Resident Evil: Revelations

February 20, 2012, Author: Andy Corrigan

I’m one of those guys. You know, a fan. Of Resident Evil, don’t you know. I’ve loved it since the very beginning, when tank controls and a slow pace made for tense, nerve-wracking moments. I loved it when Resident Evil 4 helped to reinvent both the horror and shooter genres as we knew them. I loved the rail-shooter spin offs and all in-between. Hell, I loved Resident Evil 5, even though it was happy to exchange the choking horror of its predecessor for a balls-to-the-wall-action setting.

Still, many yearn for those old days; the days of aimlessly walking around mansions, putting hexagonal crests into doors and gems into the hollow eye-sockets of stone tigers, long before the Los Illuminados relentlessly hunted us. After the bright locales of Resident Evil 5, many just wanted the feeling of classic horror reinstated.

Well, here comes Resident Evil: Revelations on 3DS, with Capcom vying to capture the best of both worlds. Can this approach really cater for everyone?

Just about, yes.

Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield: True zombie-killing BFFs
Not content with their time together as part of the S.T.A.R.S. unit in Racoon City, we find them both (as they were in Resident Evil 5) working for the BSAA. This time, they’re training up the new blood and have taken on new partners. This arrangement isn’t going so well, however, as Chris and his partner, Jessica, have apparently lost radio contact with the BSAA headquarters while investigating the actions of a bio-terrorist outfit known only as Veltro.

Without much prompting, Jill and her new partner, Parker, are quickly dispatched to Redfield’s last known whereabouts; an aging cruise liner known as the SS Queen Zenobia. Of course, nothing will be as it initially seems…

Capcom have tried something a little different with the story here, as you don’t just follow Jill and Parker’s exploration of the Queen Zenobia; rather the story whisks you to different locales and through flashbacks. You’ll also play as Chris and Jessica, and newcomers Quint and Keith (who are the only real downside in an otherwise strong cast), as you piece together just what the hell is going on and how Veltro are involved.

There’s a real Lost vibe going on here too, with Capcom creating intrigue and mystery by leaving chapters on nail-biting cliffhangers and WTF moments, with some of the early sequences even running out of order. That TV series feel isn’t disparaged either, thanks to the fact that the game includes the ‘previously on…’ recaps in-between chapters that all Survival Horror games now apparently require by law.

As annoying as those bits can be, the TV vibe serves in the game’s favour, and I had a lot of fun seeing how it all panned out, eager to press on thanks to those chapters left without closure. Without spoiling anything, however, it must be said that it doesn’t pay off quite as strongly as you would hope here and there, only distracting you from the game’s real strengths.

"Wow, look at this mansion". Actually it's a ship, Jill.

Coming full circle…
I’m going to get the major talking point out of the way right now. Resident Evil: Revelations plays great with or without the Circle Pad Pro. If you don’t want to purchase the ugly-but-practical peripheral, you will not be losing out.

I’ve spent a decent amount of time playing this game in both ways; without the Circle Pad Pro when out and about and at work, and with it at home, and not once was my experience soured because of shoddy or gimped controls in the transition between them. That’s not to say that there aren’t obvious benefits to using the Circle Pad Pro, but just know that it’s not essential in order to play the game naturally. In fact, when I started using it I found it a little too finicky, changing the pitch of the camera more than I was swinging it in the direction I wanted, but it’s fairly quick to get to grips with.

Either way, the game plays just like the more recent Resident Evil games. The camera is over the shoulder, and you direct your aim using a laser sight. When you pull aim, the camera will zoom in closer or to a first person view, depending on your preference, and this is where the major differences between the control schemes will occur.

With the attachment, you’ll find a more traditional shooting setup: aim is mapped to the left trigger, and you shoot with the right. Without the attachment, you’ll aim with the R button and press X to shoot. The only time this becomes an issue is when you need to strafe or move while shooting, as you’ll also need to also hold the L button. This admittedly sounds a little fiddly, but the game’s slower pace prevents it from being much of an issue, and it’s the worst thing you’ll have to contend with when faced with playing without the ugly add-on.

The slower pace also happens to be the game’s first step back towards its roots, but not the last. When you’re playing as Jill and Parker on the Queen Zenobia, the set-up is also something of a throwback to the old days. You’ll be exploring creepy, eerily quiet environments with very limited ammo, back-tracking, and finding extravagantly designed keys and keycards allowing to you progress. It really does hark back to 1996, but with modern gameplay conventions applied, and it works as well as we all hypothesised too.

Action fans are still catered for, though. As I alluded to in regards to the story, there are moments interspersed throughout where you’ll leave Jill and Parker and take on the roles of the other characters in different locations (sometimes in flashbacks). These tend to be more linear stretches of gameplay, often faster-paced with intense battles, sometimes throwing a certain familiar enemy type in your direction too.

You'll get to play as other characters in the story, away from the boat.

Speaking of enemies, while you won’t see a return to the old-fashioned zombie, the main enemies in Revelations are a slower shambling horror than the Ganados. The unnamed, pink-skinned abominations that roam the halls of the Zenobia come in different classes too, with some that have longer reaches, fire projectiles at you or even set biological bear-traps. Slow these guys may be, but their ability to jump and fall out of anywhere is uncanny, and your aim and speed of thought will be tested. Special mention also must be paid to the bosses, which are all great fun and intense to fight, if a little typical of the series.

Thankfully, despite sparse ammo, you’ll have a nice arsenal to tackle these all with. In Revelations, you can only carry three guns at any one time, so whenever you find a new one you’ll have to make a tough decision on which you’ll swap it with. Thankfully, rather than lose them totally, any that you ditch can be found in the gun caches crates littered around the ship, so you can always switch back if needs be. Here you can also install any upgrade packs you find (most of which are totally interchangeable between the weapons), and with these you can boost capacity, damage dealt, or the speed of the reload to varying degrees.

The game also makes good use of the 3DS’s touchscreen, with the lower screen managing inventory and displaying a map of your immediate area. With a quick tap you can manage your secondary weapon (knives and different types of grenade), or check out a map of the entire ship. Occasionally you might be required to hot-wire a door to enable you to pass. This also uses the touchscreen, having you unscrew a panel before uncrossing wires and making sure that power nodes are in the right spot. It’s short and unobtrusive, not unlike the hacking mini-game in Bioshock.

A new feature is the Genesis; a gun-like device that allows you to scan areas for hidden, non-visible items. Useful, given how stingy this game is compared to recent iterations. It can also be used to scan enemies, dead or alive, with each scan adding to a rising percentage. Once you’ve scanned enough to reach 100%, you’ll get a bonus item to help you along the way.

It’s not the only way to get bonus items, though. Streetpass will yield the occasional useful item, but the best way is to complete ‘Missions’; essentially the game’s version of achievements. By fulfilling the certain conditions outlined, you can unlock helpful items, consumables and even new weapons; all of which can be found in the nearest weapons cache when applicable.

You're about to enter a mini-game...

Capcom make the 3DS look like a graphical powerhouse
It’s fair to say that most third-party developers have not yet nailed the art of getting the most out of the 3DS, but Capcom are certainly not one of them. Super Street Fighter IV and Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D both looked gorgeous when the console launched, but the team at Capcom have really excelled themselves right here.

Character models are rich and incredibly heavy with detail, their animation lovely and smooth. The enemies are almost more Silent Hill than Resident Evil in design, with (mostly) faceless, twisted and uncomfortable humanoid shapes helping them feel ever more menacing.

The environments too are classic Resident Evil; dark and atmospheric, with an eerie calm that makes you doubt your safety at every turn. The dusty, old residential quarters are a fitting throwback to that mansion, while the rest is dank and grimy and wall-to-wall metal; a perfect representation of an old, run-down cruise liner.

If you happened to play The Mercenaries 3D, you’ll know the drill when it comes to the 3D; it’s impressive and serves as another area that indicates that Capcom know this hardware well. It’s not a feature that’s terribly overdone like in some other games, but the depth is portrayed well enough to enhance the game rather than detract from it or make it feel too visually busy.

3D or no 3D, it rarely drops a frame, only occasionally juttering slightly as it loads the next area; usually as you’re taking the lift or opening a particular door to the next big section.

Honestly, it’s hard to imagine another game ever looking this good on 3DS.

The Genesis is useful on two counts. Thankfully, one of them isn't Phil Collins.

I’m on a boat!
If the visuals hinted at a return to former glories, then the audio certainly brings home the classic horror vibe. Much of Capcom’s use of audio in Revelations is typical of when the series was at its scariest.

This is a classic horror soundtrack, helping to make the game what it is. It’s a soundtrack that ramps up the tension as you’re waiting for something to pounce and fills you with dread at even the quietest of times. That doesn’t mean it’s all high strings either. When the action-orientated moments roll around, the game successfully gets your heart pumping when you need to shoot first and ask questions later. Nothing feels misplaced or mismatched.

The voice acting, of course, is typical Resident Evil; a little corny, over-acted and occasionally badly translated, but there’s certain charm that comes with it. It’s one of the series’ last points of contention for some, but to me it’s always felt intentional, befitting of the B-movie horrors that originally inspired it. This game is no different.

The voice actors for our recurring duo, Chris and Jill, do a particularly great job. Newcomer Michelle Ruff performs admirably as Valentine, while Roger Craig Smith reprises his role as Redfield (making it the second ‘Revelations’ game that Smith has featured in within the space of a few months, having voiced Ezio in last year’s Assassin’s Creed).

Some of the enemies undoubtedly steal the show, however; especially the bosses. One in particular is absolutely harrowing for the time his broken, distorted voice overlays the madness of the ensuing battle.

Raid mode is a triumph.

It’s a Raid!
Rather than incorporate a true campaign co-op feature, which would have been the expected route considering you’re nearly always accompanied by a partner in the main game, Capcom have made this a separate, unlockable feature. Step forward Raid Mode.

Raid mode can be played on your own or through local and online co-op, but it’s cooperatively where it really comes alive. The game takes you through the same environments as the single-player campaign, but in short missions with an assigned goal. This could be to find and beat a boss (under similar conditions to the main game), safely reach an elevator, or withstand and destroy all enemies the game can throw at you.

With every shot that hits an enemy you’ll get Battle Points, which can then be spent on new power-ups and weapons. If you’ve played the single-player campaign a lot before tackling this mode, you’ll find that you’ve been earning Battle Points all the while and will already have a healthy sum to spend going into Raid. Nice.

You might blow them on a shiny new shotgun or weapons upgrades, or spend them on perks that will daze the enemy, refill your ammo or make creatures less aggressive when hit. The better weapons are locked to certain player levels, though, meaning you’ll need to keep playing and levelling up to get the best gear. Some weapons can also only be bought with 3DS Play Coins, so you’d better start walking to work if you want to unlock absolutely everything. It’s really well pieced together.

It handles well too. The online portion seemed extremely stable no matter how many enemies it threw at me, although I did find a few cosmetic oddities here and there. For example, if the other player goes through a door before you, you can’t just follow them through. You can see the next room as they enter it, but then the door magically pops back in place once they’re through. If you pick up a power-up before the other player, it disappears from your screen, but they’re still able to pick it up and even go through the pick-up animation despite nothing being there. It’s nitpicking really, but it’s hard to deny that it looks odd.

Still, it’s surprisingly fun and addictive, and totally worth anyone’s attention. It offers smooth gameplay that’s true to the single-player portion, and the gear and levelling act as great incentives to keep you playing. Revelations is easily one of the best multiplayer experiences that the 3DS can offer at this point.

Soooo… it’s good, right?
While the story occasionally lets you down, Revelations brings a much-needed touch of horror back to the series without devolving or diluting the current-day experience. Make no mistake either; this is a proper Resident Evil game and nothing has been compromised in bringing it, fully featured, to the 3DS. That is truly an impressive feat.

Circle Pad Pro or not it plays great, looks great and is everything a Resident Evil fan could want on-the-go. Throw in a very accomplished co-op game in Raid, and you have the console’s first must-buy of 2012.


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