It’s ironic that Resident Evil Revelations has been hyped up (and even marketed) as a return to the more deliberate, atmospheric, tense style of old school Resident Evil. In reality, this game pushes the series further into modern, western territory than it has ever been before. In doing so, some of Resi’s interesting quirk is lost, but the experience becomes less stilted and more playable.
Where Resident Evil 5 was survival horror with the atmosphere of an action game, Revelations is a third-person shooter with a horror aesthetic (see: Dead Space 2). It might be set in sparsely-lit environments where freakish mutants lunge from corners, but the creeping pace, abundance of puzzles, and scant supplies of earlier Resident Evil games is missing. This might put Resi veterans off, yet Revelations is a decidedly solid action game and should be enjoyed as such, regardless of franchise.
The plot – the element of the game most true to heritage – sees Jill Valentine and her burly spanish partner board an abandoned cruise ship in search of Chris Redfield, only to find, predictably, that the ship is not so abandoned after all and is full of shuffling slug-men and other nasty aquatic mutants. Actually, that’s only about half the plot. Soon, a convoluted narrative of back-stabbing and double-crossing is introduced and the plot thickens considerably, for better and worse. This conspiracy-story is occasionally interesting, but coated in Resi’s trademark layer of cheesiness, it becomes hard to take too seriously.
The most significant thing about the narrative is that it ties with one of Revelations’ major departures from the Resident Evil formula, the structure; shorter side-levels punctuate the time on the ghost ship and have you playing as other characters in various times and locations. While the cruise ship retains at least retains a semblance of classic Resi openness, these levels are purely linear and almost entirely action-focused. Furthermore, the game is divided into 30-40-minute chapters, most of which begin with an off-ship level and end with a cliffhanger. The new, more frenetic structure is a double-edged sword; While the regular switch-ups do much to keep monotony at bay, the Resi tension that came with being stuck in a nasty place is dampened. When you’re so frequently whisked away from your persistent concerns and given a new batch of weapons, herbs, and ammo, worry has a hard time growing on you.
Having said that, the on-ship segments themselves do much to stop you from feeling any dread. I mentioned the ship was semi-open, but this matters little when you’re always guided through it by your partner, map markers and an unambiguous “OBJECTIVE:” tab. “Jill, I think we need to-” your partner will say, and then you’ll do just that. Seldom are any puzzles or unclear tasks involved, and seldom will you need to explore the ship of your own accord. In addition, ammo supplies are bountiful and inventory-management is all but gone, so you can merrily gun through most areas with the accuracy of a stormtrooper, free of concern. Also, inventory-management and herb-mixing are both cut, so you have a very blasting-focused game.
It’s a good thing then, that said blasting is thoroughly satisfying. Thanks to the addition of independent moving and aiming (should you have the Circle Pad Pro – without it, you can shoot and move, but not aim and move), combat flows much nicer than in any previous Resi. There’s a decent variety of freaks to mow down and the guns handle like you’d want them to, with said freaks recoiling appropriately at every well-aimed shotgun blast.
The combat gameplay’s closest cousin would probably be Dead Space, as it shares that game’s weighty and tactile feel. Impressively, the game intermittently throws in a console-size set piece too. From underwater segments to a helicopter showdown with a colossal boss creature, these switch-ups in gameplay and scale pace out the relatively predictable corridor-shooting to great effect.
In the way of multiplayer, there’s decent co-op by the name of Raid Mode. Here, you and a friend/online stranger will play through areas from the campaign populated by an increased number of enemies. Essentially, it’s a version of Resi’s classic Mercenaries mode that’s linear instead of arena-based. There are characters and costumes to unlock as well as guns, upgrades, health items etc. to buy as you rank up through a leveling system. Cooperative play doesn’t bring much to the core gameplay and teamwork is seldom necessary or beneficial but, as with most games, Revelations is fun with a partner. Still, a relatively low volume of content prevents this mode from having any real legs, especially as every level is cut from the campaign.
Finally, there’s the little nugget that Revelations looks damn good. From the opening ship deck where waves clash against the hull and rain showers gleaming metal and onwards, the fidelity being squeezed out of Nintendo’s handheld is worthy of high praise. The textures and particle effects are only a stone’s throw away from console-level. If we can get a title this good looking just one year into the 3DS’ lifetime, what visuals are in store for the future?
There is a short segment set in a mansion-like area early on in Revelations where you are left without weapons and are forced to dodge any enemies coming at you. During the 10 or so minutes this lasts, it’s easy to see the classic Resi spirit shine through. However, aside from the few moments like this, Revelations should be categorized a third-person shooter. Luckily, it’s a quite good one.
- The mutant-killng feels nice and meaty
- Cool gameplay variety with quick pace
- Incredible visuals
- Raid mode boosts longevity, though not very much
- Messy, cheesy story
- Little in the way of tension
- Too easy
4 out of 5