Friday, February 24, 2012

Review: Mixing the old with the new, Resident Evil: Revelations is a true Resident Evil experience and a must-have for 3DS owners

It's pretty amazing to think about the changes that the Resident Evil series has undergone in the past 7 years. While at one point it looked like an archaic 1990s franchise about to be lost in the modern gaming landscape, Shinji Mikami's final contribution to the series he created was to completely re-invent it before making his departure. Resident Evil 4 debuted on the Gamecube back in 2005 to critical and commercial success, restoring the series to the mainstream popularity it once had by giving it a major overhaul, one that retained a dark atmosphere while taking things in a much more action-driven direction. Many felt though that Resident Evil 5 took things too far in that direction, removing almost all traces of horror and suspense in favor of non-stop linear action, complete with auto-saving, loads and loads of ammo, and scripted set pieces, almost all taking place in broad daylight. There developed a desire among many long-time Resident Evil fans to see the series return to its survival-horror roots, and Resident Evil: Revelations promised to deliver; which it does....sort of. If you're expecting another puzzle-heavy and isolated Resident Evil game like the series featured up through Code Veronica, this may not do it for you, but if you want to enjoy modern Resident Evil gameplay in an atmosphere reminiscent of those games, this will fit the bill.

Graphics and Atmosphere: From the start, what's been one of the game's standout features and its most easily noticeable has been its visuals, which look incredible for a handheld title. More than any other 3DS game that I've played to date, Resident Evil: Revelations proves that a console game experience really can be equaled, or even surpassed, on a handheld. From start to finish, each room you enter is loaded with detail and gorgeous lighting effects. The CG cutscenes are frequent and look excellent, especially in 3D, and the in-game stuff looks quite good too. If other developers choose to take advantage of the 3DS this way, we can definitely have a handheld that will be capable of far more than its games up until now have shown. The sound design's also great, with unsettling effects, the crisp sounds of the guns, and pretty solid (if sometimes a little campy) voice acting creating an incredible atmosphere that, as far as I know, hasn't been accomplished yet on a handheld. Music may not be the series' best but it too does a great job at setting a tone, providing a good backdrop for both the scarier parts as well as the game's more action-packed segments. Though the visuals aren't flawless (the framerate can chug like you wouldn't believe in certain situations, and some of the load times are on the long side) this is one to show that your $170 (or even $250, in some cases) was spent on good hardware. The horror atmosphere provides a sense of tension that definitely beats anything the series has done recently, and while it may not be quite as scary as some past installments (the cruise ship this takes place on is significantly smaller than the settings in other Resident Evil games, though still huge for a handheld title, and the corridors are narrow) the atmosphere here will definitely keep you on your toes and even have you yelling out, "oh ****" on occasion.

Gameplay: What needs to be made clear right away is that despite the return to a horror setting, Resident Evil: Revelations is not a throwback game. It still has many of the modern touches that have been added to the series in recent years, including auto-saving, (somewhat) linear gameplay, a partner character, and more emphasis on gunplay than puzzle solving. The good news is that while Resident Evil: Revelations is indeed broken up into episodes and does save automatically, you can still backtrack and explore the ship at your leisure, unlike Resident Evil 5. If you discover that you haven't yet picked up the shotgun, you can venture back through the ship to find it, even if you had explored those areas in previous episodes. During the episodes themselves, though, a blip on your map (which fills in as you go) always clues you into at least the general direction you should be heading, and the characters will communicate their objectives to each other very frequently. The days of setting your character in a quiet and deserted mansion with no objective and no clue what to do next are gone and probably never returning to the series, but Resident Evil: Revelations at least makes it a point to try to capture the feeling of those games as best as possible, and it does a good job at that. The aiming and shooting system's similar to the one featured in Resident Evils 4 and 5, though you can choose to take advantage of limited movement while aiming, a first for the series. There's a dodge mechanic that's a little iffy but when it works, it works well. Playing with the default control setup I had no issues, though you can opt to use the Circle Pad Pro accessory, sold separately, if you want to play this with a 2nd analog stick, not that I'd say it's necessary.

As you explore the ship you'll encounter various weapon upgrades that you can distribute to your arsenal at item chests scattered throughout; when you reach one of these and enter the weapon upgrade menu, the music seems to be attempting to give you the same "save room" feeling of the earlier games, though I wish we'd just gotten those back instead of the game auto-saving. Still, as with Resident Evils 4 and 5, the gameplay here is fun and well-paced, with this game containing for the most part a fun balance of thrills and scares, not to mention some cool boss battles. Though it positions itself as an old-school Resident Evil game at first, all throughout are signs of Resident Evil's action-driven "present day." Revelations cuts between Jill's adventure on the creepy cruise ship to other characters' adventures elsewhere, with the gameplay in these parts much more along the lines of the linear shooting gameplay found in Resident Evil 5. Thankfully the majority of these don't go on for too long, and they do push the story forward while providing some gameplay variety. If there's one thing that prevents me from giving this game the 9/10 score I may have originally wanted to give it, it's that Resident Evil: Revelations ends up going overboard with its action by the end. The sections on the cruise ship are amazing, but even here the action ramps up as the game nears its final act; the earlier games did this too, but Revelations overdoes it. Don't get me wrong, the final few chapters are exciting and action-packed, loaded with some fun twists and turns and surprisingly well-controlling underwater sections, but these climactic action scenes go on for too long, ending the game on an exhaustive note. I missed the far scarier and more interesting cruise ship sections of the first 2/3 of the game.

But that's a small flaw in the grand scheme of things. Admittedly it would have been nice if Resident Evil: Revelations embraced its survival horror roots a bit more confidently than it ultimately ends up doing, but in an age when seemingly every game tries to be Call of Duty, this game's return to a horror atmosphere for a good portion of the experience is probably the best we're going to get, and in doing so, Capcom has created a great modern Resident Evil game with a classic twist. Fun to play from start to finish.

Storyline: The story here continues the series' trend of becoming increasingly more convoluted with each installment (or CG movie) released; now we have another infected city winding up nuked and a whole other virus to deal with, but the story manages to keep you up to speed and doesn't feel too confusing, which is a pretty big achievement. You'll definitely want to continue playing to see what happens next, and the twists and turns towards the end are entertaining. If I were to complain about anything it would be that the characters aren't exactly great, ranging from bland to irritating; one of them actually goes by the name "jack*ss," just to give you an idea. While Resident Evil has never exactly been known for its characterizations, it has been better than this. Jill Valentine's the main character, but she really could have been anybody given how little of her personality or her past adventures come into the picture. Still, the story's top-notch presentation (seriously, these are some good-looking cutscenes) manages to make up for these flaws. This plot may not do much to take the series forward but it's definitely an entertaining backdrop to a fun game.

Verdict: If you want to play another Resident Evil game that actually tries to scare you, this is the one. The emphasis on action towards the end may overstep its boundary just a little, but here's a game with great gameplay, a scary setting, incredible visuals, and high-quality cutscenes. Not bad at all for a handheld title.


Graphics: Incredible despite some framerate drops. This is the first game to *truly* show off what the 3DS is capable of.

Gameplay: A fun mix of the old and the new, we have modern Resident Evil gameplay in a classic setting to truly great results. I wish they'd tilted the balance a little more in favor of the horror than the action, but this is probably the closest we're going to get to a new "old school" Resident Evil game. Controls well. Definitely a complete experience.

Sound: Great sound effects, great music, appropriate voice acting. Incredible atmosphere.

Replay Value: Game's around 10 hours or so to complete on a first playthrough but you unlock a harder difficulty plus a whole multiplayer mode (online or off) that can be incredibly addicting. Definitely a lot of game here for $40. Amazing amount of content for a handheld title, especially given all the CG and voice acting.

Overall: 8.5/10

(My reviews go on a .5 scale.)

1 comment:

  1. looks pretty sweet. We need something to make up for RE5