Review: Resident Evil: Revelations

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By this point, it’s like slipping on a familiar, tattered and bloody glove: The dread sense of being trapped in a creepy environment with only a handful of bullets between you and gruesome death. Shambling, quivering monstrosities lurking around every corner. And, oh, yeah, Jill Valentine’s grim and determined face looking down the barrel of a revolver.

Yep, it’s Resident Evil, back for a second foray on the Nintendo 3DS. But unlike last year’s Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, which often felt like a shooting-gallery demo stretched out to unreasonable limits, Revelations is the complete package and then some. In addition to a deliciously spooky ten-plus hour campaign, a new Raid mode finds you earning upgrades as you mow down endless (and increasingly powerful) enemies.

Our action is set somewhere between Resident Evils 4 and 5. The bioterrorist group Voltra appears to be the Umbrella-esque evil this go-round, having launched an attack that ended up obliterating the shiny/happy bio-city Terragrigia. When we join our familiar heroes Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield, they’re in separate parts of the world, each trying to track the other down. Eventually, everyone ends up on the Queen Zenobia, a ship that’s become an unintentional luxury-liner laboratory for the newest virus that turns regular folks into goopy and murderous ghouls you’d never take to the prom.

A deserted ghost ship’s a pretty great place for a spookfest (just ask the directors of Ghost Ship and the creators of the PS2 game Cold Fear) and it doesn’t take long for the cramped claustrophobia to set in. It’s interesting how effortlessly the Queen Zenobia setting incorporates the series’ classic elements—the copious doors, hallways and grand ballrooms on the luxury liner would fit right into your standard haunted mansion, complete with plenty of well-crafted BOO! moments.

The game is broken up into episodes, a structure that both helps and works against it. The “Previously on Resident Evil Revelations” cutscenes that divide things up are taut and action-packed, but there’s simply no denying the loss of tension (and narrative structure) when the game yanks the action away from the oppressive Queen Zenobia to force you to play, for instance, a flashback scene where Parker’s blasting his way to the top of a beastie-infested skyscraper while Terragrigia crumbles around him. Plus, Parker (Jill’s new partner) and Jessica (Chris’s new partner) feel like B-list caricatures. In the second mission, I half-expected Jessica to ask Chris if the fur-lined shorts she’s wearing—in the middle of the Arctic, no less—made her look fat.

Luckily, Revelations doesn’t need to rely on strong characterization. The white-knuckle action handles that chore quite nicely. The control scheme hasn’t changed a lick between Mercenaries and Revelations, and that’s a good thing. Holding down the left trigger to raise your weapon and using the left stick to aim still feels completely intuitive and natural, and given that a crack shot is what’s needed to drop the tougher oozes before they drop fang on your neck, it’s also essential. Unless you’re one of those death-loving freaks who enjoys blowing all your ammo in a single battle.

Whether you’re trying to duck past claws and clutches without the benefit of weapons or going all guns blazing, the feeling of impending doom is both oppressive and omnipresent. A (literal) firefight on the ship’s promenade deck between Jill and what seems like a football team’s worth of uber-powered, ooze-infected horrors is as epic an action scene as the 3DS has seen so far. The underwater scenes—with mutated aquatic horrors and find-the-air-bubble sequences straight out of Hydrophobia–really take advantage of the system’s 3D effects.

Resident Evil: Revelations is among the first 3DS games to rock the much-maligned Circle Pad Pro, the right–side 3DS attachment that adds a second analog stick to the action. It’s not essential to play the game, although fans of console shooters are certainly going to appreciate the ability to move the game camera at will.

The genius feature here is the addition of the Genesis, a scanning device that looks a little like the rock cutter from the Dead Space series. This tool’s used to scan the environment for hidden handprints and key objects (ammunition, documents, etc.). Scan the slimy remains of enough dead enemies and it’ll pump out a healing herb. It’s cool because it makes perfect sense within the confines of the game’s environment: If you were an agent trapped on a haunted luxury liner infected by some inexplicable weird-ass virus, wouldn’t you proceed slowly and scan everything in sight? The reward for finding a key item is totally worth taking it slow.

Our next major-console adventure with the ResEvil cast doesn’t come until Resident Evil 6 drops later this year. Resident Evil: Revelations just made that wait a whole lot more bearable—this is one of the best entries in the series.

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Pros:
+ Terrific mix of old and new ResEvil gameplay elements
+ The search-and-screen Genesis tool adds an awesome new mechanic
+ Abandoned/infected luxury liner is a great horror locale
+ Sharp graphics help amp the scares

Cons:
– Episodic structure sometimes breaks the spooky tension
– New characters are B-list caricatures

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Game Info:
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: 2/7/2012
Genre: Third-person Shooter/Survival Horror
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1-2 (local and online co-op)
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

Aaron R. Conklin has been writing about games and games culture for more than 15 years. A former contributor to Computer Games Magazine and Massive Magazine, his writing has appeared on IGN.com and in newspapers and alt-weeklies across the country. Conklin's an unapologetic Minnesota sports fan living in Madison, Wisconsin, home of the Midwest's most underrated gaming vibe.