Contemplation is the second part in Capcom’s latest attempt to revitalise the Resident Evil franchise after recent years have seen the survival-horror series fall from grace. Luckily, Episode 2 continues the positive start last week’s entry made, especially if you’re a fan of the series.
Let’s get this straight from the start, Episode 2 is far tougher than the first episode was. There’ll be points where encountering the large, metal-helmeted enemies which were the toughest foe at the outset will seem positively relaxing compared to what the desolate island throws at you this time. Continuing with Claire and Moira’s story first, you immediately encounter other members of the Terra Save team as you make your way to the Wossek, a bar at the centre of a seemingly abandoned fishing village. Needless to say they’re not alone.
The game’s split narrative between Claire and Moira and Barry and Natalia works particularly well in this episode as you break new ground as one pair, with the others visiting the same locations six months later. The multiple mysteries of the island come together at times, and wondering what’s happened in that six month gap, with various signs of struggle or blocked routes that were open before, makes for a riveting experience.
There are at least a couple of major plot revelations to be had, though at least one of them may not mean that much to you if you’re not a huge fan of the series. For those in the know though there are some gratifying links back to an earlier entry in the Resident Evil series that involve the malicious overseer, and which will have you clamouring for the next episode and further answers.
It’s not simply the plot that ties together the separate time periods. How you despatch enemies in the earlier timeline directly correlates to a hazard that remains later on, though in the second portion of the episode this only happened twice which robbed it of some of its impact. It’s a nice touch which hopefully we’ll see expanded on in the remaining two episodes.
The team pairings are more clear-cut this time round, with the continuing unlocking of the skill tree making the characters better equipped to deal with the horror they’re experiencing. Claire and Moira often have to run and evade enemies, taking them down as a team, whilst Barry and Natalia favour a stealthier approach, with Natalia’s ability to sense enemies really coming into it’s own with a new type of invisible creature that only she can see.
As Natalia you have to direct Barry’s blind-firing, and it works well, both in co-op or as you hurriedly switch between the pair in single player as you desperately try to take it down before it reaches you. It’s safe to say that if you allow it to reach you the outcome is suitably revolting, and you won’t be in a hurry to repeat the same mistake. The checkpointing in the second episode seems better than the first, managing to avoid much of the unnecessary repetition of areas that happened when you died last time.
It still isn’t perfect; saving just before you have to break into two boxes which require the annoying lock mini-game, and which contain vital upgrade parts for your weapons is not well thought out, forcing you to repeat those sections before then taking on whatever it was that killed you the first time.
Episode 2 certainly sees some more expansive locations as you make your way towards the ominous tower that’s been hulking in the distance. The fishing village, and the town, are suitably grim, full of debris and bloodstains, though only the tower is iconic enough to be of real interest. It all looks the part though, and adds to the oppressive sense of foreboding.
Episode 2 really ups the fear factor, with more vicious enemies appearing in greater numbers, alongside a couple of new versions of old favourites, swift and vicious infected dogs and exploding zombies. Episode 2 also features two boss characters, both of which take some serious damage to despatch, and especially in the case of the one in Barry’s timeline, promote real cooperation between the two characters.
The biggest issue I found with these sections was that trying to use any item beyond a green herb on the run is incredibly difficult, especially the essential tourniquet to stem your bleeding. The other problem which is more apparent this time around is that your character controls are a bit woolly when put under real pressure, making climbing ladders or running away effectively more difficult than it should be. This is Resident Evil though, and fighting with the controls is just as effective at cranking up the fear as the setting or the enemies. However, some players may come to resent this, particularly those new to the series.
Contemplation builds on the successful first episode of Capcom’s latest foray into new distribution models, and piles on the difficulty, atmosphere and ever-thickening plot with satisfying results. Fans of the series will appreciate the plot twists, whilst newcomers can get stuck into a well-grounded Resident Evil game that is so far living up to its heritage.
Version Tested: PS4