Excellent controls, beautifully creepy soundtrack, outstanding visuals, atmospheric locations, great co-op mode.
Hammy dialogue, slow loading times and choppy frame rate, second half lacks scares and thrills.
There’s something downright unnerving about Resident Evil: Revelations. It’s not the constant slap of wet mutant flesh lumbering around in the darkness; it’s not the slow, terrifying sound of your own footsteps as you timidly lower your gun to scan for items, and it’s definitely not the eerie sensation of being watched as you creep from one blood-stained massacre to another. It’s not even the fact that you can now move and shoot at the same time! Instead, perhaps the most astonishing thing about Revelations is the fact it’s on 3DS in the first place.
By far the most visually impressive title on the system to date, Revelations shows off 3DS’s capabilities like no other game on the market, and you’ll definitely want to crank up the 3D as far as you can (if only to put some much-needed distance between you and the hoards of hulking great monsters hungry for a chunk of Jill sandwich). Complete with StreetPass functionality and an excellent online co-op mode, Revelations is here to show other 3DS games how to deliver an outstanding handheld performance.
Set between Resident Evil 4 and 5, the game opens with Jill Valentine trying to find her missing partner, Chris Redfield. His last known co-ordinates place him on the Queen Zenobia, a stranded cruise ship in the middle of the Mediterranean. But there are stranger things lurking inside the ship’s depths, and Jill and fellow BSAA agent Parker Luciani soon find that they’re not alone.
The game’s main mystery revolves around “The Terragrigia Panic”, a bio-terrorist attack on a floating city that now lies sunk and destroyed on the ocean floor. The who, what and whys of its decimation are all teased out during the course of the game, but while the story itself isn’t particularly ground-breaking, the game’s almost excessive use of cliff-hangers will ensure that you’re wrapped up in every single secret it has to offer. This is made all the more apparent in the game’s rather unusual structure, as each chapter is broken up into almost TV-sized episodes. Complete with their own “Previously on…” re-cap, they tackle the challenges of maintaining the atmosphere in a handheld survival horror game well, but when some episodes can take at least forty minutes to complete it’s hardly as travel-friendly as a quick dip into Super Mario 3D Land.
The “ooze” are the new B.O.Ws in Revelations, but this isn’t the only one creeping round the air vents.
At its heart though, Revelations is a throwback to the glory days of the franchise, favouring its trademark suspense-driven horror over the more recent action-orientated focus of Resident Evil 4 and 5. It may borrow their over-the-shoulder viewpoint, but with limited ammo and sparing green herbs to touch up old wounds, Revelations is a master class in pacing as it creeps from tense, claustrophobic exploration to grand, open set-pieces and nail-biting showdowns.
The introduction of the Genesis scanner is also a welcome addition to the mix, and you’ll be scouring every inch of the ship for hidden herbs, ammo and secret handprints. You can also scan enemies, but unfortunately this only works toward scoring you free green herbs. It would have been a nice touch to add information about the different types of oozes à la Metroid Prime, but the scanner does offer a risky reward strategy for those daring enough to scan enemies up close. The nearer you are the greater scan percentage you earn, propelling you ever closer to 100% and those elusive extra herbs, but these oozes know how to throw their punches once you’re within their grasp and it takes nerves of steel to pull it off without any damage.
The mood does occasionally misfire though, the main culprit being some truly cringeworthy pieces of dialogue. With lines like Jessica’s “me and my sweet ass are on the way!” inducing facepalms the world over, it’s clear that Revelations hasn’t strayed far from the franchise’s penchant for awful scripting. The horror also slows down during the second half of the game when the story introduces some underwater sections. Enemies are scarce and easy to dodge, and the level of threat is fairly negligible, even with the occasional timer. It’s a little hit and miss compared to the constant knife-edge tension during the first half of the game, and even when Jill and Parker are back in the dry the later stages tend to rely on simply overwhelming the player with enemies to ramp up the tension rather than genuinely shocking them with a well-placed ooze or well-timed scare.
Likewise, for all its visual flair, the game does suffer from significant loading times both in-game when travelling in a lift and during its more traditional loading screens. Thankfully they usually occur in the more relaxing moments of the game, but when you’re high-strung and trying to reload your gun with a choppy frame rate before the doors re-open to a new wave of monsters, you can’t help but feel both a little frustrated and a little let down.
At times, the Queen Zenobia feels very much like a floating Spencer Mansion.
On the controls front, however, Revelations is a much more pleasing sight, particularly without the newly released Circle Pad Pro peripheral. I played through the entire campaign without it, and while the lack of an additional circle pad may ultimately sacrifice a little grace and fluidity of movement, it certainly won’t hinder your overall gameplay experience. Turning and rotating are the only motions which suffer slightly, but even then it’s hardly noticeable. Everything else like aiming, reloading, green herb application and cycling through weapons are all easily reachable and manageable even in the tightest of spots.
Playing with the Circle Pad Pro, on the other hand, definitely had its ups and downs, though it may be down to personal taste more than anything else. As mentioned above, the Circle Pad Pro definitely eases your overall movement when trekking through the corridors; the faster camera movement afforded by the additional circle pad makes turning and rotating a lot smoother and less like trying to maneuver a tank, but I ran into problems as soon as I wanted to scroll through my weapons. Whether you’re playing with or without the Circle Pad Pro, this function is toggled to the d-pad. Without it, I tended to quickly use my right hand to change weapons while my left hand concentrated on turning and running away. But with the Circle Pad Pro, the necessity of using the additional circle pad to actually turn while running means that you can only run in a straight line when you take your hand away, and this is not useful when you’re trying to run up a flight of stairs or dash through tight corridors to avoid getting skewered by an enemy projectile. I also kept accidentally abusing my meagre supply of green herbs instead of reloading my weapons, as the former is toggled to the A button (much nearer your right thumb) while the latter is toggled to the Y button, and I can’t help but think it should have been the other way round.
All this could have been remedied if the Circle Pad Pro had the option of different control schemes (like you can choose from when playing without it), or customisable button choices, but unfortunately using the Circle Pad Pro locks you into one control set. Likewise, it wasn’t long before my hands started to cramp. Perhaps it’s a consequence of my altogether more feminine hand-size, but it just wasn’t very comfortable to play with. It also blocks access to your stylus, which you need for several puzzles throughout the game, and removing your 3DS (or leaving the Circle Pad Pro idle for a few minutes) means you keep having to recalibrate it, making it less than ideal for gaming on the go.
Oozes in Raid Mode all sport a life bar and damage counter.
In fact, it’s much more suited to Raid Mode, Revelations‘s online co-op feature. Here you can replay through various scenarios of the story with a partner (or solo, if you prefer), and these are much shorter bursts of gameplay focused on speed, accuracy and efficiency. You can only unlock Raid missions by playing through the main campaign, but these are undoubtedly where the Circle Pad Pro shines best. When playing online, you also have a choice of teaming up locally with your friends or enlisting the help of other players worldwide, and 3DS handles this like a true champion. The only silly thing is having doors repeatedly shut in your face if you’re stuck trailing after your partner.
All in all, Revelations is definitely a worthy entry in any 3DS owner’s library, especially if this is your first foray into Resident Evil (Mercenaries 3D doesn’t count). With a good eight to ten hours to be had in the main campaign, and even more in Raid Mode and multiple replays for achievement completionists, Revelations proves that survival horror can be done, and done well, on a handheld. Its outstanding visuals and the genuine horror it exudes from such a tiny screen are remarkable achievements for a 3DS game, but at the same time you can’t help but feel like Revelations wants to be something more. From its long loading times to its half-successful episodic structure, it’s almost a shame it’s not a home console release. As it stands though, Revelations definitely isn’t perfect, but it’s nevertheless a blistering return to form for the franchise that’s both compelling and exciting. If Mercenaries 3D whet your Resident Evil appetite, this is not to be missed.