Game Review: Resident Evil: Revelations

Alan Stock Alan Stock
September 28th, 2017

I'm a lover of travel, photography and video games, from the UK. I have worked in the games industry and very passionate about games and their design. Never get bored of them!

Resident Evil: Revelations is a survival horror game by Capcom. This review for ComiConverse by Alan Stock covers the recent HD PlayStation 4 and Xbox One re-release of this title; older versions of the game are also available on PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii and the 3DS. A Switch version of the game comes out in November.

To understand the significance of Resident Evil: Revelations, we need a little history lesson. When the game was first released in 2012, the famous zombie franchise was beginning to falter. After the amazing highs of Resident Evil 4 came the disappointing fifth installment, and then some dubious Resi spinoffs - Darksiders, and the turgid Mercenaries. Just after Revelations came Resident Evil 6, the worst game in the main series to date. With Resident Evil games suffering in quality and their own identity, Revelations stood out - a 3DS title taking the series back to its survival horror roots, whilst keeping the modernised combat of the later games. It sold and reviewed well, leading to an HD version of Revelations on PC and consoles a year later. Finally the HD version has been ported to the current generation of consoles as well. So how does it hold up today, five years later?

Although recent remasters of earlier Resident Evil games and the new Resident Evil 7 have restored faith in Capcom’s franchise, Revelations still feels like a welcome return to the older games. Set in just a few claustrophobic environments, survival horror is back on the table - this isn’t the action movie fest that Resident Evil 5 and 6 became. Ammo is limited and the game retains a sense of place, exploration and tension long missing from the series. The game is linear but split into short episodes, each taking only an hour or two to complete. Even these are split into smaller parts, making it an easy game to dip in and out of. This structure comes from its handheld origin - it feels a little strange on console but breaks up the game nicely.

You hop between control of a variety of characters through the story, most often old Resident Evil heroes Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield. You are almost always accompanied by an AI sidekick. The gameplay is a blend of new and old - the free aim combat and over-the-shoulder camera straight out of Resident Evil 4 and 5, but in level design and structure it’s more akin to earlier games in the series. Aside from a few side missions, most of the game takes place in the Queen Zenobia, an old cruise liner stranded out at sea, which (of course) has been hit by the latest biohazard outbreak, turning the crew into hideous monstrosities.

The ship is a good setting for a Resident Evil game, allowing for a mixture of connecting industrial and commercial sections, as well as luxurious rooms reminiscent of Resident Evil 1’s mansion. Its gloomy, tight spaces are atmospheric and make a good playground for the mutated inhabitants, with narrow avenues for escape and plenty of ambush opportunities. Like earlier Resi games you return to the same areas frequently, locked doors and potential secrets always lingering on the ToDo list in the back of your mind. In gameplay terms, being on a ship only really changes things towards the end of the game, when some areas become flooded, forcing you to swim through them. Side missions take place in a variety of places including a snowy mountain base, and provide a break from the claustrophobia of the Queen Zenobia, even if they aren’t memorable in themselves.

Rather than zombies, you fight various misshapen mutations, similar to the monsters from Resident Evil 0 or 7. None of them are scary, and design-wise they are uninspiring, some of even downright comical in appearance. Shooting the right body parts can inflict more damage, or slow them down. It becomes important to make your shots count, as ammo is in short supply. Indeed, the scarcity of ammo and herbs (to refill health) makes Revelations a tense affair - although I never found the game scary at all, I often feared my death due to low supplies - a welcome return to survival horror game design.

Combat is a mixed affair. The port to consoles retains a sluggish, imprecise feel to movement and aiming. It feels clunky. The dodge move, essential to avoid major damage in boss fights, is especially hard to pull off. General gunplay is decent and you have the usual array of pistols, machine guns, shotguns and snipers, plus new explosive mines. It’s not as satisfying as some Resident Evils as there’s a general lack of feedback and punch to your shots. In the right circumstances the combat system feels fine, but when you are swarmed by multiple mobile enemies, or in tough boss fights, you really feel the restrictions of the now ageing Resident Evil 4 mechanics. Don’t expect any help either - your AI buddy is little more than a distraction for foes. Doing negligible damage to enemies and rarely being attacked - they only really serve as a way to spoil the isolated atmosphere and provide inane chitchat during exploration.

One new feature is a scanner which you use in first person view. It’s used to find hidden objects and secrets invisible to the naked eye, and can also scan dead bodies or enemies. Scan enough stuff and you get free health-restoring herbs. It was probably decent fun on the 3DS thanks to the interface, but on console it quickly gets tedious. Because supplies are low you feel compelled to scan every inch of every room in the hopes of discovering precious ammo or health. Although the scanner is used a few times for puzzles, it’s an underutilised bit of kit which doesn’t add much to the game.

Another, much better, feature is the ability to customise weapons with upgrades, which can be swapped around at will. This creates a nice strategic element in deciding how to tailor your weapons to your playstyle. For example by adding extra damage, shots, knockback effects and so on. The weapon upgrade kits are also a great incentive to explore the environment thoroughly as they give you such an edge.

The plot of Revelations is as bonkers as any other Resident Evil game. There are lots of conspiracies, twists and turns, a host of side characters and villains, and of course documents to find explaining the backstory. The story is far from a revelation (I still have no idea where they get the game’s title from) but it keeps proceedings ticking along nicely. Dialogue is awfully written and voice acted, as well as being exceedingly cheesy. Old Resi fans will probably embrace this though - it’s a series where the cringey, campy script is part of the appeal.

As well as the single player campaign is the Raid mode. Playable solo or in co-op, you revisit levels with different enemy layouts and rulesets with a choice of weaponry and upgrades. Challenges get progressively harder and in between you level up and customise your character’s kit. I had my fill with the main story, but many players rate Raid as being the best part of it. Unfortunately, in a rather mean-spirited move by Capcom, you can only unlock it after completing the story campaign. But for those who are happy to persevere, there’s hours and hours of extra fun to be had in Raid mode.

Although Revelations reviewed well at release, it hasn’t aged so well. The HD graphical update does little to hide its handheld origins, with bland, muddy textures and environments lacking in detail. It's pretty ugly overall and the detailed characters also stand out against the lower resolution backgrounds. There’s a fair amount of repetition as you revisit the same areas again and again without any new ideas thrown into the mix. The campaign’s side missions, often action orientated, fall flat - fighting waves of fast, jumping enemies isn’t a strong idea for a game with combat mechanics which can’t handle that kind of intensity. And although the ship works as a setting, Revelations really lacks any fear factor - tension only coming from combat and survival on low supplies. Overall it could have been much more atmospheric - ditching the AI buddies would have helped too.

At least Revelations retains a classic Resident Evil design and feel - at the time of release it must have been a breath of fresh air for fans. On 3DS it would have been impressive, on console, especially five years later,  it is much less so. Now, of course, we also have the acclaimed Resident Evil 7, which successfully returned the series to its roots, and a sequel to Revelations which improved on the original a fair bit whilst also adding new ideas. But even with better successors, the first Revelations still holds up as being an entertaining Resident Evil game, even though it’s hardly one of the best. There isn’t much new on show here, but fans won’t really mind - it’s an entertaining romp through the Queen Zenobia emulating the heydays of the series. When you’re low on ammo and out of herbs, dreading ambushes at every corner, you’re reminded what made Resident Evil so good in the first place.


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