Resident Evil: Revelations – A Return To Form?

Resident Evil Revelations 3DS Box ArtWhen Capcom revamped Resident Evil: Revelations for console release recently, I was tempted to pick it up for the Wii U. After playing the demo though, it just didn’t quite feel right on the big screen – it was designed for the 3DS after all – so I ended up buying the original 3DS version instead. What became a slightly underwhelming console game is truly a graphical marvel on a handheld.

At a computer show back in the nineties, I remember playing a demo of an ill-fated attempt to convert Resident Evil to the original Game Boy. The game never saw the light of day, but the demo was impressive – somehow they’d managed to get the underpowered 8-bit handheld to display rudimentary pseudo-3D graphics, and I remember the excitement of playing through the first level. In the end though the game never saw the light of day, and we ended up with the perfectly serviceable but considerably less pretty Resident Evil Gaiden instead.

Resident Evil on the Game Boy Color - apparently the game was almost finished but never got released.
Resident Evil on the Game Boy Color – apparently the game was almost finished but never got released.

Cut to 2012 and we were finally, FINALLY treated to a fully fledged 3D Resident Evil game on a portable console* – but was it worth the wait? Interestingly, Capcom chose to set Revelations on a cruise ship, just like Gaiden, and it proves to be an inspired decision. The cramped setting harks back to the mansion of the original 1996 Resident Evil, and it’s all the better for it. It lends the game a claustrophobia that really suits the series, and it feels far more fitting than the open air roaming of Resident Evil 5. Unlike the original game though, ammo is in much more plentiful supply, so you never quite feel the desperation of trying to make every single bullet count, and the oppressive hordes of shuffling zombies consequently don’t feel like as much of a threat as they should do.

I used the Circle Pad Pro when playing, and I liked the way the game lets you switch to first person when aiming. Having said that though, the Pro itself is a cumbersome beast, and the extra pad is in exactly the wrong position – it should be underneath the buttons, not slung out on the far right. I actually started developing pains in my right thumb after playing for a while. The pad clearly needs a rethink, and hopefully the next generation of 3DS will have a second pad in that sweet spot under the B button.

Still, back in the actual game, I really like what they’ve done with the inventory system – gone is the tedious inventory shuffling of old, and instead the only dilemma you’re faced with is what gun to bring with you, up to a maximum of three. It keeps things moving nicely, but it still retains a tactical element, especially when it comes to choosing which weapons to upgrade.

The zombies are pleasingly shuffly, just like the original.
The zombies are pleasingly shuffly, just like the original.

Another aspect I like is the episode format – the game is divided into 12 or so episodes, each of which begins with a LOST-style “Previously on Resident Evil Revelations…” recap, and it suits the handheld format perfectly in terms of providing bite-sized chunks of gameplay. What I wasn’t particularly fond of, however, is the way you keep being dragged out of the main story – Jill’s exploration of the ship – to play as other characters in fairly inconsequential gameplay sections. It just ends up diluting the game, when all I really wanted to do was barrel around the ship as Jill.

rer-parker-lucianiSpeaking of the other characters though, I have to give a shout out to newcomer Parker Luciani, who has quickly eclipsed Barry Burton as one of my all time favourites. With his unplaceable accent, magnificent beard and physique verging towards what some might call “stocky”, Parker is someone you can’t fail to warm to. Shame his dialogue too frequently falls into Barry Burton-esque “master of unlocking” awfulness, although the voice actor does his darned best to rise above the naffness of the script.

That’s the trouble, see – in terms of story and dialogue, Resident Evil has barely moved beyond its schlocky origins, and Revelations acts like it’s still 1996. The plot is, for the most part, pretty damn terrible, and some of the dialogue is beyond belief. This kind of stuff was forgivable in 1996, but not in 2013.

Still, I have a soft spot for Resident Evil games, and this is certainly a lot better than Resident Evil 5 (and probably Resident Evil 6 too, although I’ve yet to play it). The trouble is, the designers just don’t seem to know where to go with the series, although the move back towards more cramped interiors feels right. Revelations isn’t quite the return to form it should have been, but it’s on the right track, and it’s certainly a fun way to spend a few hours.


*After writing this I discovered that a version of the original PlayStation game (Resident Evil: Deadly Silence) was ported to the Nintendo DS in 2006, so technically Revelations this isn’t the first 3D Resi game on a handheld – although it’s the first one in actual 3D. Although to be honest you don’t notice the 3D after a while – Nintendo still seem to be the only ones who can actually use the 3D effect properly in their games.