Resident Evil's Most Successful Portable Outing Yet

    Resident Evil: Revelations is an action / horror third-person shooter developed and published by Capcom, and available on the Nintendo 3DS.
    An interquel, the story is set between the events of Resident Evil 4 and 5, but tells a very self-contained story that avoids too deeply impacting either previous title, or the cannon of Resident Evil as a whole. Rather, the story explores the relationship between two competing anti-bioterror organizations and the emergence of a new variant of the ever-present T Virus: The T-Abyss Virus. A virus that differentiates itself from previous T Viruses in that it was, ostensibly, developed in response to a spike in demand for blue zombies that can melt when they die.

This, I guess... opens up opportunities for slurpee-based virus delivery systems?

    And, if you've been paying attention, you may have noticed that, historically, portable Resident Evil titles haven't been very good. In fact, they've been terrible. In a laudable shift in creative direction, Resident Evil: Revelations' creators decided that once, just this once, they'd make a good portable Resident Evil, and instead of being a messy, thrown-together shelf-stuffer of disappointment, Revelations brings audiences just about as fun, memorable and full-featured a Resident Evil experience as can be hoped for on the Nintendo 3DS.
    Building upon the basic engine and playstyle of last year's Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, Revelations plays like an update to the core gameplay we saw in Resident Evils 4 and 5, relying on heavy, over-the-shoulder shooting action married with light exploration and puzzle solving. Aiming can now be done from a first-person mode to accomodate the smaller screen size of the 3DS, and you also have access to limited movement options while aiming - a first for the Resident Evil franchise. There are also slightly finicky contextual dodge and melee moves, though pulling them off isn't always as consistent or obvious as it could be. Even so, all the additions to the formula are welcome, and provide the subtle sort of polishes and adjustments that enable Capcom to take a system that's proven itself on home consoles and makes it shine on a portable.

For Pete's sake, I mean, the 3DS is basically a Game-Boy, this kinda game shouldn't even be possible.

    The game itself does a good job of blending the best of classic, survival-horror focused Resident Evil with the more recent, action-oriented direction that's permeated the franchise since it's shift into the realm of third-person shooters. It divides it's time between following Jill Valentine and her new partner Parker as they explore an abandoned luxury cruise liner that's gone adrift in the middle of the Mediterranean, and Chris Redfield who, along with his own new partner Jessica, are searching for clues about a mysterious, Dante's-Inferno obsessed terrorist organization known as Velcro Veltro in the mountains of Finland.

Yeah, that's right, Finland. Come for the pickled fish, stay for the bioterrorism.

    Initially, the game divides itself very evenly between Jill's survival-horror segments aboard the good-ship Queen Zenobia and Chris's more action-y missions in northern Europe, and this balance provides for some very strong pacing. However, by the third act, Revelations shifts almost entirely into being an action based third-person shooter - which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The action is this game is really terrific - and not just by the standards of a portable game, either, it really does feel "console-quality".

    The gunplay works very well, with or without the Circle-Pad Pro accessory, and, though the controls may take a few minutes to get used to, Revelations is very careful about pacing it's challenges to insure that you have a firm grasp of the tools provided to you before throwing you in the deep end, so to speak. Alternatively, this is one of the few 3DS games, to date, that supports the Circle Pad Pro, and you'd do well to take advantage of it. Not only does the added bulk of the snap-on peripheral make the 3DS more comfortable to hold, it also adds in complete dual analog and makes a couple other general improvements the control experience. It's definitely worth checking out, though the standard control setup is by no means a deal-breaker.

Even with my monster gorilla-paws I was able to enjoy Revelations perfectly fine.

    The graphics in Resident Evil: Revelations truly need to be seen to believed. This is, by an far, one of the best looking portable games yet released. Only topped by the likes of Infinity Blade (iOS) and Uncharted: Golden Abyss (PS Vita), and not by a very wide margin, either, Revelations goes well out of it's way to prove and test the capabilities of the 3DS's hardware. Capcom's upgraded MT Framework Mobile is a modified version of the same engine that powered Xbox 360 and PS3 games like Devil May Cry 4 and Resident Evil 5, and it brings to the 3DS platform relatively sophisticated rendering techniques like self-shadowing, normal mapping and anti-aliasing. The strong engine, combined with a nasty visual direction and superbly implemented 3D effects lend the game polished and highly impressive visuals. The game also runs very well, even during matches of co-op multiplayer over WiFi, with the exception of in-game loading sequences wherein the framerate frequently drops down to about one frame per second. Besides that, the only performance issue with mentioning is the lagging HUD and minimap, which constantly struggles to keep up with player movement or maintain an accurate display of your ammo-count. Which, while a little frustrating, isn't a game-breaker. These issues stay on the periphery of the experience, and in my time with the game never caused notable problems during regular gameplay, or even online play.

Unless we can count getting stuck in a lobby for 15 minutes with a guy who refuses to hit the "ready" button and start the match as a technical issue. Jerk-hole.

    As is tradition with Resident Evil, the story is - like the graphics - beautifully presented, and yet - unlike the graphics - almost laughably bad. Gorgeous pre-rendered cutscenes stich almost seamlessly into in-game cinematics and regular gameplay and back again with ease; in effect serving as an almost artful juxtaposition to the cheesy dialogue, flat characters and awkward plot. I mean, honestly, this game's writing and story are just any not good. At once point, a character randomly shoots a person in the back as they were about to spill the beans on the entire plot, for no apparent reason other than doing so extended the game by another hour or two, and literally nobody even bats a damn eye at it. It's baffling, it's lazy, it's bad.
    But you know what? If you're into Resident Evil for it's storytelling, you're probably also a crazy person. At this point, bad writing isn't just expected, it's part of the charm. Like reruns of old episodes of a Saturday-morning TV show, the writing in Resident Evil: Revelations is needlessly self serious, over-the-top bombastic, and simultaneously overly-simple and completely incomprehensible. But, like it's cartoon compatriots, as Revelations bounces back and forth between bizarrely stupid plot twists, a couple pretty insane locales, and straight-facedly introduces us to some of the most obnoxious and stupid side-characters in the history of recorded history, you almost can't help but laugh and smile along. Even though you know it's bad, it still somehow gets into your head, like a catchy commercial jingle, and you find yourself kind of falling in love with how confidently awful it all is. Sure, you'll say, a tiny, unfunded terrorist organization managed to construct a multi-billion dollar bioweapons lab in the undercroft of the world's most luxurious cruise liner, in secret. Why not? Oh, and now there's two identical sister ships to the Queen Zenobia, and the plot hinges on the protagonists getting them all confused? Excellent! Hell, throw in an evil space satellite that can fry an entire tri-state area off a map with what is essentially a giant magnifying glass, like some sort of half-rate GoldenEye, and a doomed metropolis that floats in the ocean like a confused reinterpretation of the myth of Atlantis, and you have yourself a game!

These are all things that actually appear in the game. In fact, they're all critical to the plot.

    But it's Resident Evil, and like all the great entries in the franchise that came before it, it really has it where it counts - and that's the gameplay. The game is clearly trying to reach out to many audiences at once - the hard-core players who have been fans since the very beginning, the new players who may be more accustomed to an action-oriented experience, and new players who may have never played a Resident Evil game before. And, the trick is, it does all that without making any sacrifices or losing coherency. The stylistically different sequences all blend well together, and, in fact, support each other by making sure the game never focuses too hard on a single type of gameplay. And, while Revelations may not have a great deal of scares to offer, the ones that are present are quality, and it's none-the-less dripping with the creepiness and classic stylings of a Resident Evil game. Unlike past Resident Evils, though, Revelations is done up in a linear, stream-lined, and more directed manner that facilitates, along with the episodic presentation of the narrative, a sort of start and stop playstyle that is really appreciable in a portable game - when you're out and about and might only have a few minutes to play, or may need to put your 3DS down at a moment's notice.
And, of course, it has turret sequences. Because what's a third-person shooter without turret sequences?

    While the main campaign itself is fairly short (clocking in at around 10 hours or so), the game pads itself out with a "mission" system, where in you complete Xbox Achievement style actions and goals in order to unlock bonus goods and credits to spend in the multiplayer. Missions include such activities as defeating a certain number of enemies, or playing through the game on a certain difficulty setting, or playing through the game without using certain items. There's also a few that involve meeting other players using the 3DS StreetPass functionality, and all in all the missions do a good job of expanding the game through replayability.
    However, what will likely catch your eye post-credits, or even before then, is Revelations' robust co-op multiplayer mode, called Raid Mode. Played either by yourself, or with a friend via local-play or WiFi, Raid tasks the player to fight through a small segment of the campaign with special enemy encounters to reach a gold medal placed at the end. Points are awarded for speed, accuracy, and avoiding damage, and it has it's own set of mission rewards like the campaign. I found this mode to be very enjoyable, it has a map for just about everywhere you go over the course of the game (even the tutorial beach, of all places), and even within the context of "get from point A to point B", Raid Mode manages to keep things interesting by making some levels races against the clock, or others a hold out against a wave or two of enemies, or requiring a bit of backtracking after you've recovered a key to find the all-valuable gold medal. And, even a few weeks post release, games have been very easy to find, probably due to the fact that it only takes two to tango, and I haven't had any significant technical issues beyond a dropped game or two. Raid Mode also has a robust leveling and equipment system that includes not only persistent level and weapons, but also persistent ammunition. This adds an interesting wrinkle into the gameplay, so if you get slammed by a difficult encounter in one match, you may just barely squeak by in the next round - unless you spend your precious credit points on ammo refills instead of passive attribute buffs or new guns.

And trust me, this mode really does have plenty of guns.
    In the end, Resident Evil: Revelations delivers where past entries, like the infamously unreleased Game Boy Color adaptation of Resident Evil 1, had failed miserably. For the first time ever, there's a fully featured Resident Evil game on a portable console, in every way worthy of standing alongside the likes of Resident Evil 2 or Resident Evil 4. It may be a touch short and put a slight focus on the action over the horror, but the game still offers at least a little for everyone without stretching itself too thin. Held back only by sloppy writing and a handful of minor technical hiccups, Revelations is an entertaining romp that manages to feel at once familiar to it's franchise's past, and yet can stand very competently on it's own two feet. The level of depth and content and polish that it provides in a portable environment is almost unprecedented, but it was still clearly developed with the small-screen in mind, much to it's own benefit. If you own a 3DS, I'd say it's a must buy; and if you're a big fan of Resident Evil who didn't have a reason to get a 3DS before, well, maybe now's the time to think about jumping onto the 3D bandwagon and cutting a check to the good folks over at Nintendo.