Ever since the original game, Resident Evil as a series has thought about what happens when players finish the game. At first this meant offering multiple player characters, ending ranks, and unlockable bonus weapons. With Resident Evil 2, completion unlocked a 'B' game for the character you hadn't used. But it was Resident Evil: Code Veronica that unmoored everything from the 'main' game, and offered up a standalone time attack combat mode, before Resident Evil 4 perfected the idea with Mercenaries – an arcade-style arena combat shooter mode, built around time pressure, kill combos, and high scores unlocking more and more goodies.
Mercenaries mode is so good that it survived largely unchanged in the main series over multiple entries, and even became a 3DS game in its own right. Like Nazi Zombies in COD, it's almost expected. Which may be why it took a spinoff title, Resident Evil: Revelations, to come up with something very different that was also (whisper it) a real step forward. Revelations introduced Raid mode, a series of replayable mission-based scenarios that can be tackled in co-op, around which there is a character-based levelling structure.
That was great, but the mode reached its pinnacle with Revelations 2, when Capcom's developers used this foundation to construct a simply enormous suite of combat missions, alongside dozens of playable characters from series history, all with their own unlockable weapons and skills. I know what you're thinking: I get enough of this 'unlocking guns' crap from a hundred other games. But so many modern games have become mean: parcelling out pointless little trinkets, hand grips or camos, at some arbitrarily crawling rate. Raid mode reminds you of when this stuff was actually exciting.
At the core of Revelations 2's improvements to Raid mode is the complete detachment from the main game. This not only has its own world (and an overarching though incidental story that unfolds as you play) but its own approach to combat, adding RPG-like damage numbers as your shots hit enemies, buffing monsters with ludicrous attributes then slapping giant icons on them, and setting daily challenges from the sublime to the ridiculous.
The thing is that Resident Evil's third-person combat system, whatever others may say about it, was by the time of this game a highly refined work of beauty. These guns feel awesome to fire, and their impact on enemies is sensational in motion. Movement is flexible enough to incorporate dodges and sprints, but is still anchored by the need to aim down-sights before firing, and a lengthened heal time. Simply shooting the normal enemies would be enough fun to sustain most games.
But Raid mode knowingly taps into Capcom's arcade vein – the lobby room even contains a bonus remake of Ghouls 'n Ghosts starring Barry Burton – and Capcom was for my money the best developer that the arcades ever saw (sorry SEGA). The developers of this wonderful mode ease you in, shower you with a few prizes, and then start to turn up the heat.
The beauty of the mission-based structure is that it allows each bitesize chunk to do something completely different – last night's daily mission saw myself and a friend running around a giant underwater lab while packs of hunters chased us Benny Hill-style. Then we did one that was exploring a classic mansion-style setting, opening and clearing individual rooms before being ambushed by a giant group right at the end. Yet another seemed to be nothing but these giant pig-dog things, which was funny at first but terrifying when the buffed giant versions started turning up.
There are arena battles, long runs down huge corridors crammed with enemies, locations lifted from Resi 5 and 6 and Revelations 1 re-purposed into looping rat runs, and straight-up boss rushes. The base enemy types work together in any configuration, each offering a different flavour of threat, and when the enemy buffs start kicking in this acquires a special kind of intensity. The buffs can be as simple as adding a shield to the front of a slow-moving enemy, or they can mean a fast-moving type is now half its size and shooting lightning out of its backside. A big part of this mode's fun is just seeing what gets thrown at you next.
Layered atop all of this is the character progression structure, which unfolds gradually so as not to overwhelm players – because it's truly extensive. And the best thing about Revelations 2 on Switch is that it incorporates all the old DLC content as standard, and just keeps giving you great stuff. You can customise your guns to an extensive degree: my mate and I were running around last night with freeze shotguns and flaming assault rifles. In nearly every mission you'll acquire new guns, which sometimes have in-built special properties. Anything you find can be instantly sold, and you'll be doing a lot of that, and the proceeds go into buying or crafting the exact mods you want.
There's even more. Each character has their own set of skills, which are basically perks, and as they level you unlock more. You use skill points, which you get loads of, to upgrade these to truly daft levels, and they all seem to kind of fit the character's style – my Wesker, for example, has skills that make his magnum and handgun skills deadly, as well as enhancing his melee damage.
It just keeps going and going. I haven't even mentioned the medals rewarded for challenges, the reliable matchmaking, the ranking system, the scoreboards. There is just so much here to love, and it keeps on giving.
Don't disregard Resident Evil Revelations 2 because it's a port of an old spinoff. I'd forgotten just how magical Raid mode was – I spent many hours on it when the game first released – but going back it feels even fresher thanks to all the additional content and a superbly realised structure. There's real heart in this mode; you can tell that its developers wanted to make something special, and spent so much time thinking about how players play these games, and what they want. That's why years later, on a completely new platform, Revelations 2 shines brighter than ever.