When you think of a survival horror game like Resident Evil - a series that, up until fairly recently, has plied its trade on creating a sense of isolation, as you face off against a mysterious zombie invasion on your lonesome, and struggle to survive - the chances are "co-op" isn't the first thing that springs to mind. It's perhaps a bit weird, then, that co-op is something that the Resident Evil games really know how to get right. With Resident Evil 5 sporting perhaps the best split-screen co-op mode of the last generation, before Resident Evil 6 promptly messed it up, hopes were high when we found out Revelations 2, a third person adventure game semi-spin off from the main series, would feature the same split-screen co-op we've come to know and love. And even thought it's been kind of gimped, we aren't disappointed.
Set in the near future, our story begins as popular non-governmental organisation, and all around humanitarian do-gooders Terra Save host a party to celebrate their achievements. Amongst the guests on that night are popular Resi fave Claire Redfield, and the newest Terra Save employee, Moira Burton, the daughter of Resident Evil 1's Barry "Jill Sandwich" Burton. As you've probably guessed, the party doesn't exactly go without a hitch, and before you know it, some terrorists storm the building, and knock the guests unconscious. Next thing you know, you wake up in a deep, dark underground lair on a remote island, with a splitting headache and a bracelet strapped around your wrist, almost as if you're about to play some sort of nonary game...
What follows is a game that's split up into two separate, yet interlocking stories, with each chapter alternating between two pairs of characters. In the first half, you'll play as Moira and Claire as they try to escape from the island, while in the second, you take control of man's man Barry Burton, as he arrives on the island to try and find (and save) his daughter, with the help of a little girl whose only real ability is that she can point at things, and creep people out while doing so.
No matter which pair you're playing as, however, the game plays out pretty similarly. While it may be a horror game, Revelations 2 isn't exactly the scariest game you'll ever play. There's little in the way of gross-out scares (as the disappointing The Evil Within relied on), and while there's certainly a lot of over the top gore, there's nothing really that unnerving about it. Instead, the game plays more like a kind of slightly dark action game, with block-moving puzzles to figure out, doors to unlock, emblems to find, and, of course, plenty of zombies to kill, as you follow the twists and turns of the story.
As is always the way in these games, the poor residents of the remote island you've found yourself on have been infected with some sort of virus, which, in a totally an utterly believable and scientific way, has morphed them all into zombies. Along with the regular foot-shufflers, there's a few different types/classes of zombie here to cause you trouble, from ones who simply swell up when they're shot, before exploding in a big pile of goo that scalds anyone nearby, to taller, stronger, bulkier foes that'll absorb your ammo like there's no tomorrow. Luckily, this is where the game's handy co-op comes in, as your partner can spot (and call out) weak points, so you can hit them where it hurts.
As mentioned in the intro, Resident Evil Revelations 2 is fully playable in co-op, whether it be online, or in split-screen - a feature which makes it one of the few games on a "next-gen" console to support split-screen play, even if you do have to put up with playing in a strangely small window that doesn't quite fit the screen. Rather than being a true, co-operative experience, though, the gameplay here is split somewhat asymmetrically, with one character doing all the shooting/fighting/physical work (Claire or Barry), and one working more as a glamorous assistant, shining a torch at things, opening crates with crowbars, or, well, pointing. You see, along with having an incredibly foul mouth and a rather short temper, Moira also has an irrational fear of guns. This means while Claire can go popping caps in zombies, Moira is left with the torch, which she can focus on zombies to blind and stun them, before going in for the kill with a crowbar.
In the other pair, as you'd likely imagine, Barry is the one who does the heavy lifting, not to mention the one who holds the magnums, rifles and pistols, while Natalia... well, Natalia points at things - although she does serve a purpose by doing so. Along with helping the seemingly unobservant Barry spot gleaming jewels that have been left scattered throughout the levels, Natalia can also point out enemies to Barry, thanks to her unusual ability to see them, through walls. More than just a bit of a gimmick, this is actually totally invaluable later on in the game, where you come across enemies that are invisible to the human eye - and that can therefore only be sensed by Natalia. With these invisi-enemies able to kill you in a single hit, you'll need to keep a close eye out for the screen blurring effect they give off, before praying Natalia can tell you where they are.
And while it may sound like a bit of a weird idea, Revelations 2 manages to make it work. Rather than a co-op mode where one player can run off on their own and Rambo their way through the level, Revelations 2 makes you rely on each other if you want to survive, as you each have your own, character specific powers. While the non-shooting character in each pair is arguably the duller to play as, there's still plenty of fun to be had with a friend in tow, and always something you can be doing - especially in the sections that make each character go down slightly different paths.
Perhaps most importantly, though, the co-op command system from Resident Evil 5 makes its triumphant return here too, letting you yell commands to your partner by holding a button and pushing up and down on the d-pad. While the number of commands has sadly (and daftly) been dropped from four to two, it's still a lot of fun - although it's harder to have conversations with your team mate by shouting "Wait there!" and "Follow me!" than it was when you could say "OK!" and "Thanks!" too.
In all, then, Resident Evil Revelations 2 is a great little spin off from the main series. With asymmetric co-op, and a range of difficulty levels to choose from, it's one of the most accessible games in the series, while the split-screen support, and co-op command system are both big, big pluses. With four episodes on offer, each of which will take you 2-3 hours to play through, loads of collectibles to find and in-game achievements to unlock, not to mention the game's Raid mode - a kind of challenge mode that plonks you into a zone and asks you to fight your way past loads of zombies (and gives you back your "OK" and "THANKS!" commands!) - there's a surprising amount here for your money in what's technically an episodic game. Available now as either an episodic download from the digital stores, or on a disc from all good retailers, if you like your co-op games, this is well, well worth a look.