Resident Evil Revelations is the eighth game to be released in what is considered the “core” series of the Resident Evil franchise. Resident Evil started humbly enough back in March of 1996 with the first entry obvious titled Resident Evil. The first entry in the series become an instant hit among action fans and adventure fans alike due to its impressive environments, amazing graphics (at the time that is), creative use of horror elements, and perhaps best of all its horrible voice acting. Resident Evil also introduced some the series’ most long standing characters to include Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, and the insidious Albert Wesker. This success led a re-release in a Director’s Cut format adding an arrange mode and some new outfits to unlock for both Chris and Jill. Just two years later Resident Evil 2 was released adding a new layer of depth to the series by introducing parallel campaign modes spread across two disks. In RE2 you could opt to play Scenario A as one character and then play Scenario B as the opposite and only after completing Scenario B did you receive the true ending to the title. RE3 launched about a year later and introduced the 180 degree quick turn, now a staple of the series, as well as a dodge mechanic which came and went throughout the series, but makes a glorious return in Revelations interestingly enough. Resident Evil 4, released in January 2005, was the first major game changer in the series introducing the over the shoulder third person aiming mechanic, context sensitive action prompts, and leaned more towards a tension driven experience instead of an impending doom what was that in the shadow over there type of feeling. Last year, in 2011, the 3DS received an exclusive RE title in the form of the Mercenaries 3D. I enjoyed this game, but it certainly felt more like a proof of concept since it was running a mobile version of the MT Framework game engine and made some tweaks to the controls allowing to the player to MOVE WHILE AIMING by holding the L button. Mercenaries marked the first time you weren’t just a turret, but since the mechanics were unchanged from 4 and 5… it wasn’t actually necessary. Mercenaries also added first person aiming which also worked rather well, but still retained the option to do the classic over the shoulder RE4 style if you chose.
Now I don’t mean to harp to much on past titles, but familiarity with them helps to understand what has led up to the design choices present in the newest entry in the core series, Revelations, which draws the best bits and pieces from each crafting the most refined RE title yet… and it’s on a hand held!
Resident Evil Revelations begins with the player taking control of Jill Valentine who is now working for the Bio-terrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA), a worldwide counter bio-terrorism group, on a large cruise ship along with her partner, new comer, Parker Luciani. The story chronologically, takes place between the events of Resident Evil 4 and bridges directly into the events of Resident Evil 5… this puts us in the fictional year of 2005 for the core of this stories events. Throughout the tale you gain control of a plethora of other characters to include Chris Redfield and a whole team of new characters all of which I felt were given distinct personalities and stayed interesting throughout. You jump perspectives a lot while playing through the game which is divided up into episodes and plays out much like a television drama often leaving the player at dramatic cliff hanger moments before jumping to the next characters perspective. Now, certain characters scenarios are happening parallel to each other but at times you play past events that have already happened to further outline and flesh out the story. This is most certainly a title that could be confusing if it had poor writing, but thankfully Revelations is penned very well giving a sense of investment most Resident Evil games lacked over the years. Also, to help the player understand what the hell is going on, prior to each chapter a “previously on” montage plays. This was a really nice touch making sure that each and every detail was always in the forefront of the player’s mind helping to ease confusion while not making the player feel like everything was being spoon fed to them, bravo Capcom.
The mechanics are also rather different by RE standards but draws from all the past titles keeping some of the best things while ditching some of the worst. Revelations also integrates the touchscreen intelligently using it mostly for short puzzle moments. As I mentioned, past RE titles made the player a turret so to speak, not allowing you to move and shoot at the same time or move and aim at the same time. The past titles always focused on the fight or flight mentality forcing you to choose your encounters wisely. Revelations draws from the Mercenaries3D and allows the player to walk while aiming, so long as you are holding the L button, which feels great and is absolutely necessary in this title. The first person aiming introduced in Mercenaries 3D is also present by default, but the third person aiming can be selected in the options menu. Since you spend a great deal of time in narrow hallways, I chose to stick to the first person view on my first play through, but after switching back to the third person view I much preferred it instead. Also, in past RE titles the player always had to hold a “run” button to move at a quicker pace fundamentally forcing you to depress a button for five hours straight since no one ever walked in these games. Revelations fixes this by defaulting your movement speed to a jog making for less sore fingers during extended play. Absent are the magic item boxes, inventory screens, and attache cases from past titles. Now you may carry three firearms at any time and have sub weapons which include things such as the knife (or other melee weapon, depends on who you are controlling), grenades, or anti B.O.W. Explosives. You are also limited to the amount of spare ammunition you can carry of each type, but this number can be increased by finding ammo pouches during gameplay. Herbs are also universal now being only of the green variety and are mapped to their own button for quick healing on the spot. Inventory management is now gone other than deciding what weapons to bring along, so there are still large green weapon boxes throughout the game which act as a hubs to change your load outs and customize your weapons, a first for the RE series.
As you play you may stumble upon custom parts or even more rarely illegal custom parts to augment your weapons with. These act as stat boosting or altering buffs. For example, you may equip an 80% damage bonus to a magnum, or a 20% magazine extender to an assault rifle, or perhaps add a 100% stopping bonus to your pistol. This really opens up a lot of options and helps allow the player to custom mold their weapons around their style beyond the “I like machine guns” or “I like shotguns” idea from other similar titles. By the end you have guns that are rocking insane amounts of ammo or dealing out tons of damage, but you never feel totally safe. Plus, even highly upgraded weapons don’t imbalance the challenge since the enemies become much harder as the game goes on.
The new primary enemy type comes in the form of the Ooze which seep out of ducts, rises from the floor, and pretty much comes out of wherever they damn well please whenever they please. Along with some classic enemies like Hunters returning, no matter how well equipped you are you never really feel totally in control when getting swarmed by unfamiliar monsters on all sides. The enemies seem to always evolve and there are quite a few of them to encounter each requiring a different strategy to best. There are also several really awesome boss rights. Each enemy and boss are introduced organically during gameplay so you never really know when a new threat may appear adding to the tension considerably.
Another interesting device added to Revelations is the Genesis Bio-Scanner which can be used to scan dead (or living) enemies as well as the environment for hidden items or collectables. With each enemy scanned you gain a percentage towards a complete sample and once this is acquired the game rewards you with an herb. This encourages scanning since herbs are more rare than they normally were in past titles. Also, most of the “better” custom parts will be discovered through this scanning and searching method which encourages the player to explore each and every room leading to an overall slower pace than that of RE4 or RE5.
Speaking of pace, Revelations strikes a great balance between atmosphere and action delivering a satisfying experience for both old school horror fans and shooter junkies alike. Most of the time spent as Jill leans towards the moody vibe bringing back fond memories of earlier RE titles, particularly the experiences from the mansion in the original. Other segments ditch this altogether leaning more towards a run and gun aesthetic that works beautifully to balance the game and tests the mechanics never allowing anything to feel stale. The score is also epic and beautiful. There were times when I would just stand around in safe areas just listening to the music… I just enjoyed it that much and it always fit the mood wonderfully.
Rewards are also present in unlockable “missions” which task the player with various trials such as landing ten fully charged melee attacks or defeating a specific enemy opening up various items for the campaign as well as the amazing Raid Mode, which in turn has its own set of missions. Raid Mode can be played co-op or solo and is divided into twenty stages plus one bonus stage. You choose a character, a weapon load out, and the stage and go to it. Raid Mode differs from anything seen in an RE title acting more like an arcade shooter forgoing mood altogether for an action centered gameplay experience. Here the enemies come in more varieties than the campaign with damage or speed boosts, and often vary in size from overly large to oddly small. A persistent player level follows you in Raid Mode allowing access to more powerful weapons, new characters, new outfits, and rare weapon mods. Raid Mode is also where you will spend the BP (the games currency) earned when completing key parts of the main campaign as well as completing Raid stages. You will find some really excellent rare weapons for use in Raid Mode at the cost of lots of BP, like the Pale Rider… which you just need to see to believe. Raid Mode is an absolute blast to play and is equally as hefty as the lengthy eight to ten hour campaign.
As I mentioned, Revelations is running on the mobile MT Framework game engine. In doing so, Revelations is absolutely the best looking hand held title I have ever seen and really proves what the 3DS hardware can do. If you were to simply show footage of this game to someone and not tell them it was on the 3DS, I’m confident they would assume it was a current generation console title, it just looks that amazing! The 3D was also integrated well, but I usually only turned it on during cutscenes.
Revelations is a worthy entry in the long standing, not always awesome but if you’re a fan you forgave them series. It stands tall and proud among great titles like Resident Evil 4 and I feel surpasses Resident Evil 5 in quality, story telling, and gameplay. Revelations could have easily been Resident Evil 6 and I don’t think anyone would have been ashamed had it been a numbered entry. With a plethora of unlockables, two fully fleshed out game modes, beautiful graphics, and the best damn story in a RE title yet, Revelations is a must play and must own for Resident Evil fans. It’s also the best reason to own a 3DS as far as I am concerned. With two other Resident Evil titles set to be released this year, if Revelations is a reflection of the quality which those other titles will have, then it is a good year to be a Resident Evil fan… a good year indeed.
- Kane Hubbard
In as few words as possible…
Great Story, the episodes thing really works well
Gameplay that is refined to keep what works and ditch what doesn’t
Swimming sections, I usually hate these but Revelations does it well
Weapons, lots of weapons and customizing
The Ooze are awesome new “zombies”
Sweet Boss fights
Lots of bang for your buck… 10 hour campaign, same or longer for Raid Mode
No health bar or “Fine” status indicator, the screen covering damage stuff kind of sucks since it can obstruct your view when near death… which is the worst time to not be able to see well.
The game ended… bummer…
This review was written by my colleague Kane Hubbard and it was posted here with his permission. Check out more reviews, articles, and podcast at http://everythingstentative.com/