Resident Evil: Revelations Review: A Tale of Two Stories

Resident Evil Revelations came out on Tuesday, and I’ve had enough time with the game to tell you, loyal reader, what I think of it. Revelations is the latest addition to the Resident Evil franchise, and marks the first time that a unique Resident Evil game has come out on handhelds since Resident Evil Gaiden was released for the Gameboy Colour. Coincidentally both Revelations and Gaiden take place on a cruise ship. Unlike many of the ports and quasi-remakes that permeate the system, this game was built from the ground up for the 3DS. There are rumours that the game got its start as an abandoned PSP Resident Evil game, but that doesn’t really change the facts too much. The game has also made internet fame because Capcom misspelled Revelations on the side of the box, calling it “Revelaitons”. In other words, early adopters should keep their faulty case insert, as there is nothing collectors love more than historical oddities. Well enough with the background, let’s look at the game itself.

This mistake is pretty representative of the dialogue you should expect in the game.

Firstly let’s look at the reason I titled the post the way I did: Revelations is actually two games in one or, more accurately, one story with a collection of side stories inserted in the main campaign. The primary story of the game follows series veteran Jill Valentine as she explores the cruise ship the Queen Zenobia. The other half of the game follows various characters in an attempt to flesh out the circumstances that led to the outbreak. This is a really weird way of structuring a game. The Jill segments are tense filled with sparse details on the story and involve weapon customization and ammo conservation. The other part of the story jumps between various other characters including series darling Chris Redfield, and have a much stronger emphasis on action. I’m not a fan of the switching. It feels to me that they took the idea behind Resident Evil 4’s Separate Ways and just inserted it into the main story. The problem with this style is that it breaks any tension that had been building in the Jill segment, and the non-Jill segments seem a little tacked-on. Had they been presented in an unlockable after the main story was completed in order to flesh out the story I would have been much happier, instead we are left with two distinct games fighting for attention.

They tease us with this pairing the whole game

The actual story of Revelations is crazy and the voice acting is terrible, but what do you really expect from a Resident Evil game? That would be like expecting a riveting narrative from Pac-Man. Remember, this is the same series that gave us the Norman Bates-like island aristocrat Alfred Ashford, or tiny castellan Ramon Salazar. It is also the same series that started out with B-movie style dialogue such as the infamous Jill Sandwich line. What I’m trying to say is that Revelation’s plot is terrible and the voice acting is subpar, but this shouldn’t affect how much you enjoy the game, because these are really ancillary to the main focus of the game: creature fuelled mayhem. There are an array of new characters as Capcom decided to flesh out the BSAA organization, which was introduced in Resident Evil 5. Most of these characters are a little too close to the main plot involving a sunken metropolis, but as I said: this isn’t Shakespeare. The new characters aren’t bad, but they don’t add anything to the game aside from being an excuse to keep Jill and Chris separate for most of the game. One mind-boggling element of the game is the fact that all characters are acting in pairs, which made sense in Resident Evil 5 with its co-op play, but seems really unnecessary here, especially in the Jill segments.

Don’t complain about the story. This is a series where this guy is the act 1 villain.

Capcom has been claiming that Revelations would bring the series back to its roots and give fans of the originals a new game in the survival horror tradition established by the first game. Revelations goes between succeeding extremely well and failing horribly in this regard. This of course goes back to the split story. Jill’s segment is full of narrow corridors, scary, tough creatures, ammo can be a concern (Not usually, but it’s possible), and the game goes out of its way to try to provoke a sense of dread. Conversely, the non-Jill segments are full of comic relief and non-stop action. Weapon acquisition and upgrading is important and strategic in Jill’s segment, while in the non-Jill segments the only concern is blasting away horde after horde of enemies, in, usually, recycled environments. So in terms of bringing the series back to survival horror, it seems that Capcom only wanted to go partway, while giving action junkies something to look forward to in-between these segments.

This is a cat fight that I can get behind

The monster design is excellent. The new kinds of enemies are fluke-like humanoid creatures that were created by the T-Abyss virus. These creatures move in a very horrifying way, and come in several varieties, but it never seems that these types are just shoehorned in to vary gameplay. There is also the traditional zombie dog. Revelation’s take on this dog seems like a mix of the original dobermans and the newer plaga-infested dogs. Finally after many years of abandonment, Revelations brought back the Hunter type enemies, and finally answered the question I had as to whether Hunters would still seem dangerous with Resident Evil 4 controls. In short, yes, they are still dangerous, but only because they work in swarms in this game. The boss design is exceptional, and act like the old Resident Evil bosses, in that they aren’t cinematic. They are as tentacular as most Resident Evil bosses/enemies, but what would Resident Evil be without a slew of tentacle monsters? Nothing, that’s what.

Watch out Sheva! It’s from Japan!

Graphically, Revelations stands head and shoulders on top of every other handheld game on the market. The character models are extremely detailed and well made, and you can see the slime flowing off of the fluke-creatures. Movements can be a bit stiff for characters, but this is mainly as a result of the Resident Evil tank controls. There is some noticeable lag when loading new areas, which is not good. However, this only happens in loading areas with no creatures, so gameplay isn’t compromised. Despite being built for the 3DS, Revelations doesn’t utilize 3D in any meaningful way. Textures pop a bit more when the slider is turned up, but it never makes a significant difference and is never used in the gameplay the same way as it was in Super Mario 3D Land.

If you are looking for Resident Evil in 3D, then you should go elsewhere.

So let’s finally get to the most important question of the day: how does it play? The answer is really, really well. Jill’s segment, as in all things, is the star here. Hidden around the Queen Zenobia are custom parts, rarer illegal custom parts, and hidden weapons. It really rewards players for exploring all over the ship. Weapon customization is the best it’s ever been in the series, as you can swap around various effects unlocked by finding custom parts. Only being able to carry three weapons at a time also adds a very strategic element, especially since ammo can be very limited. Do you take an SMG that has only 60 bullets, or your handgun which has over 90? Limited use magnum, or all purpose shotgun? Should you prioritize damage, firing speed, or unique effects such as critical hits/staggering for your weapon upgrades? The best part is that no decision is permanent so you can tailor your loadout as you want for each individual situation.

Magnum. Take the magnum

A major new addition comes with the item finder. This tool serves two purposes: finding items and scanning enemies. You can find a large variety of items all over the place from measly handgun bullets to useful custom parts. Scanning enemies is far more strategic. You get a certain percentage for each scan, and when it adds up to 100%, you get a healing item. The strategic bit is that you get more of a percent when the enemy is still alive, leaving the player to decide if they want to risk scanning a hostile enemy for more points, or just kill it and get the lesser reward. This Metroid Prime-like addition is actually quite fun to use, and very handy for ammo; however, it does make speed running harder, and people are very attached to speed running Resident Evil games.

Nope, still dead.

Walking and shooting is a little stiff, but I can’t even imagine what life would be like without being able to walk and reload anymore. I don’t yet have the frankenstick, but the consensus on the internet seems to be that it is worth the price, as a second analogue stick improves the game quite a bit. However, I find that the original controls work great as well. Remember, Resident Evil has always been a single stick game, so only having one stick doesn’t dilute the experience.

Looking at the non-Jill segments, all of the exploration elements are scaled way back and upgrade elements don’t exist at all. The pure shooting gameplay is still fun and it works well, but it is improved so much with the sense of progression you get from Jill’s segments.

Don’t worry, the gratuitous butt shots from the demo made it into the full game.

All in all it is very hard to review Resident Evil Revelations. Jill’s segment is excellent and one of the best handheld experiences you will have. On the other hand, the non-Jill segments aren’t particularly good. They aren’t bad either, but they don’t live up to the excellence of the Jill segment, and actually make the main game worse by chopping it up in an unfortunate way. As I said earlier, had these missions been post-game content, then I would have fully endorsed them. However, there is way too much to love about the main game to let the side missions bother you too much. Altogether, Resident Evil Revelations is a triumph. It isn’t quite what old school Resident Evil fans were looking for, but that doesn’t reduce it’s quality.

So let’s end this by enjoying the wonderfully horrible intro to the original Resident Evil, and bask in the exceptional voice acting.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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