The long-running Resident Evil franchise has had its share of ups and downs over the years. After a period of stagnation, Resident Evil 4 marked a welcome change of pace, focusing more of its attention on action over horror. Though certainly enjoyable, Resident Evil 5 didn’t receive the same glowing reception, likely because it stuck very close to the path hewn by its predecessor. Resident Evil: Revelations marks the second title in the series for the Nintendo 3DS, but the first that successfully takes the action elements that reinvigorated the franchise and blends them with the tensity and horror that comprise the roots of the series. It does so largely by discretely separating its more action-oriented segments from it’s more traditional survival horror-oriented ones. While a better blending of the two would be interesting, Revelations‘s approach works well, and the title largely remains entertaining throughout.
Taking a page from titles like Alan Wake, Revelations is presented in an episodic structure, complete with television-style recaps at the beginning of each episode. The notion of natural breakpoints makes a good deal of sense for a title meant to be experienced on the go. Further, Revelations uses this system to allow players to experience the game through the eyes of multiple characters, presenting the narrative from different perspectives. It also refreshingly allows for the gameplay style to be changed periodically.
In many ways, particularly given how full featured it is, Revelations might seem like a title that would translate better to a beefier home console. But given the creeping pace and looming dread of many of the game’s sections, there’s something to be said for the claustrophobia imbued by the limited size of a handheld. In tenser moments, it’s not hard to find yourself hunched over, staring at a screen a few inches from your face, oblivious to all else. Technically speaking, the game is a marvel to behold and serves as a showpiece for the system. Further, Revelations arguably puts the system’s 3D effects to the best use of any non-first party title. The sound design is also top-notch, and playing the game with headphones is certainly a treat.
Resident Evil: Revelations takes place on an ocean liner, its enclosed space making the perfect setting for this kind of game. Notably, this isn’t the first Resident Evil title set at sea. The poorly regarded Gameboy Color title, Resident Evil Gaiden was actually the first. But Gaiden was a pale representative of the series. There have actually been multiple attempts to bring Resident Evil to portable gamers since the series’ inception.
Deadly Silence was a repackaging fo the first title in the series for the Nintendo DS. While it was certainly entertaining, it was also essentially a remake of a game that was a decade old at the time. Mercenaries 3D was a glorified bonus mode that had trouble justifying its status as a fully priced 3DS title. The series has also made appearances of varying quality on mobile phones throughout the years. But the reality is that Revelations marks the franchise’s first truly satisfying original portable entry, leaving every previous attempt to deliver the quality that the series is capable of on the go in its wake.
One of the most solid additions to the Resident Evil repertoire in Revelations is the Genesis scanner, which allows players to search the environment for various items. The Genesis can also be used to scan enemies, similar to the mechanic found in the Metroid: Prime series. Though it might have been more interesting to have the Genesis mechanic reveal optional story elements rather than items, as was the case with the Prime titles, it’s still a welcome asset to the Resident Evil formula. With a main quest that takes roughly ten hours to complete, Revelations offers a good value for players. An unlockable higher difficulty and the now requisite mode tasking players with taking down waves of enemies (called “Raid” here) further increase the amount of content available.
While Revelations makes relatively few missteps, it is not a perfect game. While playing series veterans Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine is great, the new characters are generally fairly uninteresting. The puzzles are simplistic at best. Finally, the narrative itself leaves something to be desired. Though to be fair, Resident Evil games have long been more about atmosphere than plot, particularly given the series’ B-movie roots.
Overall, Resident Evil: Revelations is a solid entry in the venerable series, and as it’s essentially on par with its home console brethren, is certainly the pinnacle of the franchise’s portable history. With orders of magnitude of more depth than Resident Evil’s previous appearance on the 3DS, Revelations is a fantastic choice for 3DS owners looking to add a title with lasting appeal to their library. Further, as the game smartly assimilates some of the action-oriented elements of more recent entries in the series with the more deliberate pacing and survival horror elements that defined the franchise at the beginning, it’s likely to be enjoyed by Resident Evil fans old and new.