Back in 2012, Resident Evil was in a very different place. Resident Evil 6 released to a negative reception by the fans despite going on to be a huge success. The game continued in the direction the franchise was slowly creeping towards from the last entry, an action focused game. Earlier that same year, Capcom thought that while the main franchise was straying away from its roots, they could appease a concerned fanbase with a title that would act as a throwback. Thus, Resident Evil: Revelations was released on the 3DS. A year later, the game would make its way to the home consoles and PC as Resident Evil: Revelations HD.
Now, four years after those remasters, the franchise has changed. This year saw Resident Evil VII return the franchise to the purest form it has seen in years. A critical success and a true successor for many, it puts Revelations in a weird space. Yet, Capcom is porting the fan dedicated game to current systems. Does a game that originally came out as a pseudo-attempt to curb backlash still have any relevance in a year which saw survival horror return? Check below for our look if Resident Evil: Revelations is still worth paying attention to.
Reuniting the old team in TV season
Revelations was Capcom giving fans what many considered a bone. Marking a return of traditional survival horror gameplay with the original duo of Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine. Revelations takes place for the majority of the campaign on the ghost ship Queen Zenobia. Jill and new partner Parker are sent on a mission to find Chris when his signal is detected out at sea. After Jill and Parker arrive, they are captured by a member of Bio-terrorist group Veltro. The year prior, they were responsible for a bio-terror attack that saw an entire city wiped out as a form of defense. Following the events, Veltro was thought dead. As Jill and Parker lose communication with BSAA Commander O’Brian, this sets the cogs in motion for all the characters to take action in an attempt to bring the downfall of a revived Veltro.
Revelations takes the narrative structure of a television season. The game is broken down via episodes each opening with a “previously on” recap. While this definitely stands as a different structure for the franchise, it also leads to significant writing problems. Since the game is structured as a TV zombie crime thriller, it hits a lot of the tropes associated with the genres. Outside of Jill and Chris who are as likable as cardboard, every other cast member hits some stereotype seen before with somehow having less characterisation. You will have the vivacious flirt in Jessica, the womanising Keith, crazy stalker nerd in Quint, O’Brian as the dull commander and finally Parker whose entire character distinction boils down to him having an accent. This framing also leads to some hackney detective show writing, seemingly trying to emulate the style because it is popular.
Every other cast member hits some stereotype seen before with somehow having less characterisation.
The story is nonsensical lunacy in a way only Resident Evil can be when trying to be on a grand scale. There are twists and turns all round and very few actually make sense. Towards the end of the game, it completely goes off the rails, leading to questions and confusion. It is not even funny when it attempts to be. The characters range from dull to annoying and can bounce between. It comes as one of the lows of the franchises narrative contributions as nothing matters in the grand scheme of the series. Revelations thus becomes unnecessary for fans looking for the “complete story”.
Tonal inconsistency in gameplay
As established, when Revelations was released, it was seen as a big deal to return to a pure survival horror experience. However, the genre in game has skin deep implementation. Despite early episodes taking the core principles of the genre seriously, as the game progresses these are quickly diminished and forgotten. Revelations doesn’t fully commit to the survival horror and yet doesn’t fully embrace being an action game. It sits between the two in a constant tug of war which drags the player back and forth.
Each episode itself is separated by two to three smaller chapters for each character’s story. While Jill’s are the clear survival horror sections, players won’t remain in them for long. As soon as they are done, the next scene will nearly always be an action shoot out.
This is the biggest disappointment with Revelations, it starts with such promise before the developer got what seems to be cold feet.
When looking at the survival horror elements, at first it seems like the game is following the traditions. Backtracking is a big part and players are rewarded for their exploration. Ammo is not exactly plentiful and progression is locked behind keys which players can use on doors inaccessible earlier. This is the biggest disappointment with Revelations: it starts with such promise before the developer got what seems to be cold feet. At the end of the game, Revelations has embraced the full action set piece. However, these leads to a whole other issue: the action just isn’t very good.
In an attempt to recapture the survival element, Capcom decided that the gameplay should be changed to make it a more dodging affair. Revelations has no cover system, meaning that the only way to get out of harm’s way is to dodge incoming attacks. The dodging system is based on the right timing for the player character to move forwards or backwards and avoid the attack. When it works, it can add to the tension with a clutch dodge. Yet it is wildly inconsistent. Sometimes it will work as intended, others you will just take the hard hit. Over the entire run through the campaign, there was no consistent way to get a dodge despite the exact same button press.
As for the limited ammo, this is somewhat of a bluff. Revelations features a new mechanic within the game through a scanner. Early on, players are given a Bio-Scanner which is able to generate health items. If players scans an enemy, they provide a percentage. When the percentage reaches 100%, a healing green herb is created. This however, can also be used to find hidden items in levels. If players are willing to take a second to scan every room for these items, ammo rarely becomes a problem. While ammo is never in abundance during the Jill sections, players will not feel the stress if they take the time to scan. The scanning can also allow players to have healing items constantly for those diligent in pulling it out.
The final element of gameplay is the weapon customisation. Throughout the game, players will not only find new weapons, but can find customisation parts. These are buffs of varying degrees that will enhance weapons stats. None of these upgrades are permanent allowing players to swap out them out at the nearest item box which is where weapons can also be swapped. This actually works well in the setting giving players a chance to try out new weaponry and see what combinations work. For those wanting a second run through the Queen Zenobia, players can go through the game again after completion with all unlocked weapons and customisation parts.
While Revelations is better at action than survival, it doesn’t say much. It would have been better served sticking to one genre instead of trying to integrate the two. It is not that a survival horror could not have more action or that action couldn’t be harsher, but Revelations fails to realise either and find a working and meaningful balance.
Raiding with Friends
Resident Evil: Revelations features the return of Raid mode. Raid mode is an objective based mode which has players go through sections of the game in order to gain experience and loot. Raid Mode is the game’s answer to cooperative play which was a big feature of that years Resident Evil 6. In the main game, there are enough times the player is alone for coop to not work so Raid Mode exists to fill in that gap.
Before hopping in, the players can customise their loadout and change their character (which is referred to as an outfit). Levels are tied to account and not specific character allowing for free change without any loss of progress. Each outfit has stat bonuses which will often effect specific weapon damage and reload times. Upon completion of each level, BP and Experience is earned. BP can be used to buy new weapons and upgrades for use in future missions. Outfits are unlocked by players hitting specific bonuses or goals over Raid Mode runs.
None of the objectives however, are unique within the extra mode. Since Raid Mode levels are based on sections within the game, they mimic what was required in the main campaign. They follow a similar structure expect with varying enemies littered throughout. The enemies get more variation with regards to size and buffs adding a deeper layer to the combat but the same strategies apply. This leads to Raid Mode becoming repetitive quick as it is simply the same objectives without the narrative fluff. The goal of more loot and experience starts off fun but after four rounds becomes a tedious affair when played alone. Some of the maps are too long for their own good and can become aggravating as the players have to follow the same scripted events.
While Raid Mode can be played solo, it is also available with a partner in co-op. There is no local co-op within the game meaning players will have to go online for some help. This is not ideal as interaction without a voice connection is extremely limiting. It can quickly turn into a mess as you try and work alongside a player who is more often than not at odds about what to do. It doesn’t help that the online lobby is also a wasteland on Xbox Live. If you are lucky enough to find a game, it is at least stable. While Raid Mode has some promise, it won’t hold your attention long and is best played with a friend online.
It is worth noting that in this version there is a new map added to Raid Mode. “The Ghost Ship” is essentially an ironman mode which sees players going through the entire ship in a very difficult and challenging stage. This is recommended at level 50 due to difficulty and will likely only be playable after many hours of dedication. Those willing to get that far will most likely enjoy it but for others, it is not worth putting the commitment in to see.
Raid Mode is a fun distraction but not a meaningful addition. If you by chance have a friend with a copy of the game, you can get more bang for your buck. Playing with strangers is not worth the aggravation and solo play won’t hold attention for long. Much like the main campaign, it starts off promising but falters quickly.
A Capcom port job
It is important to note that Resident Evil: Revelations for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 is not a remaster. It is a port of last generation’s version with some slight tweaks. The game touts new HD resolution but this means little when the game has had little to no changes graphically. Revelations is not a good looking game. It clearly doesn’t come from the current generation with flat textures and bad effects. Simply put: it can be an eyesore. Character models come out looking the best but even they look like horrible mannequins. The world feels disconnected from basically anything that needs to move. Floor and wall textures are akin to wallpaper with patterns running across providing an illusion that something is there. Capcom did not work on cleaning up Revelations graphically but this does provide one big bonus: The game runs extremely well.
The game’s performance is solid, holding up no matter what is going on via the action. Framerate was consistent throughout the game. The load times via the loading screen are also incredibly quick. None of these screens lasted longer than a few seconds at a time but the same cannot be said for the “Door loads”. Revelations will use the old trick of hiding a load time for the next area behind a door animation. These can take much longer than they need to with some clocking in at above 10 seconds. While not completely horrible when progressing, when trying to backtrack and find the right location, it can be an annoyance. Yet this does not diminish the fact that Revelations just runs fantastically. If anything makes this port worth it, the performance is it.
The graphics are not the only presentation element lacking. The sound design never stands out in what should be the easiest setting. Where the visuals might falter, the sound design should have been able to salvage the sense of dread and claustrophobia in a ship lost at sea. In Revelations, the sound is barely noticeable and never utilises the setting. Even monster sounds are indistinguishable and bland. Voice acting is wooden for the majority of characters seemingly with little direction. With some of the lines the voice actors went for a camp vibe but it just doesn’t work as it should. The music is by no means bad but never stands out. Some tracks can feel like an uninspired continuous few second loop riffing off detective show soundtracks.
Four years later, Revelations doesn’t have a place
Revelations was from a different time in the franchise and is shows. Instead of opting for one or the other, its attempts to mishmash two genres that (while not necessarily opposed), require a fine balance to be effective. It is this lack of commitment in both ways that makes Revelations a hard one to recommend outside of the hardcore Resident Evil fan. For those wanting a pure Survival Horror, Resident Evil VII is available which fully embraces the genre. Those wanting the action variety of Resident Evil can find sixth entry available on basically every platform. It is Revelations unwillingness to be one or the other where there is always a better option for the players personal preference of Resident Evil.
Revelations is worth skipping. While it comes at a decent price of around R300 both digital and physical, it is just not worth it. Like most Capcom titles it will likely be on sale soon enough and if players are craving to see Jill and Chris reunite, then maybe it is worth giving a go when the price is down. As far as Resident Evil games go, there are much better options than a noncommittal entry from a time the franchise was considered dead by purists.