The Resident Evil series has, in recent years, shied away from the “survival horror” genre it created in 1996. The newer games in the series, such as Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5, have focused more on action and less and less on scares.
For sixteen years, and on over twelve game systems, the story of Raccoon City and of the nefarious plans of the Umbrella Corp has literally transcended from what was originally a simple, zombie-infested mansion designed to scare you to a global biological warfare tale that now leans more on the action side of the spectrum.
If last summer’s Resident Evil: Mercenaries sided with the action-oriented games of the series then the newest game, Resident Evil Revelations goes back to the series roots by putting the player in a finite area (a cruise ship) and tasks them with figuring out what happened, all the while trying to survive. And using the power of the Nintendo 3DS system, it does so in glorious three dimensions.
The story of Revelations focuses on the series’ original protagonists, Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, as they unravel a global conspiracy that has ties to bio-terrorism and monsters. Lots and lots of monsters.
Gone are the zombies (which frankly are so overused in pop culture that that they need to be shot in the head and buried) from the early games, and now they have replaced by super-deformed creatures. In the beginning of the game, they resemble the nurses in the Silent Hill series, but as the game goes on, begin to resemble the T-virus-infected Tyrant from the first few numbered games in the series.
Revelations is broken down into episodes, each with two or more playable scenarios, and a few rendered CG cut scenes. The story features the two main characters, Jill and Chris, each partnered with a new character, Parker, an overweight Italian man who teams with Jill, and Jessica, a BSAA agent who looks more like runway model than a soldier, who partners with Chris.
Each group has their own story path, (which can dabble in the past) to help explain the convoluted story that is unraveling in the present. While Jill and Parker are stuck on the cruise ship, Chris and Jessica get to travel the world in their investigation. There is enough going on in Revelations to appease fans of any Resident Evil game.
Graphically, Revelations game is gorgeous. The dark hallways of the cruise ship are haunting, and claustrophobic, and the level designs are equal parts retro and contemporary. The character models are well done as each of the game’s eight-plus principal characters have their own unique designs.
The frame rates are relatively smooth, yet there is minimal lag, mostly when you enter an elevator (the game loads during those scenes).
The 3D effects work well in the dark confines of the cruise ship, but when the game goes to well-lit locations, some of the depth goes away. I can’t tell if this is a game design (or flaw) or if my eyes are just adjusted to the depth.
In fact, I’ll just say it now: the game is top-notch when it focuses on the episodes that take place on the ship. It is dark, scary, and the tension is pushed to the max when you can’t see what’s further than your flashlight beam, or know what is behind the myriad doors that you end up going through.
The other episodes with Chris and Jessica are fun, and focus more on the action side of games like RE 4 and 5, but there is no tension, no fear-inducing rooms; it’s more about shooting anything that moves.
The music and sound effects are good, though the dialogue tends to be drowned out in the 3DS’s stereo speakers. The voice acting is atrocious, which is a plus as it again harkens back to the terrible acting of the previous RE games.
The controls have been mapped precisely to the 3DS’ touch screen. Healing items, like green herbs and first aid spray can now be used with a simple press of the A button, and switching weapons and reloading is a simple touch of the lower screen away.
Also, as with keeping with recent RE games, the movement controls have been overhauled. Pushing up no longer means forward. With a set camera, the controls are better suited for exploration AND action. The Y button handles most action, and the X button is a secondary weapon (think knife or grenades).
Revelations is also the true first 3DS game to utilize the Circle Pad Pro attachment that gives the system use of a second control pad. Unfortunately, Nintendo decided to make the peripheral a GameStop exclusive, and GameStop has been sold out of the attachment online since the game launched, and finding it in stores requires calling ahead and hoping.
I have yet to find one, so I can’t review the controls. When I find a Circle Pad Pro, I’ll revisit the game and write about any major differences in an update.
New to the series is the GENESIS machine, which the BSAA (Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance) developed to help investigate bioterrorism. In a nutshell, it allows Jill to scan the ship, room by room, for hidden items, handprints, and dead monsters.
When you achieve 100% scanning of biomaterial (dead monsters) you are awarded a healing item. Then the scanner resets to zero and you start scanning again to build it back up.
I tend to love scanning features in games. I scanned everything I could in the Metroid Prime games, and I couldn’t tell you a thing about the graphics of Batman: Arkham Asylum, as I spent the entire game in scan mode. Needless to say, I enjoy the new feature in Revelations.
There is also a weapon customization component that was first introduced in Resident Evil 4, and continues to help make your weapons bigger, faster, and stronger.
Once the campaign is completed, you can participate in Missions, a new mode that uses local play, internet, and Street Pass to share and play various missions, each with different types and objectives. There is also a multiplayer Raid Mode, where you and a partner team up to kill as many monsters as you can. Raid mode can be played local and online.
Lastly, one of my favorite features of the entire game is the episode recap. If you save and quit at the end of a completed episode, when you reboot the game, you get a “Previously, in Resident Evil Revelations” screen and then you get a cinematic game recap, narrated by the characters in the game. It is incredibly stylish, and very handy. This is literally the icing on the cake.
Resident Evil Revelations is a great game, and easily one of the best non-first party games for the Nintendo 3DS System. It utilizes the 3D, but not to the point of distraction. The episodic story feature is well done, and breaks the game up in a unique way. The controls are well-suited for the dual screens, and the touch screen is a revelation (pun intended). The features and multiple game modes make the game stout, and the dual nature, which features both types of Resident Evil games, will appease every fan of the series, and help create new ones.
Shop for Resident Evil Revelations on Nintendo 3DS for a discounted price at Amazon.com (February 7, 2012 release date)