Game Review

by Dave Riley,

Resident Evil Revelations

WiiU / Xbox 360 / Playstation 3

Resident Evil Revelations
The console release of 2012's 3DS Resident Evil. The port, which doesn't add much besides slightly cleaner graphics, is still notable because Revelations is the best Resident Evil in a good long time.

Resident Evil: Revelations is a multiplatform re-release of 2012's 3DS Resident Evil game. An HD Remake is a tough sell, and a console remake of a portable game doubly so. Compounding that, Resident Evil 6 left a lot of players burned and sapped a lot of good will. The odds are stacked against Resident Evil: Revelations. Why even bother?

Well, it's a pretty good game, for one. Revelations strikes a middle ground between the survival horror of the early Resident Evil titles and the action adventure of the later installments. Characters can move while shooting, ammo is rare enough that being able to use your favorite gun isn't always guaranteed, and health is rare enough that running away from a pack of monsters is sometimes the smart play.

The enemies in Revelations aren't the quick moving, machinegun-firing mutants that recent Resident Evils have trained us to expect, so the ability to move while aiming feels like an augment instead of an absolute necessity. Revelation's monsters are these globular albino sea creatures whose visual aesthetic is a little silly, if we're being honest. They move slowly and have few ranged attacks. They shuffle like zombies, and they grab you like zombies, and they absorb bullets like zombies, and they're dumb like zombies.

But everything and everyone else in the game is pretty dumb too, so it all works out. Jill Valentine and her new partner, Parker Luciani, board an abandoned cruise ship somewhere in the middle of the ocean because... because who knows why? Revelations was promised to bridge the rather considerable lore gap between Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5, but all it really does is invent its own self-contained plots with their own self-contained revelations, which are about as substantial as any other Resident Evil game's revelations, which is to say: not very. By this point the Resident Evil timeline is such a mess that it's easier to lump more mysteries onto the pile than to bother connecting any of the dots.

The game is split into twelve episodes and each one is preceded by a refresher montage, which seems to assume the player is bothering to keep up with the plot. The narrative threads of Revelations include a solar laser probably better suited to Final Fantasy and a Dubai-style super city brought down by "bioterrorists," so even by Resident Evil standards it's pretty far off the map. And yet, the "Previously On Resident Evil: Revelations," said in the same stilted way by a different cast member each time, is totally endearing. They're doing their absolute best to take this story seriously!

At least they're trying. Revelations avoided every pratfall that Resident Evil 6 would stumble into later in the same year: it's not a mish-mash emulating Call of Duty and Michael Bay, it's a downhome story about a Ghost Ship and some invisible reptile/gorilla crossbreeds. Yeah, the dialogue is pretty bad, but it's bad in a way that is reminiscent of 1990s survival horror if not a perfect rendition of it. It's bad in a way that's halfway to charming, which is a pretty good inoculation against the abominable character design, like the guy whose hair is chopped into an immobile and poorly rendered polygonal swoop or the federal agent who changes from her meter maid/monster hunting costume into a wetsuit that's missing one whole leg. Is her scandalously bared calf meant to allure? Entice? Confuse?

So it's dumb, but Resident Evil has always been dumb. There's a modification for your shotgun that lets you fire a charged shot, that's pretty dumb. There's a boss whose primary weak spot is in the palm of its giant barnacle-encrusted palm, that's pretty dumb too. But they never yuck at the camera about it. When Parker says "this is the worst day of my life" it's like... yeah dude, you just killed a giant barnacle monster, how could it be anything but?

And man, Revelations sure is good at being dumb. Many of the weapon modifications make no sense -- burst shots for your magnum, damage boosts for being too close a monster -- but they're all a blast to use. All the guns feel heavy, mostly due to the game's ponderous (and sometimes downright imprecise) aiming, and only being able to equip three at a time means you're neglecting a magnum to bring your shotgun or, god forbid, neglecting a pistol to bring your machinegun. Revelations recalls a time when Resident Evil was about something other than gun-toting mercenary zombies and percentage point weapon upgrades.

Revelations also remembers that, these days, action setpieces are as much a part of Resident Evil as the survival horror bits. There are interstitial chapters of running and gunning where characters on the other side of the globe are given as many shotgun shells as they can carry, and set to hold out against packs of zombie dogs in large rooms with many entrances. You start these sequences feeling pretty empowered, but end them basically out of health and wondering how you spent so many bullets so quickly.

And then it's back to Jill, back to the boat, back to the slow moving blobby sea zombies and the cocoons on the wall that seem likely to hatch into monsters at any time, even though only about fifty percent of them ever do. The eggs hatch into the sole new monster in the console version, this plodding rhino thing that usually dies before it even gets a single attack off, but when it does... well, the game sure instills a fear of instant kills in you, even though there's only two or three. One is the rhino-thing's. One is administered by a horrifyingly corpulent creature who begs you to stop hurting him, or makes the patently false claim that he's "still human", even as he tears your body in half with his buzzsaw arm. So the series hasn't completely forgotten how to be creepy. Also, if you stun him with an explosive barrel he falls over and you can charge up a high-powered karate kick and nail him right in the face, so it clearly remembers the parts that made Resident Evils 4 and 5 awesome, too.

It's a short game. On normal difficulty you'll finish it in six or seven hours with only a handful of deaths. Hard is considerably more grueling. "Infernal" difficulty practically elevates every healing herb to a sacred icon. There's also something like a new game +, so you get to keep all your stuff, and the in-game achievement system doles out gun upgrades when enough collectables are discovered or when enough monsters are punched in the face.

And after you're done with that there's Raid mode, which is more like the battle modes of Resident Evil 2 and 3, in that it's a straight line with an end point instead of an infinite battle arena. You can play it with another person. You can level up, unlocking new characters with different gun specialties. You can scour its levels for weapon mods that put the ones in the base game to shame: upgrades that make shotguns less accurate, that fire every bullet in your magazine in a single burst, that generate ammo out of thin air, that make your guns into grenade launchers. Enemies are modified to be super strong, or super tall, or even super tiny, and on the WiiU other players can program taunts or threats into a speech bubble that will appear over the a monster's head as it assaults you.

There aren't many obvious differences between the console versions. The WiiU uses the gamepad screen like the second 3DS screen, but most of the stylus puzzles are gone anyway. None of them were very important, but using a screwdriver to open panels or placing your thumb on a fingerprint scanner added a different mode of interaction with the world, and it was nice to have something to do besides shoot zombies. The game does a great job of bridging new and old Resident Evils, but for the fact it almost completely forgets that puzzles were a cornerstone of RE play. There remains a fair bit of backtracking and key-grabbing in Revelations, although it's mostly along a linear path. That's fine, but it sparks nostalgic memories of a cavernous mansion whose paths were determined entirely by which keys you found first.

Maybe this game's aspirations were slightly too big for the small screen and maybe that's why its rapid reissue onto consoles (it's only been a year since its original release) doesn't sting so badly. For people who've already played the original version this release offers very little besides slightly better graphics and the option to play multiplayer on a system with a substantially bigger user base. Everyone else might be surprised that the best Resident Evil in recent memory came out a year ago on a handheld console.

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

+ Good mix of old/new Resident Evil gameplay
Few new features, upscaled graphics are passable, but not perfect

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