In order to make the best Resident Evil game ever, Capcom needs to do one simple thing. Combine the intuitive controls and challenging combat from Resident Evil 4 with the clever puzzles and non-linear environment of the original Resident Evil (or REmake, since that’s the one I’ve played).
Unfortunately, Capcom keeps saying stupid stuff which results in doing stupid things.
Acknowledging that he does not work on the upcoming numbered sequel, Kawata compares survival horror game sales to the best-selling video game franchise Call of Duty, a military FPS whose last installment sold 6.5 million units in its first day.
“Looking at the marketing data [for survival horror games] ... the market is small, compared to the number of units Call of Duty and all those action games sell,” he said. “A ‘survival horror’ Resident Evil doesn’t seem like it’d be able to sell those kind of numbers.”
I’ll argue all the problems with that particular quote another time. For now, however, it basically guarantees that the best Resident Evil they could make probably won’t be made. Fortunately, Kawata recognizes that not every Resident Evil game has to have the same desperate grab for Call of Duty’s audience, and thus made Resident Evil: Revelations.
I’m going to be upfront with you. The game doesn’t measure up to either Resident Evil 4 or REmake. It does, however, surpass Resident Evil 5 in a lot of ways. Let us count them off!
No more baby-sitting
You don’t have to worry about the health of your A.I. partners or how much ammunition they have. They simply run around shooting at enemies alongside you. Though they can be knocked down or temporarily incapacitated, they are capable of standing back on their own two feet and dusting themselves off like big boys and girls.
The only downside is you won’t have any allies coming to heal you when you need it, but that’s partially because you don’t have to share inventory. You get to hold all the green herbs you find and heal yourself with a simple hot key command.
Non-linearly linear gameplay
So the game’s pretty much as linear as Resident Evil 4, but at least there’s an illusion of recreating the style from the original games. The player will often find themselves revisiting older areas, sometimes as lame back-tracking while other times simply unlocking new passages that link to familiar territory.
Either way, the location of the game thus begins to build an identity, just as the Mansion had or the village in Resident Evil 4.
Revelations can actually be creepy
Let’s face it. Nothing about Resident Evil is legitimately terrifying. Nothing is going to freak you out like select Lovecraft stories or keep you awake at night with “what if?” looming over your head. Yet the older games could still be suspenseful in their own right, keeping the player from wanting to step onward into the unknown.
Resident Evil 5 never really had that, but Revelations does. The real danger is in how cramped the setting is. If a foe appears in front of you, there’s not much space for you to keep between them and yourself. You basically need to hope you can gun them down before they reach you. At least, until you discover the evasion mechanic. Even then, the lack of space gives a sort of claustrophobic pressure on the player as they navigate the halls of this ship where anything can emerge.
When you do have enough space to maneuver? Well, that just means you’re about to face a whole lot of something bad, and unlike Resident Evil 4, corners to back into and bottleneck the enemy at aren’t so plentiful. Enemies and combat are the draw, but they also feel like a risk.
No Quick-Time Events
Not a single cut-scene in this game requires you to mash a button in order to dodge a cinematic strike, or to climb up a cliff, or to successfully make your breakfast. Either it’s all gameplay or it’s pure cut-scene.
This is an improvement to the franchise as a whole, really.
Now there’s more to Revelations than simply being better than Resident Evil 5. In truth, it’s hard to escape the fact that it feels like a portable game still. You no longer have a traditional inventory screen, enemy A.I. has been simplified and there are only one or two kinds of puzzles that are repeated frequently.
Make no mistake, though. This is no Call of Duty for the DS, a cheap imitation of the full game. The developers instead changed how these mechanics function in order to take advantage of the platform Revelations is on.
You no longer have to try and fit as many useful items into an inventory screen as possible. The only real limitation, in fact, is the player can only carry three weapons at a time. There’s no limit to how many types of grenades you can carry. Every type of item is readily accessible through the touch screen or a quick button press. You never have to worry about what you can or cannot carry.
This doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about limited resources, however. You may be able to carry five or six types of grenades at the start, but you may only be able to hold, say, three of each. Same goes with green herbs and ammunition. As you progress through the game you can find key items that boost how much ammunition you can carry, a necessity as foes become more powerful.
There is no merchant in Revelations, nor is there a shop screen following each chapter. Instead, the player must explore the environment if they wish to discover item upgrades. They are given a scanner tool which is capable of finding a variety of hidden items, giving the game a semi-Metroid Prime vibe as they explore each room for secret treasures.
Each weapon has a limited number of upgrade slots, and certain upgrades apply onto to certain weapons. It’s a different style of customization over the previous two Resident Evil games, focusing instead on play style. You may not be able to increase every attribute of the item, and in some cases may opt for a weapon such as the pistol to fire in five-shot bursts each time you pull the trigger.
As a result, the changes are much more subtle, though definitely noticable once you jump into Hard mode with a New Game +. A few chapters have the player jumping into the shoes of side characters that will not have the upgrades, and thus will be forced with dealing the base damage to stronger foes.
Early on, enemies will seem pretty simple and straight forward. The new mutations will simply head your direction and try to bite your face off. Later wolves and Hunters are introduced, carrying a similar sort of limited pack mentality. They will charge your way, give you a minute close-range to give them a good shotgun blast to the face and then strike. One-on-one they’re a pretty easy foe, but once you get two, three or more heading your way it becomes tough to keep track of. Either way, it’s very simple and limited A.I. that gives the feeling that you’re definitely playing a smaller, more portable game.
It’s when later monster mutations are introduced that these feelings slowly go away. Later enemies will play a more sniper style of role or perform guerilla tactics underneath the water. Even when the enemies are all pulling some variation of “charge and attack”, there’s such a different variety on screen with different powers that the player will learn to prioritize some over others. Some creatures are faster, some are slower, and some have easier attacks to dodge.
There’s a lot of creatures to fight in this game, and while at first they lack in variation, they all feel unique and, most important of all, threatening by the end.
There’s really only one sort of puzzle in the game, and it’s also the only thing that requires use of the touch screen. Certain doors will have locks that can be “hacked”. The player must simply move a group of nodes around to electric slots on a grid, making sure every node and its links are properly connected and powered.
It’s tough to count this as a flaw. For me, puzzles were one of the things that made the first Resident Evil interesting. It seems as if Capcom would rather not focus on that anymore, even with a more niche title such as Revelations. Yet for fans of Resident Evil 4 and on, this isn’t a problem at all.
I’d say if there was a greater emphasis on puzzles alongside the action, then the game would not only hold greater appeal, but would have something to break up the monotony of combat. There would be more to it than just shooting one beast after the next. This is essentially what vehicle sections are in other games, after all. A chance to change it up. Why shouldn’t there be puzzles, even simple ones, to break up the monotony of Resident Evil? Perhaps to reduce the amount of time running back to a storage box to find just the right key item.
Revelations lacks the ever popular Mercenary mode, where the player selects a character and sees how many foes they can kill in X amount of time, but it replaces it with the co-op friendly Raid mode. While it’s very similar, the primary difference in Raid mode is that it focuses on the player completing a segment of the campaign with some more interesting combinations. It’s an easy mode to jump in and out of and provides plenty of entertainment once the campaign has been completed.
Perhaps one of the more interesting changes are the enemy health bars and the indicators for enemy type. As you gun down foes the game will indicate how much damage was dealt and which hits were criticals. In a sense, it can teach the player how to improve their combat strategy based on weapons and accuracy. It would actually have been nice to have had this option for New Game +, especially in terms of going up against the final boss of the game.
Yet the real highlight are the foes. They aren’t arranged the same as in the campaign. Everything is more action-oriented, and the foes are placed specific to that map. Most of all, there are now variants of each foe. Smaller, weaker ones that happen to move incredibly fast as well as larger, stronger mutations of the enemy.
In the end, Mercenaries is a mode more fitting to players that are already excellent at the game. Raid mode is enjoyable if you just want five minutes to pick up and play, and even if you’re not too good you stand a chance of getting a reward.
Bring it all home
I’m not going to discuss the story here. I already covered that spoilerific territory. Suffice to say, it’s just as stupid, if not more stupid, than the previous two games in the series.
What I wanted to get across is that Revelations is certainly a different game than the rest of the series, but it is the closest to being that perfect combination of the original Resident Evil with Resident Evil 4. It has a focus on combat, yet also generates a creepy enough atmosphere while progressing through a defined environment.
In short, if you have been looking for a reason to purchase a Nintendo 3DS and aren’t so much into the Super Mario franchise, then this is your reason. It’s a perfect showcase of what the platform is capable of, and hopefully it has released early enough for other third parties to realize what they themselves can do (whereas some of the best third party Wii games released well after anyone stopped caring). Best of all, you don’t really need the Circle Pad Pro attachment to play the game. I managed fine with the 3DS as is, and while the Circle Pad Pro may possibly make the game a bit easier, the enemies behave as if you don’t already have it, giving you plenty of time to adjust if need be.
If Capcom is looking to make spin-off titles for more niche fans of the franchise, then I’d say Revelations is a fantastic first step in the right direction.