A minor miracle happened on Thursday, January 19 of this year. No, there was no water turning into wine or even a vision of the Virgin Mary on some random peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was something much more subtle. That was the day that Resident Evil 6 was announced (with a full trailer to boot) to the surprise of most gamers. Granted, a new entry into a popular franchise is always expected but this actually threw us jaded gamers for a loop. Everyone was all about Resident Evil 6 on popular social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.
At the time of the announcement, I remember I was a bit confused. Capcom was already releasing two new installments in the Resident Evil franchise within the upcoming two months. Resident Evil Operation Raccoon City was set to release in March on consoles and Resident Evil Revelations was hitting retail in only a few weeks on the Nintendo 3DS. With that announcement and the barrage of hype for Resident Evil 6, Revelations seemed to be cast in a corner, all alone, just begging for attention. It’s really too bad. Not only is Revelations one of the best games on the 3DS, it has a meaty single-player campaign (about seven to nine hours) and it’s better than the last major release of the franchise, the mediocre Resident Evil 5.
Starring both of the series’ original protagonists, Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield, Revelations shifts back and forth between the survival-horror roots of the franchise and the more action-friendly set pieces found in later installments. By combining both of these styles, Revelations finds its own and succeeds in spite of itself (why do you have to be so crazy with your characters Capcom?).
Grab some green herbs, a shotgun and put down that typewriter ribbon (you don’t need that anymore silly). Continue after the break to find out why you shouldn’t ignore this portable survival-horror entry.
Revelations takes place chronologically in between Resident Evil 4 and 5. Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA) co-founders, Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield are investigating the reappearance of Veltro, a bioterrorist organization responsible for the “Terragrigia Panic.” Approximately one-year earlier, Veltro launched a B.O.W. (Bio Organic Weapon) attack on Terragrigia, the world’s first fully solar-powered city located on an artificial island in the Mediterranean Sea. All survivors were evacuated and a one-hundred mile quarantine zone was set up around the city. Jill and her new partner Parker discover evidence that Veltro is holding Chris and his new partner Jessica hostage on an abandoned cruise ship, the SS Queen Zenobia.
The game’s twelve episodes flip flop between locations and play styles. During the episodes located on the Zenobia, players primarily control Jill through levels that are reminiscent of earlier games in the series. Although not your traditional zombies, the enemies located on the Zenobia are slow walking and like to appear out of air vents and crowd the halls of the mansion-like cruise ship. Anything not located on the Zenobia is more action oriented. You almost always know what to expect when you start a new episode. Not all the time though. The game does mix it up and later episodes become more frantic overall.
The game defaults to a first person perspective while aiming your weapons but you can change this to the over-the-shoulder perspective found in Resident Evil 4 and 5 if that is more comfortable for you. You aim your weapon with the R button and fire with the Y button. Now we get to the addition that everyone has been waiting for. You can actually walk (gasp!) while you aim by holding the L button. You can carry three primary weapons at once, each upgradeable. The X button is home to your trusty knife which you can switch out with different versions of grenades. You can also switch between your primary weapons and one of the best additions to the series, the Genesis Scanner.
The Genesis Scanner is a simpler version of the Scan Visor from the Metroid Prime Series. Scanning rooms with the Genesis will show the location of ammo, items and upgrades. You can also scan enemies to “learn” more about them. Every time you scan an enemy type, you gain a percentage amount towards unlocking an “antidote” (basically a health kit) when you reach one-hundred percent. You gain a larger percentage amount if you scan a live enemy as opposed to scanning its remains after you tear it apart with your shotgun. Each time you scan an enemy type though, the percentage amount you gain is decreased. This adds a nice risk-reward element to the gameplay.
Revelations also makes a significant step forward in the AI department by actually limiting what your partner can do. We all remember Sheva wasting ammo and herbs like crazy in Resident Evil 5. This problem is eliminated in Revelations. Although you always have a partner with you, sharing supplies is not a necessity. Partners are primarily there for story purposes and will get out of your way when firing as well as popping an enemy a couple times for good measure.
Another area where Revelations excels is in the graphics department. The 3D effect is the most aggressive I’ve seen on the 3DS. The character models really pop out of the screen. But even with the 3D turned off, Revelations still looks great. Because of the limited necessity of the touch-screen, there were a lot of times when I forgot I was playing a handheld game. Is it as graphically impressive as Resident Evil 5? No, its not; but it’s definitely in the Resident Evil 4 ballpark. The use of lighting is also quite good. Going from the bright daylight of Resident Evil 5 back to dark, eerie conditions makes you really appreciate the light you get in certain areas.
Unfortunately, Revelations does make a couple of miscues along the way. Each episode starts with a “Previously on Resident Evil Revelations” summary of the story up to that point. I totally understand that this is a portable game after all and meant to be played in small chunks. Each episode is so short though that these aren’t always necessary. Even if you play straight through one episode into the next, the game will still feel the need to update you on what you just did.
Capcom also managed to introduce the two most annoying characters in the series’ history, Keith and Quint. That’s a tall order for a series whose characters can be a little over the top. The sudden urge to mute the system appeared every time these two were on screen. Besides these two, I actually enjoyed the story of Revelations. In fact I was kind of in awe that I could actually follow it. But once you get to the end of it, the “revelations” exposed aren’t all that relevant to the series.
Overall, Resident Evil Revelations is a huge step back in the right direction for the franchise. While the actual revelations of the story don’t really mean much in the overall scheme of things, the return to the survival-horror feel of the earlier games mixed with the action moments we’ve come to expect from the more recent entries in the franchise, create a fresh feeling for this long running series. Revelations could have easily been a numbered entry of the franchise on consoles. Instead, Capcom has proven that handheld survival-horror can work. Don’t be surprised if Revelations eventually hits consoles one way or another. If you own a 3DS, this should definitely be a part of your collection.