Being a guy who plays a lot of videogames, I’ve built up a considerable tolerance for nonsense. But even I have my limits. Even I cannot tolerate the level of nonsense in this latest Resident Evil on the Switch.
After the jump, eviction notice
I don’t mind the storyline nonsense in a typical Resident Evil, because it usually skates along an undercurrent of playfulness. It seems aware that it’s goofy. It’s even unashamed. Resident Evil owns its silliness. A grimly earnest Evil Within is trying to get all Clive Barker on your ass, bitch. But a Resident Evil will grunt, flex a bicep, and chortle. It will slide open the slit up the side of its red gown to a flash some thigh, and then wink. It will borrow freely from Hong Kong cinema and Danny Boyle nee George Romero and Rob Bottin and infuse it all with Engrish. It knows that fighting on ships is cool so it’s going to have a ship level no matter what. Texas Chainsaw Massacre inspired gameplay? Okay, fine, but there’s still gonna be a ship!
Resident Evil: Revelations has plenty of that nonsense, and I can’t get enough of it. Whereas the Resident Evils proper split off into a misguided attempt to mimick Texas Chainsaw Massacre and found footage, gameplay be damned, the Revelation line picked up the silly shooter formula that Resident Evil 5 reveled in. Look, said Resident Evil 5, we’re in Africa! Why? Who cares! Let’s shoot zombies, gather loot, level up, and do it all over again! In Africa! Whee!
Revelations loaded up the same concept onto a boat and a Nintendo DS. The boat must have helped with the DS. If you’ve seen one naval hall, you’ve seen them all, and a teensy DS had no problem rendering them. But there was a solid shooter in those halls, and the ending had a cool twist. You even got an open-ended action RPG appended just for good measure, again inspired by Resident Evil 5. The second Revelations, now off the Nintendo DS, was mainly a bunch of dungeons spelunked by two asymmetric characters helping each other. One does combat, the other does support. Play solo, swapping between characters, or bring a friend along. Literally. You have to bring your friend. It’s local multiplayer only. No online. Online, you get the open-ended action RPG, which feels pretty half-assed, but Resident Evil fans have learned not to expect much. There’s nothing quite like Resident Evil 6 to kill hope.
The story stuff in Revelations 2 is actually pretty good, thanks to the lively characters. You start off with Claire and Moira, who have a lot of backstory that I wasn’t really following. For some reason, Moira doesn’t like guns, so she aims the flashlight while Claire shoots things. Aside from the fact that one of them refuses to exercise her Second Amendment rights, they’re a capable pair. I think Claire’s even a cop. Again, I wasn’t paying attention, but she has a sort of cop vibe to her. Moira is a rebellious punker teen, probably a sophomore at a liberal arts college who would have worn her pussy hat months after the Million Woman March. She talks a good game. “Fuck that place very much,” she announces after the intro level. I agree with her, since the hallways are all starting to look alike and we’ve run out of bullets. End of chapter one. Phew.
But Revelations 2 comes to the table with two pairs. After Claire and Moira have established the intro level, here come Barry and Natalia to play the same area all over again. How’s that for efficient use of game assets? Pretty shrewd, Capcom! Barry is an avuncular Grizzly Adams type who’s already leveled up all his guns. Natalia is a little girl with psychic powers, running around in her nightgown just to drive home the point that she’s vulnerable. Again, there’s some backstory that explains why they’re now playing the intro level of Resident Evil: Revelations 2, but I wasn’t paying attention.
Although the level is the same, it plays differently since Claire and Moira have already come through and done the puzzles. It also plays differently because Barry is loaded for bear. Mutant bear. With a conveniently pulsing orange weak spot. This is was it was like to replay Resident Evil 5 on new game plus, but the new game plus is threaded into the game after each area. The timelines are connected, of course, which makes for a shrewd narrative structure. Claire and Moira go first, setting the stage, so to speak. Then Barry comes in afterwards, toting excessive firepower, to do clean-up duty. Natalia brings psychic girlpower with wall-hack view. She can light up the weak spots on the monsters so Barry knows where to shoot. They’re a kind of penny-ante Joel and Ellie. With this duo, you can stealth or shoot. Your call. Heck, why not stealth and shoot? Enjoy it while you can, because you’ll be back as Claire and Moira soon enough, having to work your way through a new unfamiliar area.
I really enjoyed the campaign in Revelations 2, but that’s back when I played it on the Playstation 4 a couple of years ago, waiting for the release to get past Capcom’s weird attempt to release it in bits and pieces as episodic content. Ironically, playing on the Switch is more demanding. It looks horrible, with noticeable pop-in and performance that might make you think Nintendo’s Switch is underpowered. And what’s worse, it takes forever to load a level. This wouldn’t be so bad if the levels didn’t look so retro. You wait and wait and wait and all for…that? This Kafka quote on yet another interminable and static loading screen couldn’t be more appropriate:
Really, it feels like shovelware. This is what Capcom considers passable? It’s worth noting it was released on the same day as a port of the first Resident Evil: Revelations. I wonder how long it takes a Capcom Switch port to load a game originally developed for the Nintendo DS. I don’t aim to find out. I like Revelations 2 a lot. But I don’t like it on the Nintendo Switch.