Game Review: "Resident Evil: Revelations"

Capcom's Resident Evil: Revelations marks an important milestone for the franchise.  It's the first time an original game in the series has been presented on a handheld device (with the exception being the miserable Resident Evil Gaiden for the Game Boy Color), and even more impressively, it's the best the series has been since Resident Evil 4.  It's a thematic return to the vibe of the original Playstation trilogy, while still maintaining the visceral action of the fourth and fifth titles.

This is the second series outing on Nintendo's portable 3DS, the prior being the multiplayer-skewed Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D.  Unlike that action-based (and not particularly fun) title, Revelations gives a thick new slice of plot that fills in the gaps between 4 and 5.  We're once again following Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine in their new roles as agents for the BSAA, teamed up with new partners and facing up against the terrorist organization Veltro.  Veltro, as we're informed with cutscenes—and one deliciously harrowing level—is the group responsible for the fall of the utopian city of Terragrigia, and Chris and his new partner go missing while trying to follow up a lead on the terrorists' new base of operations.  Jill and her new partner, the brusque Parker, answer a distress signal that leads them to the Queen Zenobia, a cruise ship lost at sea and crawling with bio-organic weapons (BOWs) infected with a new strain of the T-Virus called the T-Abyss virus. 

The Queen Zenobia is the first thing that will make players feel nostalgic.  It's a luxurious pleasure ship, and its plush hallways are reminiscent of the first RE title and its zombie-infested mansion.  The similarities run even further, as sparse ammunition and the ever-elusive green herbs bring the series back to its survival horror roots.  You may be bristling with powerful guns, but the lean supply of bullets for these firearms keeps you constantly checking your HUD on the lower screen of the 3DS to make sure that you won't be left leveling an empty rifle at a mutant's spiny head.

It's absolutely glorious, and hopefully shows what Capcom has in store for Resident Evil 6 and further entries in the franchise.  That near-constant feeling of unease sits hard in your stomach like a bad calzone, and it never lets up throughout the game's runtime.    While you can supplement your meager stores of life-giving green herbs by using a device to scan enemies and their corpses, it never tips the game into outright "easy" territory.

The most unique, and surprisingly effective change comes from the game's episodic structure.  Levels are broken up into bite-size "episodes," complete with a "previously on…" flashback sequence at the beginning of each episode.  Each of these serialized segments end with a deliciously perilous cliffhanger, offsetting the game's natural plot segments with the overwhelming need to push forward and see what waits in the next segment.

If there's only one caveat to be leveled against the game, it's the limitations of the 3DS.  Not the game's hardware under the hood, which renders the game using visuals that would look just as impressive on a TV screen, but in the device's single analog "nub."  Controlling the game using this single stick and the buttons feels slightly awkward, but adding on the 3DS' bulky Circle Pad Pro peripheral completely solves this problem.  With a second analog stick and two more triggers at your disposal, the game controls just as well as its console counterparts.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that, even with the $20 surcharge of the peripheral, the game is just as worthy an experience for Resident Evil fans as any major console release.  It's a beautiful return to the series' roots that renewed my faith in Capcom and the franchise as a whole.  I'm excited by Resident Evil again, and that's a fantastic feeling.