Review: Resident Evil: Revelations (Switch)

The best version of an already good game.

By Andy Hoover. Posted 11/28/2017 07:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Motion controls improve already solid gameplay; well paced campaign emphasizes classic RE horror; Raid mode and unlockables make for great replay value; a return to its portable glory.
Poison Mushroom for...
Some visuals show their age when docked; nonsensical story with hit or miss voice acting; action focused interludes detract from the well executed horror; no split screen co-op.

Resident Evil: Revelations has come full circle. The game was originally released on 3DS back in 2012, where it impressed gamers with its graphic fidelity as well as its gameplay, which took a more horror-focused approach compared to other entries in the franchise around that time, like Resident Evil 5 and 6. In the years since then, the game has found its way to pretty much every platform imaginable, including Wii U in 2013. Now, the game is returning to its portable roots thanks to Switch’s hybrid design, but we’ll have to see how the game has weathered the past five years.

This time around, series mainstay Jill Valentine steps into the limelight as the main character, with major supporting roles being filled by fellow alumnus Chris Redfield alongside a cast of new characters. The story centers around a massive terrorist attack using some of the infamous Umbrella Corp’s powerful biological weapons and viruses famous for turning everything they touch into horrible monsters. Most of the game takes place a year after the attack, as the investigation and fear of future terrorism brings Jill and her partner, Parker, to an abandoned cruise ship that might hold important answers; however, we do also get brief moments where we control other characters both in the form of concurrent events and important flashbacks to fill-in the gaps. Altogether, the story, while often nonsensical, gets the job done as you await a slew of cheesy twists and turns, but it does occasionally bump into tonal issues as groan-inducing moments of comic relief give way to scenes that take themselves far too seriously.

Revelations will undoubtedly feel very familiar to anyone that has played a Resident Evil game since RE4 effectively revolutionized the survival horror genre. The game plays out from a third-person, over the shoulder perspective and focuses on a slower, more precise approach to gameplay. Your view is restrictive, and every gun takes a moment to ready before firing so there is almost always at least some sense of pressure as you explore the environment and fight back the mutated hoards within. One new element that both helps and hinders this aspect is the game’s unique mechanic in which you scan the world around you as well as incoming enemies for an extra chance at health, items and ammo. These vital items are generally in short supply when just searching normally so, while the mechanic might be useful, it does sometimes feel like it can slow down the pace of the game. Regardless, you’ll want to search every nook and cranny, as there are plenty of new weapons and upgrades that can be found as well, so be sure to remember the location of locked doors whenever you find a new key.

While Revelations is famous for embracing the series’ horror roots more so than other contemporary entries, it still doesn’t balance those elements with action quite as well as RE4. When aboard the derelict ship, the game feels more traditional as you are freer to explore its generally cramped confines and run into a fair number of simple, yet satisfying, puzzles all the while not knowing where the next monster will appear from. This is especially true near the beginning of the game, as you are still relatively weak, as well as the end, after events in the story have a pretty dramatic effect on the layout of certain parts of the ship and how you explore them. The interludes away from the ship are definitely more action focused, however that’s not entirely a bad thing as they add a little variety and are generally rather short and to the point; though the fact these moments generally star the more annoying members of the cast do make them hurt at least a little. Regardless, the solid gunplay works well in almost all circumstances, with only a few small annoyances like some poorly communicated instant kill attacks. Thankfully, the bosses are generally pretty interesting though could maybe do with a little less health as some are on the borderline of being bullet sponges.

As a five-year-old game that started its life on 3DS, Revelations still looks surprisingly good on Switch. Most environments contain some low-res textures and facial animations often betray the game’s age, but many fine details found on character models as well as within the environment look great today even on a larger screen. The game’s good art direction and strong use of lighting often overcome technical shortcomings and make some parts of the ship look especially good. Unfortunately, the levels outside of the ship don’t hold up as well and are frequently reused in multiple chapters, thus drawing extra attention to them. One odd impact of running the game on better technology is that the gameplay now actually looks better than some of the its cutscenes. Looking at the game as a whole, it’s highly unlikely anybody will confuse it for a brand-new game, but it generally succeeds at capturing the requisite look and atmosphere for a survival horror game, especially when you are playing it undocked.

Unfortunately, the game doesn’t quite sound as good as it looks, and this isn’t something that can be attributed to age. Much of the voice acting is actually pretty decent as the characters with the most lines (Jill, Chris, and Parker) are backed with some very good performances. The rest of the cast, however, fall between mediocre and annoying; you’ll know who the secret bad guy is the second they utter their first syllable and you’ll cringe as the comic relief characters attempt whatever stereotype they’re aiming for. Thankfully, the music and sound effects fare better most of the time. As you explore the ship during the bulk of the game’s campaign you’ll be listening to songs that are more atmospheric and fit in perfectly with creaks and groans of the ship’s hull as you listen intently for encroaching enemies. However, during the more action-packed parts of the game, it incorporates songs that are up-tempo and driving while also being generic and repetitive.

One area that most Resident Evil games excel in is replay value, and Revelations most definitely lives up to that tradition. Your first playthrough will likely land in the 8-12 hour range depending on difficulty and play style, but the game is very good about giving you reasons to stick around. A New Game Plus mode allows you to carry over your arsenal of upgraded weapons to new playthroughs where you can try to earn special weapons and character skins based on difficulty or other special criteria. Also, as chapters are completed, you’ll earn BP, a currency that carries over to Raid Mode, an addition that will almost certainly prove to be a time sucker for many. In this mode, you’ll be able to choose from a growing roster of characters as you tackle missions based on chunks of the campaign, albeit with a lot more enemies. Completing the progressively more challenging missions will net you experience and BP, which levels up your character and allows you to purchase newer, more powerful weapons and upgrades. Raid levels can get quite tense and difficult, so it’s nice that you can bring a friend along either online or locally via system link.  A split screen option would have been great here but, unfortunately, that is not included.

Finally, it’s definitely worth mentioning that Revelations on Switch is more than just a straightforward port as the developers have added in some system specific features. First, as you boot up the game, you’ll be greeted by a brief minigame at the initial loading screen in which you guide a reticle around the screen to blast pixelated zombies marching toward the bottom of the screen. It’s little more than a small distraction, but it’s a nice little feature, plus it earns you a little extra BP as well. However, most important is the inclusion of motion controls when playing with Joy-Cons, either by themselves, in the Grip, or in portable mode. You can use them for some wiggling and waggling in quick time events, but they make little difference, especially compared to their effect on aiming. Like Breath of the Wild and Splatoon 2, you can use the motion controls along with the analog sticks to quickly and accurately fine tune your aim. Once you play this way, you’ll probably never want to go back to the normal way because it really is that effective, though I really would have liked them to added motion controls for the Pro-Controller. As a nice little extra, Amiibo can also be scanned for BP bonuses.

As a re-release/remaster, it certainly helps that Resident Evil: Revelations was a good game from the moment it first launched on 3DS, however time has done very little to erode that fact. Yes, there are certainly moments where Revelations‘ origins as a 2012 portable game become apparent due to some muddy textures or occasional design choices, but those are some slight bumps in what is otherwise good to strong visual and gameplay design. Some other issues, like occasionally questionable voice acting and overwrought storytelling, are effectively mainstays of the series, at this point. The game is at its best when it focuses on a sense of isolation and mystery against oppressing odds, and while it occasionally deviates from this focus with more action-packed vignettes, most of the game is spent embracing this. Furthermore, the game’s structure, built on relatively short chapter segments, as well its raid mode, were clearly designed around the fact that it was originally a portable game, so this translates perfectly to Switch’s portable mode. As an added bonus, playing the game handheld with the smaller, lower resolution screen also helps cover up some of the visual imperfections. So, while this version of the game might not redefine the overall experience, its portablility and added motion controls for aiming may very well make it the best version yet, thus making it easy to recommend to die-hard fans as well as those yet to make the plunge.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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