A couple days ago Capcom released Resident Evil: Revelations for the 3DS, and so far the game doesn’t seem to be generating much buzz — at least not compared to what a major console Resident Evil game with a number attached to it’s name would get, and that’s a shame. Why? Because the game is pretty damn great. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s quite a bit better than the last major entry in the series, Resident Evil 5.
What makes Revelations better than RE5? Well for starters…
It Puts the Horror Back in Survival Horror
This is the first Resident Evil game since the Resident Evil remake for Gamecube that I’ve actually found scary at times. RE4 and RE5 certainly had tense moments, but being tense and frightening are two different things. A particularly tough platforming segment in a Mario game can make me feel tense, but I certainly wouldn’t call Mario Galaxy a horror game.
To really qualify as a scary game, you have to be able to inspire uneasiness even when there’s nothing on screen directly menacing the players. You have to create an atmosphere where players are reluctant to turn every corner — even if they know they’re well stocked and can handle whatever is thrown at them. RE: Revelations doesn’t always achieve this, but there are more than a few moments when it does, and that puts it way ahead of RE5.
It Also Puts the Survival back in Survival Horror
The other half of survival horror — having to strategically ration ammo and healing items — returns in Revelations as well. Well, sort of.
If you only pick up the ammo you find laying around, you definitely won’t have enough to defeat all the monsters, forcing you to scoot around some of them like in the classic RE games. Of course not handing out enough bullets to liquefy all the baddies in the game might be considered too harsh for today’s soft, weak-thumbed gamers, so Capcom came up with a compromise.
You’re given a machine that allows you to scan the environment Metroid Prime-style for extra ammo and healing items. So in other words, if you’re too wussy to dodge enemies or OCD-driven to kill every enemy you see, you can just scan every room for extra goodies. The scanner is actually a great solution — folks who want to play the game like a classic RE title can just ignore the scanning. For folks who do scan, finding extra ammo through exploring the environment feels much more satisfying than having it just scattered everywhere in plain sight like in RE5.
The Genesis scanner — ammo rationing done right.
It Celebrates Resident Evil’s Past (in Smart Ways)
Over the past few years Capcom has made the odd decision to cut out a lot of things that made the classic RE games great (atmosphere, exploration, strategy) while retaining things nobody ever liked (stiff controls, inventory juggling) in the name of keeping the “Resident Evil feel”.
Revelations strikes a much better balance. Atmosphere, complex twisted maps and resource rationing return, while antiquated things like stiff controls and dull inventory juggling are improved or eliminated. The result is a game that feels more like classic Resident Evil than the last couple games, but thankfully doesn’t play like something from 1998.
Jill Gets to do Stuff in This One
Jill’s always been my favorite RE character — next to possibly Samus Aran, she’s probably the best female character in gaming. Sadly RE5 took a pretty sizeable dump on ol’ Jill, recasting her as a mind-controlled slave of the Darth Vader of the RE series, Albert Wesker. Revelations on the other hand stars Jill as the main playable character, and it’s nice to have her back to being her old competent self. This is probably the last we’ll see of Jill in any sort of major role for a while, since Resident Evil 6 appears to be a Chris and Leon cover-shootin’ bro-fest.
Jill also has a very shiny butt in the game. You know, for those of you who like a good shiny butt.
It Does Co-op Right
I like co-op gaming, but I wasn’t a big fan of how RE5 went about it. Trying to make your main campaign playable in both single player and co-op styles is just asking for trouble. The end result is a single player game with just a few too many frustrating parts clearly designed for two people, and a co-op game filled with stretches where playing with two people doesn’t really seem to provide much benefit.
Revelations wisely separates the co-op experience from the main campaign, instead creating “Raid mode”, a separate (and surprisingly substantial) mode just for co-op. So far I’ve only dabbled in Raid Mode, but I’m already liking it more than RE4 and RE5’s Mercenaries mode.
No Non-Europeans Were Hurt in the Making of This Games’ Cultural Stereotypes
So, RE4 was full of weird, kind of stereotypical Spanish peasants, and we were all okay with that. Then they tried to do the same thing with Africans in RE5 and it wasn’t so okay. Well I’m happy to report the only cultural stereotype running around Revelations is Parker Luciani, a guy with an Italian accent so goofy he could try out for the next Mario Party game.
Nothing gamers like better than a good ridiculous Italian accent.