This year looks set to be the biggest yet for a Resident Evil fan. With Raccoon City just months away and the newly announced sixth game in the official series rounding off the year nicely in November, you’d think Capcom would be done there. Apparently not though as Resident Evil: Revelations has made an appearance, this time of the 3DS. While Mercenaries last year provided the console with some frantic arcade style action, Revelations promises to take the series back to it’s roots hoping to recapture what originally made Resident Evil the go-to survival horror. Does the game do the series justice though or is it a failed opportunity?
Resident Evil: Revelations takes place between the events of four and five following the first games protagonists, Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield focusing on their involvement in the BSAA. Things start off with Jill and her new partner Parker venturing an abandoned cruise ship in the middle of the ocean in search of Chris and his partner Jessica who have since gone missing. As you can expect in typical Resident Evil fashion the story is crazy and full of twists and turns and in all honest is actually quite fun to follow. Further helping the digestion of all the double crosses and flashbacks is the campaign’s episode system. The entire eight or so hour adventure is split into twelve episodes each ending in a cliffhanger of sorts (almost like a television show) which not only keeps the pace flowing, but also fits the handheld nature of the game very well.
What makes this Resident Evil title different from the others is in the way it tells it’s story. While most of the time is spent aboard the ghost ship as Jill in search of her lost colleagues, things are then broken up with other sections that give the opportunity to play as another character via flashback or change of location. One episode for example not only sees you navigating a flooding room as Jill but then also halfway through cut to an exploration mission in the snowy mountains as two brand new characters. At times it can make the game feel a little disjointed with the constant changes in narrative, however it does allow Capcom to deliver a nice variety of action and slower paced, scarier moments in the game. Hunting infected dogs with plenty of ammo as Chris is terribly exciting while venturing deeper into the darker depths of the deserted ship with a few remaining bullets provides the tension and survival based gameplay you also want from the series.
Environments range from narrow, enclosed corridors to wide open rooms and generally the game has a very linear feel to it. You’re always heading to a certain point and more often than not there’s just one route to go. Backtracking is also frequent sometimes getting to the point of seeing the same elevator area again and again. The monsters you’ll face will mainly consist of a handful of slow moving mutated humans with rabid dogs, powerful hunters and boss battles thrown in at random points to mix things up. Although scary, they don’t quite match the design nor menace of the villagers or zombies seen in previous games. You’ll never find yourself pulling off satisfying head shots that explode the noggin in an awesome spectacle for example, making battles sometimes feel a little lacking.
Weapons are no longer upgradable but instead tweaked with custom parts you find during your travels. These offer unique perks to each gun, for example a shotgun may have three open slots to add your parts which can range from a rise in damage or ammo capacity to the ability to fire spurts of two bullets at a time. It’s a nice twist on the usual system seen in the series and allows you to custom tailor each weapon to your style of play. Another new addition is the ‘Genesis’ scanning device that allows you to survey rooms in a first person view searching for hidden items. Sadly this never equates to much more than a few pieces of ammo but what manages to save this scanner from being a pointless piece of tech is when logging enemies during battles which if performed correctly can reward the player with much needed herbs. It’s a neat risk/reward option that makes you question whether you should attempt to scan a lone enemy for the chance to get some health or simply move past it and hope you won’t need it.
If you’ve ever played Resident Evil 4 or 5, you’ll feel right at home here. The action takes place behind the hero’s back with aiming pulling the camera into either a first person view or over the shoulder. The usual ‘tank controls’ make a return here and although feel a little awkward at times don’t detract from the overall experience. It’s also worth noting that the Circle Pad Pro can be used and while I’ve only had a short go with the device, it does make control a little more comfortable. Inventory is also handled perfectly with the bottom touch screen allowing for quick navigation between maps, firearms and items while on-the-fly weapon change can be done with a simple press of the D-pad.
While a lot of the focus has been put on the campaign in terms of news, trailers and hype, it’s actually the newly added ‘Raid Mode’ that ends up stealing the show. Taking the entire campaign and dividing it into separate stages, you must make your way though each as fast as possible whilst taking out a number of enemies along the way. You’re graded on speed and accuracy among other things so going back to better your score can become quite addicting. While it all sounds fairly standard so far it’s the RPG-ish additions that truly set it apart from anything we’ve seen in the series. Completing stages will reward you with BP (the games equivalent of experience) in which you can level up your character unlocking newer weapons, custom parts and more. Killing especially troublesome enemies or looting every nook and cranny will also net you random gun parts or weapons, each of which have their own levels and stats too. Enemies even have a RPG edge to them displaying health bars above or even possessing extra abilities such as faster speed. It’s all fantastically executed and with over twenty stages, ten characters, three difficulties and a whole wealth of gun and part combinations this is definitely where you’ll spend most of your time. Furthermore if you’d rather not play alone, this mode can be played wirelessly or even online.
Overall the amount of content in this game makes a lot of 3DS games look like mere demos. It’s amazing.
While Mercenaries was definitely a decent looking game for the 3DS it still had it’s issues, most notably a stuttering frame rate that saw enemies jitter around the further away they were. Revelations is a vast improvement with some truly jaw dropping scenes throughout the campaign. The framerate too holds up very well (with the odd exception during long loading door animations that see some inconsistency) The music too is some of the best from the series yet. As with any good horror movie or game, Resident Evil Revelations manages to choose it’s moments for eerie silence or heighten the tension with it’s excellent soundtrack. Voice acting is decent enough with just one or two characters hamming it up too much but with an engaging storyline and fan favourites Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield at the helm you’ll find yourself invested in the goings on. Monsters too make quite an impression with their twisted, grotesque voices calling out to you for help. Enemies in previous games may have been creepy, but some bosses you’ll come across here are just downright disturbing.
If Resident Evil: Revelations is a sign of what to expect on the 3DS this year then owners of the little handheld are in for a real treat. Not only does the game trump most 3DS titles in terms of looks, content and overall presentation but it’s also a worthy addition to the Resident Evil series finding the perfect balance between scares and action that the fifth failed to do. While Nintendo have proven they can themselves support the console with quality titles like 3D Land and Kart 7, Capcom have set the standards for third parties to follow in the future… And that standard is high.