2017 has been a good year for the Resident Evil series. With the release of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, Capcom has managed to win back the good faith of its longtime fans, as well as bring in a whole new audience. Capcom are now offering hungry fans more with the PS4 and Xbox One re-release of Resident Evil: Revelations, originally released for the 3DS in 2012. With Resident Evil having taken several strides recently as a game series, does Revelations still hold up today?
The story follows series protagonist Jill Valentine who is tasked with finding her former partner and fellow series protagonist, Chris Redfield. The search leads Jill aboard an abandoned cruise ship called the Queen Zenobia, and she soon discovers that it is a site for yet another viral outbreak which threatens to infect the entire ocean. The story is in line with classic Resident Evil games in terms of quality. It feels like a B-movie, complete with corny dialogue and a plot that constantly twists and turns. It is engaging enough, but how much pleasure one will derive from the story very much comes down to their liking of classic cheesy horror thrillers. The story is also episodic, possibly due to being originally designed for a handheld with limited battery-life, and features “Previously on…” cinematics when you continue the game in order to bring you up to speed. The episodic nature fits with the twisting and turning narrative, though it can give the pacing a bit of a “stop and start” feel.
The gameplay is very much built on top of the groundwork laid by Resident Evil 4, with Revelations attempting to streamline some of the elements of RE4 that might not resonate with a newer audience. For one, players can move and aim, which is quite a luxury in this series. This is balanced out with enemies that move around very erratically. The player is also given some defensive capabilities, namely a dodge. This, however, ends up feeling a bit too context sensitive for its own good as the timing to successfully execute it is a bit finicky. While inventory management in the traditional sense is no longer there, some elements of it still remain. The player has to deal with quite a few limitations in terms of how much ammo and how many weapons they can carry. This all ties into the rather well done item box system, where the player can exchange weapons, as well as upgrade them. You pick up upgrades as you progress through the ship and can apply them when using the item box. However, each weapon only allows a certain amount of upgrades at once, adding an interesting bit of upgrade management to the game. There is also a very Metroid Prime-esque scanner that the player can use to search the environment for hidden items. Overall, the gameplay feels like classic third-person survival horror with some welcome changes added to ease newer players in.
The game is divided up into levels or “episodes”, and for the majority of the game, you will be exploring the Queen Zenobia. The ship is laid out much like the environments of the classic RE games. A lot of it is open from the get-go, but several doors are locked behind puzzles and various keys, forcing the player to occasionally backtrack. This kind of design emphasizes creating familiarity with your environment, hence why the Resident Evil series hosts a variety of memorable and iconic environments. In this regard, the Queen Zenobia is no different. This is also helped by the game’s wonderful art direction when it comes to the environment: The ship is home to the usual dimly lit, metallic gangways, but it also boasts living quarters decked out in a Gothic style, reminiscent of the diabolical mansion from the original Resident Evil. All this is capped off with superb sound design and an incredible soundtrack, which help to create a rather unique oceanic atmosphere. This mixture of Gothic and aquatic makes the Queen Zenobia a very distinct and interesting game environment, almost at the same level as the iconic Spencer Estate or Baker residence.
While the sections of the game that are aboard the ship are brilliant, following the design philosophy of older RE games with claustrophobic environments and atmosphere building, there are, unfortunately, gameplay sections outside of the ship. These levels usually have the player take control of other characters as you follow a different subplot in the middle of the grand conspiracy. While these cutaway missions aren’t exactly bad, they are considerably weaker than the Queen Zenobia levels, amounting to little more than shooting galleries. The survival horror elements of Revelations are streamlined as is, but to abandon them completely for about a third of the game is rather questionable. These missions also serve to drag the pacing down at times, usually having you just shoot waves and waves of enemies with little plot or atmosphere building.
In terms of visual presentation, the game is rather lackluster. Despite the PS4 offering a resolution and framerate increase compared to the previous console re-release, the graphics don’t really hide the fact that it is an upscaled port of a 3DS game from 5 years ago. Despite the good art direction, the environments are filled with muddy, low-resolution textures. Character models look serviceable, though facial animation is stiff. This isn’t helped by Revelations having some of the most ridiculous character designs in the series’ history. Resident Evil’s character art has always been somewhere between anime-inspired and realism. However, Revelations takes a couple bold steps toward the direction of anime, featuring a lot of impractical gear, rather silly-looking hairstyles and oddly proportioned characters.
Apart from the 8-hour long story campaign, players can also play a bonus score attack mode called Raid Mode. Despite the game not boasting the most intricate third-person shooting, Raid Mode still manages to be a fun and addicting game mode thanks to its simplicity and sprinkling of unlocks. The PS4 and Xbox One versions of Revelations also comes with all the Raid Mode DLC, so there are plenty of weapons and character skins to play around with. Players can tackle this mode either solo or in online co-op. There are a ton of maps with 1 new bonus map for this particular re-release that covers the entire Queen Zenobia.
Resident Evil: Revelations still stands as a bit of a survival horror diamond in the rough. It has moments of absolute brilliance alongside some rather weak parts. While the PS4 and Xbox One versions won’t offer much to people who have already played the original or the first re-releases, it is still easily the definitive console edition of Revelations. To anyone who has overlooked this game, at its current price point, the Queen Zenobia is definitely a ship worth boarding. Just be warned that your journey won’t exactly be a pleasure cruise through and through.
Platform: PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: 29th August 2017