Resident Evil: Revelations Hands-on (PS3)

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Following the release of Resident Evil 6 (and some might say Resident Evil 5), I think it’s safe to say that the Resident Evil fanbase is in a bit of turmoil at the moment. The sixth numbered entry to the franchise left many Resident Evil supporters cold, decrying the series’ continued shift in focus away from its survival horror roots towards something much more action oriented.

We would have to go back to Resident Evil 4 to reach any sort of consensus amongst fans regarding the quality of the series that they love so much – Capcom’s 2005 effort was universally enjoyed, while Resident Evil 5 in 2009 was a much less contentious game than its sequel. What about Resident Evil: Revelations? Set between the events of Resident Evil 4 and 5, Revelations stood out on 3DS and represented a return (at least in part) to the series’ survival horror origins while retaining gameplay advancements seen in the numbered series, and was overall well received by fans.

With the upcoming release of Resident Evil: Revelations on home consoles and PC, can Capcom bridge the divide between old and new and give fans hope for the future of the franchise?

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The motivating story conceit in Resident Evil: Revelations is the disappearance of fan-favourite character Chris Redfield and his Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA) partner, Jessica Sherawat, who’s last known location is in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea aboard a cruise liner, the Queen Zenobia. It’s up to Jill Valentine and Parker Luciani to investigate the ship, which has since fallen silent and appears strangely abandoned.

As always, not everything is as it seems and as Jill and Parker begin their search of the creepy vessel, left to their own devices miles away from shore, the story is told in a series of flashback and current event scenarios while swapping between playing through missions as both Jill and Chris before they meet up later in the game.

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What’s important to know about Resident Evil: Revelations is that it’s essentially an enhanced version of the original 3DS title, with higher definition visuals, improved load times and a new lighting model for more dramatic scenes, while enemy placement is said to now be random, and because the 3DS version was playable with the console’s Circle Pad Pro, the game’s controls map perfectly to a dual analog stick system.

While Revelations looks a few degrees better than its handheld counterpart, don’t expect eye-blisteringly amazing graphics – it’s about as visually impressive as an HD remake of a game can be, held back by design and art direction decisions made during the development of the original game. That being said, what I played of Revelations during my time with the preview was quite intense, despite sitting in a fully lit room full of other people.

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Playing as Jill while slinking through claustrophobic metallic corridors aboard the Queen Zenobia is an anxiety-riddled task, made more uneasy by the third-person camera which has been placed extremely close behind the character. This makes for an incredibly tight and limited field of view, with almost zero peripheral vision to take advantage of. Combined with the ever-important music strings and atmospheric sound effects, playing in the dark with headphones slipped over your ears is a scary proposition.

Revelations doesn’t make anything easier with its enemies, either, and after exploring a few rooms of the ship and discovering the presence of some kind of flesh-like substance ‘growing’ beneath the floor (gross), Parker and Jill shot down the first creature, a shambling humanoid covered in rippling, exposed fat and skin. Basic over-the-shoulder shooting in Revelations works well and extra combat skills, like the ability perform a quick turn to immediately face enemies behind you and dodge harmful lunge attacks, come in handy.

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You’ll also be able to dodge attacks while reloading your weapons and perform quick flurries of melee attacks, which in the game’s small and intricately designed environments seem like important skills to master, and taking note of when an enemy falters and opens itself up to a killing blow will become essential when facing more than a few of the atrocious creatures that Capcom’s designers have dreamed up. Should you fall prey to enemy attacks, however, a quick press of a button will heal you up, provided you have a green herb in your inventory.

Resident Evil: Revelations doesn’t only limit you to cramped indoor environs, though, and in one of Chris’ missions with Jessica tagging along, you’ll find yourself trudging over a snowy mountain pass (non-specifically ‘somewhere in Europe’) before entering a system of dim, dank caves and promptly being attacked by giant zombified wolves, complete with hunks of rotten flesh and exposed ribcages. Ew. Luckily Chris was packing a shotgun to help me make quick work of the revolting beasts.

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These packs of gnarly wolves gave me the opportunity to try out the B.O.W. Decoy device, which is thrown like a grenade and attracts all enemies in the areas towards it before exploding in their faces to weaken and kill them. I’m hoping there are a few other devices like the B.O.W. Decoy (which if you need to know by now, stands for Bio Organic Weapon, experimental mutants used to carve swathes of destruction) to play with.

What Resident Evil: Revelations does include is something called the ‘Genesis’ device, a handheld contraption used to scan the world for organic materials with the side benefit of finding bonus items (like ammo and green herbs), as well as clues about the story. Scanning areas to one hundred percent will net you health bonuses, and because ammo can be scarce, every extra bullet helps. Even during the preview, I couldn’t help switching to the first-person scanning mode and looking for treasure (even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep what I found) so if you’re anything like me, you’ll be scanning every corner of the world in the full game.

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Strangely enough, the console and PC versions of Revelations follow exactly the same mission structure as the 3DS version. Much shorter, bite-sized gameplay sessions are a welcome decision for handheld gaming, but the regular cut-scenes that break up the action in Revelations while sat in front of a TV or monitor may prove to become a bit annoying – just as I was getting invested in the game a brief story sequence would play out which wrecked the flow.

Then, after a short time playing and completing the first mission, a (very well produced) recap video ‘reminded’ me of the events I had just played through before moving on to the second mission. Definitely a holdover from the 3DS edition of Revelations, but unfortunately not one that is easily massaged away.

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Is Resident Evil: Revelations the game to restore any lost faith in Capcom’s long-running zombie franchise and lead to the company’s next vision for the series? Will Resident Evil 7 take cues from Revelations and reset itself towards a survival horror slant?

I’m not sure about either of these things, but what I do know is that Revelations’ move to home consoles and PC seems to be about as successful as we can hope for, and is just the game to satisfy fans’ appetites for more adventures in the universe that they love. With a whole new way to play thanks to the co-operative Raid Mode once you’re finished with the solo campaign, a host of visual improvements, extremely solid controls and an addictive Metroid-style bonus hunt system, Revelations returns (at least in part) to the deliberately paced horror action you’ve been craving.

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Resident Evil fans and those looking for a light entry point to the series should keep an eye out for Revelations when it’s released on May 21st in the US, and May 24th in Europe and the UK, across Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U and PC. Be sure to look over El33tonline’s vast stores of previous coverage on the game, and read our review of the 3DS version over here.