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Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Horror games are on the rise once again, but the genre wouldn’t exist in its current form without Shinji Mikami’s genre-defining Resident Evil.

This 1996 PlayStation title solidified the series as one of the industry’s biggest and coined the term “survival horror.” The franchise reinvented itself in 2004 with Resident Evil 4, but the path beyond that influential shooter has been more polarizing. Resident Evil 6 released to mixed critical reception and failed to meet sales expectations a dismal sequel compared to Resident Evil 5, which, as of last year, was Capcom’s best-selling game ever.

The main numbered entries in the franchise may have recently lost the pulse of its enduring fan base, but a moody, portable, single-player focused spin-off named Resident Evil Revelations released months before Resident Evil 6 and scored Capcom praise. After being ported to consoles, the game sold nearly two million units. Revelations’ numbers don’t touch the main series entries, but Capcom recognized the serialized narrative structure as a current avenue for episodic distribution.

Revelations 2, destined for current and last-gen consoles, refines the solid gameplay of its predecessor while telling the next chapter of one of the franchise’s biggest characters.

We visited Capcom in Tokyo for an extensive hands-on session with Revelations 2. Capcom let us play through an exclusive section set in a deadly prison cellblock and we also spoke with producer Michiteru Okabe about the next chapter in Resident Evil’s main numbered series. Our Tokyo trip also afforded us a chance to see Resident Evil Remaster HD in action and check out the revamped environments and game changing control scheme.

A New Chapter, A New Distribution Method

Resident Evil Revelations was developed on the 3DS with an episodic structure because Capcom theorized on the go players would want to play in smaller chunks. Revelations 2 isn’t in the works for 3DS or Wii U (likely due to Revelations' underperforming sales on those platforms), but the serialized TV show formula remains intact. Similar to Telltale’s The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us, each episode will be available individually for $5.99, or you can get a season pass for $24.99 which comes with extra content. A disc-based version will hit retail after all the episodes are released with even more additional content for $39.99, though Capcom hasn’t specified what the extras entail. The four episodes will release across four successive weeks, each taking two to three hours to play through.


More than a decade has passed since Claire Redfield’s story trailed off. She premiered in Resident Evil 2 alongside rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy, hunting for her brother Chris within the undead husk of Raccoon City. She discovered the outbreak was the result of a sinister corporation named Umbrella that was conducting experiments with terrible monsters beneath the city. Instead of letting that traumatic event cripple her, she dedicated herself to fighting bioterrorism. Her mission hit a snag in Resident Evil: Code Veronica, when she was captured infiltrating an Umbrella compound. She later awakened on a dirty jail cell floor of Rockfort Island, an Umbrella training facility. Now, over a decade after that incident, Claire is back in the spotlight and finding herself in an unsettlingly similar position.

“Although her comeback to the games is a long time coming, there was a CG movie,  Resident Evil: Degeneration , that showed us Claire after the Raccoon City Incident,” says Revelations 2 writer Hiroshi Yamashita. “Revelations 2 takes place even further down the line between Resident Evils 5 and 6. So we paid close attention to making sure that we portrayed Claire as a character who has grown even more as a person.”

Claire’s repeated run-ins with evil companies performing illegal experiments have left her bitter and hardened. Her world-weariness shows, and she’s quick to communicate her lack of trust for others. The benefits of her sworn mission include impressive weapon proficiency and quick reflexes the best defenses against mutated monsters.

As in Code Veronica, Claire awakens in Revelations 2 on the floor of a prison cell, this time with a glowing green bracelet on her wrist. This same accessory is highlighted in a trailer for the game, which shows passengers of a cruise ship wearing bracelets glowing green and vicious zombies with red ones. We don’t know why or how she ended up here, but given the Revelations series’ emphasis on mystery and flashbacks, Capcom is likely withholding her kidnapper’s identity
to create intrigue.

Claire’s cell unlocks and she discovers the mysterious prison facility looks like it’s been abandoned for decades. Rusted hooks line the walls, and implements of torture are displayed everywhere. Recognizing the danger here, Claire immediately goes on the hunt for Moira. This fire cracker of a young woman is the daughter of Resident Evil fan favorite  Barry  Burton.

Barry was blackmailed into betraying his fellow S.T.A.R.S. team members during the Mansion Incident when series villain Wesker threatened his loved ones. The family man has been absent from the storyline since his cameo appearance at the end of  Resident Evil 3, which also shows a snapshot of him playing with his two little girls. Revelations 2 promises to explore what's going on with the Burton clan, but will Barry be playable? Director Michiteru Okabe is being coy, but the answer may be between the lines.

“Without giving away too much, I will say it is a good story for familial relations parents and children,” Okabe says. “You’ll glean a lot about these kinds of relationships in this storyline.”

Claire finds Moira trapped in another cell, banging against the bars in frustration. Claire releases the lock by pressing a nearby switch and a relieved Moira flees from the cell. Moira is a new recruit in Claire’s organization Terra Save, a group committed to battling bioterrorism across the world. Moira is a rookie with an attitude and a big mouth, but her admiration of Claire is apparent. This duo’s relationship presents another parallel to Claire’s exploits in Raccoon City, where she protected youngster Sherry Birkin from her mutating mad-scientist father.

The pair winds through dark, narrow corridors with passageways blocked by locked gates or piles of decrepit junk. Their path leads to a large, open area with mine-cart tracks corkscrewing up along the walls. Dozens of hooks dangle from the ceiling, each impaling a gently swinging, burlap-wrapped body. One corpse suddenly drops right in the middle of Claire’s path, offering a quick scare and reminder that Capcom wants to rattle players’ nerves more than in recent games.

They hit a dead end in a surgery room with a huge pane of cracked glass. Claire goes on the hunt for something to bust it out. She uncovers a knife and a flashlight, handing the latter over to Moira. Now armed, Claire busts down the glass and the two explore the next room.

Claire reads up on a file all about the monitoring and disposal of “test subjects.” The memo prompts me to explore the environment a little more thoroughly, and I see a security camera pointed right at the ladies.

It doesn’t take long before Claire and Moira get their first look at one of the subjects. I won’t spoil how one of the twisted tortured fiends, named the Afflicted, makes its first appearance, but they look gruesome. These fleshy, terribly deformed humanoid monsters glisten with blood. Torture implements like spikes and barbed wire are driven into their scarred bodies, adding a sting to each swing they take. Claire wards off the first attacker with her knife as Moira curses in confusion, asking what she just saw.

“The Afflicted were subjected to some sort of specific kind of torture that’s basically driven them completely bonkers,” Okabe says. “They’re insane now and extremely violent, going berserk. They are humans; they’re not zombies. They are humans that have been pushed beyond  their  limits.”

Claire’s next encounter with these new foes is a white knuckle introduction to Revelations 2’s combat. The two are attacked after looting a dead cop’s corpse for a pistol and a key. A trio of Afflicted close in, snarling and running toward Claire as Moira flees up a ladder. Without thinking, my instincts from hundreds of hours spent blasting the Ganados and Majini of Resident Evil 4 and 5 kick in as I shoot at the charging monsters’ feet. To my surprise, the attackers stumble and fall to the ground. Unlike recent Resident Evil games, where attacking specific body parts doesn’t affect enemy movement, Capcom is bringing gunplay in Revelations 2 back to its roots.

A couple of clean headshots finish off one Afflicted, and I attempt to conserve ammo by slashing another fallen enemy with my knife.

The other remaining Afflicted offers me no quarter, blindsiding me with a huge tackling leap. Series fans may have grown accustomed to enemies that sprint toward you and generously slow down when within a few feet. The Afflicted’s animalistic rage makes them more of a threat, forcing players to keep moving. Thankfully, Claire’s new multi directional dodge move allows her to evade some of these tenacious beasts’ attacks. The narrow timing window of the original Revelation’s
dodge ability has been replaced with one that lets players dash in a specific direction at will. It’s a welcome change.

I barely survive the fight, having to rely on my knife to cautiously defeat the last Afflicted. Blood smears frame the screen, indicating Claire is on her last legs. Holding down a button allows Claire to mend her wounds with collected herbs after a healing gauge quickly fills.

Hardcore Resident Evil fans will be happy to know that even for a seasoned series veteran, Revelations 2 looks to be punishing. The scarce resources and relentless enemies may have some players restarting at checkpoints more often than they expect.

Inside Resident Evil HD Remaster's Mansion Makeover
Resident Evil Revelations 2 is embracing the series’ figurative horror roots, but this remastered HD update is literally going back to its origins.

Much has been said about the GameCube remake of Resident Evil, and for good reason. It cleverly toys with players’ expectations based on the original, like having a window crack instead of a zombie dog crash through it. It makes players rethink their strategies thanks to zombies that must be burned before they come back faster and stronger. Not least importantly, the 2002 release made a graphical leap in one generation that’s nothing short of staggering. But Capcom’s process for updating the already impressive visuals for the HD era is more involved than simply improving textures and offering an alternative to clunky tank controls.

During our visit with Capcom, the developer walked us through the process behind making the terrific-looking game look even better. GameCube titles were originally developed to output to standard definition TVs. That built-in, fuzzy coat of Vaseline is gone now, so the team has to painstakingly ensure every last green herb and flickering candle holds up under HD users’  scrutiny.

The RE remake differs from many HD updates that contain fully 3D game worlds, in that the mansion settings achieved their impressive level of detail thanks to Capcom’s technique of using static backgrounds with looping ambient flairs, like moths flickering at a light or leaves rustling in the wind. These subtle elements along with the lighting system were baked into the environment because the game had no dynamic lighting system (save for the 3D character models). To update these aspects of the game, Capcom is completely recreating some scenery in 3D, like candle flames or tree branches. Additionally, the character models for every S.T.A.R.S. team member and enemy are being touched up to convey a greater sense of realism and gore.

Some rooms have been almost entirely redone, such as the infamous underground tomb where a Crimson Head zombie emerges from a dangling coffin. In order to maintain the dread inducing mood of the room, Capcom remade the walls, floor, iron bars, hanging chains, and more so that the dynamic lighting system could play off the environment with more gloomy realism.

For a game so focused on instilling unease in players, this type of attention is paramount.

Capcom also showed off the new modern control scheme and cropped camera mode in action. The new controls allow the character to more nimbly move around the environment and evade enemies. Capcom admits this may disrupt some core balancing of the game’s difficulty, such as enemies’ A.I. not being able to compensate for the S.T.A.R.S. sudden spryness.

Chris and Jill’s speedier movements may also reduce some of the weight and tension of the original. A new view mode crops the action in 16:9 (opposed to the original’s 4:3 ratio), with the concession of a camera that slowly tracks the characters. It’s similar to watching a widescreen film in fullscreen slightly jarring but not awful. Thankfully, players can swap between the original ratio and control scheme on the fly.

Finally, Capcom is giving fans a little something extra by including playable Resident Evil 5 versions of Chris and Jill in HD Remaster. All these enhancements and new options are coming together to present an enticing opportunity for diehard fans and newcomers alike when it hits current/last-gen consoles and PC early next year.

Capcom Takes Its Leading Ladies Seriously

The Resident Evil series’ ever changing representation of its female heroes is personified by Jill Valentine. She transformed from a uniformed police operative to a mini-skirted survivor, then to a brainwashed, spandexed vixen with a mind-control device attached to her cleavage. Capcom hasn’t always handled its tough female characters with the class they deserve, so we asked producer Michiteru Okabe if that’s changing with Revelations 2’s more grounded representations of Claire Redfield and  Moira  Burton.

“Yeah, that is deliberate,” Okabe says. “I think even though this takes place in a fantasy world, we’ve made an effort to keep things a little more on the realistic spectrum. Things that people actually wear in real life, and skew away from the cartoony things you see in other Japanese titles. We’re making a concerted effort to avoid that with a lot of the stuff we’re up to these days.”


The Afflicted present a formidable challenge, but thankfully Moira Burton has inherited her father’s grit. Though unlike Barry, a former weapons expert for S.T.A.R.S., Moira doesn’t do guns. Shortly after Claire picks up a double-barreled shotgun, she offers the firearm to Moira. She rejects the offer, adding that guns aren’t her style. “Not after what happened,” she says. Could Moira’s aversion to guns stem from a traumatic family event? Revelations 2 sows the seeds of another intriguing  mystery.

Moira is handy even without a gun or blade. Players can control Moira in single player, swapping between her and Claire with the push of a button (reminiscent of Resident Evil 0). Alternatively, a buddy can pick up a controller for some local, splitscreen only co-op action. Moira sticks to flashlight duty, shining the light around the environment to reveal sparkling items for the taking, like ammo and health. She can also point the bright beam in enemies’ faces, blinding them and leaving them open for a blast from Claire’s shotgun or a roundhouse kick.

But that’s not all; Moira also carries around a hefty crowbar. She can stab fallen enemies with the business end of this tool for a one-hit kill, making her contribution to combat an invaluable way to even the odds and save ammo.

Moira uses the crowbar to pry a wooden barricade off a door leading to a new area that Capcom showed exclusively to Game Informer. Claire and Moira pass through a dark hallway until they see sunlight for the first time since a waking in this terrible place. A bright ray of light breaks through the crumbling roof of the compound, illuminating an open prison cell block. A voice cuts in over the facility’s P.A. system.“Fear what you will become, and become what you fear,” says the disembodied voice. Could this be the same person who is mysteriously watching the duo fight through the prison?

“What? Who the f*** is quoting poetry?” Moira asks.
“Are you afraid? You can tell me. Talk to me,” the voice says.
Claire and Moira worriedly talk amongst themselves as the bracelets on their wrists change from green to orange. The voice reveals that their bracelets change color based on their level of fear. Mirroring the health statuses of classic Resident Evil titles, green is presumably good, orange means they’re afraid, and red is bad news according to promotional material showing zombie-like creatures displaying the color.

“You won’t recognize this character just by the voice, but this is a known character that’s very important to the RE universe,” Okabe says.
“But you’ve got to be a core fan to know her. Really hardcore.”
The voice stops, leaving the women to continue searching for a way out. They find a gated door locked by a cog mechanism. In classic Resident Evil fashion, a gear is missing. Another locked door nearby requires a rusty key to open, which means I must have more exploring to do in the cell block. Searching the upper cells proves fruitful I scare up a few spare bullets and the rusty key I need. However, the necessary cog is behind one of the electronically locked cell doors.

A cell door begins shuddering on the way back to the stairs. The twisted face of an Afflicted appears in the narrow view hole as the door rattles on its hinges. Feeling cavalier, I attempt to sprint past the door, only to jump in my seat as it busts open and Claire is sent falling to the ground below. A group of agitated Afflicted burst from their cells, rushing down the stairs. Spotting a strategic opening, I switch to my shotgun and take aim for right about where the heads of the two front runners will be. One blast turns their doughy faces to pulp and I carefully dismantle the rest with help from Moira’s blinding flashlight and crowbar.

Moira and Claire continue to venture deeper into the facility after using the rusty key, finally arriving at a dead end near a broken ladder and a sinister torture device. The mechanism appears to specialize in slowly crushing its victims with spikes. Claire throws a switch to raise the spike press. A decaying body slides off its impalements, revealing a key to a control room. Moira takes the key and Claire gives her a boost to explore up past the broken ladder. Exploring alone as Moira makes me feel considerably more vulnerable. I opt for safer routes as opposed to one corridor with Afflicted bodies littering the ground.

Moira eventually finds the control room, unlocks the door, and discovers a switch that appears to control some of the locked cells. She flips the switch, but to her dismay in addition to opening the door leading to the cog she opens every door in the prison. Swapping between characters is disabled for this brief sequence, so it’s up to Moira to sprint back to warn Claire about the coming horde. Enemies bust through the windows and pour into the hallway. I’m clever enough to flashlight stun an Afflicted, but make the dumb mistake of swinging at it with my crowbar. The beast immediately snags Moira and chews a hunk of meat out of her neck. I remember the dodge function and narrowly juke my way past the rest of them.

Once united, Moira apologizes to Claire for letting all the psychos loose and they make a run for the puzzle piece they need. The cog is in hand after a frenzied volley of bullets, buckshot, and crowbar blows cuts a path through the Afflicted. Inserting the gear begins the slow process of raising the gate. Paranoid from the last ambush, I peek behind me to see a huge goliath carrying a massive maul stalking towards us. “What? They come in lard size?” Moira yells.

The duo dodges the lumbering giant, leading it into the open cellblock area. I flee up the stairs as even more Afflicted rush into the room. One grabs Moira so I blast its head to smithereens with the shotgun. The hulking, masked Afflicted slowly walking up the stairs after us is reminiscent of the giant, nearly unstoppable butchers from Resident Evil 5. Moira insists that it’s too strong for us and that we should run.

I spot an opening in the railing from where the Afflicted surprise attacked me earlier. I leap down to the ground floor and the two make a dash for the exit. They work together to lift a steel shutter. Sunlight pours into the darkness once it’s open, and the two run toward it.

Our time with Revelations 2 ends here, but fans don’t have to wait long to get their hands on the first episode. This taste of Claire and Moira’s mysterious journey to the sadistic torture island offers many answers about the sequel’s new gameplay direction, but it also raises a series of tantalizing questions for Resident Evil fans.

How did these two get here? Where is Barry? Who is the malevolent entity observing the trapped survivors? The only question fans shouldn’t worry about is whether to be excited or not.

What Can We Expect From Resident Evil 7?

Capcom is being very secretive about what’s next for Resident Evil’s main series (we don’t even know if it will be called RE 7), but Resident Evil Revelations 2 producer Michiteru Okabe answered a few of our big questions.

What did the reception to Resident Evil 6 teach Capcom about what players want?

I think one thing that’s become really clear is what people want out of the Resident Evil series is survival horror first and foremost. They want that to be the core of the gameplay. Anything we add above and beyond that is great and welcome, but it really has to have that core intact. I think the clearest lesson was what Resident Evil needs to do is not compare itself to, and try to compete with or try to be other big franchise. It needs to be itself.

Can fans expect a renewed emphasis on resource management and lethal  enemies?

That’s one avenue it could go, but I think it’s a little more complicated than that. I think what we really need to do is take a serious look at what makes the series itself. Look at all the constituent parts if resource management is important to survival horror, then why is it important, what does it mean, and what do these varying elements mean to the franchise? How can we then take that and work with modern technology? Since RE 6 we’ve got new consoles on the market. We have the potential for things like Oculus Rift and Morpheus. How do we take all these technological tools that are available to us and take the data we’ve learned from our careful analysis and really make some thing new and special?

Could the next Resident Evil reboot the entire story for something new?

Speaking personally, I think it would be cool to try something new. I’d be open to that, but I also want there to be some link to what’s come before, rather than going completely from scratch.

Do you have a final message for  the  fans?

The team back in Osaka spends a lot of time and a lot of energy thinking about what the future of the Resident Franchise holds. They’re hard at work doing that. I can tell you that the engine we used for Resident Evil Revelations 2 is the 64-bit framework of MT Framework [Capcom’s proprietary engine]. It’s multi-platform and multi generational. And to that, the Resident Evil franchise may be best served by a special, Resident Evil-specific engine.

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