Review: Resident Evil Revelations

The king of survival horror is back.

Resident Evil debuted over 15 years ago and has since become a mammoth of an entertainment property– with books, toys, films and, of course, video games falling under its red and white umbrella. Its identity, on the other hand, has evolved quite drastically since the release of the PlayStation original.

In the years since, the series has evolved and molded itself into an entirely different beast– something that’s been irking some fans as of late. But fear not, Resident Evil Revelations will wash away the bad taste left in series enthusiasts’ mouths after clearing the action-packed– but still superb– Resident Evil 5. Quite simply, Resident Evil is back to its roots, while still maintaining the modern elements it’s been flaunting since Resident Evil 4 came and swept up accolades left and right.

Keep reading to find out why Resident Evil Revelations bests Resident 4, earning its spot right alongside Resident Evil 2 and the coveted REmake as one of the best games in the series.

While the series is known more for its classic B-movie, cheesy dialogue rather than deep, thought-provoking scripts, Revelations actually rises above the other entries by providing players what’s quite possibly the best self-contained story in the series to date– and one that not only answers questions, but also sprouts new ones altogether. Oh, yeah, there’s also some cheese in there, too, thanks to a pair of amiable (at least to me) characters, which we’ll get to in a bit.

Jill’s the main star of this return-to-form, 3DS exclusive entry in the beloved survival horror franchise. And while fans may have been overwhelmed by the amount of characters revealed by way of trailers and other pieces of media, it’s satisfying to know that this game is truly Jill’s.

I consider this entry’s plot to be the best in the series for a multitude of reasons, first is how it’s actually told. By now you probably know of the game’s episodic structure, which is very befitting of its portable home. This allowed the developers to really make the overall narrative, which takes place between Resident Evil 4 and 5, feel like an actual season of a TV serial– even with some awesome “previously on Resident Evil Revelations” recaps before each new episode. It’s a neat evolution of the chapter-based story progression that’s been in place since Resident Evil 4 hit the market, and it just works. Hell, I’m actually hoping it’ll return to grace a future entry someday.

But being episodic, and a portable entry at that, players may have the misconception that this story is a short one, and that they’ll be face-to-face with the credits before they know it. That notion couldn’t be farther from the truth…

As aforementioned, Revelations’ plot brings players back to a post-Resident Evil 4, pre-Resident Evil 5 time period. But being set in the series’ past doesn’t mean this shouldn’t be taken as seriously as a main numbered entry would be.

Make no mistake, despite not having a number tagged to its title, Revelations is truly the next major entry in the franchise. And it’s one that fills in the gap between its bookend titles quite aptly, giving us insight into how the BSAA operated before the events of Lost in Nightmares and ultimately, Resident Evil 5.

The game’s 10-15 hour story (on your initial run) will take you for a wild ride, one filled with twists and turns that were surprisingly– and fortunately– not spoiled or even remotely hinted at with the game’s trailers. This truly made me even more shocked when I was met with many of the game’s…er…revelations. People will be back-stabbed, questions will be raised, and conspiracies will be running amok left and right as you make your way through the game’s main setting, the Queen Zenobia. At times you’ll even feel bad for the classic dynamic duo of Chris and Jill as they’re thrown in this unpredictable scenario; one that actually starts off as a mere rescue mission.

The Terragrigia Panic is what leads up to this overall plot, and thus, the BSAA’s motivation to put an end to the evils of bio-terrorism (or more specifically, in this game, Veltro and the T-Abyss virus), along with the cooperation of the higher-ups in the FBC. After this tragic incident, which led to the utmost destruction of the floating metropolis known as Terragrigia, Chris and Jill are both dispatched with new partners, to find any leads on the terrorist group responsible. Easier said than done, and both series’ all-stars are caught in one hell of a conspiracy, with Jill looking for Chris whose last known coordinates place him aboard the Queen Zenobia.

So, about those new partners. While Resident Evil 5 introduced co-op to the series, Revelations still maintains the partner feature throughout almost all of its duration, but don’t fret, it works much better in this purely single-player campaign and these new characters that tag alongside Chris and Jill actually get explored nicely with secondary chapters– making the story an even bigger El Gigante-size beast.

With so many new faces making their debut into the series’ memorable cast with this game, it was wise to possibly feel that some of them may have proven to be flat and one-dimensional,  added only for the purpose of having more characters in the game. That’s not the case, though. The characters that players will meet in Revelations are all there for a reason, and not one of them feels like they’re merely fulfilling a “filler” type role. Let’s start off with the most significant pair of side-characters: Parker and Jessica.

The majority of the game is spent playing as Jill as she roams through the eerie and highly atmospheric corridors of the Queen Zenobia cruise ship. She’s not completely alone, though. Almost all of the time she’ll be accompanied by Parker, a fellow BSAA agent who used to serve the FBC (the main guys to go to when handling bioterrorism) under Morgan Lansdale’s command. Chris’s partner in his own chapters, Jessica, is also a similar character, making the jump to the BSAA from the FBC. But like previously noted, you won’t be annoyed by the presence of these characters, unlike a certain someone who accompanied you in Resident Evil 5, your partners in Revelations are just there, game-play wise. They don’t get in the way whatsoever. So, yeah, survival is still up to you and you alone. So don’t expect your partner to come to rescue you or spray you back to good health.

I won’t delve into spoilers here at all, but Parker really is, to me at least, a character very reminiscent to Barry Burton. As opposed to what people may think after just looking at him, Parker’s a cool dude. Jessica on the other hand fulfills a different archetype…Ever so flirty and seductive, she’s always trying to impress a too-busy-thinking-about-Jill-to-even- care Chris Redfield. Yeah, what a drag, right?

Other important characters include the BSAA’s commanding figure, O’Brian, and his “rival” of sorts, Morgan Lansdale who’s the head of the FBC. Then, of course, we have the Veltro leader who proves to be one very worthy addition to the series’ line-up of memorable villains. Oh, and let me tell you that the final boss fight in this game ranks pretty high up in the series’ collection of final battles. Truly epic stuff.

With all these characters, Capcom’s able to tell a very expansive tale that spans different scenarios that all intertwine with Jill’s main adventure that only takes up one night (talk about a horrible night). And they do so superbly.

We get to play through the actual Terragrigia Panic in a Hunter-infested scenario as Parker and Jessica back in their FBC days. We also get to play as Chris as he teams up with Jessica on their mission to get more intel on Veltro in a snowy European mountain range. And that’s just touching the surface in regards to the various scenarios you’ll actually get to play, that all mesh beautifully with Jill’s main story. But there’s one particular scenario that comes to mind, one that’s irked many critics out there as well as people who’ve seen bits of it in trailers.

Of course I’m referring to the dynamic duo of Keith and Quint and their mission. Yeah, I’ll admit, Quint’s voice is pretty weird, but he and Keith both bring forth a welcome dose of comic relief that’s actually placed well amidst all the dark stuff happening in Jill’s main scenario. This may just be my personal taste when it comes to humor, but I actually found this pair quite funny with their constant exchanges of dialogue to one another. So, what many are finding as being an annoying inclusion to the game, I’m actually finding as being quite welcome.

All in all, Capcom has wonderfully succeeded in introducing a line-up of new faces into the series, without it seeming like overkill. Jill’s main plot is one of the best in the series and all the other side-stories it branches off to do nothing but enhance the overall story, with all of its conspiracies and back-stabbing in place. The episodic structure also proved to be a major success, and each episode ends with exciting cliffhangers that will make you want to keep playing the game all the way through to the end.

You can tell Capcom’s serious about really expanding their storytelling with the series. We already know Resident Evil 6 is going to also have a huge plot behind it, but it’s nice to know that their first attempt with Resident Evil Revelations was a resounding success.

Yeah, I know. All that paints a wonderful picture for the story. But this isn’t a movie…So, how does it play?

With Resident Evil 4 the series moved away from its tank-like controls, pre-rendered backgrounds and fixed camera angles, marking one major leap for the series. Resident Evil 5 continued using that style, but injected a strong dose of action into its veins, resulting in a game that pretty much polarized the fanbase. Revelations, on the other hand, while once again flaunting the gameplay system introduced with Resident Evil 4 (with some new additions), manages to wrap it all around with a true survival-horror experience.

For those who’ve played the series’ last 3DS outing, The Mercenaries 3D, the controls won’t take much getting used to (and if you don’t find yourself enjoying the different control settings offered, you can always purchase the Circle Pad Pro which adds an extra analog nub). Your inventory is laid out nicely in the bottom screen, with the d-pad also allowing you to swap between weapons and grenades. So while it may initially look exactly like Mercenaries 3D’s set-up, it’s been improved greatly and feels much more fluid. One thing worth noting is the game’s default first-person aiming scheme. I know some may opt to just use the over-the-shoulder aiming type, but the first-person gunplay really is remarkable and intuitive, bringing forth a bit more precision than ever before when going up against the game’s new BOWs known as the Ooze.

I may get flamed for this, but I really, really have fond memories of Resident Evil Survivor, and like I’m sure most of you have, I also enjoyed the hell out of the Chronicles titles. Having said that, aiming in first person brings back those memories I had playing Survivor when I was small– and beating it in one sitting! But, again, maybe this isn’t everyone’s cup of T-Abyss- free tea, so the ability to switch over to third person aiming might come in handy.

Aiming in first-person may make some think that fighting the game’s enemies and bosses is akin to a cakewalk. That’s not the case at all. Even though you could actually move a bit while shooting and also strafe (rejoice all of you who cried foul at not being able to this before!), battles with the game’s creatures still provide a good challenge thanks to battles taking place–most of the time– in cramped areas. Couple that with the game’s tendency to not present you with loads of ammunition and health supplies, and it’s really an “every bullet counts” type of scenario. And this brings us to a new feature introduced with this game, and a very, very useful one at that: the Genesis.

The Genesis scanner adds a whole new layer of strategy to the game. Created by Quint, this new device ties into the game’s first-person aiming quite nicely, resulting in a gameplay mechanic that isn’t unlike the scanning feature found in the Metroid Prime trilogy. With that in mind, it’s easy to see that Ms. Valentine has been rolling with Samus a lot lately.

Ammunition, grenades, and health supplies are quite scarce in the game, which is a very good thing as it brings back that sense of desperation once you’re running low on supplies, knowing that you won’t be able to purchase more in between chapters or from some immortal merchant. It all complements the game’s true survival horror feeling nicely, and quite frankly, it’s something that’s been sorely missing from the series. But what about those players who actually loved having more than enough ammo or explosives to take on any bio-organic threat, like they did in Resident Evil 4 and 5? Well, that’s where the Genesis scanner comes into play…to an extent.

While you still won’t enjoy the advantages of a substantial surplus of ammunition/health supplies by using the Genesis, scanning your surroundings still helps you when it comes to survival. Hidden throughout will be ammo and herbs that could definitely help you on your way through the game. To get them you have to scan indicated beacons first, though. After collecting the item, you’ll definitely have a better a chance of survival…but not all that much because the game’s enemies do take quite a beating and I’ve been seeing many refer to the Ooze as “bullet sponges.” But then again, if the opportunity presents itself, you can always just go up close for some knife slashes (not recommended) or a good ol’ melee attack (which can be charged, but isn’t as easy to pull off as it is in previous games). Hell, even when you find yourself getting knocked on your “sweet ass,” you can still shoot at incoming foes.

Scanning for hidden items isn’t the only thing the Genesis is good for, though. You can also scan enemies, whether they’re coming at you or are already downed (unless they completely disintegrate before you get the chance to). Doing so holds a very valuable incentive. There’s a counter at the top of your HUD when aiming the Genesis, when you scan enough enemies ( scanning ones that are alive gives you a bigger boost, and the distance between you and the enemy also counts, too) and you reach 100% you’ll be met with a green herb. This becomes a very, very useful strategy, because as aforementioned, herbs are quite scarce as is. Then there’s also hidden hand prints in various parts of the game, finding these fulfills one of the game’s “missions.” Which is akin to a trophy/achievement system and brings forth a bigger sense of replay value– something this game has a lot of, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

As is customary with the series, there’s always some sort of virus or parasite involved, leading to the creation of whatever enemies players will fight in-game. For Revelations, the T-Abyss virus was introduced. Veltro plans to spread the virus outside of the Queen Zenobia, infecting one fifth of the world’s waters. Luckily for the world, Chris and Jill are on the mission, two people who aren’t strangers to such bio-organic threats. And luckily for us, the players, this virus brings forth a memorable selection of BOWs, joined by some classic ones, too!

Many are saying that the game’s new enemies, the Ooze, lack variety in their design (that’s somewhat similar to that of Resident Evil 4’s Regenerators). While this may be partly true, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad thing. You have your standard, zombie-like Ooze that are flowing through the ships vents, just waiting for the right moment to pop up. Being water-based, they can roam around in an almost liquid form. What this means is that they really could come out of nowhere when you least expect them. And, of course, this ramps up the tension and the game’s horror aspect, especially when you’re faced with a horde of them, which is pretty much your cue to throw a grenade (if you have one). You can also opt to be all hardcore and just avoid some of the enemies altogether, saving your precious ammo, thanks to a dodging mechanic that may be a little hard to get a hang of initially. But sometimes you’ll just have no choice but to unload clips on these (literal) suckers, especially when they come in other variations from ones that shoot bone-like projectiles at you from afar, to ones that have saw-like arms, waiting to “cut” your life short (get it?).

By far, the most tedious Ooze to face, for me at least, are the Sea Creepers. These lovely ladies viciously swim through flooded areas, waiting for you to pass by so they can greet you with a very warm hug. One strategy to use against these foes is to whip out the Genesis and scan around, looking for their outlines so you can at least anticipate where they may emerge from next. But still, sometimes there’s more than one around, and…yeah…things get hectic. Or, even worse, sometimes you’re actually completely under water, where these creatures have an upper hand. But I’ll get to that momentarily.

The T-Abyss virus also paves the way for some truly epic boss encounters. And while Revelations may not have as many bosses as its bookend titles, the game succeeds in offering a highly memorable selection of big baddies to take on.

What I love most about the game’s bosses are how they each feel like real people having suffered a horrible fate– with a couple exceptions. For example, you have the ship’s comms officer, or as he’ll most likely be more known as, the “maydayyy” guy. The lead-up to this encounter was truly horrifying, with sound expertly used as you heard the once normal man still calling out for help. You would think he’s a regular person by just hearing him, but once you do find him, he’s anything but. Then you also have another particular boss encounter that definitely made me remember Resident Evil 3 and being pursued by Nemesis. Again, truly creepy stuff. Aside from that, you also go up against the largest boss in Resident Evil history, as well as what could be the best…well…you’ll find out for yourself when you reach the end of the game!

Then you also have the return of a classic enemy: the Hunter. These guys appear in some of the game’s scenarios that revolve around the supporting characters. And, oh man, do they make their presence be known. Not only do you have the classic Hunters to contend with, but now they’ve learned a new trick: cloaking. Yes, that’s right, invisible Hunters! Like with the Creepers, the Genesis definitely comes in handy when facing these reptilian foes, allowing you to see their outline while scanning. In the end, it was nice to see the Hunters come back and be featured this prominently. Though I did feel bad for them after what happened in Terragrigia…

Here’s the thing, though. Going back to the game’s episodic structure, it’s worth noting how Capcom uses these frequent shifts in perspective to also implement some action-packed gameplay moments, amidst Jill’s main, return-to-survival horror, scenario. So while facing the Ooze will have a more traditional horror feel to it, facing the Hunters and other non-Ooze enemies will bring about a more actiony feeling. But trust me, that’s not a bad thing at all, because as I’ve noted before, Jill’s story is the one that takes up the most game time here, while these secondary chapters are left to expand the superb storytelling while offering a change of pace at the same time.

This double offering of gameplay styles makes me once again bring up Resident Evil 6, which houses a traditional horror experience with Leon’s story and an action-packed survival action one with Chris’s (aside from another scenario with an unknown pair of characters). It seems Capcom is using Revelations as its first step towards providing an “ultimate horror entertainment” and “dramatic horror” experience. And guess what? It undeniably works.

Everyone who’s been waiting for the series to return to its roots will be very, very pleased with the game’s main, Jill-centric story. But there are those who actually loved the more action-oriented experiences brought forth by Resident Evils 4 and 5, and they, too, will be pleased.

Capcom caters to both camps with Revelations, but they still focus the most on Jill’s survival horror adventure. The other side-stories come with a strong dose of action, but they’re shorter in length– rejoice, horror fans! And, as aforementioned, it truly helps the game’s pacing. In one chapter you’ll be making your way through the eerie corridors of the Queen Zenobia, trying to manage your ammo, then in another chapter you’ll find yourself in a city’s last stand, fending off hordes and hordes of Hunters as you make your escape, with ammo being much more plentiful. Actually, come to think of it, Revelations pits players against the highest number of Hunters to date.

At the end of the day, it’s all about Jill’s horrifying night aboard the Queen Zenobia. But now it’s time to bring up the million-dollar question: How exactly does Revelations succeed as an authentic survival horror experience?

I have to admit: The Queen Zenobia is the best setting in the series since the iconic Arklay Mansion. Yeah, it’s that good. And what’s more, it’s a beautiful throwback to said mansion as well, with many corridors and rooms making you feel as if you’re in very familiar territory. It would happen to Jill, of course…

The atmosphere in the game is just completely eerie and downright superb, and it does a good job in eliciting fear, especially when backed by an expertly composed, haunting soundtrack (which should’ve had more tracks!) and the grotesque and unsettling design of the Ooze. The game’s attention to detail is also simply amazing. You’ll constantly find yourself just looking around, appreciating all the little touches put into the environment, whether it be Ooze residue (ha ha), blood splattered around, or even corpses just littering certain rooms. And with the ship being composed of many, many claustrophobic rooms, you’ll definitely start feeling a little unnerved as you keep on going deeper and deeper, ultimately coming across the “secret of the Queen Zenobia” in a location that’s a series staple.

Notes, journals, and other pieces of writing also go a long way to make the ship feel like it was once a real, living place. Some notes you’ll come across will also bring back memories of a certain “itchy, tasty” file from the original game. Hell, there’s also various pieces of art and pictures hanging in many of the walls, with some of them hinting at Resident Evil 5 and one particular picture looking a lot like the Lisa Trevor portrait from the REmake. There’s a lot for Resident Evil fans to be happy about with this game’s atmosphere.

Being a 3DS exclusive, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take some time to praise what tuning the 3D slider brings to the table. The game sports some very immersive 3D effects, especially when cranked all the way to the maximum setting (which can then be taken to another, even higher, maximum setting within the game itself). It’s not really the “pop out” 3D effect some may expect, instead, it’s more akin to looking into a gory, haunted ghost ship diorama. In the end, the only real blemish in what’s otherwise the best-looking game on the platform thus far (with 3D turned on or off), are the drops in frame-rate that occur when entering a different main areas in the ship. It’s initially distracting, but understandable since this beast of a game is running on a handheld.

Just look at the image above. It’s very similar in design to the classic main hall from a certain mansion, and it’s enhanced by some neat fog effects and an awesome use of lighting. The whole game is just graced with such graphical prowess, which is saying a lot since this is running on a handheld. It’s for this very reason that many are clamoring for a PS3/ Xbox 360 port of the game. Its top-of-the-line presentation is definitely home-console quality. And while this may be like the REmake and Resident Evil 0 in that it’ll stay exclusive to Nintendo platforms, there’s always the Wii U!

While Revelations may not have as many changes in scenery as its bookend titles, what it does have is a very memorable main locale in the Queen Zenobia that you’ll be able to familiarize yourself with quite nicely, thanks to the return of back-tracking. Throughout many parts of the game you’ll have to actually head back through already covered ground (this is mostly exclusive to Jill’s main story) in order to progress the story. It’s a sort of Metroid-esque style of progression that really makes sure you get the most out of your time aboard the ship. Then you have side-stories, that most of the time take place in a variety of linear locations– that also give the game a good dose of variety for people that for some reason want to get out of the ship for a bit to engage in more action-packed scenarios. Then just when you think you’re safe traversing the game’s selection of settings, it decides to wash away all familiarity, quite literally, too…

Being set on a ship where things are going wrong left and right, one would expect certain parts of it to…you know…flood. And that does indeed end up happening, leading to the act of back-tracking actually feeling like a brand new experience altogether once you’re in the game’s underwater segments that bring forth a different type of fear. Granted, you won’t be jumping out of your seat when swimming through the game’s flooded areas, which controls fluidly (ha), but you will be kept at the edge of it, with tension growing rapidly as you have to make sure you’re not submerged for too long all while avoiding the Sea Creepers. Eventually, you get your hands on a special type of pulse grenade that will take care of these visceral underwater foes with ease, but again, their mere presence makes these underwater parts quite tense. And I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that an area late in the game took me completely by surprise, and is now cemented in my mind as one of the best moments in Resident Evil history. Yeah…I get wet just thinking about it.

It’s the perfect marriage of the game’s masterful atmosphere and dreadful creatures that make Revelations the survival horror game in the series we’ve been long yearning for. From the soon to be classic Queen Zenobia setting, to the memorable addition of the Ooze to the game’s roster of BOWs, Resident Evil is back to delivering an experience that hasn’t been felt since the original three games. You will in fact be filled with suspense and find yourself slowly moving through corridors, thinking about what may be waiting for you around the next corner. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Looking back, there was only one thing missing: a substantial amount of puzzles. But even so, the ones that we do get here are simple enough as to not break the pacing of the game completely, and they all make clever use of the touch screen.

Even after you beat the game and are met with the game’s epic after-credits scene, there’s still lots to do. For starters, you have the debut of Raid mode, replacing the traditional Mercenaries unlockable mode. And guess what? Raid mode is pretty much its own full game, which can be played cooperatively locally or via Wi-fi. Yeah, so with Revelations, you’re basically getting two games for the price of one 3DS title! Allow me to explain…

Like Mercenaries mode before it, Raid mode is all about an action-packed experience. Here you’ll actually go through the single player campaign’s areas, albeit with missions assigned to each level. Not only that, but being more action-oriented, there are hordes of creatures to go up against in this mode. But wait, it gets better. These BOWs will have their own special enhancements (represented by icons over their heads, alongside an actual health bar!), for example: some of them will be able to run much faster, while others will have greater strength. And then there’s special mutations of the enemies, like an enlarged version of standard Ooze and also adorable midget ones that run really fast. Fast-paced and relentless, Raid mode is where it’s at to get your Mercenaries-esque fix, albeit one that’s vastly improved and quite frankly, a much better mode altogether seeing as how it actually feels like a complete game in and of itself.

The game’s replay value doesn’t end with Raid mode, though. There’s also an achievement/trophy-like system in place called “missions” that applies to both the single player campaign and Raid mode. Some of them are the to-be-expected “beat the game in X difficulty” ones, while others are actually more involved, asking for certain criteria to be fulfilled before unlocking them. It’s nice to see such an achievement system in-game, since the 3DS itself doesn’t really have such a feature implemented into it. And it’s definitely something that will keep players busy for a long time. And for all you StreetPass lovers out there, you’ll be happy to know that said feature brings forth its own set of missions, amongst other perks!

But if you’re like me, you’ll actually be getting the most replay value from the main single player campaign itself, sans any extras. Sure, I’m going to continue playing the very addictive Raid mode, trying to get all the weapons possible and trying to reach the level cap, and I’m definitely also going to be aiming to clear all the “missions”, but in the end, I’ll just be having the most fun replaying the hell out of the story mode itself. Reliving the engaging plot time and time again, trying to get nothing but S ranks, besting my previous clear time with every playthrough. Eventually, I’ll have a Hell mode (which ups the difficulty and makes the Ooze even bigger “bullet sponges”!) save file with every mission completed and all weapons collected and fully upgraded (which is done by collecting custom parts to go towards things like rate of fire and damage). Then guess what? I’ll just boot up New Game + once more  and experience everything all over again, carrying all my acquired weapons and upgrades over.

Revelations perfects the gameplay system that was introduced with Resident Evil 4– that gave the series new life. It also finally brings players back into the world of survival horror. It truly is the game fans have been waiting for, while still not giving the cold shoulder to those who enjoyed Resident Evil 4 and 5’s action-packed offerings.

When I beat the game for the first time I paused for a minute, put my 3DS down and came to the realization that Resident Evil 4 had been dethroned, that there now was a new survival horror masterpiece in the franchise, one that could proudly stand alongside Resident Evil 2 and REmake. It’s not the scariest game of all time, but it is one of the best Resident Evil games of all time.

They say good things come to those that wait.  Well, we’ve waited for quite a while for this series to return to it roots. We’ve been been very patient. And now, all that waiting has paid off. The king of survival horror is back.

9 out of 10 stars (9 / 10)


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