Resident Evil: Revelations Review
Resident Evil: Revelations has been one of the most hotly anticipated upcoming games for the 3DS since the system's release nearly a year ago. Even when its 3DS precursor Mercenaries was being released last June, most games magazines and websites seemed to have their eyes set on the still-months-away Revelations, viewing Mercenaries as more of a fun diversion to while away the hours in between the two games.
The anticipation certainly seemed justified. Here was a game that promised to offer a full console experience on a handheld system, and unlike other games that do just that (Ocarina of Time 3D, for example), this was a completely original title – not a port or remake. Here was a game so jam-packed that Capcom was going to charge an extra $10 to account for all the additional memory required to make the game (Capcom later abandoned this idea). Here was a game that would return the Resident Evil franchise to its survival-horror roots after it had “devolved” into an action shooter over the past several instalments.
So does the game live up to the hype? For the most part, yes.
Resident Evil: Revelations (or “Revelaitons,” as the box will have you believe) takes place between the events of Resident Evils 4 and 5. While investigating the supposed disappearance of her long time partner Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine finds herself trapped on an abandoned cruise ship, its occupants long-dead, or infected with a deadly virus known as T-Abyss and turned into zombie-like creatures. Controlling Jill (as well as several other characters in various side stories and flashbacks), players must find a way off the ship, while also uncovering the mysteries behind it.
Overall, the game looks beautiful. From the lavish cruise ship banquet hall to the deserted military bunkers, the environment is richly detailed and fun to explore. The character and enemy models are also well-detailed, giving the whole game an impressively realistic look. On its default settings, the 3D effect is fairly subdued, but if you want your game to really pop you can adjust the settings to “very strong.” These are probably the best in-game graphics to be found on the 3DS.
This is probably one of the first games I've played, in fact, where the in-game graphics are superior to the pre-rendered cut scenes. The latter are unfortunately somewhat grainy, lacking the crisp detail of the former. As well, the 3D effect during the cut scenes is fairly inconsistent, as some shots really come to life, while others look oddly flat. This would be a very minor complaint, except that the cut scenes are a large part of this game, which has very cinematic aspirations, and are ubiquitous during the campaign. Pretty much every playable segment is book-ended by these cut scenes, and every time you boot up the game you'll be treated to “Previously, on Resident Evil: Revelations” segments which replays them.
Revelations' concern with storytelling leads nicely into my second problem with the game: the story itself. Generally my problem with video game stories is that they are either way too convoluted and make very little sense (for example, Final Fantasy XIII-2), or are horribly straightforward and predictable (pretty much any Pokémon game). Revelations, amazingly, manages to be both. For a game with countless double-crosses and secret agendas (which, for the most part, make no sense), the overall story feels more like going through the motions.
That being said, while the overall story may be lacking, it doesn't make the game itself any less haunting. As mentioned before, Revelations has the series returning to its survival-horror roots. The Jill Valentine segments for the most part live up to this. From having to escape from monsters while completely unarmed, to having to hunt down a monster who cackles like a witch and crawls through the vents, there are plenty of scares. One segment in particular left me disturbed for several hours after I played it (“maaaaay daaaaay...”). However, while it's true that there seems to be a fair amount of attention paid to creepy ambience and scares, Capcom doesn't abandon the action-shooter genre entirely. Interspersed between the Jill Valentine levels are the more action-oriented segments where you play as other characters, such as Chris Redfield or newcomer Parker Luciani. These levels have you mowing down wave after wave of enemies, from zombie dogs to reptilian mutants (well, okay, just those two things). Some may find that these levels disrupt the flow of the game, but I personally welcome them as an opportunity to cleanse the palette after having my nerves put to the limits. The balance is managed pretty well overall, but I found that the last third or so of the game fails to ever hit the same levels of horror found in the first 6 or so chapters.
Controls for the game aren't bad, offering quite a few different options (such as aiming with gyroscopic controls). The most comfortable seems to be Control Scheme A (mimicking that of Mercenaries). However, if you don't mind spending the extra cash, the Circle Pad Pro offers a welcome second analog stick, allowing you to move much more fluidly, as if you were using console controls. Once you get used to the slightly bulkier hardware, you won't want to go back to single stick control.
In addition to your usual arsenal of weapons (pistol, shotgun, machine gun, rifle), you have access to a new bit of machinery, the Genesis Scanner. By equipping it, you can scan rooms for hidden ammo, health, or other items, as well as hand prints strewn about the levels. This adds a bit of depth to the exploration, although for completionists like me, it may slow the overall gameplay, as you'll find yourself with a compulsion to scan every room you've been to. Just make sure to unequip it after use, or you'll find yourself impotently scanning enemies instead of taking a shot at crucial moments.
Speaking of taking a critical shot, I need to address one glaring annoyance. When you control the sniper rifle, aiming is actually impeded by the 3D effects, thanks to the targeting scope being in the foreground and your targets being in the background. To be frank, this is just poor implementation of 3D, since rifle scopes are supposed to be used with one eye and therefore be without 3D. The unfortunate choice can't simply be rectified by closing one eye; you kind of have to balance your target between the two ghost images of your scope, or vice versa. Or I suppose you can just turn the 3D off when you have to aim, but that would disrupt the flow of the game. In any case, it's an unfortunate little oversight that thankfully doesn't do much to detract from the overall experience.
Story-mode itself is fairly short (took me around 9.5 hours, which seems to be about the norm), but there's still plenty to do after the credits roll. Beating the game unlocks Hell Mode (i.e. Hard Mode), but if you don't feel like playing the same game all over again then there's also Raid Mode, which is great.
Raid Mode has you replaying various stages and environments from Story Mode, with an eye towards achieving superior weapons and levelling up your character. Fulfilling certain requirements unlocks new characters and outfits. Raid Mode also allows multiplayer co-op, either using local wi-fi or through an online connection. While the multiplayer takes away the suspense from the cruise stages, it's an absolute blast in the more action-oriented stages (Terragrigia comes to mind). Overall, Raid Mode is not only a lot of fun but is also surprisingly robust, and could almost be its own game (à la Mercenaries). As a bonus mode, it's enough to elevate Revelations into must-buy territory.
Overall, this is a fantastic game, one that sets a new benchmark for handheld experiences. My two biggest concerns with the title – a head-scratching story and a relatively short campaign – are apparently par for the course where Resident Evil games are concerned, and most of my complaints about the quickness of the campaign are mollified by the inclusion of Raid Mode anyways. Unless you're averse to horror games, I highly recommend any fan of handheld gaming give this title a shot.
And finally, here's a picture of new character Jessica Sherawat, because I am a weak, weak man.