Handheld Entertainment Nintendo DS/DSi/3DS Slideshow

Resident Evil: Revelations Review

When it comes to franchise games, experience lends a lot to a review and legitimizes the reviewer. Admittedly, I was a bit late to the Resident Evil party. I joined in on the fun at the self-titled fourth installment of the game on the Gamecube – and gave it another partial play through on the PS2 when it hit that platform.

I’ve spent many a nights falling asleep with the sounds of the Merchant in my head; so much so, that I almost turned into this guy:


Later on, I revisited the original adventure on my Nintendo DS under the guise of Resident Evil: Deadly Silence; an enhanced, touch screen updated edition of the first game from the PlayStation. It was a pleasant outing.

I took Resident Evil 5 for a spin on the Xbox 360, but true Resident Evil fans know that this was a serious departure from Resident Evil 4 (RE4) – and even more so from the original games. While they had the pieces/parts in place, it just didn’t feel like RE to me.

My last foray into the RE world was with Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D portable edition on the Nintendo 3DS which turned out to be surprisingly good (especially the online play); albeit not exactly what most RE fans wanted.

That all being said, I missed a LOT of the franchise along the way. Despite the fact that the highest number in the series currently stands at 5 – there are many more installments to this series; more than ten other games exist bearing the RE moniker – and I haven’t played any of them.

Overview

Resident Evil: Revelations (or Revelaitons if you got one of the early releases – the spine text is noticeably misspelled – who in QA missed THAT one?) is Capcom’s latest entry in the franchise – promising a full blown RE experience exclusively on Nintendo’s new 3D handheld.

Oddly enough, the game had been demonstrated to gamers twice before the release date; one as a minor demo included with RE: Mercenaries and as one of Nintendo’s first downloadable demos. The latter demo wasn’t universally approved – many citing controls, lack of ammunition and other issues responsible – but it definitely showed the 3DS more than capable of producing the RE4-type formula that so many were eager for.

Along with the game, Nintendo released the Circle Pad Pro (CPP) add-on controller (announced months before); a cradle-like device that adds an additional analog stick and an extra trigger button to the Nintendo 3DS. I’ll cover the CPP add-on a bit later.

The game features two save slots – so you and another family member of friend can each enjoy your own story.

The Story

Fortunately for me, the RE series isn’t about huge enveloping story lines. As with previous installments, the story is just enough to string the game’s mechanics together and very little more. I’m a big fan of this methodology; keep it simple and let the game carry itself.

The story elements are told through impressive pre-rendered cutscenes – in full 3D of course. Throughout the game, you’ll find the occassional NPC, book or paper fragment that adds a little more to the story – but for the most part, skipping  the cutscenes (and you can; just hit START – thanks Capcom) will skip the story elements.

The story starts at the current time, with Jill (your playable character) and partner Parker showing up at the Queen Zenobia, a luxury liner “ghost ship” rumored to be involved with a terrorist organizaion using a deadly virus as their weapon of mass extinction. You are, however, the Second Team – operations lost contact with the First Team, Chris and Jessica – and your job is to find out what’s going on and rescue the First Team.

The game plays out mostly in the “current Jill” timeline, but through “playable flashbacks”, you’ll uncover more of the story. You’ll play Chris’ storyline of his and Jessica’s arrival at the ship as well as Jill’s assignment to the project. You’ll play Chris again in another flashback, too. I’m only about five episodes in, so I’m guessing there will be more flashbacks as the story unfolds. While the story takes place mostly on board the ship, you’ll have several other locations to play in thanks to the flashbacks.

The game plays out in several ways; exploration, basic puzzle solving (nothing too hard here) and rescue. So far, there are no missions that require you to protect an NPC (I hate those) – but I could see it sneaking into the foray at some point.

As with most RE games, the story involves staying alive and figuring out what happened.

How Does It Look?

Wow!
Actual Gamplay

This is what I would call a “reference” game on the 3DS. The visuals are stunning – regardless of location, be it ship or outdoors. The player models are detailed and extremely well-animated. Organic effects are handled very well – including smoke and shadow.

The settings are diverse and changing – so you don’t feel like you’re stuck with “gunmetal ship graphics” the whole time. Locations such as an opera theater, a casino and others break up the monotony of visuals you might expect being trapped on a ship most of the game. The game makes good use of spacials – working the claustraphobic effects of tight quarters when it makes sense to the game, while offering large open areas to give the feeling of safety.

The 3D really adds to the realism. The game never feels flat; thanks to keeping the game filled with stairs, ladders, elevators and more – and the 3D helps offer the depth needed to pull it off.

The framerate stays rock solid with a few exceptions (see Weaknesses of the Game below for more information on that). In most cases, these exceptions are expected and do not impact the game.

This is how we want ALL games to look on the 3DS.

How is the 3D?

We ARE talking about a 3D gaming system, right?  I know – 3D seems to be a love/hate relationship.  I personally know a lot of people that have never turned that 3D slider up.  Gives them headaches, they say.  Makes them nauseous, they say.  Doesn’t add anything to the game, they say.  Those are the haters – and I feel sorry for them.

I believe 3D is like great graphics – it can’t make a crappy game GOOD.  But it can make a good game BETTER; provided it’s used right, of course.  With 3D gaming, there are two types of use.  Passive and active.

Active 3D games require the 3D to actually play the game.  A game like Pushmo on the Nintendo eShop is a great example.  Several games out there use the 3D as an active gaming element.

Other games, like Revelations, use 3D passively – to lend depth and realism to a game.  Sometimes, it’s abused – I know.  Sometimes it’s “3D for the sake of 3D”, am I right?  Cheap 3D effects … because … they CAN.

The best 3D is the 3D you don’t notice and take for granted.  No cheap body parts thrown at the screen.  No 3D blood spraying “in your face”.  No super long poles or swords spearing at your eyes.  Just an environment that looks and feels real.

Incredible in 3D

That’s what Revelations is about; well-done, passive 3D that does nothing more than enhance the game to lend to the realism that is required to scare  you.  The Litmus Test is easy for this.  Simply play the game for a couple of hours with the 3D turned up to about 3/4.  Then, after the first couple of Episodes; turn the slider to OFF.  Does the game suddenly look unrealistic and flat?  Can you stand to play a WHOLE Episode with it off?  No?  Then it passes the test.

How Does It Sound?

Sounds imparts fear. Take any scary movie – remove the soundtrack and the sudden violin screeches – and you’re left with something anti-climatic. Remove the horrifying sound effects – and you’re left with a laughable cinematic experience.

Horror
Sound Makes This Scarier

Revelations delivers. The audio is crisp and clean – even through headphones (which I recommend for the FULL experience). The music is high quality and doesn’t grate on your nerves (ruining the experience) – you never notice it repeating. Of course, it is context sensative so you’ll know when something bad is going to happen.

The sound effects are perfect; disgusting without being overbearing. Doors creak. Ambient sounds freak you out. Little smatterings of hair-raising sounds find their way into the game (anytime a girl’s voice giggles in a horror game, something bad is going to happen). The clunking of the monsters running around in the air ducts is creepy as hell.

The 3DS pumps out the audio very well; the sound is clean and audible most of the time. Dialog is loud without blaring. Even with other noise going on around me, the sound was adequate. Naturally, if you’re willing to turn off the lights and put on headphones, you can expect to nearly pee your pants at least once while playing.

Game Play and Mechanics

The Basics

Bash the Y!

The game takes on most of the mechanics from RE4 (fortunately for me).

Perspective is kept “over the shoulder” with the exception of the “first person” view when aiming/firing weapons. When being attacked by creatures or other Quick Time Event (QTE) stuff, the perspective changes to third person (again, RE4 players should be used to this).

Speaking of QTE, there isn’t a lot in here. Basic “shake the monster off” type button thrashing, but nothing like the mini-cinematic action scenes of RE4 (at least not yet).

As you would hope with dual screens, the top screen is your play area, while the bottom screen takes care of weapon switching, real-time map and inventory control. You can also use the D-pad for weapon/item switching, but that methodology just isn’t working for me in this game. I primarily grope the touch screen for my needs.

While a main staple in other RE games, the “breakable boxes” rarely make an appearance in this game. Fortunately, when you DO see one the chances are good that it contains some much needed ammo.

Fear Factor

Like the other games in the series, Revelations is a horror survival game.  I always thought it was funny … horror survival … isn’t pretty much EVERY game about survival?  Maybe we’ll just call it a “horror” game and leave the survival part as an assumed.

Horror comes in many flavors.  There is realistic horror (like what Dean Koontz writes about) and there is traditional Gothic type horror (like what Stephen King writes about).  The RE series is the latter.  Blood, gore, decapitations, sudden corpse effects … saw blades opening up your chest … you know, that sort of thing.  RE4 on the Gamecube was actually the most violent, gory game I’d ever seen on a Nintendo platform.

Revelations is no exception.  There are plenty of scares (both of the sudden corpse effect type and the “damn, that’s just scary-freaky” type).  Thanks to the great graphics and even better sound – horror is delivered easily and effectively in this game.

Be afraid ... Very Afraid

Weapons and Ammo

As with RE4, ammunition control is a key element to the game. While ammo is scattered all over the place, you’ll frequently find yourself low on bullets for your various guns. You start with your standard pistol and knife (for melee style attacks), but you’ll find the standard RE fare as the game moves on; shotgun, sniper rifle, MP5 machine gun, etc. You can carry three guns at a time. Each gun has a “chamber” value (how many bullets are currently loaded), a cache value (how many bullets do you have to “reload” with) and a maximum capacity of bullets you can carry at one time for each weapon.

In addition to guns and your “infinite knife”, you have some other artillery to use.

The big two you’ll get are hand grenades and an anti-bad guy device that “attracts” the monsters near it, then explodes. As usual, you won’t get many of either (less of the latter than the former). I didn’t notice the player taking noticable damage from either device explosion, but if you do it appears to be pretty minimal. I would have preferred the attraction device allow remote detonation, but I guess that would be too easy, right?

Weapon Upgrades

“Welcome! What are ya buyin’?” Sorry, no. There is no Merchant this time around. Instead, your weapons are improved by bolt ons (in the way of Custom Parts boxes) found while you play the game.

Each Custom Parts box you find contains a different upgrade (or level of upgrade). Upgrades include two bullets per trigger pull, extra damage, more chance of a critical hit … that sort of thing.

Of course, you can’t just add these parts anytime you want. Special green boxes are scattered around the game – activating these weapon boxes allows you to store weapons (since you can only carry three) as well as upgrade by attaching the parts to the gun of your choice.

To keep things level, not all parts fit on all types of guns and each gun can only have three bolt ons at any given time. It is worth noting that you CAN change around the bolt ons if you decide you’re not getting enough bang for the buck. Naturally, this has to be done within the weapon box – you can’t change them out anytime you like.

Combat

Firing a weapon works much like RE4; you hold down a button to get into first person perspective, you aim and you use another button to fire. Pretty standard fare. You can move slowly while aiming, but if you’re getting stalked by a monster, better to drop out of first person mode and run far enough away to get some shots off without getting eaten alive.

You’ll find monsters in this game pretty much fall into three categories; fodder (slow moving, easy to kill – but relentless in numbers), shooters (much like fodder, only they shoot back) and trap layers (mini-bosses that also can spit out organic traps that will snag and pin you like a Venus Flytrap). Oh, and there are bosses too; big, scary and hard to kill – these are far and few between – but are quite an ordeal when you do encounter one.

When the bullets are gone, the grenades all thrown – and you’re down on your luck – you always have your trusty knife with you. While a quick, easy to recover from attack – the knife does very little damage against the monsters in this game.

The game offers you a means to “dodge” monster attacks. If successful, they end up behind or beside you in a slightly stunned state. Dodging and using your knife instead of ammo will reap you great rewards (that is, you save ammo for when you need it). I haven’t mastered this skill yet – which is probably why I’m often out of ammo.

You can also use fuel tanks and other certain environmentals as weapons too. Also per usual, the sudden appearance of these potential combustibles likely means there is a boss nearby. Get a monster near an explosive container, shoot it – and watch it explode all over the bad guys.

Big Bada Boom
Big Bada Boom

Lower level monsters dissolve away, but higher creatures leave behind their bloody carcasses in a pool of contaminated blood. These are here for you to collect biometric specimens for (more on that in a minute).

Healing

Green Plant spray is your standard means of first aid. Unlike previous installments, there aren’t any variations (at least not yet) such as vials and red plants. One Green Plant = 1 Healing Spray.

These are far and few between – I think the most I’ve had of them at any given time is four. Saving your spray for times of great crisis is recommended. You won’t want to face a boss without several on hand. As with previous RE games, you do not heal over time; the spray is the way. The only way.

The Genesis Bio-Scanner

A new element of the game is the biometric scanner you carry around with you.

Held as a weapon (in fact, you can’t use it AND a weapon at the same time), this device brings up a green screen in first person mode, showing you anything that might be contaminated with a virus as well as hidden items.

As you pan around an area, the scanner will show you things that can be scanned. Holding down your FIRE button will start the scan. Each scan takes a few seconds to register, so using it during combat isn’t the best plan (but it offers a reward for the risk – more in a minute). Once you scan a hidden item area, the item is revealed and you can pick it up like any other object.

In a playable flashback, you will learn about the Bio-Scanner. Its main use is to sample pathogens from blood and tissue samples. A percentage scanner at the top of the scanner shows “how much” of a specimen of virus you’ve collected. Each infected monster, flesh or blood pool will advance the counter – ending with 100%. When you reach 100%, the scanner resets to 0% and you are awarded a Healing Spray. Each “scan” of monster or blood pool gives you anywhere from 2-10% on the meter – which means there is a pretty decent number of times you can get awarded spray.

Here is your secret tip of the day. Since most monsters dissolve and don’t leave a carcass or blood pool – you can’t scan them after they are dead. However, nothing stops you (other than good combat sense) from scanning them while they are alive. This will dramatically increase the free spray you will earn.

Scan them - Dead or Alive

While I haven’t encountered any mandatory game item (keys, books, etc) from using the Bio-Scanner, about 25% of your ammo will come from “hidden” sources revealed by it. Word to the wise; use it on any new room or area you encounter.

The Bio-Scanner will also help you with an in-game scavenger hunt – which is finding hidden hand prints scattered throughout the game. Damn those hand prints. They have me scanning every nook and cranny for them. Nice touch, Capcom.

The Circle Pad Pro

Oddly enough, Nintendo released their new Gamestop exclusive hardware addon – the Circle Pad Pro (CPP) – right along side the only game that currently makes use of it. Even more oddly enough, Revelations doesn’t have an icon on the back of the box that says it uses the CPP (which is promised within the instructions included with the peripheral).

The CPP is essentially an alternative, AAA battery-powered cradle (draws no power from the 3DS) that you snap the 3DS into (uses rubber feet to hold the unit in place – works VERY well) that grants the player a second analog stick; very common in big brother gaming consoles.

Using the IR port of the 3DS (much like Skylanders‘ Portal of Power), it transmits the analog stick movements to the 3DS. There is no lag or drifting – although there is a calibration option within the game; I have never had to use it.

The analog stick itself is of medium quality. You can immediately tell that it isn’t as good as the analog stick on the 3DS itself – but after playing an hour or two, you will quickly adapt to it.

The top of the CPP has 3 shoulder buttons – ZL, ZR and another R button.  In the Type D controls (the default for CPP users) the R button is your melee/knife button – and it is just plain hard to get to in a crisis situation.  It is my only complaint with the peripheral.

The unit itself is sturdy enough, but the lightness of it will certainly give one the impression of “cheap”. The lightness is appreciated after you’ve been playing for three or four hours. Despite the initial cheap feeling, it feels really good in the hands and the controls are more or less comfortable with a few exceptions. It adds some ‘girth’ to the unit which will also be appreciated by folks with bigger hands.

Maybe people complain that this unit should have an extended battery pack  in it – to help power the 3DS, but I totally understand why they didn’t. I prefer the lightness of this controller for extended play.

While the $20 price tag will make some balk at the add-on, I cannot recommend it enough if you want to best possible experience with RE. Hopefully we won’t get burned on this peripheral like so many others Nintendo has provided over the years and other titles in the future will make use of it intelligently.  Currently, Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater and Luigi’s Mansion 2 are both rumored to use the peripheral.

Yes, you can play the Revelations eShop demo with the CPP.  So, if you’re on the fence about the CPP and the game, grab the demo – borrow the CPP – and give it a run.


Playing the Game Without the CPP

The first question I’m asked about this game; Can I play it without the CPP?  Of course you can.

But NEVER EVER try the CPP at a demo kiosk or a friend’s house – because you won’t be able to go back.  Just part with the $20 and feel sad that you had to experience the game without it as long as you did.

The game offers three different, logical control types outside of the CPP.  There is something for everyone in there – but you’ll need to spend some time with each one to see what suits you best.  Personally, I like the one that makes the ABXY buttons act as your “look dpad”.  Makes sense to me and works fairly well in lieu of the second analog stick.

Missions

Missions are your Street Pass bonuses – more or less achievements you can earn during either the main story (Campaign) or Raid Mode.  Turning on Street Pass will get you more missions you can complete.

This is for the completionist in all of us.  If you love Achievements on Xbox or Trophies on PS3 – this should be your first stop.

Watching His Back

Raid Mode

These are quick, small level games you can play when you want a fast action short game.  It isn’t unlike Zombies on Call of Duty games on console platforms.

Before you start you can choose your weapon load out; using the same “green box” interface from the Campaign.  Three guns can be carried – each one upgraded with two Custom parts.  Some parts require you attain a certain level of experience before you can attach them to your weapons.

You can also go shopping.  Pretty much everything is for sale; either by spending the BP you’ve earned in Raid Mode missions (and even the Campaign – but that’s all that carries over).  Some items require you spend Nintendo Coins to buy them.  Neat.

Once you’ve loaded out you can get started. You can play in a solo mode, with a local player or online.

The objective is the same.  Kill kill kill. Find an emblem hidden on the level, destroy it to finish the round.

Online you can play with either friends or “world”.  Before you jump in, you can filter on Difficulty, Stage and Region.

As you kill, you earn BP and experience points.  Buy more, use better weapons.

I played online – found a match no problem.  A nice Level 22 guy helped me out through my first mission.  You play on pieces of the map you’ve unlocked in the game.  All three monster types show up – so be ready.

A very nice addition to an already excellent solo campaign.

Weaknesses of the Game

If you have interpreted my coverage of the game as favorable so far, then I have imparted my feelings correctly. This is THE game to own for the 3DS right now. It delivers on every level.

But, no game is perfect – and any journalist worth a grain of salt has to point out the shortcomings of a title.

Loading

First up .. the load times. Seems silly to me everytime I see the word LOADING on a cartridge-based gaming system. Most of the time on 3DS games, it’s hardly worth being there. However, Revelations has some long load times between episodes. It ain’t like PlayStation Portable’s UMD load times, but my brain gets confused when I see LOADING and there is no disc or hard drive spinning somewhere. I guess it is just part of the modern age – but … Fortunately, the long load times are between Episodes where you would expect it, and not during the actual gameplay.

Loading during game play is done through clever intervals that mesh up with the game itself. We’ve seen this before – but it is pretty well handled in Revelations. For example, elevators. If you get in an elevator and change floors, it’s loading the level you’re going to. You’ll get stutters in the game – your movements will be choppy if you’re running around the elevator – but for most people, the load time will simply be “waiting for the elevator”.

When changing between AREAS of the ship, you’ll have a similar process – when you open certain doors with big ship wheels on them, the wheel will sit and spin … and again, you’ll get some stuttering while the next area loads. These are longer than the elevator, but shorter than the Episode loading.

The biggest drag of loading is when you die. Essentially, the whole Episode has to load again. A real drag, but dying doesn’t happen as often as you might think and it is usually after you have your ass handed to you in a big way – so taking a few seconds break isn’t too horrible.

Frame Rate

The game is rock solid 99.9% of the time – I almost loathe mentioning this because it is so minor – but responsibility deems me to do so.

Rarely, when a script even happens, you’ll have a very quick (maybe a second at most) of dropped frame rate. Normally this wouldn’t be a big issue, but it DOES alert you that “something is going to happen” which ruins the surprise (and scare).  The frame rate itself isn’t really an issue in these cases.

I’m a great candidate for detecting inconsistent and poor frame rate; I get motion sick if a game cannot keep up.  I can say without a doubt – no issues here.

Difficulty Level

This isn’t an easy game on NORMAL.  I haven’t taken a run at it on EASY, but when they say “hearty challenge” on NORMAL, they aren’t kidding.  While I’ve gotten an establish means of fighting the fodder type monsters, the bosses are cruel.  I’ve put the game down more than once in frustration while fighting them.  Now, I like a little challenge and I don’t want the game handed to me – NORMAL is probably right where I need to be.

Don’t be ashamed if NORMAL kicks your ass – especially if you aren’t a die hard RE4 player.  Before you throw your beloved 3DS across the room; consider starting over on EASY.  No one will judge you.

Summary

Some people feel burned by RE: The Mercenaries.  Some people are vehemently against the Circle Pad Pro and believe this game cannot be played without it.  Some people hated the demo.  I hope this review has helped convert these people.  This is probably the best “console style” experience on the Nintendo handheld at this time.  I can’t give it enough praise.  It is executed brilliantly, they played directly to the hardware without a crappy mobile game port and you would not feel ashamed to hand your 3DS over to your Vita lovin’ friends to take for a spin.

I also can’t recommend the CPP enough.  Yes, I know – it’s $20 in addition to a $40 game.  Look at it this way;  if this was a console game, it would be $60 – and I think this game gives the big consoles a run for their money.  If it helps, think of it as a $60 game – and not buying “another plastic Nintendo accessory”.

I’m pleased to give this game the highest rating possible here at the Lagoon; Five Tikis.  Well- earned, well-deserved – and a new bar has been set for 3DS gaming.

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

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