Resident Evil: Revelations is a bit of a strange one. It was released for the 3DS in 2012, and having found critical and commercial success on the handheld console it was ported to the HD consoles PS3, 360, and Wii U the following year. Playing it on the big screen now, it looks reasonably good, but nevertheless belies its handheld origins. Textures, particularly in the few outdoor areas, look a bit flat, while some characters’ faces look angular and lacking in detail. Chris Redfield looks weirdly puffy, but Jill Valentine fans will be pleased to know Capcom went the extra mile to make her look as good as possible.
Jill is the main character across Revelations’ campaign, which is spread across a dozen ‘episodes’. The episodes range in length from about 20 minutes to over an hour, but most are about half an hour. During each episode you can control one of several anti-bioweapon operatives, in a system that anticipates Resident Evil 6’s campaign, which featured four parallel and overlapping storylines. Naturally, considering it began as a handheld game, Revelations is much less ambitious than Resident Evil 6; though perhaps that’s not entirely a bad thing. RE6 was criticized by many for being too bombastic, and Revelations is comparatively focused, a relatively concentrated experience.
The campaign sees Jill and her allies investigating a (you guessed it) B.O.W. outbreak on board a cruise ship in the middle of the Mediterranean. Resident Evil plots tend to be corny as hell, and Revelations takes it even further than most. Floating cities, weaponized satellites in space, terrorist organizations with daft names, a plethora of hidden agendas and ulterior motives… the story is very silly but a good handmaiden to the action and setting. If you like these games you’re not likely to be put off by the plot. You might be put off by some of the character design, though. One of the new characters, Raymond the ‘Cadet’, has an entirely incongruous look–the character is written like he’s supposed to be 19, the voice actor sounds about 25, and the avatar looks about 45 with a downright bizarre, bright red hairdo. Meanwhile, another of the secondary characters, Jessica, wears some rather exploitative clothing, and Capcom aren’t doing anyone any favours here. The series is known for featuring sexy leads like Jill and Ada Wong, but there’s a difference between that, and tastelessness and camp self-parody. This isn’t as bad as Kojima or anything, but even so, much of what is presumably meant as humour or titillation instead comes across as immature and just falls flat.
Most of the game is set on the aforementioned cruise ship, a claustrophobic setting consisting primarily of tight spaces and one which is naturally suited to the limitations of the 3DS. It bears up pretty well on the Wii U too, certainly more so than the few land-based sections which are slightly more expansive and where the graphics suffer because of it. The setting is definitely creepy, and the game has its share of scares. As a function of the graphical limitations, most of the enemies you meet look extremely basic, although some of them still manage to evoke a strong sense of body horror and revulsion.
Revelations’ gameplay is like a mid-point between the slow, survival horror pace of the classic RE games and the more high-octane ride that was RE6. You get a decent array of weapons, with a limited range of customization options, but ammo is generally scarce and the game does a good job of putting you under pressure. Towards the end, it does start to throw more challenging and frustrating scenarios at you, including some set pieces where you’re pretty much doomed to die the first time you try. There are some inventive boss fights, but the difficulty can be quite extreme, and a cynical person might suggest the developers were trying to eke out what is a pretty short campaign (about eight hours). Moreover, the deliberately clunky controls are not very well suited to some of the more dramatic action that occurs towards the end. While the Wii U’s gamepad is integrated well in the sense that the second screen is used for your map and inventory management, the damn thing is so big that something as simple as switching weapons can sometimes be a bit of a hassle. Not really what you want when you have a group of flesh-eating monsters bearing down on you.
In lieu of the familiar Mercenaries score attack mode, Capcom included a ‘Raid’ mode, a time-attack mode where you play through sections from the game trying to get from A to B while killing monsters and collecting a few bits and pieces. Experience, gear and even ammo is persistent between stages, meaning there’s a reasonable amount of content here. There’s also a New Game Plus when you finish the game, plus an ‘Infernal’ difficulty setting which is ridiculously difficult. Have fun with that.
Revelations is a fun enough little game, and definitely worth picking up if you haven’t played it and want something to do before RE7 comes out. I bought it during the recent Capcom sale on Wii U, when it was discounted from £40 (!) to £8. You can buy physical copies brand new for about £10; I don’t know why Nintendo insists on keeping the base price of digital games so high. Revelations 2 never came out on the Wii U, so it looks like I’ll be scrabbling around with my connections behind the TV so I can play it on PS3. That is, unless I play the remake of RE4 on PS4 first. So much Resident Evil, so little time…