Resident Evil: Revelations is set between Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5. Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield, the protagonists of the original game, are now members of the BSAA, an anti-bioweapon combat organization. One year ago, the city of Terragrigia was attacked and destroyed by Veltro, a terrorist group. Now, Veltro has returned with its home base being a floating cruise liner called the Queen Zenobia. Jill and her new partner Parker are sent to investigate, and the vessel is filled with strange new monsters. Jill and Parker Luciani quickly lose their only mode of transportation, so not only does the duo have to find a way to escape the ship alive, but Chris and the other BSAA members must also track them down before Veltro deploys its new T-Abyss virus into the world's oceans.
Nobody expects too much from the plot of Resident Evil, but Revelations is one of the most ridiculous entries to date. While it lacks anything quite as overtly insane as the Ashford Siblings or Salazar's Giant Robot, it makes up for it with a constant barrage of silly. The BSAA members, aside from the always-stoic Redfield, are some of the silliest franchise characters. At best, they're cartoon characters who make frequent and inappropriate quips. Early on, there's a scene where Chris falls down a large hill and is injured, so he's forced to fend off a squad of monster wolves by himself. This sounds tense, but the entire time, Chris' partner is making silly quips and bad one-liners. It's like RE4 but even more ridiculous. At least RE4 had enough quiet moments that you could reasonably build tension, but the cast of Revelations seems to find its situation funny. The plot twists in Revelations grow increasingly ridiculous with each revelation. When the very basis of your game is that there was a second "Raccoon City" incident involving a giant space laser and nobody ever thought to mention it, you know you're deep in Resident Evil territory.
Revelations is very rarely scary. It tries, but it's unable to match the atmosphere of the more action-packed entries in the franchise. This is mostly due to the game being extremely silly, even for Resident Evil. For extended sequences, you have invincible AI partners who frequently joke about the situation. When the characters are more likely to roll their eyes at the monsters than be frightened by them, it makes it tough to feel differently. There are some honest attempts at horror sequences, which are pretty impressive, but they're few and far between.
As a side note, the game's translation process is shockingly sloppy. There are frequent typos to be found in the most basic statements. In fact, there's a typo on the box art. Often, the dialogue makes little to no sense; in several cases, I noticed characters saying the exact opposite of what they were supposed to be saying. There's nothing here that drastically alters the plot, but character interaction would have felt more natural if more attention had been paid to this area.
For the first few chapters of the game, Revelations has an interesting dynamic. The focus is on Jill and Parker, who are trapped aboard the mansion-like Queen Zenobia ship and have to find their way out. Jill's adventure feels like a modernized callback to the original games. There are coded keys to collect, puzzles to solve, hidden items to find, and so on. Ammo conservation and item collection are a big deal. Occasionally, you'll switch over to one of the other BSAA members. During these sequences, the game takes on an action movie tone that's akin to RE4, but far more nostalgic. It's actually an interesting way to mix the old-school Resident Evil titles with the new ones.
Only the early part of Jill's adventure is an homage, though. About two-thirds of the way through, Jill forgoes exploration in favor of pure action sequences. There are no more keys or puzzles — nothing but linear action sequences. This isn't a bad thing, but it feels like a betrayal of the concept. For a short period, it felt like Capcom had figured out a way to mesh new and old Resident Evil. In the end, it's more like a thin layer over the true game. There are puzzles, but they are the same puzzles repeated over again. There are keys, but you never really have to search for them. It's a very shallow attempt to replicate the old games in a new system. One can only hope that Resident Evil 6 does a better job of striking the balance.
However, if you can get over Revelations not being a return to form, you'll find a lot to like. There's some gameplay variety. The title is constantly introducing new mechanics, although some overstay their welcome. You'll encounter sequences where you have to swim unarmed through monster-infested corridors, battle invisible bioweapons, attack a giant monster from a mounted turret, and various other twists and turns. The only real complaint is that some of these are not very fun. It's cool to try new things, but they can really screw up the pace. There's one sequence where you have to carry a wounded ally down a corridor, fighting off monsters with only a pistol. It's tedious but cool. It is followed promptly in the next chapter by making you do it all over again, but with less ammo. Revelations gets into the habit of introducing a gimmick and then repeating it before dropping it forever. This isn't bad, but it can get dull.
Speaking of monsters, Revelations forgoes both the iconic zombies and the new Las Plagas in favor of a new form of monster created by the T-Abyss Virus. The result is something like super-zombies: undead monsters that have been reanimated by the virus but appear as featureless blobs. These monsters come in a few forms. Some are spikier than the norm and can knock down your character. Others can shoot their arms at you from a distance. They kind of resemble the Necromorphs from Dead Space, right down to scurrying out of vents. There are occasional cameos from the series staple Hunter and Cerberus monsters, but you'll mostly be fighting the T-Abyss baddies.
The big problem with the enemies in Revelations is that they're less interesting. In RE4 and RE5, the focus of combat was on setting up enemies for melee attacks by shooting their arms or legs to stun them. In Dead Space, targeting the arm or leg of an enemy could allow you to sever the limb and weaken the enemy. In Revelations, most of the enemies are bullet sponges. They absorb damage and take slightly more damage if you shoot them in the head or weak point. Sometimes, you can knock them over or stun them, but it's far less reliable than in RE5. Even if you stun an enemy, you only have a single melee attack that has no special effects. The combat isn't boring, but it feels like a step back from even Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D. As long as you can reliably hit the enemy's weak point, you've pretty much mastered combat basics. It lacks some depth, but it's still fun. The enemies move quickly and are aggressive enough that hitting their weak point is harder than it sounds.
There is one major addition to the combat system: the ability to dodge. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis featured a similar system, and the mechanics in Revelations are a clear evolution of that. Dodging is more complex than it sounds. There isn't a dedicated "dodge" button. Instead, you dodge by pressing toward the enemy with the circle pad just as he's about to strike. Time it correctly, and your character becomes completely invincible and avoids the attack. Time it badly, and you get a monster claw to the face. The dodge system is interesting, but a bit awkward. Having to press toward an enemy to dodge never feels natural, and it can take a while to master the timing. Even then, it can be finicky when you're backed into a corner — exactly when you need it the most. Mastering dodges makes the game tremendously easier. Oddly, bosses are the easiest foes because their dodge tells are very obvious.
Revelations also does away with the franchise's trademark inventory system. You now have three weapon slots, and you can switch between them at will. Ammunition, grenades and herbs all have dedicated inventory slots. You are limited to a certain amount of each, but as long as you haven't reached the limit, you'll be able to pick up an item. You can also find pouches around the game world that upgrade the amount of ammo you can hold. Instead of collecting money to upgrade your weapons, you'll find custom parts scattered around the world. Some of these may be in plain sight, but others are hidden and require you to go out of your way. Custom parts can be equipped to make weapons deal additional damage, hold more ammo, stun the enemy more often, shrink the cone of shotgun spread, charge attacks, etc. The number and type of custom parts that you can equip depends on the weapon, but no part is permanent. Equip a custom part, and it can be unequipped if you want to switch to another weapon. It's a neat system that allows for a ton of customization and freedom.
All this inventory talk brings me to the final new item in the game: the Genesis. It's a high-tech scanning tool that you can use to search the area for hidden objects. Throughout the game, there are "invisible" items that you can only find by scanning. Frankly, this is tedious. Every time you enter a room, you have to stop, pull out your scanner, and search around. The game is clearly designed with the assumption you're doing this, and not doing so means you miss important ammo, custom parts and health. It slows down the game, but not in a good way. Fortunately, the Genesis can also scan enemies, and that slowly fills up your scan percentage. When this reaches 100%, you get a free herb. The closer to an enemy you are, the more percentage you get. You also get less if the enemy is dead or by scanning the same enemy type over and over. This is simple but adds an interesting wrinkle to combat. Do you kill the nasty enemy quickly or try to survive long enough to get a scan? More often than not, the latter is the better idea, but it strikes a nice balance between shooting and surviving.
In addition to the single-player campaign, Revelations also offers a new game mode. Raid mode is one of the coolest bonus modes to ever exist in a video game. The single-player stages are divided up into ministages and everything is more arcade-like. Puzzles and keys are removed, but each stage is repopulated by more powerful enemies. Players, either alone or co-op, are tasked with finishing the stages again. Enemies all have health bars, and ammunition is more plentiful. Some enemy variants are larger and stronger, while others are smaller and faster or do a ton of damage. This mode can be played in single-player, local co-op and online. The online was silky smooth in the time I played. I fought alongside Japanese players and didn't notice a hiccup, even when dodging attacks with split-second precision.
So what makes this so engrossing? In addition to basically giving you a game-length minigame, the weapon upgrade system in Raid mode sees a huge overhaul. Weapons have randomized stats and inventory slots, and there are a great variety of weapons and equipment. Think Diablo or Borderlands. Your character also levels up and can earn better equipment at higher levels and higher difficulty modes. Raid mode effectively turns the game into an MMO raid. You go in, kill a bunch of enemies and come out with some better equipment. Lather, rinse and repeat. The full-fledged action-RPG mode adds countless hours to the game length, especially when you're tasked with getting S-Ranks on every stage and difficulty for special perks and costumes.
Revelations is one of the best-looking games I've seen on a handheld. The visuals are astonishing. They're not up to par with their console brethren, but they come close enough that it's shocking. It is even a big improvement over The Mercenaries 3D. Enemies in the distance no longer jerk around like they did in The Mercenaries, and the frame rate is far smoother. There are still some nagging flaws, though. The character's mouths don't move outside pre-rendered cut scenes, which can be really distracting. There's also some serious slowdown when the game tries to load a new area, although this only occurs in "safe" rooms, where you can't be attacked.
Revelations also makes a better case for 3-D being something special. It's better than any other game I've seen on the 3DS to date, even the beautiful Super Mario 3D Land. There's even a secondary 3-D depth slider to let you make the effect far more intense. Even without the 3-D, Revelations is the best-looking game on the console. Sadly, the same can't be said for the voice work. It's the usual cheesy Resident Evil stuff; there's just more of it than usual, and none of it quite so delightful as Wesker's constant cheese from RE5.
Resident Evil: Revelations is a darn good game. It has nagging flaws and problems that hold it back, but most of those are situations that could have been handled better, not situations that were actively bad. It's a fast-paced, frantic and intense game, and it should be in any Resident Evil fan's library. There's also a ton of value packed into a small package. The single-player campaign will last about 10 hours, but Raid mode can offer hundreds of hours of gameplay if you let it. Online and offline loot-collecting is sure to keep the game in people's 3DSes long after they've wrapped up the story. Revelations is no RE4, but it's a solid entry to the franchise and a great way to scratch the Resident Evil itch until Resident Evil 6 hits later this year.
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