter a curious young girl with some peculiar abilities. Set sometime after the first portion, actions taken in the first part of your chapter can have consequences in Barry’s play through as he attempts to retrace his daughter’s whereabouts. With regards to the character differences, Moira has a dislike for firearms and as such uses a crowbar as a weapon, which is handy for breaking into boxes. Natalia (rather unhelpfully) utilises bricks as her weapon of choice, though being a child also helps her to sneak into smaller crevices and gaps that others can’t. The game will present you with situations where you need to use both characters, but their roles are very much secondary to Claire and Barry, and thankfully most of the encounters with the infected enemies you will face can be dealt with using firearms.
The game plays out this way over all four chapters, with Claire and Moira driven by the mysterious Overseer, who explains that the ladies are wearing bracelets which measure fear as part of an experiment. Along the way the pair will attempt to uncover who has done this and look for their missing friends whereas Barry’s quest is set retracing their footsteps and even ultimately crossing paths with the remnants of their journey.
The game is set up such that you will find a myriad of puzzles and challenges that will definitely stimulate the grey matter, whilst at the same time requiring you to be alert to the infected that will be looking to make short work of you. There is a wide variety of enemies that you’ll encounter – 2013: Infected Wars this isn’t – and you’ll encounter quite the challenge as you progress through the story… even if you play on easy like me.
For those of you that love a challenge, there is a pretty extensive trophy list which requires the completion of all game modes and also tasks you with earning all of the medals as you play the game. Each chapter has a rather demanding list of requirements, and completing these will earn you additional “BP” (the skill unlocking currency) to enhance your abilities and make your journey through the campaign a little more manageable.
That campaign will last for around 8-10 hours for the main story, but it’s not all that the game offers you. Successfully completing an episode then unlocks two new modes to replay, called Countdown and Invisible. Countdown is a race against the clock, with time added for defeating enemies. It’s a very interesting mode and will really test your ability to play under pressure. Invisibility Mode is the true test of your ability however, with the enemies hidden from sight as the name suggests. Natalia and Moira can both briefly give away the location of the fiends through their abilities, although don’t say I haven’t warned you – it’s brutal!
Also thrown into this bundle are two additional chapters – The Struggle and Little Miss – which add a little more back story for you. The Struggle is a four part story which focuses on another character you encounter in the game and requires you to shoot animals for food (which act as continues) and wipe out the zombies that you’ll find. Little Miss is a purely stealth based episode which sees you controlling Natalia over three chapters, and fills in the story leading up to Barry meeting her in his episode one.
The episodic campaign isn’t all you’ll get in this package either, you’ll also get the rather brilliant Raid mode bundled in too. Essentially a wave-based set of missions, you can create your own character and customise your weapons and skills. As you level up and play missions you’ll earn skill points and new weapons. This mode has many different missions, called Gauntlets, and depending on your efficiency you will earn medals to unlock new missions.
Where it really comes into its own is with another player. Games are always more fun when you are playing with someone else, and playing this online with another player is great fun and probably where you’ll spend the bulk of your time – offering longevity for the title for when you have tired of the campaign.
As is becoming commonplace with console style ports for the handheld there have had to make a few visual compromises to squeeze the game onto the Vita. Many of the lighting effects have been removed and as a result everything is a little brighter, somewhat compounding on a title based around horror. The visuals and textures and more than functional and serve the game well, but they do have that washed-out look you find in non-native releases. One bit of advice I’ll make is to manually turn down the brightness in the settings. This makes everything look closer to how it should, and it’s a little silly that it’s set so bright by default.
As is the norm with Vita games though, everything looks better in motion than screens ever give justice for. From my experience it does have a pretty stable frame rate, but it does struggle when there were a larger number of enemies and/or health issues. It does get progressively worse in the later chapters and the final battle may well test your patience – it’s easily where the game’s frame rate is at its worst. Whilst this may be frustrating for some, and many obviously point to Killzone Mercenary and Uncharted: Golden Abyss in terms of the visual standard expected; the Vita is capable of that level of visual accomplishment but I very much doubt that Revelations 2 has that level of budget, investment and time afforded as those flagship titles did.
The game also has some horrendous loading times, both pre-level and after dying. During the episode it isn’t too bad, but if you are like me you might find yourself falling victim to the horde a few times (especially in Episode 3), making the loading times very noticeable. I’m not exaggerating either, I’m talking WipEout 2048 and Borderlands 2 levels of around a minute or more. It can become quite irritating.
The cut-scenes are all present and accounted for, but there is a definite compression in play which significantly affects the quality, with the transition between the scenes and the gameplay quite noticeable. From an audio perspective, I found that the quality got worse in chapter two, but for the most part was fine. It can sound quite “tinny” at times (akin to the original on PSOne), but that may be more down to the Vita’s speakers. The story’s dialogue is all present and correct and drives the narrative along quite nicely.
If anyone had any reservations about buying Resident Evil Revelations 2 then this is probably the section that you’ll want to read. The game is digital-only in the West and although it is sensibly priced, will take up a basic 2.9GB on your memory card, with a 900MB day-one patch to stick on too. Although the game can be purchased in an physical English-language Asian release, that will need importing and is currently delayed until September. Regardless of the size of your memory card and what’s on it, you may have to move a lot around to accommodate this.
Revelations 2 was also designed to be played in co-op and despite packing some multiplayer into the mix with Raid Mode, there is no co-operative play in the campaign – which is more than a shame. It means that you are left relying on the somewhat questionable AI, which at times is less than helpful.
Finally, the game will not let you use other apps whilst it is running – something also shared with the upcoming Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls. With Vita developers now able to access additional memory for games, I suspect that utilising this additional power comes at the expense of multi-tasking so there’s no checking on trophies or using apps here.
Depending on how you feel about the aforementioned will undeniably play a huge role in whether you should be looking at getting this. Looking at the situation from a different angle, Revelations 2 was not designed for the Vita from the ground up, and is not optimised for the platform as is common with many Vita ports. Despite being handicapped by the budgetary constraints implied by the use of a smaller, independent studio and the fact that a much larger game has been condensed and compressed by file size limitations and hardware restraints, I personally think that Canadian developers Frima Studio have done quite a job here. If the task was to get Revelations 2 onto the Vita, there is no denying that it has been accomplished.