3DS games are not much cheaper than their console counterparts yet most of the time they feature far less content and replay value. Resident Evil: Revelations is one of the first games specifically designed for a handheld which offers a console-like experience in terms of graphical fidelity, production values and wealth of content on offer. It’s easy to get sucked into Revelations thanks to its atmospheric environments and compelling gameplay and at the height of your immersion you completely forget that you’re playing a portable title.
Revelations takes place in 2005, between the events of Resident Evil 4 and 5. The story is very much self-contained, however, and has little bearing on the series as a whole. Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA) agents Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine are once again the central characters, although this time they begin in separate locations and the plot involves Jill trying to track Chris down on a derelict cruise ship called the SS Queen Zenobia. Of course it’s not long before you run into all sorts of monstrosities infected with the T-Abyss virus and discover the secret machinations of yet another shady organisation.
As in recent Resident Evil games, co-op exploration is a big part of Revelations. The campaign is singleplayer only but you’re almost always alongside an AI partner who follows you around like a loyal puppy. You can’t swap guns, ammo or herbs with them like in Resident Evil 5 and they can’t die or cause noticeable damage to enemies, essentially making them some of the most ineffectual companions you’ll ever have in a videogame.
Gameplay in Revelations consists mainly of environment traversal and combat. It’s a shame that there are almost no puzzles in the game because the few that do crop up make great use of the 3DS’ touch screen. There are keys to collect which can be used to access new areas in previously visited locations and this facilitates plenty of backtracking, which should come as no surprise to series veterans.
Jill and partner Parker Luciani’s exploration of the SS Queen Zenobia is punctuated by short, combat-heavy segments where you’re placed in control of other BSAA agents. These missions introduce new locations such as a beach and snowy mountain pass, and serve as an enjoyable diversion from the main quest. On one occasion you have to fend off dozens of enemies in a hangar-type environment while your partner tries to hack into a computer, thus providing an experience that should appeal to fans of action-orientated gameplay.
Revelations has a diverse arsenal of weapons that can be augmented with various abilities. For example, you can equip your handgun with a custom part that allows you to squeeze off two shots with each trigger pull. There are dozens of custom parts scattered around Revelations’ world and these lend a welcome RPG-like element to gun customisation. You can’t combine herbs like in previous Resident Evil games but this simplified feature is compensated for by the impressive range of secondary weapons at your disposal. There are bombs that attract enemies and detonate after a certain amount of time, and grenades that release an electrical charge (very useful for defeating enemies lurking underwater).
Unfortunately, Revelations’ enemies are pretty lacklustre for the most part. There are a couple of well-designed bosses and at least two enemies return from previous games in the series, but the enemies generally look like an amalgamation of the monsters from Silent Hill and Parasite Eve. They bear little resemblance to the Resident Evil zombies we know and love, but are instead albino blobs that shamble around aimlessly and can easily be picked off from a distance.
Gunplay in Revelations is satisfying and surprisingly intuitive given the 3DS’ limited number of buttons. There are three control options to choose from and you can opt for a first-person or over-the-shoulder view while aiming. You can even enable gyroscopic aiming if you don’t mind moving your 3DS around. Certain control schemes allow you to strafe or move forwards or backwards while aiming, and if you’re lucky enough to play Revelations with a Circle Pad Pro then the game will feel somewhat akin to a console shooter.
If you’re playing without this add-on then the only real challenge in terms of aiming occurs when you’re swamped by multiple enemies. In scenarios like this I found that it’s best to use a shotgun with a wide damage radius where precise aiming is not required to repel your attackers.
If you’ve seen Revelations in motion then you’ll know it looks amazing. The game uses the MT Framework Mobile engine which Capcom specifically designed for the 3DS. The engine delivers highly detailed graphics with excellent lighting and optional anti-aliasing depending on if the 3D slider is on or off. The characters’ faces are not as detailed as they are in most AAA console titles but everything else looks surprisingly close to console quality on the 3DS’ small screen.
The one graphical omission I noticed is the absence of dynamic shadows in certain areas. There’s one corridor in the game which is draped in stripy shadows, but when you walk in front of them you don’t see the shadows wrap around Jill’s character model.
Revelations’ audio design is also excellent. The music effectively conveys the same creepy atmosphere that permeates the original Resident Evil trilogy, and the sound effects assault your senses and quicken your pulse at just the right moments. This game definitely warrants plugging in headphones in order to hear the sound design as it was meant to be experienced. The 3DS’ small speakers and limited volume level just don’t it justice.
Revelations’ campaign will take you in the region of nine hours to complete. You’ll unlock ‘Hell Mode’ for your efforts and this harder difficulty will definitely test your ammo conservation skills.
Raid Mode is Revelations’ excellent, challenge-based co-op offering. You can play these missions solo, with a friend locally or online, or with a stranger. It’s extremely easy to set up or join a game and you’ll be engaged in an action-packed mission in no time at all. The missions are based on ten to twenty-minute sections of the campaign albeit with different enemy and ammo layout. Each ‘course’ has a goal area that ends the mission once reached. You and your partner don’t need to stick together and it’s easy enough to glance down at the map on the bottom screen to locate your comrade.
The main hook of Raid Mode is the vast range of unlockables that will take a month of Sundays to fully obtain. Completing missions and earning XP for your character will net you weapons, custom parts, outfits, new characters and two additional difficulty levels. You can also purchase items from the Raid Mode shop using the game’s currency (BP), while some equipment can only be bought using your 3DS Play Coins balance.
Raid Mode is a great way to experience memorable sections of the campaign with a co-op partner and helps to push Revelations’ replay value beyond the twenty-hour mark. There are some annoying aspects to it such as the way you can’t follow your partner through an open doorway (the door slams in your face) but I understand this is due to technical limitations rather than poor design.
Resident Evil: Revelations is a significant evolution for handheld titles. Capcom understands that a large slice of 3DS owners want console-quality experiences to sink their teeth into and has stepped up to the plate admirably on this occasion. Revelations’ campaign and co-op modes are well worth the price of admission, while the game’s stellar presentation is an excellent example of the 3DS’ capabilities. While the story and enemy design aren’t the best the series has ever seen, fans of survival horror games need look no further than Revelations for a thrilling lesson in handheld horror.