The Resident Evil Franchise has had a rough ride of it recently. First, Resident Evil: Racoon City was slated by critics for its buggy design and lack of polished gameplay, then Resident Evil 6 came along and despite big talk, seemed to bite off more than it could chew (that being said, both games still sold fairly well), with the only redeemable entry in the franchise being the Nintendo 3DS exclusive Resident Evil: Revelations, which attempts to take the game back to it’s survival horror roots. Revelations has now been ported over to the home consoles, does it survive the journey?
Set before the events of Resident Evil 5, the story sees zombie killer extraordinaires Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield (along with many others) board a mysterious cruise ship in the Mediterranean sea. With the aid of the BSAA (a Zombie killing organisation) they try to deal with a mysterious, and thought to be defunct, terrorist group known as “Il Veltro”, while dealing with a strange new infestation which is threatening the Earth’s water supply.
The story is told in an episodic format, which is seemingly becoming all the rage these days. You’re given a score at the end of an episode, then immediately hit with “Previously on Resident Evil: Revelations” despite the fact that you JUST PLAYED IT! To be fair, this game was made for the 3DS and was perhaps designed to be played in short bursts.
As per usual with Resident Evil, the story doesn’t leave much of an impression and is best enjoyed when not taken seriously. While the series is known for it’s rather colourful cast of characters and villains, everyone is rather ordinary this time. With the possible exception of Jill’s partner Parker, nobody else makes much of an impression, including two new characters who act as comic relief that are a little too unbearable to like. The same can be said for Chris’ partner Jessica who seems determined to sleep with the entire male cast while wearing strange one legged trousers and a cadet who bears a striking resemblance to Conan O’Bryan.
While the story serves it’s purpose, there is perhaps a slight problem with pacing. Things go fine for the first few episodes, then you may start to feel that the story is coming to an end, only to realise that you’re barely half way through - after episode 5, I felt as if we were sprinting to the finish line, only for the game to go on till episode 12. As such, the constantly rising stakes of the finale can grow a touch tiresome.
As previously stated, Revelations is said to be a call back to the Resident Evil games of yore, when it was all about spooky environments, solving puzzles and excitedly backtracking across previously explored areas with strangely shaped keys to finally unlock that door. Therefore, the scale is decidedly smaller than the previous entries in the series, with the majority of the game taking place on a cruise ship, with occasional story jumps to snowy mountains, military headquarters and ugly beaches.
While there is the occasional locked door that you can only return to later upon finding a key, you’re never confused about what needs to happen next, which is both a good and bad thing. It doesn’t quite feel like a massive puzzle game that Resident Evil was, so don’t expect to ever get stuck. It is usually a linear walk through zombie infested rooms until you find some sort of key, at which point you can go back to that locked door you saw at the beginning of the level. It may try to behave like a puzzle game, but it’s still very much linear. If you do ever get lost, there is usually a waypoint system on your map which will point you in the right direction. Also, the autosave is a far cry from the save system of the original Resident Evil.
There are two ways in which this game can be played, literally. You are able to go into the options menu and change the way the game is controlled. There is the “shooter” option, which is similar to how Dead Space operates and there is the “classic” approach, similar to how Resident Evil 4 controlled. While both can carry out the same sort of moves, the classic approach is a bit more cumbersome as it requires many buttons to be pushed at once in order to run and gun, therefore it is better, as it adds much more tension to fights that are otherwise pushovers.
It’s a strange game that asks you to hinder yourself to enjoy it more and while I suppose it may be commendable to allow players to play the game as they want to, it is clearly designed to be played with the classic setting. You see that score below? Well if you’re planning to play on the shooter mode, which is the default setting by the way, feel free to knock about 2 points off. Playing on shooter just makes the monsters an occasional bother, as you casually dispatch of the slow moving zombies with ease. It feels similar to the defence used for games that have use the “dumbed down” mechanic or include features that make the game simpler, such as the hint marker in Bioshock: Infinite, as you can’t simply say “well you don’t have to use it” as it goes against what the game has supposedly been designed for. If you’re advised not to use it to increase your enjoyment, why is it there? My best advice to get the most enjoyment out of this game is to switch to classic mode upon booting up the game for a much more rewarding experience (as such, I will be talking about the rest of the game with the classic mode in mind).
While you can move and shoot at the same time, the controls make this rather awkward in a good way. Even having two monsters in a room at the same time can be a traumatic experience as they close in on you in a cramped space, though once you learn to master the controls you really do feel as if you’re learning and improving, which is quite satisfying. The game does feel like a handheld experience however, both in terms of scale and design. All the environments look the same and there is even a story specific reason as to why every ship interior looks identical which is clearly an attempt to cut corners in a design respect. Also, while the game can be rather creepy, it is easy to imagine sitting with a 3DS close to your eyes and getting a better experience out of it. By console standards it feels somewhat drab, lifeless and lacking in atmosphere.
One of the best things about Revelations though are the Boss battles. Some of the best of the series, as the tight corridors with countless enemies makes for some truly tense battles. Only occasionally did I run out of ammo, as there is usually enough strewn about, but that doesn’t stop the bosses from being tense affairs.
There is quite a fun multiplayer mode involved in the form of Raid mode (which can also be played solo), which tasks players with making their way through progressively harder and harder levels. While fun with a friend, a major disappointment is not being able to play on the same computer, but only online, as a couch co-op option seems a perfect fit for it. It also lacks the tension and fun of Mercenaries mode from the previous games. Don’t expect to feel the need to better your score or time (as there doesn’t even seem to be a time limit) as simply clearing the stage seems to be enough.
While it is hardly a replacement for Resident Evil 6 that many may hope it is, Revelations is still a worthy entry in the Resident Evil mythos and perfect for those looking to wash the taste of Raccoon City and the aforementioned Resident Evil 6 out of their mouth will definitely find something to enjoy. It may be a little bear bones on the atmosphere and design and it may have “port of handheld game” written all over it but it still manages to hit all the right notes and gives a satisfying, if hardly nourishing experience along the way. While there are unlockables and multiplayer aspects involved, it is much easier to recommend this to fans as a rental due to the short running time (each of the 12 chapters takes about half an hour to complete, give or take the occasional tough boss).
All and all, good fun and the best entry in the series for a good while. More of the same please, though next time lets start with the consoles shall we?