After the rather lacklustre Resident Evil: Mercenaries on the 3DS, the jury was well and truly out as to whether Capcom would be able to pull off a “true” survival horror experience on the 3DS. So is Revelations fiendishly good or terrifyingly awful?
Reviewed On: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: Out now (EUR), February 7th (US/AUS)
Score without Circle Pad Pro:
Score with Circle Pad Pro:
I’ve been a huge fan of the Resident Evil franchise since its debut on the PlayStation over a decade ago. The series undoubtedly defined the survival horror genre, but the more recent iterations of the series – such as Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5 – seemed to concentrate more on the action as opposed to scaring the living crap out of you. So I was very excited to hear that Resident Evil: Revelations was going to be putting a renewed emphasis on the suspense, horror and tension that were such hallmarks of the classic Resident Evil titles.
Resident Evil: Revelations is set between the events of Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5. The Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA) has just been set up and finds itself (quite literally) setting sail in Revelations to kick some decidedly infected butt. The story starts in 2004 with the destruction of Terragrigia, “the world’s most ecological city,” (their words, not mine) following an attack by a terrorist group known as “Il Veltro,” which laid waste to the city through the medium of Bio-Organic Weapons (BOWs). As a result, the city was declared a biohazard site, was promptly evacuated, but – in a welcome stroke of good luck – the members of Il Veltro were reportedly wiped out in the process.
But, what with Il Veltro being the stereotypical band of ne’er-do-wells, the group reappears a year later. Il Veltro hijack a cruise liner – the Queen Zenobia – and infect it with, you guessed it, a variant of the T-virus. Cue the BSAA.
The gameplay proper starts with you playing as Jill Valentine, accompanied by a chap called Parker Luciani (who bears more than a passing resemblance to The IT Crowd’s Douglas Reynholm), attempting to track down two agents – one of whom is your old buddy Chris Redfield – who have gone missing aboard the Queen Zenobia. That’s honestly about as much backstory I can give you without straying into spoiler territory, as the plot is stuffed with more twists and turns than, well, a decidedly twisted and turny thing.
Whilst the main bulk of the story plays out on the Queen Zenobia, you’ll visit a number of varied locales throughout the campaign – keeping any concerns of visual tedium well in check. The art design is generally fantastic, with the interior of the Queen Zenobia successfully echoing the old decrepit mansion that was the backdrop to the first Resident Evil.
As I alluded to at the beginning of this review, the gameplay of Revelations harks back to the proper survival horror feel that was a hallmark of the earlier Resident Evil games. Admittedly, the fact that the action takes place on the relatively small screen of a 3DS does lessen the ability of the game to scare the bejesus out of you – but there were still a number of moments that genuinely made me jump. The eerie atmosphere is further enhanced by the truly fantastic visuals and a brilliant, haunting orchestral score.
Considering Revelations is running on a 3DS, the game looks genuinely gorgeous. Revelations runs on a slightly stripped down version of the same engine that powered Lost Planet 2 and manages to eke out some fantastic visual effects from Nintendo’s handheld – pumping out graphics that best just about every other title out there for the 3DS at present.
Unlike many other developers, Capcom seem to have mastered the 3D effect of the handheld too, with not a hint of ghosting to be seen. As with all other titles on the 3DS, playing through in 3D is an option, and if you decide to go 2D, enough processing overhead is freed up to handle proper anti-aliasing, which more than compensates for the lack of depth. The only real gripe that I have about the visuals is that there isn’t a great deal of variety in the types of enemies that you face. Off the top of my head, I’d say there’s only about 8 types of standard enemies, all of who are decked on in various shades of gray.
Gameplay – if you’re using a Circle Pad Pro (an accessory that I reviewed recently) – is fantastic. The feel of how the characters control is pretty much lifted straight from Resident Evil 5, with an appropriate degree of weight and sluggishness to the characters. The fact that you can’t quickly change direction adds to the tense atmosphere of the game, giving the impression that you’re truly struggling to keep the mutants smacked up on T-virus at bay.
Another hallmark of the Resident Evil series that makes a welcome return is the sensation that, relative to the foes you face, you’re relatively underpowered. Just about every enemy you’ll come across takes a good number of shots to go down – but will take more damage depending on where you shoot them. You’re rarely awash with ammo during the game, meaning that shot placement and ammo management are key skills that you need to master in order to progress. Some gamers are used to having massive ammo boxes thrown at them left, right and centre whilst facing down enemies who would crumble if you gave them anything more than a nasty look may find this irritating, but, in my opinion, the feeling that you’re under-supplied and outmatched really helps ramp up the tension.
I am also impressed with the length of the single player campaign, which clocks in at a little under 10 hours. The story is generally very good and keeps the action moving along, although it does occasionally veer into dodgy B-movie territory. There’s also a fairly large supporting cast to back up Chris and Jill, most of whom you’ll get to play as along the way. But there are two particular characters, evidently included to provide an element of comic relief, who are just plain annoying. Thankfully you spend a limited amount of time in their somewhat questionable company.
In addition to the single player campaign, there’s also a number of “raid mode” missions that can be played through either solo or two-player co-op. There are options for both local co-op and online matchmaking – although the lack of a chat feature for the 3DS when playing online somewhat takes the edge off the fun. There are 42 missions to be played through in raid mode, which should give Revelations some extra playability.
However, one of the best features of Revelations is one that might not be initially obvious. All of the weapons you’ll come across in single player and raid mode can have upgrades applied to them, which vary from the usual damage and ammo capacity improvements to increasing the probability of stunning an enemy. These upgrades can be found in the levels of the game as custom kit parts or unlocked by completing challenges. Sadly, the unlocks from single player don’t carry over to raid mode, but there’s a surprisingly in-depth character and weapon levelling system in raid mode that helps to keep things fresh.
Now, the eagle-eyed amongst you may have spotted the phrase “if you’re using a Circle Pad Pro” earlier on in this review – and this is the proverbial elephant in the room with Revelations. In my opinion, this game practically requires the Circle Pad Pro to be enjoyable. Without one, you’re forced to resort to the god-awful control mechanism from Resident Evil: Mercenaries: the circle pad moves you forward, backward and rotating on the spot, and to strafe you have to hold down the L shoulder button – a manoeuvre that is a sure fire way to experience some pretty malevolent hand cramp. Yes, I know that the plot and weapon upgrade system will be unchanged if you’re not using a Circle Pad Pro and, yes, I know a hallmark of the Resident Evil series is the moderately cack-handed way you navigate around the levels. But I really didn’t enjoy Revelations without the Circle Pad Pro – and I tried hard. Two hours of claw-inducing hand cramp hard.
In summary, Revelations – if you’re willing to pick up the (admittedly inexpensive) Circle Pad Pro – is a fantastic game and a real return to form for the Resident Evil series. Indeed, if you’re willing to part with the extra cash to get a Circle Pad Pro, I’d go as far to say that Revelations is one of the very best games that the 3DS has to offer.