Resident Evil Revelations
The Resident Evil series has evolved beyond what many enjoyed about the first three games. Initially creating and defining what a Survival Horror game should be, the series has recently become more focused on spectacle and large action set-pieces, becoming more convoluted and unbelievable in the process. Resident Evil Revelations has attempted to go back somewhat to the roots of the series, whilst retaining some aspects of the newer games.
The first thing to say about Resident Evil Revelations is just how visually impressive it is. Whilst most 3DS titles currently out make use of simpler, more stylised graphics in order to look good, Capcom’s MT Framework engine has managed to create visuals that on occasion look almost as good as an Xbox 360 title. Character models are highly detailed and well animated, and the environments also look incredible. Although very impressive for the most part there are the occasional hiccups, mainly during loading times in elevator rides as the frame-rate does take quite a significant hit. Having said this, on my first run-through I didn’t notice any significant frame-rate issues throughout the course of normal exploration and combat. The art direction is also up to the high standard of the Resident Evil series with its moody lighting and claustrophobic locations. Bookending each episode are brief pre-rendered cut scenes that are also exceptionally well done, and unlike many games the FMV doesn’t look much different from the in-game visuals. The only real let down is the lack of facial animation within the in-game sections as characters speak but their mouths don’t move. Whilst disappointing it doesn’t really detract from the otherwise stellar production values on show here, and is easily the best demo for showing off what Nintendo’s handheld is capable of in the right hands. Besides the 3DS’s hardware control, the game has its own 3D strength adjustment which does give a greater sense of depth. The 3D effect is occasionally impressive when the only light source is a torch, but otherwise there’s no real reason to keep the effect on.
The sound design is also excellent. The deliberate use of sounds and occasional musical cues do go a long way into building up the uneasy atmosphere even further. Headphones are certainly required to get the most out of the subtle ambiance in contrast to the harsh screams that punctuate the game’s soundscape. The game is also fully voice acted, which for the most part is well performed even with the cheesy script. There’s also the option for the Japanese language voice-over, although I’m not sure how many will go for this option given that the English language has usually been the only option present in previous entries.
The game controls pretty well with the default setup. Without a second analogue nub, the game feels more or less identical to the GameCube version of Resident Evil 4. You can move whilst aiming, but can’t shoot and move at the same time, as so far has been the standard for the mainline Resident Evil series. There’s also the option to use the gyroscope for aiming although unlike The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, the game has adjustable sensitivity for analogue stick aiming so there’s no real advantage to using it, although it’s nice the option is there for those who prefer gyroscopic aiming. The best and most comfortable way to control the game is by purchasing a Circle Pad Pro, as the dual analogue set-up makes aiming easier and more familiar to recent shooters and also gives the benefit of being able to move and shoot at the same time. The Circle Pad Pro, despite it's ugly appearance is actually very comfortable to use with it's bulkier frame and I would recommend anyone planning on purchasing the game to pick one up. Although the combination of moving and shooting has been a common feature of other shooters for years now, this is the first time a main Resident Evil campaign has offered this level of movement. It certainly makes avoiding enemies slightly easier, but the rather slow strafing means that the enemy will still gain on you as long as your weapon is drawn. There is also a new dodge command, as an enemy is about to attack there is a brief window to execute the move although usually I opted for just running past them as in previous games.
Taking place between Resident Evil 4 and 5, the game’s central story follows Jill Valentine and her new partner Parker Luciani, as they look for who they assume is a missing Chris Redfield onboard a seemingly abandoned cruise ship. The main bulk of the game is spent on the same boat in a very similar manner to that of the mansion in the original Resident Evil. There are also other more action-oriented missions as in certain chapters the player will take control of other characters in flashbacks and other aspects of the main story, with Parker and Chris. There’s also a lot of back story dealing with the formation of the BSAA from Resident Evil 5 and introduces a bunch of new characters throughout the game. Truth be told, I wish that Resident Evil didn’t feel the need to try and shoehorn in a bunch of extraneous back story as it does hold up the narrative. Resident Evil 4 worked so well because it ignored a lot of the continuity from past games and remained a more focused, and enjoyable experience because of it. I’m sure fans of the series that enjoy the overarching story for all the games will appreciate the story more despite my reservations however.
The game is certainly at its strongest when on the main boat area. Ammunition is scarce, areas are claustrophobic and there is a general sense of heightened danger throughout. By the end of the game you will know your way around the ship pretty well as there is some backtracking to be done throughout the main campaign. Somewhat diluting those traditional horror experiences are the chapters that take place outside of the confines of the ship, as the game becomes more action heavy. Already armed with more powerful machine-guns and shotguns, these areas are for the most part just shooting galleries full of enemies as you wait for elevators to arrive or just race through shooting whatever’s in your path. Whilst there is plentiful ammo in these areas, you still have to find them in cabinets or just lying around the ground, which can become a little annoying when running low on bullets in some of the more hectic situations. It’s easy to see why Capcom have these two differing styles of levels, trying to appease fans of both the survival horror and action genres. Whilst the action-heavy sequences are pulled off decently enough, they aren’t anywhere near as effective as the more tense ship exploration.
As with recent main Resident Evil titles, zombies are still not the main enemy type of the game. The Ooze are a pale, slippery enemy that can emerge from any opening in the environment. Many rooms and corridors may look safe but after taking a few steps in several may slide out from under a table or inside a cupboard. Beyond the unpredictability of them for the most part they move in a similar fashion to the Las Plagas-infected from the previous games, albeit with a much higher damage threshold to take them down.
Whilst much of the core gameplay is identical to that of Resident Evil 5, there is a new item included in Revelations called the Genesis Scanner. The scanner allows players to find hidden items that they otherwise would have passed by, and also vaguely shows the direction to the next objective. This, in combination with the more limited ammo supplies reward players for a much more cautious approach to the game as racing into areas is a quick way to get you killed. The secondary function of the scanner is to scan enemies, both alive and dead and after scanning a certain amount of enemies you will gain a health spray. Thanks to a combination of the 3DS touch screen and the D-pad, inventory management isn’t nearly as cumbersome as the system used in Resident Evil 5 as the quick heal command means you won’t be trying to awkwardly navigate a menu as the next enemy attacks.
The only real technical gripe I have with the campaign is with the companion AI, which is pretty useless throughout. Whilst they don’t steal and waste resources like Sheva in Resident Evil 5, they also now don’t seem to do anything other than chip damage to enemies, that’s even if they feel like shooting at them in the first place. Several times I was backing off from an enemy and noticed that my ally was just running around in circles. Whilst I appreciate that Capcom were taking on board the complaints about Sheva, they may as well have just had players run through the game solo.
Whilst there’s no co-op mode for the campaign, there is a raid mode unlocked after completing the first three episodes. Playing either locally or online, two players can progress through previously cleared areas of the game, albeit with slight twists. Rather than progressing through the story again just with another player, different enemies are placed between the start and end point of a particular level as both players fight their way through to the end. Upon completing an area, players will get points to spend on weapon unlocks and upgrades. There’s no Mercenaries mode this time, although to be honest the raid mode is just as good, with a more well-defined goal than to survive as long as possible. Upgrades can also be purchased using Play Coins as well as progressing through the main storyline. Had Capcom simply cut out the more action heavy levels and had only Raid Mode in its stead, I’m not too sure players would miss the solo missions too much.
Resident Evil Revelations is an excellent show-piece for what Nintendo’s 3DS is capable of and is arguably the best third-party game currently available for the system. Just because it’s a portable game, doesn’t mean Capcom have skimped out on the production values and gameplay, all of which are of a very high standard. Raid Mode is as addictive as The Mercenaries from previous games and will ensure players keep on coming back for more. Fans of the older games in the series will be happier with the higher focus on atmosphere-building and tension from the earlier games of the series, even if Capcom didn’t have the confidence to make it the only focus of the campaign. Revelations should be the audio-visual standard we come to expect from future games, although somehow I feel this will be the benchmark for some time to come.