Resident Evil: Revelations
The SS Queen Zenobia is a peculiar location for a modern Resident Evil game. Tight, claustrophobic corridors line the confines of this desolate vessel. Stranded at sea with no communication with the outside world, those aboard are trapped, alone and with no means of escape. Letters and documents are strewn throughout the ship’s vast interior, from the bridge through to its glorious casino and the depths of its hull. They tell tales of crewmates living their last days and of conspiracy theories surrounding the mysterious circumstances of this empty ghost ship. Doors are unlocked with keys shaped like tridents and anchors, while single enemies are enough to trouble your ever depleting ammo count. It’s distinctly Resident Evil, but a variation we haven’t seen in a long, long time.
Dictated by the modest hardware of the Nintendo 3DS, Resident Evil: Revelations is a shining example of the work a small, singularly focused team can do with a dwindling franchise. It’s a stark contrast to the bloated mess Resident Evil 6 proved to be under the reigns of a team numbering in the six hundreds. Its design, of claustrophobia and limited scope, is a cause of circumstance, but even upon moving to technically superior HD consoles its immediate appeal remains. It harkens back to the series’ traditions while complementing it with the modern mechanics synonymous with the franchise since Resident Evil 4. The process has revealed some moving pains, but Revelations is still a triumph over recent numbered offerings and their directionless focus on misguided action.
Set between the events of Resident Evil 4 and 5, you’ll spend the majority of your time playing as series stalwart Jill Valentine, accompanied by Chris Redfield and a supporting cast of all new characters. Revelations’ episodic structure – once again a cause of its handheld beginnings – allows the narrative to switch perspectives between these characters, presenting flashbacks and events happening concurrently, away from the Queen Zenobia. It’s a formula put to good use, suiting a story that is typically Resi. Bioterrorists, a new strain of the T-Virus and plenty of incomprehensible twists and turns; it’s all suitably corny and melodramatic, but proves to be a lot of fun, particularly when absorbed in quick 20 minute chunks. The pacing suffers towards its conclusion but it’s an enjoyably confined romp that benefits from a smaller scale.
And the same can be said of its design; a mixture of what Resident Evil once was and what it has now become. A methodical pace allows tension to build before being punctuated by moments of action. You’ll rarely ever face more than two or three enemies at once but a scarcity of ammunition and their ability to soak up bullets means running away is sometimes the most viable option. The ship’s tight confines inciting panic in its restrictions, while its action mechanics grant you the means to survive without feeling too underpowered. The Genesis – a scanning tool that allows you to find hidden ammo and health items in the environment– somewhat contradicts Revelations’ survival horror sensibilities, but it also alleviates a lot of frustrations and is balanced in such a way that you still feel threatened despite the additional resources. Revelations proves to be an adequate compromise between modern action and traditional survival horror, particularly with its move to home consoles.
As you can imagine, its familiar third-person control scheme translates well with analogue sticks trumpeting the 3DS’ ideal nub and Circle Pad Pro combination. You can move and shoot, enabling you to back away from sticky situations. However, the translation has suffered in regards to aiming precision – it just never feels quite right. The reticule moves too fast but is slow to stop, giving the aiming a certain unwieldiness that takes some getting used to. Fortunately it does just that, its hindrance not proving a particularly damning burden on the whole experience. On the 3DS it’s fine, impressive even, but on a home console it fails to match its contemporaries, ironically heightening tensions in much the same way the series’ tank controls once did. Considering this history it’s difficult to discern how much of it is a result of the port and how much is deliberate, if any. Depending on whom you ask the aiming is bound to have plenty of pros and cons.
It should be universally agreed that the enemy design is particularly uninspired, however. These insipid grey husks are never interesting to look at and fighting them lacks feedback so you never really feel like you’re inflicting substantial damage. Boss fights continue the theme of disappointment, proving to be exercises in tedium and frustration. It’s in these moments where Revelations flies too close to the blistering sun coating Resident Evil 5, offering up fights with seemingly indestructible enemies and their endlessly spawning friends – while a temperamental dodge mechanic does little to help. They signify Revelations’ weakest moments but are fortunately few and far between.
The Wii U version forgoes any additional interface issues, handily displaying pertinent information on the GamePad screen at all times. You can easily switch between the three weapons at hand by tapping their icons on the screen, and a few puzzles entail touchscreen input to solve, too. You can also play the whole game remotely on the GamePad if you so desire, while Miiverse integration proves humorous. When you die you can leave death messages for the community while also sampling theirs. Other player’s written frustrations and hastily drawn images provide plenty of laughs, offering a more comical version of similar concepts seen in games like Demon’s Souls.
Other new features and additions are universal, the most notable of which is an expanded Raid mode. This co-op score-attack jaunt through familiar campaign locations was a highlight on the 3DS and remains so here. RPG-style levelled enemies litter each environment. Every kill accumulating XP and a constant sense of satisfaction as you unlock more effective weaponry and continue the slaughter against increasingly difficult foes. Additional weapons and more playable characters beef up the package, proving Raid mode a considerable aside to the main single-player campaign. New Game+ expands the content further, coming complete with a punishing new Infernal difficulty that will require all the weapon unlocks you can muster.
If you played Resident Evil: Revelations on the 3DS these new features probably aren’t enough to make you want to pick it up again, and they shouldn’t be. This is a game meant for new players, especially those disillusioned with the series’ recent direction. It takes elements of those modern action games but infuses them with an atmosphere and traditional sensibility that hasn’t graced a Resident Evil game in far too long. It doesn’t always execute with the same vigour as its contemporaries but it almost doesn’t need to. Revelations is the best Resident Evil game since 4, and that’s all most will ever need.