Published on April 25th, 2014 | by Mark
Review: Resident Evil Revelations
Summary: Not bad, but far from the glory days
Since Resident Evil 4 the series has seemed to slowly go off the rails, morphing from a survival horror game into an all-out action game. This has led to much consternation from both the gaming press and long term fans of the series. Resident Evil Revelations tries in part to address the complaints and restore many of the features that used to be hall marks of the series. The game tries to take the best pieces of the two best Resident Evil games (one and four) and weld them together to make a fresh experience that includes mechanics and game play from the series’ high points. The idea was clearly to take the puzzle solving, claustrophobic and tense game play from the original game and the infamous Spencer Mansion and mix it with the over the shoulder perspective, tight controls and gunplay of the game that reinvented the series and took it to new places in Resident Evil 4.
What’s more the game stars Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, the original and much loved protagonists from the first game. The tantalising prospect of finding out what they were doing in the time between Code Veronica and Resident Evil 5 is dangled in front of the player. The developers clearly had visions of taking the setting and plot nearer to its roots.
On paper this sounds great, but in reality it simply doesn’t work all that well. The idea behind the game is sound, but it is almost as if the developers didn’t quite understand what made the different constituent parts of the original games good in the first place. When I played the definitive version of Resident Evil on the Gamecube I was blown away by the tension and the puzzles. These were present in Resident Evil because enemies were not in abundance, ammunition was limited and the environment was made up of lots of small rooms, corridors and tight spaces.
Working out the solution to a puzzle then having to back track through the Spencer Mansion in order to solve it produced a unique feeling. You knew you had to work your way back through the mansion’s corridors and rooms, but you didn’t know what would be waiting for you. Because you didn’t know what would be waiting, you didn’t know whether you would have the ammunition to deal with the potential challenges ahead.
Conversely the great gunplay of the fourth game came from the tight controls and wider spaces allowing for positioning, manoeuvring and the ability to retreat to a better vantage point. The tension in Resident Evil 4 came from masses of enemies who attempted to close you down and force you back into an indefensible corner.
The main setting of Resident Evil Revelations, The Queen Zenobia, is clearly reminiscent of the Spencer Mansion. Tight corridors, small rooms and cramped spaces are the order of the day. It all feels a little like a trip down memory lane as the developers have clearly tried to evoke the feelings experienced by gamers in Resident Evil. But the tension that was felt in the Spencer Mansion is all but lost as the areas are filled with enemies and ammunition is plentiful. You rarely ever feel under threat as you did when traversing the corridors and rooms of the first game. You know when you open a door there are likely to be enemies and you know you will have the fire power to despatch them. As a result the hallmark scares that had gamers on the edge of their seat when Resident Evil was originally released are all but gone.
Sadly the combat and gunplay that the developers have lifted from Resident Evil 4 also fail to make the transition intact. The shooting is all but ruined by the tight spaces and corridors which simply turn every fight into a shooting gallery. The wide open areas which allowed for room to manoeuvre in Resident Evil 4 are almost totally gone – you’re in an ocean liner, you simply stand at one end of a corridor and shoot everything shambling toward you.
Added to the woes experienced during gunplay are the less than stellar controls which can be frustratingly twitchy at times. This only serves to make those all-important headshots much more difficult to pull off. This is compounded by the erratic movements of the majority of enemies (which incidentally seem to be based on the Regenerator from Resident Evil 4) which make the twitchy controls even more annoying.
All the problems seem to be highlighted perfectly on your discovery of a sniper rifle. When you found a rifle in Resident Evil 4 it was a perfect complement to your arsenal. It could be used to pick off enemies in the distance with perfectly placed headshots – precision, power and safety. When you get it in Revelations it seems so out of place, the wide open areas that necessitate the use of such a weapon aren’t there. Instead you end up using it in tiny rooms and cramped spaces to provide single shot kills. Using a sniper rifle in a ten metre corridor or to shoot an enemy standing at the other side of a bed in a cabin seems to defeat the whole point of using a scoped long range weapon.
The Queen Zenobia does see the return of the series hallmarks of back tracking and puzzle solving, but again these elements are a far cry from what they used to be. Puzzles are the most basic of fetch quests which involve collecting and inserting the right crests in the right doors. The kind of puzzles that made you scratch your head and search the rooms of the Spencer Mansion for the most obscure clues are long gone, and with them the sense of achievement you gained for succeeding.
The whole game doesn’t take place on the Queen Zenobia though; in some of the chapters you play as other characters in order to fill in gaps in the story. In these chapters you move from A to B gunning everything down in sight. These chapters are very linear with long paths and narrow routes that serve to funnel you toward hordes of enemies.
Resident Evil has always been known for its epic boss battles. Again Revelations misses the mark somewhat; the bosses all boil down to being bullet sponges with a specific weak point. The developers clearly used the same approach to boss design as they did with the rest of the game – they lifted elements from previous titles. There’s the un-killable boss that stalks you for the whole game like Nemesis did, there is the giant screen filling beast that needs to be dealt with from a fixed turret and there’s even a new take on the Tyrant from the original.
As the game advances the writers try to suck you into a complex plot. The writers clearly wanted to follow the development theme with the story and take things back a step; an effort was obviously made to write a plot that included intrigue, betrayal and conspiracy. However it comes off as very much a B-movie attempt at story telling. It’s not bad, but it’s not going to be a story you remember for years to come, neither is the dialogue which at times is laughable.
One place Resident Evil Revelations does shine though is in its visual presentation; the game looks great and oozes atmosphere. The character models are also fantastic – a special mention has to go to Jill Valentine’s bottom, which clearly got an awful lot of attention from the designers. The high visual standard is even more impressive when you factor in that this was originally a 3DS game.
Thankfully though, the game’s presentation isn’t the only thing that raises it up above mere mediocrity; there is also an excellent multiplayer component called Raid Mode. Raid Mode breaks the whole game down into bite sized sections and allows two players to work through them defeating a selection of enemies. Once you get through a section you are then awarded a score based on your performance which grants you cash, which can then be spent on upgraded weapons, armour, herbs etc.
I actually enjoyed Raid Mode more than the main quest and found it hugely compelling. Going back to previously completed missions to better your score and earn gold medals with your newly upgraded arsenal is addictive stuff. This mode can be enjoyed alone or with a friend and significantly raises the value of the whole package.
If Resident Evil Revelations was simply confined to the main quest it would be a very average affair. On paper the combinations of the claustrophobic atmosphere and puzzle solving of Resident Evil and the fluid movement and gunplay of Resident Evil 4 is a winning affair. In reality it doesn’t really work. The developers have clearly tried hard to make a game that features the best of everything, but in the process they have lost sight of why those different elements worked in their original incarnations.
The result is sadly a game that is less than the sum of its parts. It ends up feeling like a second rate Resident Evil where the developers have simply copied and pasted ideas from previous games. The game leaves you with the feeling that Capcom have run out of ideas for Resident Evil. The franchise has gone stale and is somewhat relying on nostalgia and fans’ excitement to see Chris and Jill back in action once again.
Resident Evil Revelations is somewhat rescued though by the excellent Raid Mode. Had this not been in the game it would have scored a good point less. Overall it isn’t a bad game, but the fact that a story driven Resident Evil game feels average shows just how times have changed and how the franchise has slipped and lost the direction and exciting new ideas it was once known for.