Resident Evil Revelations is a lot of things to a lot of people. It is a fully fledged stand alone Resident Evil title, albeit with a story that stands apart from the numbered entries in the main series. It is the the second exclusive Resident Evil title for the 3DS. It is a mature game for a platform that has a traditionally young audience. Measured against these goals it succeeds on every front. Most importantly though, it is supposed to be a game that harks back to the series roots as a survival horror game. In achieving this aim it is only a partial success, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
The formalities are easy to get out of the way, Capcom have produced a visually stunning game. The detail and solidity of characters and environments is unmatched on the 3DS at present. Shadows dance from flashlights as they would on a home console and the engine renders water and other effects with style. The sacrifices for stuffing such a beautiful game onto the 4GB card are twofold. The 3D effect is less immersive than other more visually simple title, and it almost seems as if Capcom have tricked the system into producing a 3D effect instead of rendering a proper 3D image. As with most titles it comes down to user preference as to whether you choose to enable the effect. Putting it on full gives the impression of upping the resolution but adding jaggies to the top screen. Leaving it off removes the jaggies giving a less sharp image that is noticeably softer. In either mode Revelations is still a beautiful handheld game and character models in particular deserve special mention. The second compromise comes in the rather obvious loading sections. The action doesn't break per se, but when you enter a room, close one door and have to wait for the other to open, the frame rate drops drastically and it becomes clear that the 3DS is creaking at the seams trying to run the game and load the next section in at the same time.
The only mode available to new players at first is the campaign. Capcom seem dead set on getting the Resident Evil cast onto a boat when it comes to handheld adventures and you will spend most of your time on the open seas in Revelations. The main character is returning stalwart Jill Valentine, set between Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5, the B.S.A.A is in its infancy existing at this point in time under the shadow of the F.B.C. (the Federal Bioterrorism Commission). The good news is that the main areas are claustrophobic and atmospheric. When walking around players view the action from the over the shoulder cam and aiming can be performed in either first or third person mode. There is no longer a run button and inventory management is performed in real time. This plays to the strength of the dual screens as commands can be input from the touch screen as well as with traditional controls. Capcom have clearly tried to keep the design away from the all out action of the more recent games and it works in favour of Revelations, to an extent.
As well as limiting the ammunition and the arsenal available to players, Capcom have introduced the Genesis device. Essentially a hidden item scanner you will need to put away your ballistic weapons and scan the environments to find ammunition and health items. Failure to do so will lead to a difficult playthrough and Revelations isn't an easy game just because it is on a handheld. You can also use it to scan enemies to win extra health items, as a tension builder the closer you get to an enemy the better the scanner works. It is overall a good addition to the game mechanic as it helps (artificially or not) to slow down the pace of the game and ramp up the tension drastically. Weapons can be upgraded but only once players have found the appropriate parts in the game and, thankfully, you never become so overpowered that the game becomes a pushover. One aspect that some older players may bemoan is that item management has been streamlined and all control has been taken away from the player, there is no mixing herbs, no fiddling with munitions cases or choosing what to keep. The trade off is obvious, a smoother interface serves to break up the action less.
Progress through the main story is divided into chapters and episodes, a nod to the portable nature of Revelations and, while this helps to segment the title for broken up play sessions, it does lead to certain chapters feeling throw away in nature. You won't always play as Jill and you won't always like the protagonist that you are given. For most of your journey you are also lumbered with a partner but lessons have been learned here. There is no item swapping, there is no partner management and there is no saving a downed teammate. The A.I. is sufficiently capable of looking after itself and staying out of the way when they are supposed to. It is telling that Jill is the only character who can properly upgrade her weapons. This only serves to add weight to the argument that the other character's episodes are a diversion used to lengthen the playtime. If Capcom had more faith in their ability to deliver a compelling horror experience for a single character then we would have spent more time with Jill, whose levels deliver by far the best pacing, narrative and atmosphere.
Enemy design is always a controversial topic for the Resident Evil series. There are no zombies, no Ganados and no spiders. Instead we have the Ooze, oddly this doesn't give us any super powered ninja turtles but it does give us an enemy that can be morphed into multiple cohesive forms that is strong enough to cause panic and nimble enough to cause problems. While the standard enemies can be criticised for feeling a little lacklustre (their design is bland to say the least) the boss encounters are excellent. Each one is so well implemented that it is a shame there aren't more of them. Two bosses in particular are such a brilliant fusion of story and challenge that it serves to remind us of just why Capcom were credited with the creation of Survival Horror in the first place. With surprisingly good use of backtracking and flipping situations on players Revelations makes good use of its environments throughout the course of its eight to ten hour playthrough.
That isn't where the package ends though. Capcom could have included the standard Mercenaries missions with Revelations but that would undermine their standalone score attack title. What we get here though is arguably even better. Raid mode has nothing to do with insect spray and everything to do with levelling up your multiplayer character. The single player game is divided up into twenty separate missions that can be played alone or co-operatively online. Revelations really shines here. It is basically score attack, you are measured on your accuracy, damage taken and completion speed. Experience and battle points are gifted to you to spend on upgrades at the end of a mission and bonus items are awarded if you successfully complete a mission to be added to your war chest to be used in subsequent missions. As your level increases you earn access to bigger and better weapons and, particularly in solo play, you will need them. Raid mode can be hard. Enemies are remixed, made stronger or faster or with increased defence and far more of them will attack you at any one time than in the solo campaign. With three difficulty levels to get through, Chasm, Trench and Abyss, there is enough content on offer for at least twenty hours of play time in Raid mode alone. This balls to the wall bonus mode is so good that it will likely be cited as the main reason to buy Revelations by those it gets its claws into.
Capcom have also included specific missions for both the single player campaign and Raid mode. They vary from killing a certain number of enemy to scanning hidden items with the Genesis device. By far the best implementation though comes from the online and community features. Players that you meet, either by Streetpass or in online co-op play become creatures in one of the stages in Raid mode. Hunting down and killing that creature unlocks a unique reward and adds another reason to keep playing. Online is implemented well. There is no voice chat but there is a simple communication system built in and the community is busy and helpful.
Overall Resident Evil Revelations is a stunning addition to the 3DS library. It offers a proper Resident Evil experience on a handheld console that both harks back to the series roots and keeps up with the more popular action titles that have sold so well in recent years. The solo campaign has additional unlockable difficulties which are welcome but Raid mode is the icing on the cake. It is the co-op Resident Evil experience that makes sense and the one that makes Revelations an essential purchase but it has nothing to do with Survival Horror and it is all the better for it.
+ Horror and action blended well
+ Gorgeous to look at and play
+ Raid mode is fantastic
- Narrative structure is a little disjointed
- 3D mode nothing special
N.B. This was reviewed without the Circle Pad Pro add-on.