If you’re reading this from the perspective of an old-school Resident Evil aficionado who has become disenchanted with the direction Capcom has taken its venerable zombie blaster in recent years, then sit up and take notice. Revelations is the nearest you’ll likely get to a quintessential Survival Horror Resi experience for some time, at least until Capcom figures out what direction it wants to take the series after the Jack-Of-All-Trades effort that was RE6. What we have here is a distinct effort to compromise; a unification of horror and action, encompassing the best (and worst) that the series has offered over its sprawling 17-year history. And for the most part, it works wonders.
Originally released on the 3DS, Revelations bridges the gap between RE4 and 5, and sees BSAA agents Jill Valentine and Parker investigating a massive cruise ship known as the Queen Zenobia. Initially, the pair is on the hunt for missing comrade and series staple Chris Redfield, though things soon become a bit more complicated than a simple Missing Persons case. For one, the ship is infested with a new form of Bio-Organic Weapon known as Ooze; essentially humanoid, slime-like creatures with an insatiable appetite for human flesh, and the creation of the deadly T-Abyss virus.
Mechanically, Revelations adheres to the same template as the last few games, with players controlling Valentine (and later, Redfield and a few other BSSA agents) from an over-the-shoulder perspective. As mentioned though, Revelations has a distinct classic survival horror aura about it, and this is evident in the pacing and atmosphere throughout. Unlike the massive outdoor locations seen in the previous few games, the Queen Zenobia is a claustrophobic, sinister environment devoid of the bombastic soundtrack and ostentatious, Michael Bay-esque set-pieces seen in RE6. Aesthetically, much of the cabins resemble the Spencer Mansion of RE1– it was designed by the same architect, after all – and it works a treat.
However, the most prominent feature that separates Revelations from its action-focused stable mates is the puzzles. There’s more of them here, and they’re far better designed than anything than Capcom has achieved in the past few years, offering the most cerebral Resi outing since 2002’s RE Zero. Sure, they’re still a far cry from the brain-teasing riddles found in Silent Hill, but they still offer a welcome change of pace, punctuating the combat at various intervals so that you’re never in danger of become bored with the proceedings. Being a former 3DS title, you don’t have the same touchscreen interaction as you did on Nintendo’s console, which is a shame since that worked rather nicely, but all in all the balance between puzzle solving, exploration and shooting is the best we’ve seen in years.
Speaking of shooting, Revelations’ gunplay is still as satisfying as you’d expect, if a little cumbersome due to the controls. Valentine and co have access to a wide variety of firearms – from pistols, shotguns, rifles to machine guns – and all of them can be upgraded by obtaining Custom and Illegal Parts which can be attached via special upgrade boxes dotted throughout the Zenobia. Upgrades are the rudimentary batch you’d expect, such as increased fire power, rate of fire and upping your chance of a critical hit, though they are nonetheless noticeable and definitely give you the edge in combat. Characters aren’t quite as mobile as RE6, but you can still move while shooting and reloading, a welcome addition if ever there was one. Sadly, characters are sluggish in that there’s no authentic run button; you simple either walk or shove the analogue stick forward to make them shuffle faster. It’s hopelessly inadequate for some of the more fast moving foes, making dodging attacks a chore. You can dodge by holding X and forward simultaneously, but it’s too unreliable; many times I attempted it and simply received a smack for my troubles.
The Ooze foes are intriguing, if slightly underwhelming creatures to scrap with. They’re grotesque and shambling, and combined with the creepy atmospheric qualities of the ship interior can provide a few shocks as they surprise you by lurching out of trunks, air vents and cubicles. However, they’re not especially interesting to fight; they lumber forward, absorbing gunfire, and then collapse, melting into a pile of slim-coated bone matter. Still, there is the chance to mix it up now and then. If you manage to stagger them slightly, you can perform a melee attack, which can also be charge for increased damage. The dynamic of shooting knees, arms, and head for varying physical attacks from the previous few games is conspicuously absent, however. Some of the latter Oozes are far more engaging though, as they can fire projectile weapons at you. The Hunters also make a return (which will no doubt please long-time fans) and provide easily the most satisfying battles out of the run-of-the-mill foes. Bosses require more strategy and quick footwork, although avoiding attacks is exacerbated by the sluggish nature of your character’s movement. Special mention should go to the console-exclusive enemy, which is one of the better-designed creatures in the game. As with any decent Survival Horror game, you actually have to manage your ammo carefully here, and pick fights when necessary. I ran out a few times, and found myself scavenging around for supplies in a RE game for the first time in over a decade.
New to the table is the Genesis, a scanning device which can locate hidden items throughout the environment and reward you with healing items if you scan a certain number of foes to reach the 100% mark. It’s a neat little tool, although sadly underused; it would have been great to use it more in conjunction with the game’s puzzles, though it nonetheless can save your bacon if you are low on health or ammo. The game also mixes things up by having you control Chris and fellow BSAA agent Keith now and then, although these are largely action-oriented segments that harken back to RE5’s blast-‘em-up sensibilities. Nonetheless, it’s a welcome change of pace and keeps the action fresh, especially as you get to explore mostly new areas, such as a snowy mountain crash site, caves and more. Interestingly, the game isn’t co-op despite the fact you have a partner in tow; fortunately, they do a decent job at helping you out in combat, though enemies seem to have a penchant for attacking you even if your partner is filling their face full of lead and you’re on the other side of the room.
Outside of the campaign, players have Raid Mode to keep them busy. This is ostensibly Revelations’ answer to The Mercenaries, expect this time around you aren’t competing against the clock. Instead, you select a stage and character – with more unlocked as you process – and take out enemies, levelling up with every successful mission. Each stage is progressively more difficult, with deadly enemies looking for a tussle, so you’ll have to indulge in a spot of grinding if you want to stand a chance. Weapons can be purchased by obtaining Battle Points you accumulate from completing stages, letting you customize your arsenal to your liking. This lends Raid Mode a strong sense of progression that was largely absent in The Mercenaries, and combined with the ability to play co-op, will likely last you for months and months – it’s that addictive.
Being a 3DS game with a HD facelift, Revelations is hardly the prettiest of games you’ll experience on PS3. Still, the visual upgrade still looks pretty solid, and the lighting in particular has greatly benefited from the transition to consoles, creating some moody locations that complement the overall aesthetic value of the Queen Zenobia. Aurally, Revelations boasts a great soundtrack, which really cultivates that classic, creepy Resi atmosphere; scenes where you creep around the Zenobia’s innards in particular can be quite tense. Voice acting is fairly perfunctory with a couple of standout moments from the main cast, though Keith and Quint are the weak link in the chain, with the latter in particular having some cringe-worthy dialogue and mannerisms. Fitting somewhat, that Quint’s codename is actually ‘Jackass.’
Overall, Resident Evil: Revelations is a superb return to form for the series, and hopefully an indication of the direction Capcom intends to take the franchise from here on out. The pacing is brilliant and the balance between action, exploration and puzzle solving is spot on. Sadly, it’s let down by some cumbersome controls and awkward combat, though these hiccups can still be overlooked, leaving an enjoyable horror-action romp ripe for the picking.