Of the trio of Resident Evil titles to release last year, only one met fans without mixed reactions – only one renewed my love for the franchise. Resident Evil: Revelations originally succeeded despite the series’ troubled handheld past (Resident Evil: Gaiden, Deadly Silence), and for the most part, the recent console ports are practically identical. Players scan their surroundings for weapon parts and ammo, Quint and Parker remain horribly acted caricatures, and the atmosphere’s bark is no less chilling than its bite. A year has not rendered those points moot (if you want to read my initial review, click here), but amid Capcom's callback to traditional parasitic viruses, these HD Revelations carry a host of fresh problems.
The story – a ridiculous yet appreciable exhibition set between Resident Evils 4 and 5 – still bears summarizing. While Jill investigates a kidnapping aboard a luxurious cruise ship, Chris searches frigid mountains for signs of Veltro – a bio-terrorist organization responsible for the first solar-powered city's downfall – now promising to unleash the new T-abyss virus into the earth’s oceans. With their protagonists continents apart, the setup allows the developers to meld two gameplay styles into one without perspective swaps feeling forced. As Jill’s morbid voyage delivers the dire tension of old Resident Evils, Chris’ arctic adventure supplies hectic encounters akin to Resident Evil 5. The plot’s episodic structure also heightens the suspense via cliffhangers that leave one's fate unknown until the next chapter, but the Xbox 360 version contains more intrusive loading than its 3DS parent.
Sorry, Rachel, this is one beauty pageant you cannot win.
Yet every character enjoys the liberties of moving and shooting simultaneously, all without the need for the bulky Circle Pad Pro. My initial praise, however, was very much a product of the times. After experiencing Resident Evil 6 and the vital evasive maneuvers Capcom brought to the table (arguably the best part about RE6), Revelations’ stiff movements are a comparative downgrade on consoles, especially with a finicky dodge that only activates when it wants. Still, Capcom has done away with the abysmal crosshair/laser sight targeting combo of Resident Evil 6, removing the laser entirely.
The controls, though unwieldy at times, are sufficient enough to counter the monsters you face. Among the menagerie of slimy Oozes, armored crustacean knights, and nimble wolves, the port-exclusive Wall Blisters rile reflexes. As massive humanoid barnacles, these creatures will instantly kill preoccupied survivors, a hostile reminder of the Spencer Mansion Hunters. Even more stressful, Infernal difficulty mixes up item locations and spawns extra enemies that chew through irreplaceable ammo, but players carry weapons and upgrades over from previous playthroughs to raise their survival ratings.
Because the safe thing to do when faced with a spiky-armed monster is to punch it.
With the higher definition afforded by the Xbox 360, the Resident Evil cast now mirror their console counterparts more closely as well, though no one will forget these revelations debuted on a portable platform first. In upping the resolution from a 4.5-inch display, the visuals lose some notable fidelity. Some textures are simply missing, like wallpapers of dead fish plastered across sandy shores, and many secondary characters’ clothing and facial features have messy, rigidly animated qualities.
The shift to the television screen exposes a previously imperceptible problem, too. Your computer-controlled teammates contribute nothing beyond several stray bullets and one-liners to your fight. They may not steal your health items or exhaust your ammunition, but even when surrounded by revolting Ooze, they rarely retaliate. And while you may be wielding standard-issue firearms, your teammates are packing BB guns. Given the AI’s serious intellectual absence, however, I can see why the government would hand its operatives the equivalent of kindergarten safety scissors.
You won't see these goldfish being sold at your county fair.
Raid Mode remains the most port-proof feature. Players blaze through sections of the campaign without the narrative clutter, eliminating monsters of assorted sizes and strengths. Creatures grow larger to account for their added health, or shrink as an indication of their amplified speed, and you occasionally slaughter minibosses named for your former teammates. The more stable netcode of the Xbox 360 also offers fewer latency hiccups, and I loved diving back in to buy and customize weapons from a store that randomizes the inventory after each visit. Sadly, that does not boost the no-show community. Whereas matching up with 3DS players took seconds, Revelations has not found a stable multiplayer following here. Fans are free to tackle Raid Mode alone, despite the remarkably less fun to be had, even with new characters HUNK and Rachel.
If you have not experienced Resident Evil: Revelations before, give the console ports a rent – it would be cheaper than buying a 3DS and Circle Pad Pro. If you do have the choice, however, buy the handheld version. Revelations fits the portable format with brief, digestible chapters and sensible, well-executed ambitions, but on the Xbox 360, prior 3DS limitations compromise this viral vacation.
Release Date: May 21, 2013 (PS3, X360, Wii U, PC)
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign), 2 (Cooperative)
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, PC, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS