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Game Review

by Dave Riley,

Resident Evil Revelations Collection

Nintendo Switch

Resident Evil Revelations Collection
The Revelations Collection brings two of the best Resident Evil games in recent memory to the Switch.

With the release of a new console, the Switch, comes the expected glut of HD ports, and Resident Evil Revelations, which has been ported to on average a console and a half per year since its original release on the 3DS in 2012, is perhaps the most emblematic of this attempt to squeeze every possible dollar out of the sunk cost of game development. So, what's new about this Switch rerelease?

Well, they crammed in a couple of mini-games.

With their focus on ponderous combat, small-grade resource management, and replayability through a suite of unlockable difficulties and weapons, the Revelations games recall not just the earlier days of Resident Evil, but hearken back to a time before hyper-inflated graphical budgets and a hunger for mainstream appeal choked most of the life (and all of the campy fun) out of the series. Underserved series stalwarts like Claire Redfield and Barry Burton (neither of whom have had more than a light-gun spin-off or Mercenaries appearance in more than a decade) are out to complete questionably premised missions hunting down virus monsters with absurdly limited resources. It's not survival horror like 1996's survival horror, but through the haze of nostalgia, you could squint and call this an old-school revival. It's a marrying of pre- and post-Resident Evil 4 mechanics and aesthetics, ditching the tank controls and static camera angles for a 21st century-palatable third person shooter control scheme while acknowledging that a large part of what was fun about this series was manipulating the attack patterns of lumbering, brain-dead monsters and the low-grade calculus of weighing health and ammo resources against each other.

This merger of old and new mechanics blends perfectly in both games. In Revelations 1, you alternate between shuttle running Jill Valentine back and forth across a Ghost Ship, searching for keys and crests with the run-and-gun segments of characters like Chris Redfield, whose only pathfinding consideration is “how do I get from Point A to Point B, given my sixteen shotgun shells and an equivalent amount of leaping reptilian murder beasts in my way?” Deepening this pacing divide, Revelations 2 splits itself into dual co-op campaigns. Claire and Moira, finding themselves prisoners on a bizarre island of stranger experiments, conserve their limited ammo and makeshift weapons with combination melee attacks. Six months later, when Barry Burton arrives hot on their trail, his high-power assault rifle meets its match in enemies that have evolved in form and function since Claire and Moira's disappearance, but he must rely on Natalia—a genre-standard “mysterious child”—to act as his spotter, highlighting enemy weak points for Barry to shoot. With its separate campaigns taking place over the same geographical space, Revelations 2 also summons a light reprise of Resident Evil 2's “Zapping” system: a weapon used by Claire won't be available for Barry, or a door unlocked earlier on will provide an easier path for Barry's trek through the same level.

As each of Revelations 2's four episodes alternate between Claire and Barry segments, each individuated chunk of gameplay ebbs and flows Claire's strict resource conservation and Barry's assault rifle zombie-mulching power fantasies into hour-or-two-hour chunks, all of which end on a convenient cliffhanger to propel you into the next section of the game. At times, the pacing is too efficient. Revelations looks back to the early series for tonal and gunplay inspiration, but there's hardly a gesture towards even Resident Evil 4's extremely lightweight puzzle solving. It's probably for the better that they don't force you to plot out an entire regal family's line of succession to progress, as Code Veronica did, but still… manipulating a bunch of armor suits to stop the flow of poison gas to get a jewelry box to shove a crest into to find a stone mask open an ominously rusty coffin that's been passive-aggressively shuddering at you since the beginning of the game would've been a nice palate cleanser. At one point, Barry Burton moves a couple conspicuously placed boxes up and down some conspicuously placed elevators. That's about the whole of it, where "puzzling" is concerned.

The greatest strength of these games is their brevity; they know when to end. If the harries of modern life means time isn't on your side, you could wrap up the whole thing over an especially committed weekend. While most of the AAA gaming world seems scattered to the poles of Linear Corridor Shooter and Open World Side-Quest Bonanza, Revelations sits itself nimbly between the two, tempting you with rewards for deeper exploration (you got a keycard! now you can open all those safes!) without burying you in so many side quests that their flashing markers on the mini-map act as passive accusation: “if you beat this game without doing me, have you completed it, or did you just finish it?” At six or eight hours, tops, Revelations is an explicit counterbalance to the gaming's apparent philosophy du jour, where seemingly every game must aspire to be someone's Forever Game, a play experience with no theoretical end, propped up by micro-transactions and RPG power creep, where conceivably the slot machine reels can spin forever, provided you have the time, money, or saint-like patience required to unlock dozens of statistical variations of weapons and characters you already own.

But if you want more, there is more. These campaigns bolster their short runtimes with the copious, substantive replay incentives of the original series—unlocking harder difficulties that seed the world with commensurately stronger weapons. These hellish difficulty modes, once completed, hand you the expected Infinite Rocket Launcher and tell you “go to town, you've earned it.”

And, being real, Revelations doesn't eschew modern game design's time-wasting statistical creep entirely, it's just quarantined it off in the Raid Mode, where you can shoot level 5, 16, and 43 zombies and be rewarded with level 5, 16, and 43 Assault Rifles to your heart's content, if you decide that Revelations is your (or you and a zombie-slaying partner's) Forever Game.

Unfortunately, this is where the grinding and drip-feed of power progression completely absent from the main campaign becomes inescapable, and anyone who's interested enough to play Raid Mode until it really gets good—when the weapon mods start turning your pistols into grenade launchers strong enough to attempt the final, ultra-challenge of a hunt for hidden monsters and secret passages throughout the entirety of the Ghost Ship—likely already did so on one of the other half-dozen console releases that came before this one. But hey, the benefit of a Switch is its portability, and for those still in their salad days of bringing games to friends' houses, there's more than enough Level 16 Blob Monsters that explode into Level 16 Shotguns to fill up a whole summer of sleepovers.

Revelations 2 thankfully retains its split-screen. The elegant, asymmetrical co-op mechanics make the game sing in couch co-op. Moira blinding an enemy with her flashlight to set Claire up for a melee knockdown, or Natalia's player pointing the looming bug monstrosities invisible on Barry's screen, become less exhilarating than they are tedious when it's a single player hot swapping between two characters in every “you turn the crank, I'll shoot the bad guys” hold-out encounter. As such, co-op is all but required to get your full enjoyment, but sharing the Switch's dyad Joycons between two players is the worst possible way to play, the lack of a second analog stick necessitating a beyond-cumbersome shoulder-button hold to swap between movement and camera manipulation. Without an extra controller, Revelations 2 is better played in any other console iteration. The staggering file size of these games also hampers their value proposition. Revelations 1's 12 gigs consume the lion's share of the Switch's built-in memory space, and Revelation 2's staggering 23 gigs all but necessitates it being the sole inhabitant of the console, barring external storage options.

Which is a shame. The Switch's portability pairs perfectly with the series' inception as a 3DS game made to be played in short spurts. In the first game, especially, chapters are atomized to fit into any bus ride or brief burst of spare time, each new section's title fading in on a “Previously, on Resident Evil: Revelations…” TV recap segment, which treats every not-so-fresh Revelation that we've dug up yet another mutant virus in yet another improbable locale with the exact measure of campy self-seriousness we'd thought Resident Evil had consigned to the memory vault years ago. These games are goofy. Spiky, mutant piranhas lunge at her from an opulent, gold-encrusted casino fountain when all she wanted was to add grab the next nautically-themed key and menaced by slavering mutant dogs with menacingly exposed rib cages, a hobbled Chris Redfield has to endure his partner, who brought her best pair of fur-lined high-heeled boots and matching ushanka to their virus mountain investigation like some sort of ersatz zombie-hunting Bond Girl, intone, “Me and my sweet ass are on the way!” It's no “master of unlocking,” but it'll do.

This collection doesn't have much new to offer to those who have played it on 3DS, PC, Xbox 360 or One, PlayStation 3 AND 4. The retro mini-games shoved into both titles are effective splash images in the marketing brief, but, as basically the sole new feature of this port, are anemic justifications for a re-purchase. Revelation 1's Ghost Ship Panic is a simple clicker that barely justifies the 30 seconds you spend on it during a loading screen and 2's Ghouls 'n Homunculi is a slightly more serviceable Ghouls 'n Ghosts parody whose adorable Barry Burton sprite feels wasted on a side game hidden inside another side game whose sum total content, a single level, can be exhausted in a five-minute sprint. Both are more like flash games you'd play on an official website to whet your appetite. Still, if there's anyone with interest in the genre who somehow missed these games their first, second, third, and fourth time around (and who's fine paying full price for games that regularly dip to $5-10 on every digital service), Revelations represents the best of modern survival horror and, at the very least, CAPCOM's incessant rerelease of these titles inspires hope that we've got another one coming someday soon.

Overall : B+
Graphics : B+
Sound/Music : B
Gameplay : B+
Presentation : B-

+ Best blend of old/new mechanics since Resident Evil 4 changed everything up
Shared joycon control scheme makes Revelations 2 split-screen a bother, Raid Mode requires a long grind to get at new content

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