Genre: Survival Horror | Developer: Capcom/Tose | Publisher: Capcom
Platform: Nintendo 3DS | Players: 1 Local/2 Wireless | Rating: M (Mature)
Resident Evil: Revelations has been sold as a return to the world of survival horror – something which excites some, usually more vocal fans of the original PlayStation titles, but leaves some others who entered with the more action packed fourth entry a little cold.
The truth, though, is that Revelations contains plenty of both. Its approach is similar to what appears to be happening with Resident Evil 6, featuring a plot that flips back and forth between a couple of different duos who are actually markers for different types of gameplay.
It’s with story and division of gameplay types that it feels best to begin, then, as the layout of the game will determine how it appeals to tried-and-true Resident Evil fans.
While there’s multiple playable characters, series stalwart Jill Valentine is clearly the key lead, trapped aboard a zombie-packed abandoned cruise liner at sea with new partner Parker. New enemies are aboard the ship, infected with a new strain of the antagonistic T-Virus, corpses that now look bloated with water and act and perform differently to other zombies in the series.
Revelations has its plot constructed in a cliffhanger-heavy manner that’s deliberately meant to resemble a TV serial drama. Every chapter of the game ends with a tease that reminds me of an episode of 24, and that comparison is strengthened as when you enter a new cliffhanger you’re greeted by a ‘Previously on Resident Evil: Revelations’ montage of past events that gets you hyped up to resolve the terrible situation the cast are trapped in.
The dialogue on offer is cheesy and unoriginal, but the structure of the game helps to make this acceptable. Like an 80s action movie, bad one-liners and terrible expressions of shock and fear are almost expected. In spite of this, a few moments in the game – including one with water rapidly rising – do have a palpable sense of panic about thanks to the game’s voice cast.
The chapters start out shorter and more bite-sized, lasting 20 to 30 minutes in length, but the game quickly starts throwing more complex situations at you that take longer to tread through. All told, the 12 chapters of the story took me 8 and a half hours first time through – fairly significant for a handheld title with plenty of bonus non-story content.
The chapter construction lends itself to Revelation’s story being more linear, and so while you’ll find a return to more traditional Resident Evil mechanics in the lurching, creaking and rather creepy environment of the ship, there’s no save rooms or ink ribbons in sight – instead the game auto saves at key points and story milestones, frequent enough to make playing it on the go a non-issue, but infrequent enough that dying will kick you back enough to make you rethink your approach properly.
This is where the structure of the game and the ship becomes more interesting – despite being linear and story driven, the game lets you break off the beaten path and explore any areas of the ship you want in pretty much any chapter of the game. Menu tool tips encourage you to head off the beaten path and explore if you want, though doing so isn’t a prerequisite to get through the story normally.
A key obtained through a story event in chapter 6 might open new doors in an area originally explored in chapter 1, and behind those doors might be more difficult enemies and extra items, ammo and weapons to grab. In general, the ship is a bit ‘MetroidVania‘ in structure, allowing you to go back on yourself to find more stuff. Even the ship’s map is reminiscent of those games, offering a couple of shortcuts between the areas, which manage to cram plenty of series tropes in from a gaping empty ballroom to cramped crew quarters and a few corridors which suspiciously resemble a mansion you may once have visited.
Jill’s gameplay is nothing short of awesome, the ship crammed with personality that makes backtracking even more fun. A lackluster map in the menus and a mini-map with tons of lag and a terrible frame rate on the bottom screen aren’t enough to completely sour it. A little more enemy variety would’ve been nice, but the bloated forms of the water-logged ship zombies serve their purpose – slower, plodding enemies that shuffle towards you with a worrying finality.
The ship is the true star of the show in many ways, gracefully reusing assets and areas throughout the story in a manner which manages to be economical but uninsulting. When the ship starts to flood and sink, older areas will look different, flooded with water, even requiring swimming – it’s a really nice touch.
Chris Redfield has an entirely different style of gameplay altogether. Whenever the perspective switches to him expect action, and lots of it. Upgraded weapons are gone, Chris landlocked with preset and often more action oriented weapons. The Hunters, mutations more geared for action combat, are boring and uninspired – and the same is true of most of Chris’ contribution to the campaign.
The land and action segments serve a clear purpose in the narrative, but the gameplay is largely uninspired. When Jill does action it’s for mostly brilliant boss fights, tense and challenging. The majority of the game is Jill, but the two other protagonists – Chris and a comedy duo of action man and computer hacker who are playable only a few times – have sections which actually just left me desperate to return to the tighter confines of the ship.
From start to finish, Revelations was 8 hours and 35 minutes for me, suffering only a handful of deaths on Normal, but once that’s finished there’s Raid Mode, a new bite-sized mission mode that’s suitable for on-the-go play or quick co-operative play. The objective’s simple, dropping you into recycled campaign areas and asking you to fight your way across it, blasting mutated enemies as you go.
It’s more than just a rethought Mercenaries mode, once again taking the strengths of the 3DS and leveraging them to make a better experience, avoiding areas that’ll lead to the system struggling. Making Raid Mode playable with another player locally or online is a great addition, but the real joy of it comes in its progression system, part RPG and part Call of Duty.
There’s actual, proper loot, allowing you to find items like a special shotgun that looks like its right out of Devil May Cry, as well as a leveling system that unlocks extra goodies, including weapons and playable characters. An in-game shop allows currency earned to be dumped back into the mode, rewarding the player with even more stuff to mess around with. Raid Mode has a ton of levels that vary greatly in difficulty, and is so dedicated to being about score that it brings up RPG-style numbers when you shoot enemies, detailing exactly how much damage you’re doing.
As its difficulty soars, so too do the number of tools you have at your disposal, allowing you to take buffed-up weaponry, new characters and other buffs into the battle to make it easier. The way this experience constantly evolves makes it satisfying, whilst the way most Raid missions last no more than a couple of minutes makes it perfect for a handheld.
After an enjoyable-but-in-places-deeply-flawed story, it is Raid mode that rescues Revelations from merely being good and ensures that it is indeed great. There’s a ton to do, and factor in New Game+ options for the actual story, and the amount of content on offer becomes truly impressive – making great use of the 4 GB 3DS cart.
In general the 3DS hardware feels as though it’s been used to great effect here, Capcom doing the 3DS justice with beautiful visuals. Some texture work is a little suspect here and there, but this is a mostly nice-looking game with minor visual niggles that you probably won’t notice whilst immersed in the action.
The lighting is handled really impressively and while there’s a hit to the performance when in 3D, even that isn’t terribly bad. The 3D looks great here, and works better when in first person mode for aiming – but I personally found myself turning it off most of the time. Even without must-have 3D, Revelations is one of the most visually and technically impressive titles for the 3DS.
Resident Evil: Revelations might well end up being remembered as one of the most solid entries in this storied franchise because of how well it used the hardware it was on. Sometimes limitations can be a good thing, and in Revelations they’ve been worked around and worked into the very structure of the game to ensure it delivers a high quality handheld experience above all else. The fact it’s a pretty great Resident Evil title as well is just a bonus.
- 8 / 10
Resident Evil: Revelations is available on Amazon for $39.99.
Disclaimer: A copy of this title was provided to The Gaming Vault by the publisher for review purposes.