Resident Evil. Hearing those two words are synonymous with fear in the video game world. Resident Evil Revelations has been one of the most anticipated 3DS titles thus far, and after the sneak peak we seen when Mercenaries dropped last year, fans everywhere have been foaming at the mouth for the full monty to drop in handheld form. After the year of teases though, there are a lot of questions to be answered. Does the gameplay feel right on a handheld? Is this title truly scary? Most of all, does it live up to the mass amount of hype? Thankfully, I can start by answering yes to all three of those questions. Why, you may ask? Here is my review for Resident Evil Revelations.
Revelations takes place before the events of Resident Evil 5, and for the most part puts players in control of Jill Valentine as she searches for her old partner Chris on an abandoned cruise ship known as the Queen Zenobia. Along with a new partner by the name of Parker, it is Jill’s task to investigate the mysterious vessel and find out why Chris and his feminine teammate Jessica have lost contact with the BSAA during their mission. Like previous entries, there are not many zombies to be found and B.O.W.s are yet again the main factor of fear within the game. This time however, the atmosphere has a much darker tone and Capcom have done well in bringing back that truly isolated feel we seen so prominently displayed during the first few titles in the series.
The plot unfolds in an episodic fashion, switching from the perspectives of Jill and Chris, with occasional moments to meet the two new bumbling protagonists by the names of Quint and Keith as they offer their assistance. As far as personality goes, Jill and Chris haven’t really changed in any manner, with both keeping their same brave, yet stubborn natures that most RE fans should expect. Capcom also nailed creating a bit of chemistry between the main two and their new comrades Parker and Jessica, as even though this is the debut for both, each felt like highly established characters from the start, with several moments of humor and fear sprinkled into dialogue sequences to keep the main narrative interesting and enjoyable until the end. Even though they don’t appear nearly as often, Quint and Keith have small playable chapters as well, but I really feel like their inclusion was both forgettable and unnecessary. I wanted to like the cheeky one-liners and playful banter between the two, but it just doesn’t fit well with Revelations’ setting and having to sit through a cutscene with these two clowns can really kill the mood within just a few seconds.
My biggest fear going in wasn’t really the story or the characters, but how the game would be paced. Most of the time when a console game goes portable, we get a much lighter, mission-based formula that makes the experience feel bite-sized and unfulfilling (Kingdom Hearts, looking at you here). Thankfully, that is not the case here. Most episodes end in with a high note and there are twists and turns throughout the story that make it hard to put the game down until the quite satisfying finish. The developers seemed to be well aware that this outing was for “gamers on the go” as well, and allow the player to get caught up on all of the previous events at the start of each episode. It’s a minor touch, but a brilliant one when you consider the battery life for the 3DS as well as the fact that this in fact on a portable version and many are not going to be playing for copious amounts of time.
If you have ever played any of the Resident Evil Franchise, you should have no problem picking up Revelations and getting a grip on the control scheme quickly. Each character is controlled in a third-person perspective, with the camera zooming into first-person during an attack. As expected, the slide pad works exceptionally at moving our protagonists forward and allows the player to get their character around each stage without much problem. Instead of a run button, players will just need to push the touch sensitive pad in the appropriate direction and quickly get out of harm’s way. Now by no means are you going to take off like a rocket, as all of the cast have the exact same feel, methods of control, and are generally slow, but these mechanics still mirror that of Resident Evil 4 and 5 closely, which was definitely a relief and a delight to see on a portable platform. If anything, the rather slow pacing works into Revelations’ favor, letting the player take in the rich setting while still performing up to par during the much more action-oriented segments. Dodging is also done with the slide-pad, which has the player quickly push away from an enemy to avoid getting impaled or their face sucked off. The picky timing for dodging adds a bit of a new learning curve into the mix, but after a short time these methods can be mastered and will feel like second nature.
When it comes to actually shooting, the same “stop and shoot” methods from the past are still very much present. Many have argued that this system is dated, but that’s what has made Resident Evil unique to start with as a franchise. Not knowing if an enemy is behind you while you are taking down a foe is always a tense moment, and Revelations’ is at it’s best when the player is surrounded and being forced to run through empty corridors just to catch their breath, not knowing if their demise awaits them behind a dark and dreary corner. Whenever the player needs to shoot at a target, all that is needed is to simply hold the “R” button to get the first-person perspective in place and fire away while aiming with the slide pad. The transition feels effortless and aside from a good number of the enemies being bullet sponges, I was able to conquer most bosses without any hiccups or reticule irritations.
The most effective new feature added to the experience is the Genesis. This device lets the player scan an area at any given moment, unveiling secret items, keys, and ammo. Much like shooting, the player can switch to their Genesis view with the press of a button and get a read on the entire room they are presently inhabiting. Herbs and ammo are not as plentiful as they used to be, which makes this tool feel pivotal for survival as one quick scan can provide what feels like a wealthy amount of results when all of your arsenal is currently on empty. Looking back, I feel like I spent more time scanning during the game than actually fighting. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of enemies, as there are a good number, but much like Metroid Prime, this device was crafted to bring out the inner completionist in us all and offers up more reasons for exploration than we have ever had in a Resident Evil game. Pair this with Revelations’ many “find the key” puzzles, and you have something that could broaden this franchises as a whole even further in the future.
I mentioned earlier that all of the protagonists control in the same manner, but each have their own objectives to complete that attempt to keep the game feeling fresh. Jill’s segments are the main meat of the game, with Jill usually trying to make the ship functional enough to progress further as she searches for Chris. This means that the player will be doing a lot of searching and backtracking as they hunt for keys and switches to open that next door throughout the vessel, with plenty of heart-pumping boss battles to be found in-between. The other playable characters have different settings to explore that are located in an icy environment, offering a bit more variety as a whole due to the different enemies and more open surroundings. Other than a brief moment of swimming (which actually works well) and a few strategical moments of combat, there isn’t much left in terms of gameplay, but the well paced character switches work wonders when it comes to killing off those feelings of repetition.
If I have any gripe about Resident Evil Revelations, it would have to be the AI. In Resident Evil 5, Sheva was a worthy sidekick who could easily take down enemies, but also seemed to want to hog all of the ammo and herbs to herself. Parker and Jessica don’t pick up items in Revelations, so that’s a plus, but they also don’t offer much support in terms of combat. I would have many times where I would be completely surrounded, only to see Parker standing in a corner as if he were viewing my demise as some sort of spectacle. At times the enemy AI will target your partner and all of the hoards will flock to them (which eases the load), but let’s just say you should consider yourself on a solo mission from the start as the allies are a bit incompetent as a whole.
As you progress through Revelations, levels will begin to unlock for the “Raid” mode. These stages are more or less bite sized versions of what is found in the main game, but with an emphasis on score rather than progression. Raid mode is a game in itself, where players can play with each other (online or locally) throughout various missions. Players can level their characters, upgrade their arsenal, and customize their load-out to their liking as they gain points, with an extra option included to use Play Coins and Streetpassing to gain a further advantage against the mode’s much more dubious foes. There is a lot here for those who grow tired of replaying the main story, and Raid mode feels refreshing compared to the usual offerings of Mercenaries mode.
The 3DS has been out for nearly a year now, and I can easily say the Resident Evil Revelations easily puts all other titles for the platform to shame with it’s incredible presentation. The Queen Zenobia itself can quickly bring back memories from the Arklay Mansion. Corridors are dimly lit and dried blood can be found spattered on walls, giving the player a feeling of unease as they slowly progress through each room. There is also a ton of detail to be found in the environment, with water reflecting lights that dangle above as you trudge your way to safety and paintings being coated in dirt and grime, giving us a bit of a story of how lively this vessel once was. I personally didn’t find the enemies to be too terrifying design-wise, but they still fit well into the many variants of zombies and infected we have seen in the past, and the atmosphere presented is sure to make even the bravest player tense up as they have an unexpected encounter.
The 3D effect isn’t eye-popping by any means, but it does prove worthy of mention as all of those elements I spoke of look sharper and the extra layer of depth can make each hallway feel much more claustrophobic. As far as the designs for the main character models, Chris and Jill look fantastic and look as if they were pulled straight off a modern console. Thankfully, one of my biggest gripes with Mercs 3D was also addressed in Revelations, as the frame rate is a lot smoother and enemies are actually given a steady animation pattern when approaching. There are brief moments of slowdown when waiting for a door to open, but I never had it occur during combat or any other time that mattered, so this complaint can be easily overlooked.
When it comes to the soundtrack, you should expect a ton of tunes that not only compliment the action, but also enhance the dread-filled atmosphere. A good portion of the time, no music is used at all and the game relies on it’s eerie sound effects to keep the player on edge. Small scares like hearing an enemy scream behind a locked door or whisper your name certainly can heighten the horror factor, and Revelations never goes too over-the-top to turn the experience in a cheese-fest. I also must give proper credit to the voice work that is present within the game, with Patricia Ja Lee doing a fantastic job of reprising her role as Jill Valentine and yet again capturing the persona of everyone’s favorite female protagonist exceptionally. Some voice work is a bit of a miss (Keith and Quint, you know who you are), but that is mainly due to the writing and not so much the actual actors.
Resident Evil as a franchise has become a staple in the video game industry as it usually sets the trend, rather than simply copying ideas. While Revelations doesn’t try to completely re-invent what we know about the beloved IP, it does go above and beyond to be a fantastic addition to it’s own namesake, and on a portable platform no less. Let’s face the fact, over the past few years, there hasn’t been a whole lot of “horror” in Resident Evil. Capcom seemed to have heard the cries of their fans though, and have finally let true fear replace intimidation by creating a rich and eerie environment for players to get lost in all over again with a story that flows perfectly into the lore of the franchise. The same old gameplay mechanics and narrative may not push the series further, but Resident Evil Revelations still stands strong on it’s own by being quite possibly the only portable title that requires you to leave the light on while playing.