Suspense for your small screen.
It isn’t often that a portable game can deliver a chilly atmosphere on par with some console games. You’d think the 3½-inch screen would be a serious bottleneck, but Resident Evil: Revelations proves that the 3DS has more than enough horsepower to make it possible.
Set between the events of Resident Evil 4 and 5, Revelations tells the tale of the FBC (the Federal Bioterrorism Commission) and the BSAA (the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance), two organizations investigating the mystery of a terrorist group that unleashed an attack on the sea-borne “aquapolis” Terragrigia. This terrorist group, known as Veltro, is infamous for their reckless attempts to leverage bio-organic weapons (BOWs) to spread their influence and wreak havoc. (That is, when they aren’t busy working on ways to make things stick together. [/fired])
Revelations starts out slowly. Initially, it bears the markings of a traditional Resident Evil game, which is sure to please those who begrudged the series’ recent predisposition toward more action-oriented gameplay. At the start, you’re controlling Jill and her partner Parker through the innards of a deserted cruise ship (the Queen Zenobia) which just so happens to be crawling with BOWs. They’re searching for Chris Redfield and his partner Jessica, both of whom went missing on a previous mission to this ship. The atmosphere is thick, the lighting is impressive, and the visuals are captivating. The ship feels like a floating mansion, and that’s an environment with which the franchise is deeply comfortable.
However, not too far in, the scene quickly shifts to another group in another location, and it isn’t long before you’re jumping between three pairs of individuals, something you’ll be encountering throughout the remainder of the adventure. These other segments are not all survival-horror; some of them are predominantly action, which might peeve RE purists. On the bright side, both groups have their own sets of supplies and ammunition, so wasting all of your stuff during an action segment doesn’t penalize you once you return to the traditional survival-horror stuff.
The game is split into chapters, each of which typically consists of a couple of different subchapters (or missions). It’s sometimes admittedly slightly disorienting leaping back and forth between groups and environments, but it’s also refreshing once you return to a group you were hoping to play further with. While the other characters aren’t bad, it’s Jill and Parker’s struggles aboard the Queen Zenobia which are the most captivating. Fortunately, throughout the adventure, fairly well-done cut scenes with adequate voice acting intersperse the gameplay, helping to keep things consistent and shepherding the story forward.
Returning to the topic of supplies and ammo, it’s certainly limited during the survival-horror segments. It’s easy to get lost in the process of killing everything which moves, a strategy which will eventually find you devoid of any projectile weaponry (there’s nothing worse than slashing a BOW to death). However, there’s also the benefit of painstakingly searching your surroundings for additional supplies, made possible by the Genesis Bioscanner, a device which is able to detect nearby hidden objects and reveal them for pickup. Plus, you can scan the corpses of some creatures, and after so many are scanned, you’ll be rewarded with a supply item.
Weapons are also upgradeable using Custom Parts, which are littered about the environments in sometimes inconspicuous locations. These upgrades improve the power, firing rate, stun potential, and other aspects of the various firearms. The upgrades (and weapon swaps) are performed at special ammo box locations conveniently spaced throughout the game.
But all this aside, it’s once again the atmosphere which steals the show. Lights flicker, shadows dance along the walls, textures look sharp, and the geometry is impressive. The bowels of the Queen Zenobia range from eerie and foreboding to downright gorgeous (such as in the main atrium). Ductwork lines the passages, sometimes producing a stumbling BOW through an open register, and other times, nothing at all. The 3-D, should you choose to enable it (even inconsistently), works quite well. Finally, Capcom even shelled out for a fully-orchestrated soundtrack, an asset which provides further gravity to the full package (especially during suspenseful moments and cut scenes). When it does survival-horror, it truly does feel like the Resident Evil we know and love… right down to the “Trident Key” I picked up a few hours before finishing the game writing this review. Oh, and all those herbs that you pick up that oddly transmute into first-aid sprays in your inventory.
Going back to the main game, some disappointing aspects include the aforementioned jumpy storyline, which—when done properly—can spice up the pacing of a game, but only if all characters’ storylines are equally interesting. In this case, Keith and Quint provide some oddly misplaced humor and a surprisingly bland side-story paralleling the main adventure aboard the Queen Zenobia. Their exploits take you to the snowy mountains amidst a plane crash and a hidden Veltro base—neither environment which measures up to the cruise ship. Chris and Jessica are the other pair, and Jessica’s downright annoying. She’s probably written this way intentionally, but their segments aren’t much more interesting than Keith and Quint’s, so I had little patience for them. Resident Evil has always been best at survival-horror, and Revelations perpetuates this typecasting with its endless streams of repetitive BOWs during its less-than-stellar action/combat sequences (“More Hunters?!” proclaims one of the game’s characters as you mindlessly mow down dozens of the creatures).
There’s also that strange B-movie quality which may or may not actually bother you (if you’re a fan of the series, you’re probably okay). Revelations certainly borders on the cinematic moreso than its PlayStation-era ancestors, but that doesn’t make it any less cheesy at times. You’ll still find “Our Plan”-style texts littering the environments, where presumably the henchmen of Veltro decided to comprehensively jot down their schemes, complete with a bit of humanizing introspection. Sometimes the characters manage to come off as believable, and other times, you’ll feel like you’re watching a low-budget TV drama series. Plus, the fact that the dialogue is sprinkled with occasional silliness (Keith probably says “This blows!” a dozen times) and that captions are misspelled disturbingly frequently are a little off-putting in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes less is more, and while Revelations is far from a complete failure in this regard, its middling assembly of the critical storytelling elements does break the fiction and spoil the atmosphere at times. Still, all in all, this is a more than competent handheld installment in a series which practically invented a genre.
Don't call them zombies.
By the way, once you finish the main story, you’ll have an additional difficulty to look forward to, as well as a host of other Achievement-style “missions” which unlock other perks. But the biggest and coolest unlockable is Raid Mode, an online/offline cooperative (or single-player, if you wish) mode where you progress through dozens of stages set in environments from the main story, mowing your way through all sorts of enemies (some of them entirely new, modified versions of the originals). This is almost a completely separate game in itself, featuring a shop where you can purchase weapons, supplies, and other modifiers using “BP” (Biohazard Points?) earned during the main story and Raid Mode levels, a unique scoring system, and even its own separate page of achievements within the Missions menu. It is pretty much all action, however (and arcade-like action, at that, complete with life bars and powered-up versions of enemies), so this is one area of the game where having a Circle Pad Pro would be greatly enriching.