Resident Evil has always been a series that has scared the crap out of me. Now, I’m not one for scary games in general so don’t get me talking about games like Condemned or Manhunt, and apparently even portable titles can muster up enough creativity to scare the crap out of me.
Resident Evil: Revelations is the first 3D-enabled Resident Evil game to come out for the 3DS, and hopefully there are a few more after this one. While this title in the series scared me quite a bit, it’s actually quite a fun game, albeit with some tiny annoyances.
The opening cinematics are nothing short of beautiful, especially for a portable device. The storyline also plays to what I’m fond of: the Mediterranean Sea. I wish the game itself looked this good when playing it, but that was somewhat of a pipe dream. However, Revelations is certainly one of the better looking games on the 3DS, if not the best, and the character models are much more detailed than I would ever expect.
Being stranded on a ship for the vast majority of the game is an incredible location for a game like this. It’s creepy, isolated, and barren, and a perfect excuse for developers to add in creaky noises without drawing too much attention from players wondering if they should really be there. While you are on the ship for most of the single-player campaign, you get a pretty wide variety of scenery to explore. There are the typical rusted out mechanical portions of the game – furnace and engine rooms with aluminum panels everywhere. But you’ve also got great ballrooms and beautiful wood veneers in luxurious hallways. Somehow, the latter locations are creepier, if only because the pictures hung on the wall in ornate frames remind me of a remarkably scary juxtaposition between beauty and shrieking death.
The game is mostly split between two types of gameplay: exploration and shooting. The exploration sequences really build up the tension; somehow though, there is something visceral about them, yet missing at the same time. I think the fact that Revelations runs on portable hardware has more to do with it than anything. The portable nature of the 3DS becomes a barrier to making the game seem as real as it could be if it were on a big screen television. If the game had been on a console, these sequences would be nothing short of “play with the lights on when people are home, the doors are locked, and the alarm system is on.” Based on the fact that it is on the 3DS, however, developers really need to make use of everything they can to make the experience as real as possible. And they do.
Audio in Resident Evil: Revelations is pretty fantastic for a game like this. Sinister creaking and cracking happens all the time given the location of the ship, but the crack of your shotgun and the voice acting is of an almost console-like quality that really makes Revelations a great game. Glad to see – and hear – that the developers didn’t skimp here.
But this brings us to the shooting sequences. And there is good and bad here. The good is that the shooting sequences are great, but the bad news is that you need to spend twenty bucks to get them there. You’ll need the Circle Pad Pro to play Revelations with any sort of control or finesse; without it, the controls are simply too clunky. The add-on is rather inexpensive and will of course be used with other games, but controls aren’t the only issue. When shooting enemies, there isn’t much reaction from them, so you’ll be barraging them with bullets, seemingly to no avail, until they just fall helplessly to the ground. It can be extremely difficult later on in the game when you’ve got three or four massive monsters crowding you and you don’t know which to tackle first, or if your bullets are even doing much damage.
Being a 3DS game, you might expect 3D to play a role in Revelations. Sorry. When Nintendo released Super Mario 3D Land, they set the bar and they set it very high. Since then, there needs to be a compelling reason for me to burn through my retinas to see another dimension. Unfortunately, there just isn’t one in Revelations. There are some quick moments where you can tell 3D will have a slight effect, but nowhere near the game-affecting style of 3D Land, so it just isn’t worth it. Of course, this feature is very much up to the individual, but I found it pretty useless in a game like Revelations.
Now, Revelations isn’t Resident Evil 4, and I don’t think anyone expected it to be. But I’ll be damned if it isn’t the closest thing. Sure, from a story perspective, this is sandwiched between the fourth and fifth iteration of the series, but it’s handled in a different way to cater to portable users. For one thing, it is broken down into episodic content of sorts, each episode being bookended by TV-like cutscenes and cliffhanger endings, which is of course where you pick up the story and begin playing. It’s kind of cheesy the way Capcom decided to do it, but they’re fun and get the job done. Most importantly, you never feel like you have to play for another half hour to get to a save point or a major point in the story.
If you’re not entirely into the scary genre, there is some refuge in knowing that you’ve got some sidekicks throughout the game. While you play through the beginning of the game as either Jill or Chris, you’ve got some other friendly faces along the way. And there are two main benefits to this: first, you’re not playing entirely alone which would be that much creepier, but the game is also set-up so that they can’t die. Thank heavens that Resident Evil: Revelations is not a protect-your-ally game because that would have immediately turned me off to the game.
There are certainly some cheap-shots in Revelations. You know these moments from pretty much every game, especially shooters. You push an elevator button and have to wait a while for it to arrive. Oh, and in the meantime, waves of enemies start coming after you and the elevator just happens to arrive once you’ve killed all of them. I guess these moments are necessary in every shooter since every developer does them, but when the controls are not exactly finessed properly, these moments can really break your game.
Luckily enough, there is quite a bit of game here. With about ten hours of gameplay, you can expect a good chunk of experience for a measly $40 (well, $60 with the Circle Pad Pro, but let’s not count that), not to mention additional play modes that unlock once you’ve completed the game all the way through. You’ve actually got a few options after that point: play the game on a much harder difficulty level or have all your equipment you collect throughout the game from the first time you take control of your character. I’ll admit I didn’t test out the multiplayer buffet, but I’m told they’re a great addition to the cartridge and add an endless amount of gameplay to boot.
My judgement of a good portable game, in addition to audio, graphics, and gameplay, is how long the main experience is. Especially today when we’ve got so many options that run the gamut from 10 to 30 hours, developers need to be crafting longer games. In the way that Splinter Cell 3D was a major disappointment for me, Resident Evil: Revelations shines incredibly on Nintendo’s portable device and makes a beautiful statement for the future of the franchise.