Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Resident Evil Revelations - Early revelations

at 3:02 PM
Ah, Resident Evil, what a popular series to hate. Ever since regaining its steam with RE4, the series seems to have run out of steam. RE5 conservatively repeated the approach of its predecessor while introducing a few superficial interface experiments, all of which miserably failed. If you don't believe a game can be utterly ruined by superficial interface experimentation (a la inventory management), you haven't played Resident Evil 5. Worse yet (per fans), the series was beginning to have completely drifted away from its survival horror roots! Being the not really a fan of the series as I am, THAT I couldn't care less about. So what if it used to be survival horror? It clearly isn't trying to be anymore, so how can you evaluate it on that basis? I guess by being the type of gamer/reviewer who prefers evaluating a work in terms of personal expectations rather than what the creators set out to achieve. 

Anyway, I'm still optimistic about 6, which had a great demo but hasn't yet found its way to my Xbox, so until then I'm occupied with Revelations (which came out on 3DS during the long pause between 5 and 6). I have to be honest - I was not optimistic about Revelations, having been relatively disappointed by the demo and discouraged by reviews that wanted to talk more about context than content (e.g. "this is the best Mature title on 3DS", "makes good use of 3D", "production values"). Also, I don't really like handheld games. Oops. Anyway, I'm glad I gave ResiRev a chance (thanks Golem!), because it's had me locked onto the handheld far more than any other game thus far.
Remember back in RE1 when just ONE zombie was scary?
In direct contrast to series fans, my immediate fear in the first few minutes of ResiRev was that it wasn't going to be a shooter. Or, more appropriately, that it was going to be a poor shooter. Taking RE4/5 expectations into Rev, I was startled by the lumbering enemies that chew up and spit out handgun bullets with barely a shudder. That the enemy count would be lower was predictable - I didn't imagine the 3DS could (or Capcom would dare push it to) handle RE5 mobs of dozens of villagers - but I wasn't ready to have to turn and run from the very first foe. At first I was thinking, what the fuck, this is just plain unfun. Needing to unload two full clips to take down what was apparently the most basic foe didn't bode well for the pacing. Gradually, however, I came to realize that this was a return to the mechanics of the very first Resident Evil. These claustrophobic rooms where just one or two enemies give chase and are bounded by doors are exactly what made up the environment in RE1.

The callback jumps from subtle to overt in the second chapter (about forty-five minutes in) when Jill wakes up in a locked room without a weapon. The subsequent fifteen minutes should be bliss for survival horror purists - a defenseless avatar, monsters bursting from closets to give chase down narrow hallways, racing against time to find that right key or door before they catch you. I call it an overt reference because until that point the game had been set in the dim, steely blue, swaying corridors of an ocean liner - then, just as the gameplay becomes really RE1y, you're transported to opalescent, warmly lit living quarters that, not knowing any better, one might assume comprised an old-world New England mansion (which, for the uninitiated, is where RE1 was set). Frankly, I found this decision downright cool. At this point the series is so far removed from its origins that it was the last thing I was expecting, and it completely recolored the game I'd been playing up til that point. All of a sudden I understood why I had a dodge move to escape monsters at arm's length, why I'd been circling past so many locked doors, and why I could only carry a limited amount of ammo.
ResiRev welcomes you back to the mansion
I'll tell you later (when I get there) how well ResiRev holds to this revelation, but it's a truly exciting prospect. With a modern streamlined inventory (far simpler than RE4's and light beers better than 5's), friendly auto-saving, no ammo-scares, and surprisingly pretty visual presentation (nearly on par with RE5 but for the low resolution and lesser effects), this could be the best traditional Resident Evil out there. Oh right, a major interface advancement I should mention, since it solves one of RE1's worst problems, is a Metroid Prime style universal environment scanner. At first I was all, "ru4srs?", worried that it was dragging down the pace even further, but this tool proves a major boon to the scavenging nature of the Resident Evil quest. There's no longer any excuse to walk straight by a key that you could barely see or a statue that you didn't realize you could interact with - this provides immediate identification of all interactables without resorting to glowy outlines or sparkles.

I've strategically (or just regularly) avoided thus far mentioning that there are intermittent chapters that play completely differently from this main haunted house/boat adventure. The two thus far have been balls to walls shooting action (even arcadier than RE4). These create an excellent pace for the game, allowing it to have its cake, and eat its cake too. Hmm when you read "have your cake" there in the uh Biblical sense, it's a pretty frightening expression.


  1. Really want to get this game...I've yet to play a survival horror that really hooked me but the sole fact that it's for 3ds gives it a leg up in the chances of me playing it.

    1. Have you played Dead Space or Eternal Darkness? Those (in addition to RE1 as mentioned in this post) are really the main survival horror games I think I like. And System Shock 2. There's got to be something else. Shadows of the Damned, which was on my "15 for under $20" list, but that's SurHor of the RE4 variety. In that it plays exactly the same as RE4 because it was also designed by Shinji Mikami.

      After about four hours, ResiRev is definitely still good. There have been a few decent scares and creep-out moments (I love the boss dialogue), the main gameplay is exploring/puzzle-solving, not gunnery, and no cheap tension is derived from lack of save points, herbs, or ammo. It's not hardcore terrifying or difficult, but it's definitely survival horror.

      Also, the dialogue is hilarious again. RE5 mostly dropped the ball on that one, but I'm loving the new character Parker and his way-too-nonchalant-for-the-situation chatter. Jill: "I've found who we're looking for, but she's a zombie!" Parker: "Isn't that aaalways the caaase, sigh". You don't even know, Parker, you don't even know.