Resident Evil: Revelations

[14 June 2013]

By Nick Dinicola

Resident Evil: Revelations is a port of a 3DS game that came out last year. It was fairly well-received then, but the 3DS is a very different type of gaming platform than the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. The things that work well on a portable console won’t necessarily work well on a home console. All the design quirks that probably made Revelations a good portable game now make it a bad console game, but that’s not the only thing the game does wrong. The story reaches new levels of dumb for the franchise and not the campy fun dumb that defined Resident Evil in the past. This is just dumb.

Revelations feels like a weak attempt to turn Resident Evil into a sci-fi franchise. Granted, the series has always straddled that line a little bit what with all the secret underground labs, genetic monsters, and super powerful evil corporations, but Revelations outdoes all of that, introducing an advanced, eco-friendly, floating city on the sea and a massive solar laser satellite. 

This genre jumping could have been interesting, but the game doesn’t actually do anything with its sci-fi conceit. The sea city is destroyed in the prologue and the solar laser satellite is just a glorified bomb on a timer. It’s all just back story, a bizarrely convoluted, needlessly flashy sci-fi back story made all the more absurd by the fact that the game takes place in 2005.

The actual story takes place on an abandoned cruise liner, a genuinely creepy setting that’s undermined by the horrible combat—but more on that later. Resident Evil alum Jill Valentine and other miscellaneous characters are sent to investigate the sudden resurgence of a bio-terrorist group. This is an interesting conceit that gets utterly wasted. The ensuing conspiracy and titular revelations are handled so poorly that Revelations plays out like a grade schooler’s fan-fiction. Every plot point, every lazy twist, every line of dialogue, every laughable attempt at profundity by quoting The Divine Comedy sinks this franchise to new narrative low.

The supporting characters are ridiculous: a woman missing a leg of her pants, a stoic, suspicious, and (supposedly) intimidating man with flamboyant, blinding red hair, two bumbling hackers meant to be comic relief, a Director of Operations who sounds bored out of his skull at all times. And they all use call signs like “Forkball” and “Jackass.” A cast this crazy should at least be good for some unintentional comedy, but the bad writing sucks the potential fun out of every moment. Revelations is just boring.

Yet the game isn’t a total narrative loss. The story itself is worthless, but the presentation and structure of that story represent an improvement on the ensemble action game conceit that Resident Evil 6 was going for. The game is split into episodes, and you jump between multiple sets of characters within each episode. This allows you see how each group discovers a piece of a mystery on their own, and it’s an effective way to tell multiple intertwining stories at once.

Unfortunately, there’s no similar silver lining to the gameplay. The aiming is awkward. There’s no slider for the control stick sensitivity, and the preset options result in your reticule moving either too fast or too slow to garner any precision. Movement is jerky in a subtle but damaging way. You have full analog control of the aiming, but as you turn to kill something, you’ll constantly over or under shoot your target. This has no practical impact on gameplay since the auto aim is so forgiving that at times my reticule wasn’t even over an enemy and I still shot them, but the psychological impact of bad controls can’t be dismissed. Revelations doesn’t feel good to play and just because it’s designed around bad controls doesn’t excuse those bad controls.

Enemies are either boring or frustrating. The boring ones spawn in front of you and just walk towards you. There’s no strategy to combat, you just stand in place and shoot. Since there’s no challenge in aiming (headshots, if you can pull them off, don’t do anything), the game tries to garner excitement by turning each enemy into a bullet sponge. So many monsters seem pointlessly hard to kill. You stand in place and empty clip after clip into them as they stumble towards you, slow and unthreatening. This results in a whole heck of a lot of shooting, but none of it is very interesting or engaging or fun. It’s just boring.

Except when it’s infuriating. There are other enemy types (the wolves and Hunters, specifically) that are frustrating to fight because they literally run circles around you. Here, Revelations runs into the same combat problem that plagued Resident Evil 6. The camera is pulled in so close to the character that you can’t see the enemies beside you, and when those enemies are running around you, they spend more time out of your sight than in your sight. At least the aiming in Resident Evil 6 felt smooth, the jerky movement of Revelations is only exacerbated when you fight moving targets.

The boss fights are exceptionally bad since they take all these problems and push them to the extreme. Bosses are even worse bullet sponges. You’ll spend 10 minutes shooting at a monster, unsure if you’re even doing any damage or if there’s some trick to this fight that you’re missing. Meanwhile, it’ll repeat a basic pattern of predictable attacks that are easy to see coming and easy to dodge, robbing the fight of any tension, and as you run around in circles, your mind will inevitably wander to other things you could be doing. Eventually, long after you’ve lost interest, the boss will fall over dead, and you’ll have to continue.

These fights are designed for you to burn through your ammo—that way you never have enough of a surplus to feel safe. It’s a now-standard design for action-horror games, but it only works if the monsters are scary, and the monsters here are never dangerous enough to be scary.

Some of the mechanical problems stem from its origins as a 3DS game, and portable design just doesn’t transfer well to home consoles. However, other aspects of the game would be considered lazy and bad no matter what platform they appeared on. So much of Revelations feels like Capcom just going through the motions, like someone was just crossing objects off a checklist of Resident Evil staples. It has monsters, it has Chris and Jill, it has a creepy environment, it has an outlandish story, but none of it has any heart, none of it is fun. It all feels forced. Revelations is just boring.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/172417-resident-evil-revelations/