Review by Awasai
The best of both of RE's worlds
If you're a fan of the series, then this game is your reason to own a 3DS. Revelations takes everything that was great about RE 4 and 5 and combines it with the darker, tenser atmosphere of the early games in the series. The addition of "Raid Mode" adds an incredible amount of addictive replay value. Without further ado, here's the breakdown.
Story: Undoubtedly the game's weakest point, although that's not saying much. The game's events take place between 4 and 5, and feature Jill and Chris, as well as their respective partners at the time, Parker Luciani and Jessica Sherawat, as they investigate a derelict ocean liner and the cause for its being overrun by bio-organic weapons. Conspiracy and double/triple-crosses abound, and although it's not too hard to follow, it's complex enough that those with shorter attention spans and the desire to quickly return to gameplay could easily become bored during cutscenes and lengthy exposition. The characters, new and old, don't have much room for development, but what little they do have is appreciated (a playful wink from Jill, Parker's affinity for promising to treat people to meals/drinks, etc.). Overall, the story doesn't add too much to the game, but the "complexity" is, at times, a nice change from "save the president's daughter," or "stop Wesker."
Gameplay: The big one, and definitely where Revelations shines. Simply put, this game combines the fantastic over-the-shoulder-shooter style and top-notch graphics found in RE's recent entries with the darkness and sheer atmospheric quality of the earlier ones. If you've played 5's DLC- Lost in Nightmares- then you have a rough preview of this game. Shooting enemies to death with a variety of guns is still the name of the game, but gone (for the most part) are the wide-open sunlit spaces and bombastic action settings that caused fans of the series to rail against 4 and 5. Although you often do have an AI-controlled partner throughout Revelations, its presence and aid is negligible (there is zero item sharing and the damage they do to enemies is next-to-nothing). In the dark passages and gloomy rooms of the Queen Zenobia, you feel utterly alone. The nature of the game's enemies allow them to appear unexpectedly and sometimes out of nowhere, adding to the scare factor.
The pacing and difficulty curve of the game are well-executed. Things start out slowly in order to build the desired atmosphere, but escalate as your arsenal expands and enemies and their numbers become more outrageous. I suspect that there's still a bit too much action and bountiful ammo to please the diehard RE1 fans, but the more horror-esque mood goes a long way towards balancing out the focus of their complaints. I was genuinely scared far more times during Revelations than in both RE4 and 5 combined (if it seems like I'm using those two as comparison points too much- I apologize. It's because they are the most recent and most similar to RE: Revelations). The game is split into "episodes," the majority of which follow Jill on the ship. However, some parts of some episodes allow you to control other characters in different locations (with their own limited inventories), sometimes even in flashback. These sections feel, at times, like unnecessary diversions from the main plot, but are usually quick enough and allow the game to showcase a small number of varied environments (including a murky beach, a snowy crash site, and an overrun office building). Bosses range from the small and terrifying to the enormous and imposing and are usually integrated nicely into the gameplay, rarely interrupting the excellent pacing. The campaign is relatively short, at 10-12 hours for one's first playthrough, but there are three difficulties, the option to carry over equipment from a cleared-save, and some interesting "missions," whose requirements resemble those of PS3 trophies in nature ("Dodge 20 times; Beat the game without healing; etc.). All of this, plus the amazing Raid Mode, mean that you've still got a lot more time to put in after those initial 10 hours if you're feeling up to it.
Control: An inherent part of gameplay, perhaps, but I'm addressing it separately. Revelations utilizes the over-the-shoulder style of 4 and 5, but allows for either first-person or third-person aiming/shooting, depending on your preference. All of your characters functions are streamlined to be controlled during live gameplay (healing, switching weapons and subweapons, etc.) which means there's no reason to open a menu and interrupt the action except to get a detailed look at the map or to upgrade weapons (done at set locations on the map, at which point gameplay is paused). The touch screen displays a ton of relevant information at all times, and can be used to control some functions, although I never found myself using it- I preferred to use the buttons exclusively.
Movement is controlled by the left stick. Holding down R triggers weapon aiming mode, and holding down L allows for strafing both in and out of aiming mode. Although slow and clearly not meant to allow for fast-paced action battles, this ability to move while aiming (you can also back up or step forward) represents a big advancement to the control style first seen in RE4. Y fires your weapon, A uses herbs, [back+] B allows you to do a quick 180, and X is for subweapons (knife and grenades). Gone is the ability to "run" by holding down a particular button, but this is no great loss; the characters' speed depends on how far you push the control stick. A few too many swimming sections threaten to slow down your mission, but simple controls (stick to aim your trajectory, B button to move forward) help to keep them bearable.
All in all, control is tight and always responsive. The slight, natural-feeling shakiness of your character's arm makes precise aiming a small challenge at first, but the learning curve is fairly generous. The streamlined controls smooth out the action to a degree unheard of in 4, and even manage to overcome the slight clunkiness of 5. You're never more than a few, quick, live button presses away from whatever action you want to perform. Revelations is compatible with the right-joystick add-on, and although I haven't experienced that, people report that it makes the controls even more manageable than they already are.
Graphics: Anyone who's already played Ocarina of Time on the 3DS has seen what the system is capable of, and Revelations takes that capability to a new level. While most of the game takes place in tight, dark corridors, there is no lack of enormous, visually-astounding rooms and environments that will make one's jaw drop upon first seeing them. The environments and character models are not quite as detailed as RE4, but they come close, and what details they do have go a long way towards creating a distinctly dark and gloomy atmosphere. Basic but impressive use of lighting effects (a swinging ceiling light; a flickering vending machine; Jill's use of a flashlight in pitch-dark areas) can make a given room a lot scarier than it might have been otherwise. A minor instant of slowdown upon reaching a point when enemies spawn almost seems intentional (as if to alert you) but is the only fault I've found in this category. The 3D is used as one might expect. I'm not a big fan of the gimmick in general, but again- it doesn't hinder in any noticeable way. The game also features a number of beautiful pre-rendered cut scenes.
Sound: I've personally never been a fan of most of the music in the RE series, so with that in mind, I'll say that I was equally unimpressed with Revelations'. In creating a scary atmosphere, lack of music (or at least music that is subdued and barely noticeable) often seems more effective than trying to force a tune that kills the mood. Fast-paced, tense tracks are used for the big action segments, and those are fine, but still fairly forgettable. That said, none of the music seems unfitting, and they did well to recognize which parts deserve less fanfare and more ambiance. Sound effects are on a whole different level. Gunshots are crisp and distinct, enemies' subtle shuffling and moans are enough to freak you out when you don't yet know where they are, and a host of ambient, atmosphere-building sounds abound, most of them subtle enough to barely be noticed, creating a very natural feel on the ship. The writing is, as usual, terrible, but that doesn't mean the voice actors did a bad job reading their lines. If you can look beyond the corniness, you'll come to appreciate the professional quality and even the emotion that was put into these characters. In this respect (and many others), the series has come a long way since its early entries. The fact that you can switch the voiceovers to a whopping five different European languages as well as Japanese is just icing on the cake, and provides an extra bit of fun during multiple playthroughs.
Raid Mode: Yes- this gets its own category because it's that important. Raid mode stages unlock as you complete episodes of the main campaign, meaning that you're able to play through the whole thing as soon as you've beaten the game once. This extra mode breaks down the story mode into 20 bite-sized stages (with one, massive, "bonus" stage). From the start, you pick from a limited set of characters to play as, and start at [character] level 1 with a small arsenal. Upon completing each stage, you gain points based on your performance, which level your character up and allow you to make purchases in the store (new weapons, body armor, refills on ammo and healing items). Weapons that you find, win, and buy have their own levels and varying stats (along with slots in which to insert upgrade parts), which gives Raid Mode a very RPG-feel to it.
There are three difficulty levels, the latter two of which unlock after completing the previous one. The stage layouts are the same, but higher difficulties feature more, higher-level enemies and different enemy placement. The entirety of Raid Mode is doable solo, but if you can get online then you're able to team up with a partner to tackle the levels- splitting the burden yet sharing the rewards. It's often just as action-packed as the Mercenary modes from 4 and 5 (and the 3DS game), but has a very different feel due to a lack of time limit and the heavy RPG elements. Customizing one's weapons and then testing them out on increasingly wild mobs of enemies is a lot of fun. I don't feel that I can do the addictive nature of Raid Mode justice through writing alone. It quickly became my favorite part of the game, and I suspect that I will end up having spent an extra 30 hours or so on Raid Mode alone. Much of Revelations' replay value is found here.
Resident Evil: Revelations is a near perfect handheld experience, bringing back the horror atmosphere of early RE games while retaining the things that made the recent games so good. Tight controls feel incredibly natural after just a bit of play time, and beautiful graphics (and decent use of the 3D) almost makes one forget that the game is on a handheld. Excellent use of sound and sparse but atmospheric music add yet another layer of polish. Story isn't amazing, but certainly doesn't detract. Raid Mode is a fabulous new addition to the series: a must-buy for RE fans, and a must-try for all 3DS owners.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Resident Evil: Revelations (US, 02/07/12)
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