The first thought that comes to mind when playing horror games on a portable system is generally a question- “Why?” As in, “Why does this exist?”
Resident Evil: Revelations on the 3DS is a genuinely great original game, faithful to the series and nearly as much fun as the almighty Resident Evil 4. The rub is of course that this is the kind of game that’s best experienced via complete immersion, sitting alone in the dark with headphones on. So... why wasn’t this simply designed for consoles? Sure, Revelations utilizes the 3D gimmick quite well (if you’ve trained yourself to keep the system equidistant from your eyes at all times) but you’re not going to get the same effect playing this on a crowded bus or subway on the way to work, so it didn’t really need to be a portable title at all, did it?
Regardless, give up the whole portability aspect and the game works quite well, so just come prepared and you’ve easily got a title to be added to your meager collection of quality 3DS games.
Of course, it might be a stretch to call it a true horror game anyway, as atmospheric as it is. It’s horror game in the same way that Resident Evil 4 was. Revelations is mostly set aboard a creepy, creaky old cruise ship and the enemies are hideous mutations of fish, people, and fishpeople that seek to latch their scaly lips on your throat, but the game’s more of an action-packed shooter than anything else. Ammo is everywhere and you’re never in danger of running out, and the ability to equip dozens of weapons and upgrade them at various stations in the game means that you’re almost always going to try and put down every fishy enemy that slithers in front of you. No, the horror here is in that panicky “GET IT OFF ME I DON’T WANT TO DIE!” kind of fear that settles in when these abominations refuse to die and keep chopping away at your health.
Thankfully Revelations controls reasonably well, even with the limitations of the 3DS’s one analog stick. Hold the right shoulder button and you’ll swap the third person view for a first person gun cam, the better to aim your shots with. The left shoulder button can be held down to strafe but this can get a little clunky on the little system, especially if you have big hands. The game does supports that goofy-looking second analog stick attachment dubbed the Circle Pad Pro, but I don’t own one to test it out.
The touchscreen offers quick selections of weapons and a incredibly handy minimap, as well as the usual little minigames scattered throughout. You’ll be familiar with the type from years of Nintendo DS titles, puzzles and little “trace the line” games to open doors and such. I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s underutilized, but they don’t do a ton with it.
The graphics are better than anything the system has ever seen and I’d say easily on par with anything on the Wii. There are a few tiny moments of slowdown here and there when there’s too many enemies on screen or when you’re loading a new section of the map through an airlock, but it’s fortunately never usually something that’ll cripple you during a tense moment. The 3D effect certainly makes it more frightening when you see enemies bounding or shuffling at you, although it can backfire. As you get more and more hurt blood will start to splatter on the screen as is so popular these days, but because of the 3D effect it looks like it’s smeared on the glass with the rest of the action happening in the distance behind it. Definitely more annoying, especially for an idiot like me who waits until his character is on the brink of death before healing her with a green herb. (No matter how many times this gets me killed, I can’t stop being cheap with my healing supplies in games...)
You’ll notice I haven’t spoken about the story, and that’s because there’s not much of one. Revelations follows series faves Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield though the usual needlessly convoluted story involving multiple government organizations, anti-terrorism teams, and bad guys on both sides. It spans the events between Resident Evils 4 and 5 but it’s not exactly a story that needed to be told. No one was dying to know what happened in that time period, there are no real revelations to be found, except for yet another version of the T-Virus. Fortunately the interesting locations (aboard a cruise ship, in the wilds of Alaska, a few other surprises) make up for it.
But the rampant sexism that’s unfortunately plaguing our favorite hobby rears its head once again, most obviously with the character designs that seem less concerned with realistic female characters than making sure certain larger portions of their anatomy are well-rendered in 3D. The awful, awful script only makes things worse.
Case in point: curvy new character Jessica, who ruins an otherwise tense moment that sees your character immobilized on the ground with only a pistol in hand, about to be attacked by mutated dogs. You yell to her for aid as the hounds sprout tentacles and start to charge at you and she responds “Hold on, my sweet ass is on the way!”
There’s also a great moment with her and new character Parker, who have a great conversation about the Hunters that are currently trying to slice you to pieces. He mentions “I think they’re after you because you’re a flirt!” and she quips back “Sorry, I don’t date cannibal monsters!”
The rest of the script is no better, really, cliches and lots of melodrama and silly backstabbings and other Japanese tomfoolery. There are tons of well-rendered cutscenes to tell the story, though, and each chapter of the game is its own self-contained episode, complete with "Previously on Resident Evil: Revelations" narration to bring you up to speed.
But you know what? You can put it aside, because you'll be engrossed in exploring the world, wondering what’s going to jump out at you next and hoping you can find some more green herbs before it does. You will certainly get your money’s worth with this one too, as ten hours of gameplay await you in the main campaign. After that, you can easily put another 10+ into Raid mode, which is playable solo or with a partner online or locally. This is almost the meat of the game, an incredibly robust score attack mode that sees you playing through forty short areas from the game trying to put down opponents as fast as possible. Each level comes with its own challenges and unique characters, from pint-size attackers to enemies that are weak against your physical attacks.
While I wouldn’t go so far as to call the game a system seller, Resident Evil fans certainly should look longingly at it, hoping for a port. 3DS owners have no excuse.
--- Resident Evil Revelations hits the Nintendo 3DS February 7th from Capcom.