Review: Resident Evil Revelations
Resident Evil is in a strange position of currently having two distinct fan bases. One of these set of people are those who believe entries 1-3 are the way a Resident Evil game should be, with scarce ammo, tension and jump scares. The other camp are fans of entries 4 and 5, where ammo is plentiful and you’re more likely to find an explosive set piece than a scare. Resident Evil Revelations is a game designed for both of these mind sets, and attempts to mix survival horror with action horror in a single game. The surprising news is the fact that they pulled it off.
Revelations takes place in between 4 and 5, but don’t let its chronology and inclusion of series main stays Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine fool you, this is a self-contained side story (and it isn’t the first one in Resident Evil handheld history to take place on a cruise ship). The story itself is a lot more grounded than the fare the series has ventured into of late, instead returning to a simpler framework of new type of virus, evil people have virus, evil people release virus, stop evil people. This is all set to the backdrop of corporation, competition and conspiracy. It’s pretty generic plot fodder, but goes a long way to keeping Revelations both accessible and interesting, giving you a reason to keep going for the 8 or so hours of campaign.
Capcom always referred to Revelations as a “console experience on a handheld”, and to be quite honest they’ve done just that. Graphically, while obviously inferior to its high definition brethren, the game is beautiful; a lot has been squeezed out of Nintendo’s machine. Some little things are noticeable here and there such as characters mouths not moving while talking during gameplay, and somewhat severe stuttering during loading segments, but nothing that harms the presentation of the game. The aforementioned load segments being rooms you wait in for a door to open or an elevator to arrive while the next section loads are preferable to an immersion breaking load screen for instance. Environments and character models are lovingly rendered and show off what the 3Ds is capable of. The 3D is possibly also the best seen on the system so far, with the option to effectively crank it up to 11, higher than the slider usually allows through the in game menu. Never intrusive, and often subtle enough for you to even forget your playing in 3D, it’s an immersive and satisfying implementation of a potentially gimmicky feature, especially with little touches such as video screen being shown in 2D as they would be in real life.
The enemies in Revelations are the design low point, with there being very little variation throughout the campaign, but what enemies there are, are well enough designed. Bosses are the enemy high point, showing mutated monstrosities with the obligatory exposed organ-based weakpoint. Unfortunately the boss fights themselves can often stray a little close to too long. Normal enemies like to soak up bullets as it is, but it isn’t uncommon to burn through any ammo reserves, as well as your herb stocks, in a single boss fight.
The ‘evil people’ referred to above are a terrorist organisation named “Veltro”, who one year prior to the events of Revelations (set in 2005) released a bio-terror attack on the city of Terragrigia. The Federal Bioterrorism Commission is on hand to try and combat the attack but wind up having to destroy the city to contain the outbreak, a bleak reminder of the fate of Racoon City. In the present day Veltro has risen again, and threatens to release the new T-Abyss virus into the ocean. This time the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance is tasked with preventing such an outcome. This starts a series of events that find Jill and new character Parker (and ex-FBC agent from Terragrigia) to the cruise ship Queen Zenobia and sees Chris and new partner Jennifer (Parker’s old FBC partner) to a European mountain range.
In all honesty the story starts somewhat fractured and convoluted, skipping between characters and locations and time frames, with seemingly contradictory plot progression, but eventually it all starts to come together to a much more interesting whole, with just enough twists and turns to keep you almost guessing. Presented in an episodic structure means the story is easily suited for digestible portable play, with 12 chapters ranging from 30-60 minutes each, all pre-faced by a recap of the story so far to refresh memories for those who used an episode end as a stopping point.
And chances are you’ll need to take a break because Revelations can be both a physically and mentally exhausting game. Being on the not exactly ergonomic Nintendo 3DS means that for extended periods of play your hands and arms will ache or cramp, especially when holding it in the magic spot to play with 3D turned on. Gameplay wise Revelations returns to the almost claustrophobic atmosphere of earlier games, with many inaccessible areas, an abundance of small hallways and a distinct lack of ammo and healing items. The tension of such a situation can quickly lead to mental tiredness, meaning a break just to be able to sit somewhere than the edge of your seat is a welcome thing.
The gameplay itself is your typical new Resident Evil style. You view the action from over the shoulder of your character, but with a couple of new features from last year’s Mercenaries release. The option now exists to aim in first person, allowing a higher sense of precision to the combat, which is indispensable with the arguably insensitive 3DS nub and the erratic movements of your foes. Combined with the limited supply of ammo this means you’ll be taking your time with your shots, which is where the second addition comes in, movement. By holding another button during aiming you can move (albeit slowly). This is essential to gain some space while still being ready to get a shot off. Making use the 3DS hardware capabilities gyro aiming is also available and works well enough, but I always found myself using the nub so as to be able to enjoy the 3D effect. Revelations is also compatible with the circle pad add-on, allowing for dual-stick controls but one was not available to try out for this review.
As well as being able to move while shooting, a dodge feature is including in our heroes repertoire, but the timing required to execute it coupled with the erratic motions of the enemies makes it more of a risk than just about facing and running away, which is always a viable (and often times necessary) course of action. It’s not just the ammo conservation and running away that are reminiscent of the original game either. The main setting for the game – the Queen Zenobia – is a call back to the original spencer mansion, with its many locked doors and interconnecting hallways presenting an almost sandbox like environment to get lost in and explore.
And explore you almost certainly will. New to the Resident Evil series is the Genesis, a small handheld device used to detect hidden items within the environment, as well as scan enemies and hidden handprints to unlock secrets. More than a mere distraction, this scanning tool, similar in fashion to the scan visor from the Metroid prime series in that you cant fight while using it, and need to be within range and facing what you want to scan, is one of the most important items you have. Not only is finding hidden ammo and herbs absolutely necessary, but it also allows you to have a moment of respite. Scanning enemies on the other hand is a different situation. Leaving you completely defenceless during the process, scanning an enemy adds a chunk of percentage to a meter, which gives you a herb when you reach 100%. Balancing surviving with the scanning of enemies for life-saving items is a tense experience.
Also making its series debut is the ability to swim. Occasionally Jill will find herself in need of taking a short trip underwater. While not adding much, these sections are well implemented, and rather than have an arbitrary oxygen bar your screen starts to dim and go black as you start to drown, a nice little touch that adds that extra little bit of class to help immerse the player in this world.
It’s not all old school scares and slow tension though, every time the game shifts focus away from Jill it slips into a more Resident Evil 5 kind of game, with a greater abundance of ammo, more herbs, and more enemies, with the occasional set piece thrown in. These are unfortunately the lesser of the two game styles in Revelations due the almost fiddly controls meaning fast-paced action against hordes of enemies can often be overly complicated and infuriating, but they never really overstay they’re welcome or detract from the overall experience.
The campaign, however, is only half of the package. Also included on the cartridge is the all new “Raid Mode”, replacing the traditional mercenaries mode (possibly due to the fact it’s a standalone release on the 3DS). Personally I prefer the new Raid mode, for while it is still about high scores each stage has an objective. These mini missions repurpose sections of the campaign for solo play or two people co-operatively (either locally or online) to attempt to get the highest score possible. To add re-playability to the mode a level up system is implemented, as well as the ability to buy new weapons and upgrades to allow you to rerun stages for better times.
As a complete package there is almost nothing wrong with Resident Evil Revelations; some situations are occasionally verging on frustrating, and its story takes a little while to grab your interest and almost takes itself too seriously, but by the time the credits role on the campaign and you start the potentially endless journey into Raid Mode any complaints will have long since disappeared.
A must own game for anyone with a 3DS, fans of either style of Resident Evil or people looking for a genuinely good game. One of the first must own games of 2012.