Fans of Capcom’s longstanding survival horror turned action horror turned action adventure franchise Resident Evil have been through a lot. It’s an audience that’s definitely grown over the years, but in doing so it’s also become fragmented. There are what I like to refer to as the “purists” who want the series to return to its roots, the “Boyalists” who don’t mind a little extra action in their Resident Evil soup, and finally, the “loyalists” who are happy with the series any way they can get it. The latter group will enjoy Operation Raccoon City just as much as Code Veronica, simply because it’s Resident Evil.
Whichever group you proudly declare yourself a member of, Resident Evil: Revelations offers something for everyone. Find out if its transition to consoles makes for a “definitive” version or whether you should stick with its handheld sibling, in my review.
If you’re still scratching your head as to why I call the action fans “Boyalists,” honestly, I was having trouble coming up with anything. Danny Boyle, director of 28 Days Later, turned the zombie genre on its head by making them faster and more aggressive, which essentially made them scarier and more commercial. I think that, in a way, that mirrors what Capcom has done with Resident Evil. On to the review!
I haven’t spent much time with the 3DS version of Revelations, mostly because I’m not a proud owner of a 3DS. I’ve played a little of it and watched more through gameplay videos and through friends, so I have an idea of what this game was like prior to its arrival on consoles.
As it’s transitioned from a handheld platform to consoles, there’s going to be an obvious downgrade with the visuals. Graphically, I’d say it’s about on part with Resident Evil 4 HD that came to the Xbox 360 and PS3 last year. It doesn’t look great and it very obviously wouldn’t stack up well to current retail games — and especially Resident Evil 5-6 — but the visual downgrade rarely takes away from the experience.
Other than the visuals, which I wish Capcom would’ve spent a little more time improving, everything else holds up remarkably well. The atmosphere is thick with dread, particularly so when you’re on the Queen Zenobia. It’s claustrophobic and eerie, and these feelings are only multiplied by the exceedingly unsettling score. Revelations may have one of my favorite soundtracks of the series so far.
That remarkable sound design extends to the voice work, which is mostly solid, and the enemy sounds. There are elements of Dead Space in this game, with enemies able to spawn around you through the vents on the ship. It’s not as dynamic or unpredictable as, say, encounters on the USG Ishimura were, but it’s a welcome element that only boosts this game’s scare factor.
After playing Resident Evil 6, or even RE5, the combat situations were tough. In a way, it helped make the game scarier, as I felt less capable. However, I’m not a fan of the dodge mechanic, which only works if you’re a millisecond from being struck. This becomes a more serious problem when you realize you can only endure a few hits before you need to heal up.
That brings up another issue: health items, or even ammo in some parts, are crazy scarce.
Again, this can be a good thing, because it only makes this feel more like a survival horror game where every bullet counts. On the other hand, when I can’t finish off a boss because I’ve run out of ammunition, there’s none left in the environment, and the enemies don’t drop anything, so I have to risk it all with my knife — that’s a problem.
Even if you’re not a fan of the more recent games, there’s no denying that Capcom has come damn close to mastering hit detection on enemies. What I mean by this is in RE4-6, when you shoot an enemy in the head, they stumble back. When you shoot them in the arm, they drop their weapon. When you shoot them in the kneecap, they fall to their knees. A very basic version of this feature can be found in Revelations, but in tight corridors with limited ammunition, I need to be able to rely on good aim so I can stun an enemy and go in for a melee attack.
Unfortunately, that’s difficult in Revelations. Even melee attacks have been made more difficult, either to make the game scarier or as a sacrifice for designing a game for a handheld platform. If it’s the latter, the issue should’ve been remedied when Capcom brought this to consoles, where we have controllers. If it’s the former, than that’s just dumb. I need to be able to melee whenever I want.
It sounds like I’m not a fan of this game, and that really couldn’t be further from the case. This is scary, I actually jumped a few times. Can you remember when Resident Evil games were actually startling?
There’s a gadget you have called the Genesis, which helps make this feel more like a survival horror game, even though it helps you locate items in the environment. I used this liberally to replenish my arsenal — literally every time I entered a room I’d make sure there was nothing hiding inside — but it can also be used to scan enemies or even hidden hand prints, if you like achievements/trophies. Every time you scan an enemy, you fill up a meter that gifts you with a healing herb after it fills.
I loved the Genesis, but my all-time favorite feature in Revelations is its weapon customization. Finally, after being scaled down in RE5 and removed entirely from RE6, it’s back. This game does it really well, too. You’ll find new weapons throughout your adventure, and if you like to explore every nook and cranny you’ll also occasionally come across custom parts, or illegal parts, which can be attached to your weapons. These improve the weapon’s stats or they can even change the way they function, like adding burst fire, for example.
Revelations even takes a page out of Alan Wake’s book by awkwardly trying to divide itself into episodes. It even adds skipable recaps of the previous episode before the next, in case you forgot what’s going on in its riveting story.
Oh god, the story…
I know this series has been a little bizarre at times, comical even, but my forehead is sore after hours of heavy face-palming. It’s so silly, and not in a good way. There are characters who act like they were stolen out of a wacky anime, and sometimes you’re forced to play through serious situations with said characters. That’s the problem. Revelations has a mostly serious horror tone, but that’s primarily when you’re on the abandoned Zenobia cruise liner. Everywhere else it gets a little too silly for my tastes.
There’s also a Raid mode, which is basically Mercenaries, so if you enjoyed killing waves of enemies in Mercenaries, you’re going to love Raid mode. Don’t mistake my lack of enthusiasm as a sign of the mode’s quality. It’s not tacked on, and Capcom obviously spent a decent amount of time making sure it was fun and moderately deep. Personally, I grew sick of these modes about three games back. Even still, it’s good fun and provides a reason to return to Revelations after you’ve finished the campaign.
The Final Word: Revelations isn’t perfect, but it’s scary. It plays well, the enemies are freaky as all hell, and there’s a good amount of variety in what you do, so it never grows repetitive. Whether you’re a fan of the survival horror Resident Evils of old or just want more Resident Evil, this game is for you.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Resident Evil: Revelations, which was provided by the publisher.