Monday, May 14, 2012

Review: Resident Evil: Revelations

A (Partial) Return to Survival Horror

When it first released in 2005 Resident Evil 4 reinvented Resident Evil by completely updating the controls and providing an adrenaline boost of action. However, following the even more action-packed Resident Evil 5 and countless spinoff titles, the series has gradually lost the atmosphere of terror that let it define the survival horror genre. Capcom’s latest Resident Evil title is an attempted return to these horror roots in the form of a hardcore game for Nintendo 3DS.

Fans of Resident Evil should be happy to know that Revelations storytelling is as over the top and confusing as the rest of the series. However, this time around its presentation is much more cinematic. The story revolves around two competing counter-bioterrorism organizations and an outbreak centered on the Mediterranean cruise ship, Queen Zenobia. While series mainstays Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield are front and central, the plot brings in a diverse cast of new characters. These include Jill’s graciously Italian partner Parker Luciani, comic relief duo Keith and Quint, and the utterly obnoxious Jessica.

Despite being on a smaller screen, Revelations presents the same high production values one would expect from its console relatives. It has easily the best visuals and 3D effects on the 3DS and posses audio that is just as impressive. The musical score always sets a perfect tone to the events going on and the voice work, while often cheesy, is of a high quality.

Revelations attempts to move back towards traditional survival horror while still providing the third-person action that the newer titles are known for. The deformed Ooze are introduced as unsettling new foes and ammo to fend them off is scarce, if not to the same degree as the earlier titles. Meanwhile, the Queen Zenobia’s chilling atmosphere often matches that of the original Resident Evil mansion. Unfortunately its ability to provide a memorable setting is often hampered by the game’s pacing.  

Game play in Revelations is split between Jill’s ordeal on the Queen Zenobia and short side stories staring characters set in separate locations. While Jill’s sections showcase survival Horror themed game play, the others are intense shooting galleries. Though this allows the game to provide diversity, the continuous interruptions hampered my ability to immerse myself in exploring the main setting. Another problem with the game is that the frequent presence of an AI partner at your side negatively impacts the game’s atmosphere. It’s hard to feel any sense of isolation or fear when you have someone backing you up. All of this makes me feel as if Capcom wasn’t confident in a full-on return to survival horror, which is a shame since the horror driven sections could easily have covered the whole game.

The game does feature some intense boss fights that you’ll need all the skill (and bravery) you can muster to confront. Thankfully you have a robust arsenal to take them down with guns that can be upgraded using parts you find through exsploration. The controls are also more than up to the job, though with a few kinks. Unlike Resident evil 4 and 5 you switch to a first-person view to aim your gun and shooting and moving is finally possibly though unwieldy without Nintendo’s circle-pad add-on. Movement options also include a dodge move, though I found it too unwieldy to rely on.

Revelations is nothing if not ambitious and often feels more like a console game than a portable one. It also takes steps in the right direction for returning survival horror to the series that defined it. Unfortunately it is held back by not embracing this identity fully. While both survival horror and action fans will find plenty to like in Revelations, the former will likely not be fully satisfied by what the game has to offer.

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