One of the best Resident Evil games in years.
The once esteemed Resident Evil series has, to put it lightly, been in a bit of a rut lately. 2012 was a year where fans of the series should have been overjoyed to find that there was not one, not two, but three Resident Evil games all released within the one year. Revelations was by far the best of the bunch, though it was unfortunately restricted to the 3DS user-base. Now a year later, so long as you own a 360, PS3, PC, or even if you're apart of the scant few who only has access to a Wii U for all of your gaming requirements, you too can now join in the... horror? Not quite unfortunately.
What Capcom attempted to accomplish with Revelations is respectable at least. Given the increasing disparity between Resident Evil of old and new, Revelations was Capcom's chance to experiment a little and to create a Resident Evil game that could combine elements of both classic survival horror Resident Evil and the more shooter-orientated modern-day Resident Evil. However, what that has resulted in is a game that doesn't especially excel in either style of the series. Make no mistake, though, Revelations isn't a bad game by any means, and it is most certainly well beyond the quality of both Operation Raccoon City and Resident Evil 6. On the 3DS it would have no doubt been an impressive feat at that, but taken from a console perspective, the cracks begin to show.
Set between Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5, Revelations aspires to explain the hidden truth behind... well, not a lot really. Despite its title, Revelations doesn't do a whole lot of revealing beyond its own self-contained story and barely fits in anywhere in the series. It functions much like many of the other semi-stand-alone spin-offs out there, most notably the light-gun shooter Resident Evil: Dead Aim what with the setting. Only we've also got Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine in here, as if to give some pretense that this game actually matters within the grand scheme. Spoilers: it doesn't.
The story itself is pretty convoluted and kinda messy overall, but it doesn't quite take itself as seriously as the nauseatingly melodramatic tale weaved within Resident Evil 6. In fact the story, the dialogue and even the voice acting--despite once again starring a solid cast of performers--all come across as rather silly, even by Resident Evil standards of late. Certain lines of dialogue that are uttered by the Jessica character in particular feel right at home alongside the Master of Unlocking and Gerbil Sandwiches of the series, which definitely accentuates the z-quality storytelling Resident Evil has been known for.
The main campaign will primarily have you return to the diving suit of Jill Valentine; while you will occasionally switch to different characters here and there, make no mistake, Jill is the one steering the ship. As Jill, you'll primarily find yourself stranded on a huge cruise-ship called the Queen Zenobia that is infested with--surprise!--an all manner of Bio-Organic Weapons. Thanks to an outbreak of the T-Abyss virus (yes, I know...), strange Ooze monsters of all shapes and sizes now pollute the place from top to bottom. It's up to Jill, Chris, and new BSAA partners Parker and Jessica to uncover how and why this all happened.
While the story definitely pegs itself as a little smaller scale than what we're used to with Resident Evil these days, it unfortunately quickly transpires into the big-time conspiracy nonsense. The character switching certainly doesn't help in that regard either, as it can be difficult to fear for Parker and Jill's safety being stranded on this ship when we constantly keep switching to different locations.
This wouldn't matter too much if Revelations was attempting to be a Resident Evil 5-esque action-fest, but while it may control similar, it was clearly intending to pace itself a little slower. The Queen Zenobia is home to many tight corridors and dark hallways too, but while the atmosphere is effective enough, the game still rarely manages to be even a little unsettling, let alone scary.
Despite the story being a completely single-player only affair, you'll still often have a partner in tow as well. It makes some sense for the faster portions of the game starring Chris, but even the sections as Jill will almost always feature Parker forever looming behind her. There is a brief section where you're not only on your own, but don't even have any weapons at least, though it's incredibly brief. Even when the two do occasionally split-up, they'll often still be in radio contact all the same anyway. It defeats that sense of isolation that the earlier games did pretty well, and besides some occasional banter, your partner doesn't serve much purpose (besides opening up single-player coop doors..) and is always just an invincible tag-along.
While Revelations may not be scary, it does at least bring about a lot of the classic design tropes of Resident Evil of old. Memos are strewn around for you to read, often written during the weirdest of times, and backtracking is aplenty. While the game does play it pretty linear during parts, the meat of the game as Jill will have you exploring throughout a fair amount of the ship at your leisure, finding key items to then help you access otherwise inaccessible areas. Puzzles are pretty sparse, however, and there's one other puzzles besides the recurring task of rearranging circuits so as to unlock elevator doors ect. They're enjoyable enough and help add to the pace, but they were still a little too infrequent for my liking.
There's not a traditional inventory system in play here, but you can only carry three weapons at a time and only so much ammunition. Ammunition isn't necessarily a problem during the game mind you, but with the way combat plays out, you're definitely going to find yourself switching to other weapons out of necessity from time to time.
So, the combat. Despite first appearances, Revelations isn't quite up to the same standards as RE4/RE5. While it does control similarly, you can now move & shoot for starters and it definitely feels like the game was built around your new found mobility. Enemies are generally faster and won't sprint up and then immediately stop once they reach a certain proximity. The Ooze zombies you encounter also aren't nearly as susceptible to staggering as the ganado/majini of the past as well; you can stagger them, but each enemy has a particular weak point, like the regular Ooze zombie's bloated hands for example, which also requires a bit more punishment than you'd expect as well
Once staggered, you can then attack with a prompted melee attack, which can be charged up if you hold the button down. While that sounds like the scheme found in RE4/RE5, there's only ever the one melee attack, and again, it can take a fair amount of gunfire to stagger particular enemies. As such, you won't be relying on melee attacks nearly as much and enemies may feel a lot more bullet-spongey as a result. Though this of course also results in more occasions where your ammo may begin to dwindle at that, so for what they were trying, it's a suitable system.
One noticeable improvement, however, is your knife. Now you can simply start slashing away with the R1 button (default shooter controls) without needing to aim. It's a good way to help conserve ammunition and can be incredibly effective should you knock an enemy over.
Enemies will no longer drop money or even ammo for you collect, either. You instead find ammo just by searching the environment, though you also have a handy scanning device that you can use to locate hidden resources. You can even scan enemies alive or dead, though all it does is reward you with a herb every time you've reached 100%. As for your guns, you must instead locate mods throughout the game to increase their stats. There's the usual sort of stuff, like increased damage and fire-rate. But there's also some occasional glimmers of creativity like one that will have you unload however much ammo is in the gun within a matter of seconds, or another that can allow you to charge up each shot for extra damage.
The enemy variety isn't quite as strong as in previous games unfortunately. In fact some look just downright generic, like the type that's literally just a shapeless blob. But even the regular Ooze enemies don't look especially menacing either. Still, it's pretty cool to see the return of Hunters, who prove to be just as antagonising as ever. They can also still totally kill you in one-hit if you're not careful too.
Not to rail too hard on Revelations here, but the bosses also aren't that inventive either. The final boss battle is at least fitting, but most pretty much function as bullet-sponges, and will often have a scurry of lesser enemies to get in the way as well -- the most creative of boss battle video game design...
The shooting itself is still pretty good, even if it doesn't quite pack the same punch as RE4/RE5.To compensate for so many tight corridors, there's also a dodge maneuver available, which you use by pressing up or down on the analogue just before you're hit. The timing can be hard to nail down, but an unreliable dodge maneuver if anything only added to the increased sense of depowerment, which worked in the game's favour.
The ability to move & shoot works surprisingly well within the confines of how those games originally played at that, and the addition of your insta-knife attack is a small but ultimately vital component of Revelation's combat. Which now leads me to begin talking about what is possibly Resident Evil: Revelation's pièce de résistance: Raid mode.
While on the surface it may appear similarly to the many Mercenaries modes across the series, it's actually much closer to an... action-RPG believe it or not. How it works is it compacts the full story campaign into 20 stages, with each often asking you to simply get from one part of the environment to another. You don't usually have to kill everything in your path--though sometimes you do to collect a key to continue--but it's advised all the same because it'll add to your overall score, which'll give you a nice experience-points boost. Yes, experience points.
Enemies will have health bars; numbers will be bouncing off of them once shot; you'll often be rewarded with weapon/parts loot at the end of a round; and, again, experience points. The EXP naturally goes towards leveling you up, which in turn will allow you to equip better and more efficient gear and weapons. The weaponry is actually a little more diverse than what can be found in the campaign, though there's not that many unique weapons. Instead weapons are randomly generated, with different stats and a certain amount of open-slots for you to equip parts (read: mods). They'll even be colour-coded to note their rarity, though unfortunately it doesn't follow the same rarity-ladder as we're all now accustomed to. I think pinks are the rarest in any case... I'm still not entirely sure how it works.
In any case, the entire mode can even be played cooperatively and there's a decent selection of characters and costumes to select -- each of whom has their own unique specialisations, such as increased firerate and reload speed with sniper rifles.
However, even Raid mode can't get away criticism free, for there's simply far too much of a grind to the game. As you head up the stages, you'll find that the enemies will be leveling much quicker than you. Even certain stages where you're on par will still feel like you may need a few more added levels to keep a float.
Once you reach into the 'Trench' and 'Abyss' columns--which give you the same 20 stages again, just much, much harder--the game downright demands that you head back into earlier levels to grind up or save on BP (the game's currency) to just buy yourself some better stuff. Some of characters and costumes also ask for far too much of a time investment as well. One of Parker's alternate costumes is tied to the 10,000 kills trophy for example. And one of the sparse new additions coming from the 3DS version, being a playable HUNK in Raid mode, also requires you to S rank each stage on its Abyss column. As someone who has already invested nearing 50 hours into this thing as of this writing, I've only actually reached about 5,000 kills, and I still haven't even completed every Abyss stage yet, let alone S-ranked them all.
Even if you just wish to say you've beaten every stage, it still asks for far too many hours for what is, comparatively, not a lot of content. The 20 stages themselves are actually set within the game's own environments, which means many stages will repeat areas, only you'll instead be going the opposite direction for example.
Though with all that said, Raid mode still has a way of nabbing its claws into you and can prove to be surprisingly addictive. Playing solo can definitely get to be super-monotonous a lot of times, but coop can help alleviate that a surprising amount.
While Resident Evil: Revelations isn't quite the return of survival horror that I was hoping for, nor does it make good on its blend of the old and new, it's still a respectable achievement that it got this close. The claustrophobic environments, the sombre soundtrack, the more exploratory-focused design, and not to mention Raid mode, all show glimmers of hope that Resident Evil could be on its way to finding a happy medium. It may not have reached that mark with Revelations, but it's a worthy attempt all the same. And hey, standards have most certainly hit rock-bottom for Resident Evil as of late. So with that in mind, Revelations can still claim to be one of the best Resident Evil games to be released in what feels like a pretty long while.