Resident Evil: Revelations Review

Resident Evil: Revelations (3DS)
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

As consoles become more powerful, people expect new games to include increasingly further additions and mechanics that can result in an overall less unique experience. Resident Evil 5’s cooperative play and forced teammate management were out-of-place features for a survival/horror game – tension dissipates with a friend at your side and aggravations ensues when you need to rely on an idiotic AI-controlled partner. Expectations are high for triple A titles, so it makes sense that developers would include as many features as possible, even if they seem poorly adapted or even ill-suited. In the case of Resident Evil: Revelations, the limitations and restrictions of the Nintendo 3DS bring about more innovation than total creative freedom would have. These boundaries, in both control and raw power, force developers to rethink how mechanics should be incorporated to better suit the system’s strengths. Instead of forging new territory on fairly unknown territory (Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D does not count as a true Resident Evil experience), Revelations draws inspiration from previous installments, as it keenly discerns what aspects made them successful – over-the-shoulder gunplay, mansion-style overworld, limited inventory, etc. – and streamlines them. This delicate process of refinement creates the most successfully progressive and cohesive Resident Evil since 4.

The structure of Revelations is quite different from previous titles, as you take control of three different characters – Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield, and Keith Lumley – each with their own respective sidekick – Parker Luciani, Jessica Sherawat, and Quint Cetcham. The narrative that intertwines these characters is surprisingly coherent for a Resident Evil game, but the shoddy dialogue continues to depict one-dimensional heroes. Keith and Quint are easily the worst characters in the series, as their intentionally silly banter falls completely flat, mostly due to Quint’s grating ‘nerd’ voice. Thankfully they appear the least frequently. While they may lack interesting personalities or traits, these groups of characters provide a change of pace, in both setting and gameplay, which enhances the structure of the game.

Most of the game takes place on the Queen Zenobia, a haunted cruise ship that is laid out like the mansion in the original Resident Evil. The boat’s size allows for impressively varied architecture that includes a gorgeously lit ominous dining hall, a glamorous great hall – chandelier and all – and dimly lit hallways with requisite spooky paintings. Exploring the ship and its various secrets is a thrill that makes recent installments look lifeless due to their linear approach. On the flipside, you will know the Queen Zenobia too well by the end of the campaign, as it has you backtracking regularly. The frequency at which this occurs makes you wonder if Capcom chose this structure so that they would not have to design more content.

Gunplay remains engaging throughout the journey due to varied level design. Narrow hallways keep battles intense as they give you less room to maneuver, placing a higher emphasis on accuracy. Letting players slowly move while shooting is a subtle addition that proves incredibly helpful in corridors, as it allows you more time to defend yourself. Larger rooms are designed with multiple paths that help prevent you from boxing yourself in any given corner. The scarcity of ammo and the erratic movements of enemies make most encounters ridiculously intense to the point where sometimes the best option is to avoid them entirely. One segment has you stripped of your weapons, forcing you to carefully circumvent foes. A dodging mechanic is included, but its implementation is far too clunky to be considered effective.

As you venture through Revelations, you will find new guns to play with. Inventory is handled quite differently though. Exploration often leads to new custom parts, which can be equipped to your weapons. Among these are increased damage output, increased magazine capacity, quicker reload times, etc. You can only have three weapons on you at any given time too. Customizing your arsenal to better suit your playstyle is a far more successful and engaging approach than simply spending money to make your guns better. This reduced inventory means that swapping guns, selecting grenade types, and using healing herbs is all done with the d-pad (and/or touch screen), resulting in gunplay that is more fluid.

Scouring rooms for additional supplies has plagued this series, and many other survival horror games, in a way that appears difficult to remedy. Gathering ammo and herbs proves hugely beneficial, but doing so is tedious. Revelations tries to solve this design issue by adding a mechanism called the Genesis. With it, you look around in first person and find scannable points of interest, highlighted with large circles. Scanning these results in extra supplies (and scanning enough enemies yields a healing herb), but this addition proves to be functionally purposeless since there are also items in rooms that do not need to be scanned. Now this process takes an additional step, and thus worsening the issue.

Where exploration, ammo conservation, and genuine terror comprise a large chunk of the game when playing as Jill Valentine, the other characters offer action-oriented respites. These segments take place in separate locales and feature different baddies for you to unleash your fury on. While not highlights, they provide much needed tension relief when compared to everything that occurs on Queen Zenobia. However, these locales are repeated throughout the course of the campaign, which limits their initial appeal.

This uninspired repetition of locations is better guised when playing as Jill. New enemy types will populate older areas and occasionally water will flood the ship, forcing you to swim around and find previously inaccessible paths to progress. All too often Revelations adds just enough additional content to make it less repetitive, which makes some portions of the game rather unimaginative. For a campaign that lasts eight hours, approximately 40% of the content is recycled, which is simply unacceptable. If this concession was made in order to attain the visual fidelity it does – the best-looking pre-Vita handheld game I have ever played – the repetitive nature of Revelations can be more easily overlooked.

Raid Mode offers significant replay value as it synthesizes areas from the campaign into linear levels filled with loot drops, in the form of weaponry of varying levels, and augmented enemy types. For example, some baddies are oversized and stronger, while others are smaller yet speedy. It is not as successfully arcade-y the way Mercenaries Mode was in previous installments, but online and local multiplayer gives it serious legs, as does the 40+ levels. It makes a great companion to the relatively short campaign, yet the persistent reusing of previous environments without any truly new content made it difficult for me to become invested in it.

Condensing a Resident Evil experience into the eerie yet beautifully realized and rendered Queen Zenobia acts as fantastic, if imperfect, example in how to cram a full console game onto a handheld. Even if the Resident Evil: Revelations is overly condensed, it manages to refine mechanics that needed attention, while also delivering the most satisfying handheld survival horror game to date – an unexpected revelation.

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2 Comments

  1. christiangmill

     /  February 26, 2012

    I really want to pick this up. I am a big fan of the series and your review was very insightful. I have read though that it is very short like you mentioned, which kind of stinks. Did you play it with the circle pad pro? I demoed it using those controls and they worked surprisingly well.

    Reply
  2. I played it from GameFly, so I didn’t get the chance to play it with the Circle Pad Pro. I’d imagine that being able to aim, shoot, and move simultaneously would be nice. I did like how switching from moving and shooting to aiming and shooting added tension, even if it was done through restricted control.

    Reply

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