Resident Evil's been in a bit of a rut of late, and Resident Evil: Revelations 2 never looked like it was going to break that cycle prior to release. With dated visuals, dodgy dialogue, and rudimentary third-person shooting, the title didn't exactly put its best foot forward in press previews. But this spin-off – a successor to the ex-Nintendo 3DS exclusive, Resident Evil: Revelations – is greater than the sum of its rotten parts, and a real return to form for Capcom's survival horror series. We're not kidding – this is the real undead deal.

Admittedly, it's been forced to endure one of the worst rollouts in recent memory, which has resulted in us writing five separate reviews on the game to date. But this retail box set, available now worldwide, offers the final say on the chilling foray, bundling all four episodes onto a single Blu-ray, along with a couple of bonus chapters and additional Raid Mode content. It's the perfect pickup if you want everything in one go, and with a budget price point attached, it actually represents some serious value for money.

For those that haven't been keeping track of our coverage over the past month, the romp sees veterans Claire Redfield and Barry Burton paired off with a couple of newcomers, as they're stranded on a Russian island governed by a repugnant ruler. It all goes a little Saw in the opening exchanges, as you're toyed with by the dictator for fun – but as the big plot reveals arrive, aficionados will likely fall in love with the fanservice that follows.

And this is very much a game for fans, as it's much more self-aware than any of its recent predecessors. There are plenty of knowing nods to the nonsense that has occurred in previous Resident Evil titles, but it strikes an optimal balance between silly and serious, never pushing the gags so far that it breaks the tension. And there is plenty of atmosphere; it's never P.T. levels of scary, but there are moments when you'll feel helpless, and that's more than enough to get the ol' heart rate racing – even if you're unlikely to ever be cowering behind your couch.

It's the Barry segments that perhaps capture this best, as you're teamed up with Natalia Korda, a frightened infant in a Victorian gown. The whole game has an asymmetrical co-op structure to it, allowing you to switch between the duo at will in single player. As such, there are moments throughout the eight or so hour adventure where you'll have to send the youngster off on her own, and seeing as she's utterly powerless, these can be nail biting moments. Fortunately, big boy Burton has enough firearms to clean up.

The dynamic between the two characters is clever: Barry may be rough and ready, but his overdressed accomplice can see enemies from afar – and spot secrets in the world. This means that, in order to advance stealthily, you'll need to be constantly toggling between the twosome. Meanwhile, Claire and her partner, Moira Burton – who's the potty mouthed daughter of the aforementioned beefcake – operate similarly, with the latter using a torch to stop the undead in their tracks, while Redfield brings plenty of pain.

Individual Episode Reviews

It sounds shoddy on paper, but this is the best realisation of Resident Evil's co-op mechanic to date, and it actually works. You can, of course, team up with a pal either online or in split-screen, but the experience is arguably at its best in single player, as you exploit each character's abilities in order to progress. There aren't an enormous amount of puzzles in the game, but when you're quickly swapping between stars in order to flip switches and seek out secret items, it really captures the spirit of the franchise's formative forays.

There are downsides: the boss fights are formulaic for starters, revolving mostly around glowing orbs, while the presentation is pretty darn dreary from start to finish. There are some standout areas, such as a familiar looking mansion for instance, but there'll always be a slow shuffle through a sewer or quarry to follow that up, and the sludgy visuals can begin to grate. The combat, which is constantly sprinkling in new enemy types, does help to mix things up, but seeing as you'll be revisiting many of the same areas, you will start to tire of your samey surroundings a times.

This is especially true in the bonus episodes 'The Struggle' and 'Little Miss', which come as part of the Blu-ray disc. The former puts you in the shoes of Moira alongside a patronising ex-pat, as you go hunting for rations in a side story that fleshes out a good chunk of the plot. Run out of supplies and it's game over, which will irritate impatient players, but at least brings a different twist. 'Little Miss', meanwhile, is a stealth game starring Natalia and her alter-ego. This is a little more frustrating as you'll die the second that you're spotted, but, again, it gives you something fresh to do.

Raid Mode is the real reason that you'll keep playing, though, as this offers an addictive spin on the core gameplay mechanics. Essentially an evolved version of Mercenaries, the extra sees you completing combat gauntlets which feature all manner of weird and wonderful zombies, as you clear out stages for gold, gear, and experience points. You'll get series favourites Albert Wesker and Hunk as part of the retail release, as well as a slew of throwback maps, which pushes the content roster up to seriously dizzying degrees.

The gameplay here may be rote, but the reward loop will keep you hooked, as you'll constantly be unlocking new weapons, abilities, and attachments. And that sense of ever increasing strength makes it difficult to put the package down – especially when there are dozens of medals to unlock. Speaking of which, this release is practically bursting with bonus content; from unique game types like time attack mode to custom costumes and weapons, there's a staggering amount of stuff to work through. When you factor in the price, it's a very generous package.

Conclusion

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 strikes an almost perfect balance between combat, puzzles, and outright silliness. This isn't an especially ambitious release, but it's brilliantly executed and brimming with content. Some areas may drag, sure, and the fanservice may only appeal to long-time fans – but almost everyone should get a kick out of the explosive action, whether you're playing solo or with a friend.