Over the past decade, the Resident Evil series has changed significantly. Sensing the need to evolve its iconic franchise alongside modern gaming, Capcom made several alterations to the formula, adjusting elements that were in dire need of an upgrade. However as time went on, it became increasingly apparent that Resident Evil was changing in one particular way that few fans wanted. The franchise had shed the very concept that made it so popular in the first place. Gone was the idea of survival horror, of attempting to overcome great odds with few resources in terrifying situations. Resident Evil Revelations attempts to steer its series back towards its roots, to recapture an atmosphere of terror that slowly slipped away as the franchise aged. The game’s quest to reconcile its classic and modern legacies mostly succeeds, setting benchmarks for the Nintendo 3DS while still struggling in some key respects.
Revelations is without a doubt the best looking 3DS game so far. In fact it’s difficult to see anything that will best Capcom’s efforts anytime soon. Incredible character models, creature designs, environmental effects and lighting create spectacular settings for some of the franchise’s most memorable moments. Stopping to admire some of the stunning graphical work proves almost as routine as stopping to line up a shot or scan a room for secrets. That the game is paced and purposefully crafted to pull you into its world makes the visual reward that much sweeter.
The excellent graphics pay off time and time again, particularly as the game hurls you towards confrontation with horrors new and old. The majority of the game takes place on the Queen Zenobia, a cruise ship that is perhaps the best setting for a Resident Evil game this side of the Arklay Mansion. Corridors are plentiful, dark, twisted and claustrophobic. In other words, they’re the perfect environment to make you paranoid. You’ll slowly edge around corners, hitting the reload button to make sure your guns are ready at a moment’s notice. You’ll carefully check each and every room, making sure you haven’t left a thing behind. You’ll trek backwards through a map to find a weapons customization box to make sure your equipment suits your needs and play style.
Sound design isn’t always appreciated enough, but between Revelations’ excellent music and brilliant effects, mention must be made. Capcom has mastered the ability to play up a soundtrack when appropriate, sometimes completely cutting to isolated noises in order to focus a player on something truly haunting. Everything from the howl of the wind to a twisted, grotesque plea from a man that has clearly become a monster… all of it is so perfectly executed that it contributes just as much to this memorable world as the brilliant graphics. In fact in some ways the audio outdoes the visuals, which suffer from some frame rate consistency issues.
Capcom has once again eschewed zombies in favor of the Ooze, a pale, amorphous race of bio-organic weapons similar to the undead in their unyielding thirst for your life. Though Ooze move slowly like their brain-eating cousins, their ability to essentially flow out from any opening at any time adds a new layer to the game’s tension. You’ll often assume a narrow corridor is safe so long as the path in front of you is clear. But what if the way you just came is suddenly unsafe? You didn’t miss something – a threat simply exists where one didn’t before. The twist is brilliant, one that creates uncertainty where none existed – a fantastic evolution of Resident Evil tradition.
Revelations doesn’t shy away from establishing its mood quickly. Blood oozes from grates, innocents are killed and eaten before your eyes, and the entire ship feels like a tomb, a haunting shell of a place designed to be an entertaining distraction from the pressures of real life. Add in impressive boss fights, the newly-added Genesis scanner, which rewards you for exploring your surroundings, as well as an emphasis on inventory conservation, and you have one of the best-designed and most authentic Resident Evil games in some time. All of this is packed into this portable adventure without feeling too archaic or overly-crowded, which is quite the accomplishment.