Resident Evil: Revelations Review
If Resident Evil 4 & 5 were blockbuster movies, then Revelations is pure action-packed TV.
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Whether it's Revelations or Revelaitons, Capcom delivers another quality Resident Evil title, providing the deepest experience on 3DS to date. Capcom took a risk releasing a major RE title on a single handheld platform, and Resident Evil: Revelations is living dead proof that sometimes risks do pay off.
This intriguing interquel leads directly into RE5, further continuing the adventures of Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine as they travel the world fighting bio-terrorism. They're not alone, either: joining our heroes are teammates and villains with secret agendas in spades. Intelligent character development has been mixed with the usual campy, cheesy eye-rolling moments that Resident Evil is famous for, with a plot that doesn't let up for a minute. If Resident Evil 4 & 5 were blockbuster movies, then Revelations is pure action-packed TV.
Instead of a dingy laboratory you'll find yourself on a majestic cruise ship, and the change of scenery couldn't be fresher. Coupled with the new settings are a breed of organic weapons called The Ooze, which are definitely not zombies, but still walk/moan/groan as usual. And while you may have a partner by your side, don't believe for a second that this game isn't scary. You'll be begging for a lifeboat before long.
Taking equal inspiration from both Resident Evil 4 and 5, Resident Evil: Revelations plays exactly like a full console release, complete with triple-A title polish. It makes a few changes to the formula in order to play properly on-the-go, while still managing to craft a lengthy, well-written game. In fact, limiting Revelations to a handheld system helped bottle the storytelling formula that so many other games tend to spill.
This is your gun-wielding, action adventure heaven. Revelations is split into ten chapters, each with a selection of enemies, occasionally a boss, and plenty of items to collect. If you're a fan of handheld shooters, this game is for you.
Make no mistake, the game can be a little repetitive. Although broken up by one or two sections where you man a mounted machine gun, the gameplay is mostly the same. Someone looking for a crazy action game with a lot of variety or minigames will get bored after a while. However, we found that ten hours of gameplay was a good length. There was a adequate balance and variety in the gunplay and boss fights, and it stayed fresh for as long as it had to.
Plenty of Guns
The biologically beefed up bad guys out for blood can't be stopped by pop guns and baseball bats. Luckily, as members of the B.S.A.A. (Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance: the organization our heroes work for) you'll be supplied with enough firepower to go Rambo twice over. Revelations has the typical shooter arsenal: handguns, machine guns, shotguns, rifles and rocket launchers. There aren't any unique "bio-guns," which is a shame.
Ammo can be scarce at points, so you'll need to manage your weapon usage carefully. There's a good balance of both shooting and surviving, making Revelations feel truly terrifying at some points. Melee weapons are provided, but they are pretty tough to use effectively, and most likely will get you killed in the long run.
A fun (and essential) aspect added to the game is weapon modification. You can find and apply various weapon mods to increase damage output and fire rates. There are also illegal weapon mods, which are much rarer and add odder modifiers like the ability to stun an enemy for a short time. Collecting parts lets a player have a fair amount of control over how their guns handle, and there are enough parts for everyone to find his or her ideal layout.
Secrets of the Ooze
Proper zombies haven't made an appearance in a main Resident Evil game since 2002's Resident Evil 0. After holding off the horrible Ooze monsters in Revelations, we felt that fighting a mansion full of undead was a frolic through the flowers. The standard Ooze monster does have zombie qualities, such as plodding forward menacingly and grabbing you, but the rest of Revelations' enemies are a whole new breed of bio-baddy. Case in point: the mutant fish that leap from sewer pits and the acid-shooting sniper monsters. The enemy types are robust and varied, giving you plenty of reasons to always check behind you.
One of our favorite enemies is the Scarmiglione (no, not like Final Fantasy). It stands two feet taller than any character, and the shape of its decaying flesh makes it a mockery of a knight from the Middle Ages. One arm's mutation has hardened into a giant shield, while the other arm has been elongated and sharpened to become a deadly spear. As it advances on you it raises its shield, leaving only a small window of opportunity to stun its softened head. Not all Ooze monsters can be gunned down quickly; strategy is need to tackle more ingenious monsters.
You'd think that some survivors might have set up a few traps to fight back against the Ooze. As it happens, you'll rarely use the environment against your enemies, with the exception of bright red barrels that look out of place in most of the game's locales. "Oh, I guess those barrels prob-ok, yep. They explode. Cool." Levels with more barrels than Donkey Kong don't make up for the fact that there aren't any other clever solutions for ending foes.
In Resident Evil 4 & 5 melee attacks were overpowered and speedy, making gameplay far too easy. Capcom's solution was to substantially scale back Revelations' melee system. If you discover an enemy's weak point (most of which are nigh impossible to comprehend), you can approach the stunned enemy and perform a roundhouse kick, uppercut, etc. Pressing the action button is the equivalent of giving a mutant a lovetap, while holding down the button to fully charge your move leaves you completely open to other enemies. Giving the enemies unique weak points that are a challenge to hit adds a great element of strategy, but making the actual payoff less effective left little reason to actually use the the melee system.
Revelations makes sure to throw a few bosses into the mix to change the pace. These bosses are big 'n' scary blokes, and their mutated hides can bounce back a lot of bullets. They hit and hit hard, and we had to restart more than a few times to take them out. Some bosses charge at you, getting stunned when they hit the wall. One boss is practically a Kraken, needing a serious diet of launched rockets and machine gun fire to bring it down. The most bizarre attacks come from the final boss, who utilizes psychic powers and tricks to catch you off guard. There are only five bosses, but each one showdown is a challenge and the combat stays fresh.
We haven't scanned environments this thoroughly since Metroid Prime. Each playable character is equipped with a B.S.A.A. "Genesis" device, which is a small pistol-shaped device that takes the place of your main weapon. Aiming with the device equipped pulls you into a first-person view, and lets you find all sorts of tucked-away treasures. Hidden items are marked with a small circle; holding the action button while aiming at the circle will quickly fill up a progress bar, allowing you to pick up a bit of ammo or a healing item.
Along with support items, there are a number of hidden bloody handprints placed in the sneakiest of spots. They have no effect on gameplay but are a fun little challenge to find and scan. You'll need to use the Genesis in every corner of every level to find all 30 of them, and you might even unlock something secret if you find them all....
Items are fun to find, but the real challenge is found in scanning enemies. As the Ooze closes in around you, you can scan them to add to the percentage at the top of the Genesis' viewfinder. Getting to 100% rewards you with a health item before resetting back to zero. Factors like your proximity to the enemy, the amount of times you've scanned that enemy and enemies of its type, and if you've just killed it affect the percent you receive for successfully scanning your next victim. The system is reminiscent of photography in Bioshock (or Pokemon Snap) and overall it makes for a fun game of cat and mouse.
The cruise seems more like a battleship. There are locked and broken doors a-plenty, but luckily all our main heroes know electrical engineering. To breach a puzzle barrier, you'll have to play a quick touchscreen mini-game involving a 3x3 grid and electric nodes. Rearranging the nodes and their connecting wires will make a shape needed to unlock the door. You can't drag the nodes over other nodes, making this an improvised slide puzzle. They're a fun way to break up the pace, and never feel shoehorned in.
Revelations' cruise ship setting means you'll be doing a lot of swimming, right? And that swimming is probably going to be terrible, right? Wrong. A handful of well-placed underwater sections actually enhances the horror and feeling that you're alone in the middle of the sea, and the controls feel like a dream. This may be some of the best swimming in a game yet. And anyone who's swam in a video game before knows we wouldn't make this claim lightly.
Those familiar with Resident Evil 4 & 5 should feel right at home with Revelations' default control scheme. You can move forward and backwards fine, but without a second stick players will have to improvise with tank-like controls. We personally felt that the control scheme was manageable without the infamous Circle Pad Pro. To aim you'll hold the right shoulder button, and to fire you'll use the Y face button (which also serves as a general action button).
Brand new to the Resident Evil series is the ability to both walk and shoot at the same time, by simply holding the left shoulder button. While this makes the controls a lot more manageable, especially in the heat of battle, it does take away some of the scare factor of having to choose fight or flight.
Another benefit to being a handheld is the inclusion of the touchscreen. Tapping the picture of a weapon to switch to it on the fly is an invaluable boon when dodging tougher monsters. The touchscreen also lets you apply first aid sprays, use your melee weapon, and view the map. Some forced "puzzle-solving" scenes require you to drag items along the touchscreen and rearrange them. While it may sound gimmicky, the puzzles lend themselves well to the touchscreen's capability.
Resident Evil: Revelations is a TV show in both style AND length. It runs about as long as your typical mini-series, meaning you'll spend 8-10 hours in the world of Survival Action. After you've completed the game on either Casual or Normal, you'll unlock both New Game + (letting you keep all old weapons and equipment) and the Hell difficulty, which is just as hellish as the name would have you believe. Some in-game achievements require you to beat the game on every difficulty or find all the hidden hand prints, so the most amount of time you could spend on the campaign would be 25-30 hours.
Of course, what's a Resident Evil game without a bonus minigame included? Revelations has the excellent Raid Mode, which adds some RPG elements to the shooter formula, believe it or not. Plus, all of Raid Mode can be played in co-op (more on that in our multiplayer section). Raid Mode adds tons of new unlockable characters and skins, a store to buy new unique weapons, and plenty of stages for you to romp around in.
While in Raid Mode, you'll find that the stages are taken straight out of the campaign. They've been streamlined for maximum combat efficiency, and you'll find that the enemies are a little more unique. There are plenty of monster types and levels to deal with (but again, more on that in the multiplayer section). Raid Mode is sure to keep a player coming back for hours after the campaign is finished.
While playing the particularly dense Raid Mode or the campaign, you'll complete a few "missions". Missions are Revelations' achievement system, and unlock a lot of cool features. Campaign missions are pretty standard: beat the game on this difficulty, find all the secret hand prints, defeat X number of enemies, etc. You'll unlock a few new weapons, a lot of gun parts, and some new stages for Raid Mode. All standard stuff.
Raid Mode's mission system is a little more robust. Clearing missions with "S" ranks, leveling up a certain amount, and finding secret areas in levels nets you not only the standard extra ammo and weapons, but also new characters, new skins, rare weapons and much more. For those who enjoy a good amount of grinding, Raid Mode has plenty of missions to complete.
Perhaps the most innovative use of the 3DS' technology is the use of StreetPass. While walking around in real life, if you walk by someone who also has data for Revelations on their 3DS, you will swap info. Upon starting the game, you'll receive a new reward in the campaign, accompanied with a message. Something like "If you're still out there, then take this and good luck. Received 12 handgun bullets." That's pretty darn cool.
To add a darker spin on this feature, checking your Raid Mode missions reveals another message. Something like "Everyone's dead. It's over. They're everywhere...I can hear their footsteps." So the 3DS user who visited you through StreetPass left you supplies, met a terrible fate, and now you've got to put them out of their misery. It'll tell you which level they can be found in, and once you hunt them down you can collect your reward. What an ingeniously morbid feature.
Pacing & Flow
Being the fast-paced TV show it is, there isn't any room for boring segments. Even swimming is fast paced and fun, which never happens in video games. As soon as you get tired of running through the cruise ship, the story takes you off to another distant location. Once you've had a few adventures over there, it's back to the ship. One after another, the stories fire off in rapid succession until you find yourself at the credits.
Trying to emulate a console experience on a handheld can be a little daunting when first starting out, though. Trying to learn all the controls—even with a slow, gradual opening—is challenging. It will click eventually, but less experienced handheld gamers will struggle in the early portions of the game.
The AI is handled well in a game where you should basically be alone. Characters will team up with each other for decent lengths of gameplay, then go their separate ways (which is usually when the real terror strikes). While fighting a boss, we found that our AI partner was running off and helping to keep the monster count down. While we tangled with the big boss, our partner took down one or two minions. Not enough to make things easy, of course, but enough to let us know we weren't alone in the fight. Your partners are smart in Revelations, and know when to stand up or back off.
Resident Evil games are the corniest kernels on gaming's cob. Past games feature characters with skewed views of the world and irrational tempers to match. Revelations' plot can be just as convoluted, but when presented in an episodic format, quite a thrilling adventure can be found. That is, if you're willing to stomach a little cheese here and there.
As mentioned earlier in the article, Revelations is presented in episodic format to better suit its handheld limitations. Each level feels like the next thrilling installment of a television show, and we'd be darned if we didn't admit we were biting our nails after one or two cliffhangers. The main storyline lasts for about ten hours, and the pacing is pretty quick. We never found ourselves bored with the characters or what was happening around them.
There are three sets of main characters, each struggling to find their own way through hordes of monsters and help stop the bio-terrorist organization. One of our new favorite characters is Parker, who gets quite a bit of back story. You'll have a few playable flashbacks in the destroyed city of Terragrigia, which serves as a connecting point for all characters to converge upon. There are also two male agents who are slapstick to the core. Goofing off, making fun of each other, and generally serving as comic relief. One of them even refers to a computer as "tits." As a positive adjective. Goofiness aside, we still enjoyed their story as they helped out the main characters from behind the scenes.
Unfortunately, every story has its share of plotholes and mistakes. One character by the name of Rachael comes to mind. In the opening episode of the game you watch as Rachael (who is dressed in a skin-tight diving suit with huge blonde hair over her eyes and cleavage largely exposed) gets murdered. Later on, she turns into a monster and chases you around (cleavage still out in full force), but really serves no other purpose other than a few scares. It's a throw-away eye-candy character and we can't help but be a bit disappointed by Capcom.
Let's not forget Raymond with the magic mop. So. He was once Parker's friend but then turned evil with Parker's new partner but was really the terrorist leader but then tried to help Parker and was shot by Parker's new partner but then really lived and ended up saving Parker but then betrayed Parker again by giving Parker's new partner a sample of the virus which may or may not be directly related to Resident Evil 5 (the virus, that is). Woof. New characters bring a whole new mess of problems and betrayals, and it can be easy to get lost. Not to mention the final boss shows up twice throughout the whole game. We still don't really know who he is or why he was important.
Much like the writing, the stellar acting is bogged down with a few big flaws. Let's talk about all the good stuff first.
You're walking down a hallway. No monsters in sight, yet. All of a sudden, you hear a garbled cry. "*Mayday... mmmaaayyydddaaayyy...*" The scariest part of the game requires Jill Valentine to walk through a desolate, empty boulevard, all while listening to the inhuman screams of an infected crewman. As Jill gets closer, the screams intensify until Jill finds the door the monster is trapped behind. The monster bursts out, and while Jill has to fight it, it continues to scream and tell Jill just how tasty she looks. Absolutely terrifying.
The infected crew member boss is only one of many well-acted monsters. You'll hear them groan and scream as they reach out to end your life, and their inhuman cries were enough to make our skin crawl. Clearly, a lot of work went into the enemy voice acing to ensure that the immersion (and fear) level was kept high.
The voice acting for humans is a little more hit-or-miss. Every character has a strong voice behind it, but Chris' partner Jessica can get a little whiny, especially when she asks him on a date for the third time. During a monster attack, Raymond (the man with the mop) really shines as a voice actor—even when the writing fails him. Chris, Jill, and Parker appropriately respond to each in-game situation, and they really let loose during cutscenes. Parker delivers an exceptional amount of emotion, and is easily the star of the game (and has apparently voiced more characters than any male actor, ever).
Cutscenes are quick and free of quick-time events, which are a welcome change from past Resident Evil * titles. Most cutscenes are roughly 90 seconds, bookending each chapter and sprinkled throughout. The CG work done on each character is true to life, and there are some seriously crazy events that go down on the evil luxury cruise ship. We watched explosions one minute, a grisly murder the next, and topped it off with a *solar space ray decimating an entire city. Capcom dropped down the cash to really polish the cutscenes.
What really impressed (and aided) us were the openings to each chapter. Quite literally a recap, a character will announce "Previously, on Resident Revelations." You'll be treated to a quick edit of every cutscene from the previous episode, helping players to manage the confusing storyline. It keeps things intact in your head whether you just finished the last episode or haven't played in months.
Graphics & Atmosphere Overview
Revelations will take you up, down, and all around on a wild roller coaster ride. You'll travel through a burning, futuristic city one chapter, then head into a snowy mountain valley the next. Each environment has been cohesively crafted, every map feeling like its own world yet still part of a bigger picture.
The game opens on a dark and stormy night. It ends in a filthy diner. There's not a beam of positive sunlight to be found in Revelations. It's a dark game, and even the walls look like they might reach out and grab you. Every scene feels wrong somehow, in the best kind of way. In-game locales include the cruise ship Queen Zenobia (both high-class luxury quarters and engine rooms), snowy mountains (plus frozen mountain terrorist base), submerged ship, a polluted beach, and the tumultuous side of a city floating on the sea. Each locale is just as bleak as the last, and although the areas are unique, they all seem to fit together. It makes you feel like each piece of action is connected to one another, bringing the story together as a whole through the art.
We were surprised to see that our 3DS was not smoking as we walked through ornate dining halls and rusty boiler rooms. Nearly every room has been given the true "triple-A" treatment. Detail is tucked into every corner. We couldn't believe our eyes the first time we stepped into the cruise ship's dining room, or when we came face to face with our first monster. You'll see fluids dripping off of dead bodies and bloodstains caked on to sewer walls. Revelations is in no way HD, but Capcom worked plenty of graphics into the small screen of the 3DS.
Whether or not you think 3D is a gimmick, it has been utilized in Revelations in a way that no other 3DS game can even attempt. Using the effect adds incredible depth and realism to the game. For those with powerful eyes, there are options in the menu to even further enhance the 3D effect, until you are no longer playing a video game but rather holding a portal to another dimension. Impressive effects indeed.
You're bound to get shivers as soon as the title screen opens. The music of Resident Evil: Revelations includes some beautiful, fully-orchestrated pieces. Two stand out tracks include the opening theme and the final area theme. The soundtrack makes the game feel epic in scale, adding proper amounts of tension or awe to any and every scene. The atmosphere wouldn't be half as gripping without this excellent accomplishment in video game music.
Unfortunately, the sound effects have been compressed far beyond blissful ignorance. You'd think that a sound you'd be hearing most, the footstep, would sound crisp and clean. And yet every time Jill runs down a hallway, players are treated to a muddy, muddled sound that just grates at the eardrums. It's noticeably bad.
The same issue can be found while firing weapons, which is the sound you'll be hearing almost as much as footsteps. Shotguns are missing their gratifying "ka-BOOM," pulling us out of combat a little bit. Even without headphones, sound effects sound a little off. It's a shame that such a small issue can have a big affect on atmosphere.
If you grow tired of plot lines and cutscenes, then look no farther than Revelations' Raid Mode. Offering bite-sized chunks of run-and-gun action, every stage is fully compatible with either local or co-op multiplayer. There are noobs and pros alike out there, but the fact that players must depend on each other makes each playthrough an enjoyable experience. Co-op is simple but sweet, not taking too many risks but still providing a good chunk of content to extend your game's replay value.
The co-op has been designed pretty well, and is good fun with friends or strangers. The gameplay is identical to the rest of Revelations, but paced far quicker. Enemies also have levels and types now. You might run into a Level 5 Tough Ooze, who hits hard, or you might be attacked by a Level 8 Shielded Ooze, who will absorb bullets like no one's business. It's up to you and your partner to decide who has the better gun or melee weapon to tackle the next enemy. It is possible to leave one player behind and take the hordes on yourself, but you'll find it a bit more challenging than normal. It's always better to have someone watch your back.
Voice chat has been disabled and replaced with a few custom commands your character can shout out in game. During one of our playthroughs, a stranger told us to "Wait!" behind a corner. We obliged, and were treated to the sounds of shotgun blasts and monster screams. After a moment of silence, we heard "Come on!" and teamed up again for the next assault. The commands add a nice level of realism to the game—as long as you or your partner doesn't decide to be a chatterbox.
There is only one game mode: kill (optionally, you can be killed). Every stage in co-op is laid out exactly as it is in singleplayer, with various monsters trying to get you. Don't get us wrong, the multiplayer game is very solid, but don't expect capture the flag or anything special.
There are plenty of goodies to grab in Raid Mode, whether online or offline. If you're into points, there is a system based on Battle Points. They level up your character naturally, and can be used (along with 3DS Play Coins) to purchase weapons and customization parts from the Raid Mode shop. The achievement system also rewards leveling up and stage-clearing by giving you new characters and new skins.
You can play as any number of characters with whichever weapons load-out you'd like. As for actual customization of characters, you'll be stuck with preset skins. They're fun enough though, and not too distracting. On a final note, if you clear every stage and get the highest ranking, you can change the color of your name online. What's more fun than killing zombies with a pink Zeldafan98?
Matchmaking has been streamlined to the point of pure efficiency. Connecting with a local player is a breeze, although they'll need their own copy of the game. Online is almost as simple. You can either "Join" a game (find), or "Recruit" a player (be found). To search for a game, you specify the difficulty, the stage you want (if you had any favorites), and your region (either the entire world or your own area). Of course, selecting "Any" in every category means you'll be playing within a minute.
After gathering a list of players, you can see what level they are, how many games they've played online, how long they've been playing online, and what stage of theirs you'll be playing. From there, it's a matter of prepping your equipment and diving into the fray.
Resident Evil: Revelations feels right on the 3DS. Everything about its design, controls, and pure fun factor comes together into a neat little package that feels natural on a handheld system. There is a lengthy amount of content to dive into, and while the story might get a little confusing at points, it's still one wild ride. Whether at home or on the go, Revelations should be stuffed into your pocket, waiting for the right time to jump out and scare you.