As part of Gamereactor UK's new policy towards episodic titles, we'll discuss individual episodes as they release but leave a final roundup verdict until the entire season is completed. As a reflection on that, these recaps will also pinpoint the strongest and weakest elements we found in each episode, and as such contain spoilers.
Episode 3: In which Revelations goes big, we get the John Carpenter vibe and Moira keeps delivering tension-breaking lines.
Revelations 2 is proving our original two-hour play time per episode to be unfairly conservative come each update. Episode 3's the longest and biggest entry so far, taking in a handful of multi-roomed, multi-levelled buildings and areas, and the two campaigns finally diverge significantly in terms of location.
As with previous episodes, this is a mega-mix of the franchise's pacing. There's the kind of exploratory puzzle work that echoes the early days of the series, but it's coupled with the higher enemy encounter rate of the latter day instalments. Solve a puzzle, find a key, or unlock a door and expect a groan and shuffle of footsteps as mutations head to your location.
All are welcome, as the game judges your abilities well honed by now, and skill tress expanded to a point you can deal out as much damage as you can take. We're juggling Claire and Barry's takedown follow up and knife dash moves as we headshot most of the lower tier undead with confidence. Newer firepower requires testing to see what works best in any given situation, as your load-out limits you to four weapons on the move.
It's an important choice, as newer threats and mutated old ones crop up a lot in this episode. Aside from one manic moment late into Barry's campaign, the difficulty doesn't spike as sharply as before, though again that may be due to our ever-sharpening skills. The game does a good job of forcing you to never treat a downed undead as actually dead - some resurrect as bloaters, walking bombs that'll explode screen-covering goop when close. And the developers are vicious in dropping them in at exactly the wrong moment.
Exploring buildings (and we hesitate to name their purpose or contents, as it'll spoil the suspense) is yet another change of pace, making the three episodes thus far feel structurally different from each other. That we're seeing a more definitive visual distinction between the two campaigns' time frames, and thereby entirely different approaches to the same locations or all-new places comes not a moment too soon - though sooner than this would have been better.
Campaign preference has until now been in the elder Burton's court. This time it's roughly equal. There's big action beats in both, and each story thread offers a sequence in which the pairings are split and need to unlock the other's pathway, while the other has to cover their back with some smart shooting. Yet each moment feels wholly different thanks to their particular circumstances. Each campaign gets a unique boss encounter, though Barry's just edges out over Claire's as it errs away from tradition and right into John Carpenter territory.
Moira's still delivering quality tension-breaker commentary, but it's the growing relationship between Natalia and Barry that's still winning in terms of story. A slower beginning to their campaign this time round might feel Last of Us-lite, but works entirely within context.
One thing that crops up in retrospect after the episode's conclusion is the lack of follow-through (so far) with the bracelets. Introduced as a tracker of the wearer's heart rate and mental condition, and triggering a mutation if they're beset with all-consuming fear, the concept had us hoping for an extra, potentially volatile element that'd directly effect our combat or stealth approaches. While Claire and Moira are tagged, the devices have only been used to trigger a surprise boss fight in someone you already knew was marked for plot device death.
Still, it's a small niggle, and the rest of the experience is continuing to deliver quality moments. With the ‘traditional' Resident Evil climax played out this episode, we feel like anything can go come next week's instalment - one we're eager to play.