While it might not be quite as terrifying as the Circle Pad Pro add-on it helped inspire for the Nintendo 3DS, Resident Evil: Revelations seems to have scared some impressive numbers out of the assembled game reviewers.
The eight games in the main Resident Evil series and the first to appear exclusively on a handheld, Resident Evil: Revelations has a lot to prove. It's got to demonstrate that a major installment of the beloved series can thrive on a portable platform. It has to show fans that Capcom still has a grasp on the franchise's survival horror roots. Plus it has to justify a ridiculous looking add-on for Nintendo's 3DS.
This is a game carrying a great deal of weight on its shoulder buttons. Judging from these review scores it looks like it hasn't had too much of a problem with that. See for yourself!
Ever since Shinji Mikami reinvented survival horror for a second time with Resident Evil 4, the series has struggled to bottle that same lightning again. Resident Evil 5 leaned too far towards action spectacle for its control scheme, while the forthcoming Operation Raccoon City looks to have caved in to thirdperson shooter mores altogether. Revelations, the franchise's fourth portable outing, takes most of its cues from Resident Evil 5's gung-ho gameplay, but still finds itself uncertain where its allegiances lie.
Right off the bat Revelations impresses with it's new MT Framework engine – words really can't describe how great it looks, and how the 3D effect adds to the presentation. Capcom really did an amazing job here, and for the first time, it really feels like Nintendo has provided us with hardware that can come close to a true console experience - if other developers can harness the power of the 3DS, it'll really give the Vita a run for it's money in 2012.
I won't go into an in-depth review of the Circle Pad Pro (that's worth a second article), but suffice to say it does it job in terms of offering an additional control scheme to Revelations. Adding the Circle Pad into the mix is extremely easy: you just attach it, and the game automatically calibrates it and switches to that scheme. The Circle Pad brings two new mechanics to the standard setup: it adds an additional control stick, and it adds extra shoulder buttons that allow you to switch weapons and items easier. It's by no means required, as the game controls just fine without it via the d-pad and touch screen, but it adds a little bit to the experience: if you're so inclined to spend the extra $20 (note that a handful of other future games are already confirmed to have Circle Pad Pro support).
The gameplay retains many of the vestiges of Resident Eviltry past but dispenses with the actual details of it. You find Green Herbs still to replenish your health, but you no longer must combine them with Red Herbs or anything like that. You needn't find any rooster keys to open chicken doors. On the one hand it is nice to be rid of some of this busywork. On the other hand, there was a certain reward to exploration and backtracking in previous games that doesn't really exist in this more linear, episodic structure.
At most times during your adventure you will have the use of a Metroid Prime-style scanner that adds a new wrinkle to the gameplay: You can scan the room for hidden items, but you can also scan monsters before or after you kill them. Scanning them alive and when they're really close to you gets you more points, and 100 points gets you another Green Herb. A clever risk-reward mechanic.
Though most of the action takes place aboard the abandoned ocean liner, it's a diverse and expansive location. New paths and shortcuts are unlocked as you explore, taking in a grisly kitchen, a gloomy dining room, and a ritzy great hall. Later on there are submerged, swimmable sections to mix things up—first with the time pressure of getting from air pocket to air pocket without drowning, and then with a diving apparatus and underwater shock grenades for aquatic beasties. The environments look great, as do the richly detailed character models, especially those of Jill and the various barbed, bony, or bulging zombie creatures. The visuals are among the finest you'll see on a 3DS, and the 3D itself is also excellent; Revelations in 3D has a subtle, convincing solidity that's easy on the eye.
While the campaign is varied and fairly lengthy, clocking in at over ten hours, Revelations is packed with extras and additional game modes. In the campaign alone you start with two difficulty settings, while completion of ‘normal' will unlock the ‘hell' mode, a New Game+ that allows you to retain weapons and items from the first playthrough. The standard setting is challenging in its own right, with boss fights a sticking point in the balancing of difficulty. We progressed well, with few deaths, until the first major boss encounter: in these difficult sections the otherwise solid controls can perhaps be a problem, with the dodge move – Up and B together with good timing – being particularly awkward.
In the grand scheme of things it's a minor issue overcome with a few run-throughs, with most sections suiting the control setup well. As expected, the hell difficulty pushes the limits, with enemies that move faster and absorb more bullets: skilful gamers will need persistence and practice to succeed. There are also Missions – or achievements – to complete, varying from killing a set number of monsters to successfully dodging 20 times.
Outside of the single player campaign, there's Raid, a mini-game that replaces Mercenaries; probably for the best, since you can buy the standalone Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D. Here, you plow through levels pulled from the main quest, killing progressively difficult monsters and earning points to unlock better weapons and equipment. What makes it special is the inclusion of local and online co-op with a friend. Regardless of how you connect, the game runs smoothly throughout.
I'm sure some people would like a scarier Resident Evil than Revelations, though this one undeniably moves closer to RE1 than either of the last big two. I'm mostly satisfied with the mix here. Episode after episode, the game feels like an anthology of the series' past tones. Fat has been cut, additions have been made, corny dialogue continues to be chattered and an under-appreciated piece of hardware has been programmed masterfully.
Resident Evil: Revelations' is one of the series' best and it is a 3DS essential, a worthy continuation of the release of substantial and technically impressive games on the platform that have been coming out, about one a month, since the fall.
Sounds like I'm going to have to find that 3DS charger again.