Of the four Resident Evil games released last year, Resident Evil Revelations was by far the best. It was also, at that time, a Nintendo 3DS exclusive title. Now, I don’t want to hate on a particular platform here, but the 3DS is not exactly been the most widespread gaming machine out there. So, presumably seeing the demand for the title, Capcom have decided to release Resident Evil Revelations to the much bigger console and PC market. Now, nearly a year and a half later, non-3DS owners are finally able to get their hands on the best Resident Evil since 4. How does it hold up on consoles and PC? Let’s find out.
As a massive Resident Evil fan, I feel safe when I say the following – HAHAHAHAHA PLOT. Resident Evil is notorious for its “plot”. Over the top, elaborate conspiracies by zany characters are the mainstay of the series, and Revelations is no exception. Surprisingly, the main story itself of Jill and Parker on the Queen Zenobia is rather straight-forward and uncomplicated. The rest, well, it gets outrageous rather quickly. Conspiracy and betrayal mix with arch villain-ness for the sake of evil and money, with a healthy dose of bioweapons gone wrong. It’s not the worst plot of the series, but that’s not saying particularly much.
Especially the characters. Not since the Ashfords have we seen such ridiculous characters. The main cast is relatively solid, with Jill and Chris bringing their Resident Evil 5 seriousness to the game. Jill’s partner Parker is quite likeable, even if he does crack the occasional (read, often) inappropriately timed cheesy joke. More ridiculous are Jessica and Raymond (and his hair, oh the hair), who can’t seem to contain their cheese. And then there are Keith and Quint. Oh you guys. You poor, poor guys. They’re like Resident Evil 2’s Tofu, except instead of tofu, they are characters made entirely of cheese. Not literally. But by gum, they have all the worst/best lines in the game. Of course, there are also the prototypical megalomaniacal evil villains that fill their niche, but don’t expect a deep and complex character study – it is a Resident Evil game, after all.
The plot is delivered in a completely new way for the series, taking a more episodic approach to narrative. You’ll find yourself in control of Jill for the majority of the game, as she and Parker explore the floating remains of the Queen Zenobia. Chapters are split up into up to three scenarios, covering a particular story segment. Around a third of the game is spent in the shoes of supporting characters, filling in flashbacks or a parallel event. They all fit together well, and it’s actually a very effective mechanism for creating tension and suspense. At the beginning of each chapter, we’re even treated to a “previously on…” segment, summarising the plot to date, which goes a long way in keeping the plot vaguely followable.
Monster design is passable. The new Ooze creatures are reminiscent of Resident Evil 4’s Regenerators, minus the regrowing limbs and terrifying breathing. Most early creatures are a variation on the Ooze theme, too, with more spikes or a bone projectile. Some of the later, stronger enemies have more imagination, like the big circular-saw-armed Scagdeads or the lance-and-shield Scarmiglione. Supporting characters will also come across infected wolves and variations of Hunters, which mixes up gameplay and pacing to add some zest. A handful of climactic boss battles will also punctuate your travels through Revelations, and lead to some tense moments of panic.
Most pleasingly, Resident Evil Revelations makes a return to a more survival horror play-style. Resources are scarce, and even I found myself running low on ammunition and healing items. This is due to the way the game handles inventory – your character can only carry a certain amount of each ammunition, grenade types, or herbs, and there is no way to store those items for later. Item boxes return in the guise of weapon boxes. These crates will store the guns that you don’t have equipped and the custom parts used to upgrade them, but you cannot deposit or store your ammo or herbs. This means you’ll often leave excess ammunition or herbs scattered around the place that you’ll need to return to when you run low. It can be tense, and very refreshing, to feel so vulnerable in a Resident Evil game. There are even some rudimentary puzzle elements to keep things fresh.
New to the series, your character can carry three weapons of any type at a time, and each weapon can be fitted with a varying number of custom parts, which you must find either around the environment or by defeating certain enemies. Those parts serve as modular upgrades, increasing weapon power or reload speed or fire rate and the like. It’s a good system that both rewards exploration and scales equipment to the threat.
Another new feature is the Genesis scanner. This scope is used to analyse the surrounding environment by a number of characters. When used on the rooms, the scope is capable of revealing hidden items, such as a handful of bullets, a green herb, or, in certain places, a weapon upgrade. When used on enemies, a percentage meter in the scanner will fill up proportionally. When this meter hits 100%, you’ll get a free green herb, which comes in very useful during boss battles. It’s not a game changer, but it’s a good way to provide some much needed ammo, or a great risk-reward system for scanning living creatures when running low on health.
The game doesn’t end with the campaign, though. On top of the traditional New Game + and unlockable Hell difficulty mode, Revelations comes with Raid Mode. This bonus minigame appears instead of the popular Mercenaries. Raid Mode is essentially a score attack game, where chosen characters complete a certain area by eliminating enemies and gain points. Inventory carries over between levels and characters, meaning your arsenal builds as you complete areas. You level up your characters and collect battle points, which can be spent on new weapons or upgrades. The mode can be played solo or in two player co-op, although I wasn’t able to test out the online pre-release. Overall, Raid Mode provides a compelling score attack mode that will give many hours of playability.
Disappointingly, Revelations does not come with a chapter select option, meaning if you want to play a specific part, you’ll have to either keep separate saves or replay the entire campaign to reach that part. It’s a pointless annoyance that is a regression compared to Resident Evil 5.
But we’ve known most of these details since last year – what do the ports offer specifically?
Not much, really. I can only speak for the PC version, but I don’t imagine it’s much different to the console version. Graphics are sub-par, but still workable. Textures are lower resolution than typical of a mainstream PC game. Models aren’t overly detailed, and animations are a little stilted. Occasionally, animations will stutter, or creatures will swap from one animation to another without experiencing a smooth transition between the two. Lighting and post-processing are both rudimentary at best, compared to Resident Evil 5. In fact, the entire game looks worse than Resident Evil 5. It does look better than the handheld version, but it is by no means a good looking game.
Sound suffers from the same affliction – portitis. It’s passable, and the great base sound design does carry a lot of atmosphere. Distant water dripping on metal, creaking of stressed steel, wind and waves – they work to make a dark and creepy environment. Monster sounds are distinctive, both identifying the enemy and obscuring the exact nature of the threat at the same time – just like a good horror game should. Music swells where appropriate, with frantic escape sequences and boss battles underscored appropriately. Unfortunately, the sound quality suffers somewhat due to its handheld origins, with the sound lacking an overall fullness.
As for controls… On a controller, everything works the way it should, if perhaps a little less precise than it should be. Nothing is unexpected or abnormal. The gameplay changes, such as weapon and grenade swapping and the instant use of green herbs, require a slight remap from Resident Evil 5, but nothing is broken. The game even generously lets you choose between two marginally different controller options. The biggest new difference is the ability to move while aiming, and this is a welcome addition that works well with the control scheme. Just don’t play it on a keyboard and mouse. More specifically, don’t play it with a mouse. Revelations is (currently) afflicted with truly atrocious mouse acceleration and sticky aim. This makes shooting a painful experience for all involved – except for whatever you’re shooting at. It’s not quite completely unplayable, but damn it, it certainly tries hard to be. There is no precision, making headshots difficult, and quick snap-shots almost impossible with a mouse. Official word on the Steam forums is that it is a known issue and a top priority fix, so by the time you get to play it on PC it will be fixed, but for me, mouse controls were appalling. At least keys can be remapped, and 360 controllers are natively supported, but it’s a small consolation (EDIT 25.5.13: mouse controls are much better now after patching!).
Overall, Resident Evil Revelations is a return to form for the series. It is perhaps the best game since Resident Evil 4, and definitely the most survival horror focused. If you can ignore the obvious technical limitations and slight gameplay adaptations built into the game to fit it onto the 3DS, you’ll find that Revelations is a genuinely good Resident Evil game, and a return to a more survival horror mindset for the series.
(Reviewed on PC. Review code supplied on behalf of Capcom. Thanks.)
ONLY SINGLE PLAYER SCORE
Story – 7/10
Gameplay/Design – 8/10
Visuals – 6.5/10
Sound – 7.5/10
Lasting Appeal – 8/10
Overall – 8/10
(Not an average)
Platforms: PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS
Ratings: M (ESRB), 16 (PEGI)