Sunday, 5 February 2012

Review: Resident Evil Revelations

            The Resident Evil series has been going for quite a while now and shows no signs of slowing, indeed there are going to be a total of 3 new additions this year in ‘Resident Evil 6’, ‘Resident Evil: Operation Racoon City’ and the recently released 3DS title ‘Resident Evil Revelations’. Now as I said in my previous blog I am a big fan of the older title in the series and that they are not what they used to be. Does ‘Revelations’ restore faith in the franchise? Does it work on 3DS? Is it any good? Well let’s see shall we?
            ‘Revelations’ is set in between the events of Resident Evils 4 and 5, in it you primarily take the role of series staple Jill Valentine however control does switch to other recurring character Chris Redfield as well as a few others. Ditching the far more open areas seen in ‘Resident Evil 5’ almost entirely the action this time takes place on board a cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea. This ship, The Queen Zenobia, has been hijacked by a terrorist organisation called Veltro and infected with T Abyss, essentially an aquatic version of the T Virus. Jill and new partner Parker arrive on board to search for Chris and his partner Jessica who have been investigating Veltro’s activities. Of course everything starts to go wrong and the story begins to twist and turn from here on.
            The use of a cruise ship as a setting was a great choice and, perhaps ironically given the subject matter, a breath of fresh air. The ship allows for an old fashioned feel as it’s all very confined which is exactly what I want in a survival horror game. Narrow corridors, junctions that could contain enemies, creepy sounds and flicking lights. It’s all here and the general eeriness it creates helps build a tension I haven’t had in a Resident Evil game since ‘Nemesis’ way back on PS1. The good old key fetching is back too; found a door with an anchor mark on it? Guess what key opens that one? Granted it’s not rocket science but having an explorable environment with areas to revisit again takes us back from 5’s linearity and firm mission style levels. The game is set out in an episodic format which is not ideal as it breaks up the action fairly frequently, of course this was to facilitate short play sessions being on a handheld so can be forgiven somewhat. Auto-saves also have to be given some leeway for the same reason, of course I’d prefer to have to find a typewriter and decide whether it was worth some of my finite ink supply to save the game but the bus journey isn’t that forgiving to this style of play.
            The 3DS does show off what it can do here, graphically ‘Revelations’ is fantastic although it does suffer quite badly from the splitting that occurs with the 3D mode if you don’t look it straight on. Given that most of my handheld gaming is done on buses I played the majority of the game with the 3D effect off because of this but it doesn’t detract from the experience. What does hamper the public transport player is a difficulty to see what is going on when the light levels outside are high or changing. The game plays best in a darkened environment ad the game itself is dark, this coupled with a sunny afternoon commute lead to quite a few monsters having Jill’s face for lunch. The game makes an effort to use the touch pad, your inventory is primarily controlled by it and there are a few doors to unlock by doing puzzles on the touch screen but they do seem slightly forced, as if they threw them in just for the sake of using the touch stuff. What was cool (although no less shoe horned in) was a finger print scanner for a few doors late game that as far as I could tell actually responds to your finger print only. I tried getting a friend to use it after it registered my print and it didn’t work so either he did it wrong or it genuinely does register your print.
In terms of non touch controls ‘Revelations’ does pretty well. The camera is a bit wonky sometimes but apparently this is improved by the Circle Pad Pro, an accessory that adds a second thumb stick, but I couldn’t justify the asking price to move the camera for one game so persevered, trust me it’s in no way a hindrance to go without it. Aiming a weapon puts you in a first person firing mode which helps alleviate the targeting issues of the old games, what I did find out to my horror is that you can strafe while aiming by holding L, moving and aiming in Resident Evil should be mutually exclusive. I will not be swayed on this. The only truly annoying control related issues were the dodging system which is rubbish and the swimming sections. The swimming might just be a personal issue though since you push up to swim up and down to go down and no matter what I constantly tried to work it as if the y axis were inverted.
The enemies on offer are perhaps the biggest disappointment in the game. I get that they were going for bloated, decayed sea monster type things but on the whole all the basic enemies are incredibly similar and bland, the bosses are a little better sometimes but nothing stands out as particularly impressive (except returning favourites the Hunters). This is a shame because the Zenobia itself has a surprising amount of character, a good mix of maintenance type areas, an impressive great hall complete with operatic soundtrack and lots in between. It would have been great if the same levels of design could be seen in the enemies that roam her halls.
Aside from the 8 hour or so campaign, bolstered by missions (read: achievements) there is also Raid Mode which allows you and a co-op buddy should you wish it to take on sections from the game with bigger, badder and more numerous enemies. Completing these gives you points to spend on weapons which let you complete harder Raid levels and so on. There are missions for this mode too and all the missions come with a reward associated with the mode they were acquired in. There is also a totally not a gimmick street pass mission exchange that allows you to get missions by being near other people who have the game.
Overall I was impressed with ‘Resident Evil Revelations’. Sure it has it’s drawbacks but it is a damn fine game and by far the best 3DS original title to date. The return to enclosed spaces is welcome and makes it feel more like Resident Evil of old. Graphically impressive and with ultimately tight gameplay this is definitely worth picking up if you are a fan of the series or simply looking for a great addition to your 3DS collection. A heartening step in the right direction for the Resident Evil franchise, ditching the supporting partner is the next step that needs to happen to get the it back to where it should be. Being alone makes all the difference in creating a scary atmosphere and that is exactly what a survival horror game should be aiming at. As it stands though ‘Resident Evil Revelations’ is the best outing for the series in some time, ‘Operation Racoon City’ and ‘Resident Evil 6’ have a hard act to follow when their releases roll around later this year.