Name: Resident Evil: Revelations
Genre: 3rd Person Shooter / Survival Horror
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Price: £32.70 from Amazon
Capcom have made some missteps of late with their Resident Evil series, focussing too much on action and not enough on scares. Resident Evil: Revelations for the 3DS looks to go back to the series’ survival horror roots. Are Capcom back to their shocking best, or have they been smoking a bit too much of the Green herb again?
“Survival Horror”, a phrase so familiar to gamers, was pretty much coined to describe the first batch of Resident Evil games. Creeping around secluded, drab settings like the Arklay Mansion or the desolate streets of a Racoon City run rife with zombies, each second in the early Resident Evil games was a terrifying race to survive, hunting down weapon ammunition and supplies whilst hoping that turning the next corner wouldn’t present you with a shambling horror eyeing up your guts for lunch.
As the series evolved, that slightly slower-paced, brooding terror was swapped out for faster monster movie action that saw you mowing down a near-endless stream of undead or mutant foes. It worked excellently in Resident Evil 4 (which retained a feeling of foreboding), but lost a significant scare factor with Resident Evil 5 and its sun-drenched streets.
Resident Evil: Revelations then represents the game that long-time series fans have longed for arguably since before Resident Evil 4 was released way back in January 2005. Creepy, dark and oozing dread without scrimping on the action, it’s one of the best games the series has seen in a long time.
This is partly achieved by the superb setting for the game. For the most part, you’ll be controlling series stalwart Jill Valentine as she explores a bio-terrorist attack on the cruise liner Queen Zenobia. Its flooded, cold corridors prove as claustrophobic as the original game’s Arklay Mansion and through some stunning work in the graphics department, about a thousand times more realistic. Revelations looks good enough to rival some console games, with excellently moody lighting, detailed character models and a surprising amount of variation in its scenes considering the predominately ocean-bound setting. 3D visuals add slightly to the tension on the 3DS, but we proffered to play with 3D switched off in this case, as higher levels of anti-aliasing then kick in, making everything look silky-smooth. Sonically it’s hellishly spooky too, if putting to one side the series almost-trademark, comedically-hammy voice acting; from enemy moans, the screams of survivors to the haunting soundtrack (which Capcom deftly know exactly when to par down to increase tension), you’ll have chills down your spine throughout.
The boat proves a great setting to let loose the games monstrous “ooze” enemies too. Closer to Dead Space’s Necromorphs than the zombies of old, their loose, flowing nature makes them the perfect fit for the wet world you explore. Their fluidity also makes them far more vicious than previous Resident Evil foes; a seemingly safe corridor can quickly become a battleground as the amorphous nasties slide up through grates all around you. Boss battles are wondrously gruesome too, each offering just the right amount of challenge, needing unique tactics to fell each varied beast.
Enemies are made even more fearsome by the game’s return to a survival focus, with methodical combat and scarce supplies. Though the optional Circle Pad add-on for the 3DS offers dual-stick controls, the game is at its heart-pumping best when in fact played with the limited movement offered by the traditional Resident Evil tank-like controls, turning your character on the spot to pick your shots rather than running and gunning. You can move and shoot now in a slightly clunky way, as well as use a rudimentary dodge move, but those added skills prove only a minor help in facing the horrors surrounding you. For once, “hamstrung” controls are intentional, and to the benefit of the tense nature of the game.
It’s also a return to desperate item harvesting. Even when at your most shaken, you’ll still need to deeply explore your surroundings for supplies, or a weapon box to swap your load out to suit your next challenge. Revelations introduces the Genesis scanner tool to your arsenal. A bit like the visor from the Metroid Prime series on the Gamecube and Wii, it rewards you for carefully examining your surroundings, throwing up snippets of info on the game’s backstory, clues to Revelations well-thought-out puzzles and the odd reward for item conservation.
If there is one place where the game’s atmosphere proves a bit of a let down, it’s in the story. Sure, we’ve come to expect completely whacked-out plots from Capcom, but what’s on show here veers dangerously from B-Movie territory to nonsensical. If you can get your head around the several-too-many twists across the course of the game, it’s unlikely you’ll care too much about the tale’s outcome.
In contrast, the supporting characters aren’t wacky enough. They’re a dull bunch, while Jessica Sherawat’s impractical, revealing costume undoes much of the good positive gender role work being done by Jill’s strong lead role. The cast prove just as useless when in a supporting AI mode, shooting by your side but doing no real damage, and acting only to alleviate the game’s bread-and-butter tension.
Gameplay is split into chapters, which proves both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you’ve got roughly-hour-long chunks of gameplay to attack in a sitting, which is quite well suited for on-the-go gaming.
On the other hand, however, these chapters introduce Revelations’ subplot, centred mostly around Resident Evil’s other main hero, Chris Redfield. His action takes you away from the menace of the ship, and often throws you straight back into the kind of mindless shooting galleries that characterised and, to some extent, ruined Resident Evil 5. Chapters will of course naturally break up the flow of gameplay and cut through any tension built, but the transition between Jill and Chris’s segments is almost always maddeningly jarring.
The game is fairly lengthy, easily taking the average player well over 10 hours to complete. But it doesn’t end with the single-player campaign. Completing the main game opens up the Raid Mode, which supports co-op online play and makes characters such as Jessica and O’Brien playable. Here you and a pal fight through key sections from the main game, with set challenges and differing enemies than you may have experienced in the single player game. Success rewards you with points which can be used to buy upgraded weapons in the Raid store. It’s a much better home for the action-orientated gameplay that feels shoehorned in elsewhere in Revelations.
Capcom have done right by the hardcore fanbase with Revelations. While not shying away from the action-orientated gameplay that revived the franchise after Resident Evil 4, they’ve managed to return that creeping feeling of unease that was missing from Resident Evil 5. The story is even more ludicrous than ever, with the supporting cast never exciting in terms of plot nor allied-AI. However, atmospherically and graphically it’s a stunning achievement, which deserves not only to re-iterate Capcom’s stellar horror chops, but also to highlight the potential of Nintendo’s 3DS console in the right hands when put toe-to-toe with more powerful hardware like the PS Vita.