The first few minutes with Resident Evil: Revelations are actually kind of thrilling: here’s a full-fledged RE game on the 3DS with a proper story (and not simply the beefed-up Survival mode of Resident Evil: The Mercenaries), full voice acting, controls that are as close as you can get to the stop-and-pop shooting on the console, and a pretty clever use of the 3DS’ second screen.
But after an hour or so into the game—the campaign will run you about six to eight—Revelations starts to overwhelm and confine. What starts off as a visually well-crafted handheld entry in the horror series ends up becoming a repetitive mess with a seemingly endless story about bureaucratic politics and, less forgivable, a (nearly) complete lack of the undead for you to face.
RE: Revelations essentially tells the story of why (I suppose) we should care about the BSAA, the U.N.-sanctioned group that counts series regulars Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield as members. Here, the duo are paired up with different partners as they attempt to respond to separate threats from the terrorist group Veltro whose demands remain opaque throughout the game, but who have enough bio weapon-making juice—a new form of T-virus—to get the world noticing. Throughout the campaign, you’ll alternate between Jill and her partner Jessica onboard the ghost ship the Queen Zenobia as well as Chris and his new partner Jessica in snowy locales as they chase down the revelations in the title.
The story here is really thin and really padded by lots of verbose, dry exposition in the game’s many polished but uninteresting cutscenes. You’ll pretty much be able to figure out the origins of the new Veltro threat fairly early on although the motivations of the “true” villain is pretty ridiculous, megalomaniacal, and weirdly short-sighted. But you didn’t come here to hear about the poor plotting in a Resident Evil game—the series has gotten by and excelled on less at times.
It’s that ship: that cramped, dark ship and navigating it solely with one analog stick (I didn’t opt to pick up the Circle Pad Pro at launch, but I understand it improves the experience). All of your movement is mapped to the analog stick, making quick responses to fast-moving enemies not just a challenge but an chore. The addition of a dodge move (by moving to the left or right just as an enemy attacks) would be an adequate fix save that it’s hard to read the jittery body movements of the game’s bio weapons. Perhaps strangest of all, Jill, Chris, nor any of the other characters you’ll play (however briefly) can run, meaning that escapes are stiff, slow-motion-in-molasses affairs whenever they occur.
Beyond the main game (and its not-great controls) there’s also a co-op and single-player Raid mode if you’re really into the way Revelations plays as well as in-game medals which unlock weapons customizations for the campaign. It’s actually a pretty robust package for the platform.
But let me return to the ship for a moment and why it’s kind of endemic of the problems with Revelations: it’s simply a drag to navigate, and having to backtrack through the repetitive often nonsensical environments doesn’t help. There are a couple of respites during flashback sequences in a glass and steel municipal complex as well as a snowy island, but most of your time will be spent on that damned ship, facing the same four or five enemies.
The problems with Revelations aren’t anything new to the series: in some way or other, they’ve cropped up in the console counterparts but were usually mitigated by a strong element elsewhere: either something totally nuts and attention-grabbing about the story where the gameplay might falter slightly, interesting environments/settings/encounters where the plot was otherwise boilerplate, or the inclusion of Leon Kennedy and everything being terrific always.
Sadly, here we’re stuck with Jill, Chris, Parker, Jessica, Raymond Keith, Quint (don’t ask about the last two, they’re obviously from another game and somehow wandered into this one), and, of course, that damned ship.
Compression aside, the fairly decent cinematics
Capcom certainly had to do a bit of compression to get the game’s many cutscenes onto the 3DS cartridge and most of them are pretty well-done (if not exactly mind-blowing).
The Genesis scanner is something I’d like so see in future games
I didn’t mention this in the main body of the interview but it’s a tool that all of the playable characters in the present-day sequences can use to scan the environment and enemies. The environment to find hidden ammo and resources and enemies to get additional health plants once you’ve sufficiently scanned enough enemies (sometimes you have to act fast or they’ll dissolve).
The handful of boss battles are visually interesting
Even if it’s a battle in and of itself to evade and avoid the boss attacks. Still there are some pretty tightly-crafted sequences that mix up the gameplay substantially and more of these would have been welcome to the overall experience.
Solid use of the touch screen
A couple of puzzles use the 3DS’ second screen, and while they get repetitive fairly quickly, the first couple of times you unscrew an electric panel to rewire some circuits via minigame, it’s actually pretty cool.
Raymond and Jessica deserve their own side story
The two liveliest characters in Revelations aren’t its alternating leads, but side characters Jessica (and her baffling scuba ensemble) and Raymond (doing his best mid-80’s Mick Hucknall). Both of them ooze personality, however out-of-place it might be in the otherwise rote world set up by the game.
Excellent audio work
Case in point: the Communications Engineer. I won’t say anymore, but that voice is the sole chill throughout the entirety of Revelations.
The controls and camera are challenges in and of themselves
Also: Single stick analog swimming is the true horror.
Story doesn’t bring much to the series’ canon
I’ve gone on and on, I know, but having just finished the game within the last day, most of its details are already vapor in my mind and I can’t think of more than one or two memorable moments that didn’t have anything to do with my frustration with the actual experience of playing the game.
This may be the first game I’ve ever played that ended with text informing the player of a bureaucratic realignment as major plot-point and a final battle that seemed ripped from another game entirely. Worse still, among all of the bio weapons that Revelations amasses against you, there’s one lone zombie (yeah I know they weren’t technically zombies in 4 or 5, but they were close enough). I think “boring” is often an easy way out of articulating the problems with a game, but when Revelations isn’t frustrating, it’s simply boring you with its limited scope and vision.