It was an uneasy start for the 3DS and early adopters might even say that Capcom did a better job of supporting the new platform than Nintendo did themselves. Street Fighter IV was a must-buy at launch, and Resident Evil The Mercenaries did much to show that this new handheld wasn’t just for kids. Eventually the Mario games rolled out, along with Zelda to give Nintendo fans a reason to buy the 3DS, but now Capcom returns with Resident Evil Revelations which is the killer app that everyone else has been waiting for.
With impressive graphics and a control scheme similar to Resident Evil 5, Revelations looks like an attempt to put a console experience on a portable platform. However Revelations is actually tailored meticulously for the 3DS and the needs of its users. While certainly the equal of Resident Evil 5 in terms of gameplay quality, Revelations is structured to suit portable gaming; the story is divided into “Episodes” that each take about 45-minues to complete. These can be squeezed into lunchbreaks and travel time during a day, and each episode is subdivided into autosave points with short mission objectives that usually just take a couple of minutes to complete. Every episode begins with a “Previously on…” recap of the story so far, so players will be up to speed if they haven’t had a chance to play in a few days.
The story’s structure is different from the other Resident Evil games too. Normally they tell a very linear story of survival. The characters have to escape before the zombies take over! That sort of simple story structure works well for most games, and could have been used in Revelations, but this game is split up between several storylines involving different groups of characters whose adventures are interwoven. There are also lots of flashbacks that shake up the locations and playable characters.
The main focus is Jill Valentine and her new partner, Parker, being stuck on a ship overrun by monsters created by terrorists (Who used a virus created by Resident Evil standard villains, Umbrella). While Jill and Parker try to escape the ship, Chris Redfield and his implausibly sexy new partner Jessica race to the rescue. Other, less interesting characters appear in short side missions and flashbacks too, giving the Player lots of variety and many short missions to play on-the-go. Some of these can be completed in about three minutes.
The formula is tweaked in a few other ways; the monsters aren’t zombies, zombie dogs or “Las Plagas”. This time around they’re mutated humans who shamble around, essentially playing like zombies, but the new aesthetic helps enhance the sense of new dangers. Some of them have special abilities like firing projectiles or enhanced melee, so players are kept on their toes and have to change tactics to suit the situation. There are some scary and powerful bosses to fight as well, along with water levels that are reminiscent of the zombie shark levels in the first game.
There are some new features to the series, including a dodge ability – something the series hasn’t used well since Resident Evil 3 back on the Playstation 1. Jill and most of the other playable characters have a special scanning device that can used to find hidden items like ammo, herbs and weapon upgrades. This can also be used for achievements in scanning enemies or icons. It’s very much like the scanner system added to the Metroid games. While it does add in new things to do, it can also distract the Player from the game. Rather being totally focused on fighting enemies, players might be wondering if they can get a quick scan of the bad guy before having to pull out their shotgun.
As players progress through the single-player campaign, they unlock a minigame similar to The Mercenaries. What’s very clever about this new Raid Mode is that is slowly unlocks over the course of the campaign. Put in about three hours of single-player and players will unlock about twenty missions for the Raid Mode. Complete more of the campaign and the rest of Raid mode unlocks. This is another example of how Revelations is well-suited to mobile gamers who aren’t necessarily going to blast through the campaign in a couple of long sessions.
Other features that work well for the 3DS include the use of gyroscopic controls let the Player aim while moving. This is a wonderful addition to the franchise and lets it play more like a traditional third person shooter.
There is also a Spotpass feature to share items with other 3DS owners who are nearby, plus the option to buy some upgrades using DS Coins that are earned with the system’s pedometer.
Of course there is the system’s 3-D too. It is especially effective in games that have long corridors, and many of Revelations’ levels are set indoors. There are often items in the foreground too and this enhances the illusion. Revelations also uses a blood splatter effect to indicate how much damage the character has taken, and these splatters appear to be “Closer” to the player than the characters onscreen. The 3D also works very well with the cutscenes which are done in high quality CGI.
Revelations launched along side the 3DS’s new Circle Pad Pro add-on. It’s the first and only game that works with it so far. This gizmo changes the game considerably, and the controls are remapped to take advantage of all the extra buttons that the Circle Pad adds. With this attachment the game handles like a console third-person shooter; movement is done with the left stick, and aiming with the right. Left trigger brings up the gun and the right trigger fires (Yes, the Circle Pad Pro adds in two extra trigger buttons).
Revelations can be played well without the circle pad, the gyroscopic aiming gets the job done, and even without the gyroscope, players can still move and fire. However the Circle Pad is definitely the preferable set-up for this game.
Resident Evil Revelations is among the best games in this franchise, and one of the best games for the 3DS so far. It shows the potential of the new Circle Pad attachment and should definitely be in the library of gamers who like action or survival horror.