After my experiences with ‘Resident Evil 4‘ last year, I had been perched precariously on a fence panel trying to work out if that was ‘it’ and I should just abandon the series entirely, allowing those early games the peace of being able to settle in the warm recesses of my memory. It was a comment from Halsdoll that finally nudged me off my perch back into that world of survival horror by suggesting I give ‘Revelations’ a shot at pretty much the same time that Steam were having something like their “6:57pm sale because it happens to be a Tuesday” event, so I decided to jump right in and pick up both Revelations 1 & 2 to savour over the holiday period. This is the part of the post where I try to place the ‘Resident Evil Revelations’ sub-series in the setting of the other Resident Evil titles, but pulling together any kind of coherency in the Resident Evil world is tricky given all the spin-offs, re-releases, changes in focus, and generation. From what I can tell (and feel free to correct me), ‘Resident Evil Revelations’ is set after ‘Resident Evil 4’ (but not one of the main numbered series) and ‘Revelations 2’ is set after 5, not that either of these games take directly from the main overarching plot of the series. It’s much easier to just accept them as having occurred after Raccoon City when all the main characters have been posting their CV’s around liberally and have been hired by different counter Bio Organic Weapon organisations.
As games they’re different enough that I was tempted to split them up into two distinct posts. Certainly there are commonalities, however they veer hugely from each other in both plot & atmosphere and, whilst I don’t have any inside knowledge to back this up, I was left with the impression that maybe they were originally meant to be more closely tied, but somewhere in development decisions were made that drove them apart.
Resident Evil Revelations
Gathering dust somewhere in a drawer is my copy of ‘Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D’ for 3DS which was CAPCOM’s fact finding outing into 3D survival horror (I’ve written 3D entirely too many times in that last sentence). On the same cartridge was a demo of Revelations which first sparked a slight interest in this curious title and, apart from the graphical polish since being ported from a handheld, it’s largely the same beast complete with those features that were included for the portable market. The game follows the actions of series regulars Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield along with their respective new partners, Parker and Jessica. There are also two supporting type characters which were so forgettable that I seem to be unable to look up their names online and make it back to writing this without losing them again. Mix this sextet with three different organisations, their own bosses, a few other minor players and ‘Revelations’ is left with entirely too many personalities fighting for the spotlight in what is quite a short concise game. This abundance of faces seems to have necessitated the inclusion of an overly convoluted plot to give them all something to do; early on we are treated to a whole backstory involving the destruction of a floating city powered by an in orbit solar collector… Both of which are elaborate plot devices to throw into the bowl of bio-terrorism mixed with strange creatures, and arguably the same overall story could have been easily told without these jarringly sci-fi concepts. Sticking with this futuristic outlook, the protagonists themselves seem to have discarded the cargo trousers and flak jackets of old in favour of futuristic tech including a fancy room scanner and distinctly sci-fi/covert ops wardrobe (and I won’t go into those choices again because I’ve already done that).
Leaving aside the plot, the game was apparently hailed at the time as somewhat of a blending of the old and new style of Resident Evil, by which I assume the careful pacing of the forays through tight corridors and the more action heavy ‘Resident Evil 4’, and whilst I can’t deny that these two styles are present, it is much less of a blending and much more of each being in their own compartment. As a handheld title originally, the game is helpfully broken down into chapters and sub-sections of chapters for manageable play sessions (which works pretty well). Consecutive sections tending to jump between the different sub-groups of characters and more than once I begun a section only to think to myself “ah, right, this is one of the action heavy sections”, or, “Oooohhh I see, now we’re playing classic Resident Evil”. There’s nothing wrong with it, but if you’re specifically looking for one or the other of these styles then prepare to be disappointed in 50% of the game. The other ‘hangover’ from its handheld incarnation is the aforementioned room scanner, this can be brought into play at a moment’s notice to give the player a first person view of the room allowing them to scan biological samples (this amasses ‘points’ which covert to health) or find hidden items such as ammo, health etc. I assume this was introduced to reduce the need to render all items in a room, but also to add a small amount of game ‘balancing’ depending on the player’s ability; more than once the scanner revealed a green herb just as I was running low.
Aside from the plot and wardrobe choices, it works well as a game… better than that, it works well as a Resident Evil game. The control is the over-the-shoulder RE4 variety with the addition of being able to move and shoot which satisfies both the action heavy and controlled stalking moments. I wasn’t initially convinced with the move away from zombies to generic ‘mutants’, but they are all distinctly gruesome with some horrific and spectacular boss moments which, if nothing else, serve to provide Revelations with something unique in the sea of Resident Evil titles. Much of the game takes place on an abandoned opulent cruise liner (even though ‘Gaiden’ & ‘Dead Aim’ have been there before) which serves as our enclosed space & tight corridors gameplay arena along with where we find the obligatory locked doors with different shaped keys. It also affords the player a wide range of settings from state rooms, engineering areas, service corridors, cargo storage, and even a casino to fill the RE bingo card of location variety. Without spoiling too much, towards the game’s conclusion the ship also provides some excellent set pieces and climactic points. Away from the boat there are a few other settings, which I felt were the weaker parts of the experience, luckily these are usually short and action heavy meaning the player isn’t forced to linger. No one part of the game was ground breaking, but it all meshed well together and, being quite a short, didn’t contain any obvious ‘filler’ sections; the addition of Raid mode slotted into that gap, allowing the more enthusiastic zombie blasters amongst us to get their fill of the combat system.
For fans of the series I could certainly recommend ‘Revelations’ as worthwhile as long as they’re looking for something fun rather than necessarily being overly tense, atmospheric, or strong in plot.
Resident Evil Revelations 2
Jumping from ‘Revelations’ to ‘Revelations 2’ is quite a startling experience; they’re very different animals. Gone is the blue shimmer of the sleek technological near future, replaced by a grimy, grizzly, rusting world. As with the first outing, the game again follows two different pairings: crowd favourite Claire Redfield & Moira Burton, Barry Burton’s daughter, forming the first team, and Barry himself paired up with a mysterious young girl making up the second. The game opens with Claire and Moira being kidnapped from a formal event hosted by yet another counter bioterrorism organisation where they both work, presumably because being caught up in the outbreak of zombifying viruses makes that your only career option. The pair then awake to find themselves in a former Soviet prison, dark, decaying, and complete with roaming zombies who are covered in scars, stitches and staples. It’s an oppressive and tense environment, where resources are deliberately sparse, and it is one of the more horrific Resident Evil settings; I’d go as far to say that the rust, lighting, and enemies I encountered during that first hour of play reminded me more of a Silent Hill game than a Resident Evil title. The plot is significantly less convoluted than its predecessor and, in my opinion, a stronger game for it; the focus is on creating a menacing atmosphere rather than a blockbuster spectacular. This may also be the reason why the sequel is only tangentially related to the original through brief mentions and passing nods.
Features such as camera, combat, and weapon modding all remaining largely unchanged, however our handy room scanner has been removed. The supporting character in each pairing fills this gap by taking a more active role with their own inventory & skills. Along with autonomously helping in healing (and combat if you go down that skill tree route), the player can, and occasionally must, take control of these helpers to overcome obstacles and search for hidden items. It’s a device to up the tension as both supporting charters have limited combat ability, although switching with the exploration of each room in order to ensure that there aren’t any hidden sparkles can be tedious. Like its predecessor, CAPCOM used ‘Relelations 2’ to experiment with the overall game format by dabbling in an episodic release model, each episode being effectively a DLC purchase (of course the first episode is attractively priced to lure in potential customers). As a consumer I have had mixed experiences with episodic release, I’ve been in pretty much every position; waiting for the next episode, buying them all at once, waiting for them all to be released before buying, and feeling as though I’m being squeezed for cash with each purchase needed to maintain my fix of a series. In this case I felt as though the episodic restrictions have had a distinctly negative impact; each episode has one or two interesting key locations but I can almost imagine them being pitched at design meetings met with the response of “yeah, that’s great, but we need each episode to be two hours long, so just .. you know… add something to fill the time…“. Linking sections are needlessly drawn out and the player is treated to a substantial portion of, the gaming equivalent of a Filibuster, navigating sewers. Compared to Revelations, the sequel feels bloated; sure it’s longer, but it feels like the same amount of content spread too thinly and that’s disappointing because there are some interesting locations, epic boss fights, and grotesque moments to savour along the way.
The episodes take a generally “point-to-point” structure, essentially this a game about getting somewhere. The locations that the player explores are pit stops along the route sprinkled with short puzzles, or objects to find, in order to unlock the next barrier in the ongoing path. This linear structure, along with the typically more open environments, steers ‘Revelations 2’ away from the ‘classic’ tight corridors and gradual exploration of a signature area that is associated with the series. It’s more similar to the ‘Resident Evil 4’ style of play, but even there the player backtracked significantly; if I had to compare it in structure to a previous Resident Evil title, it would probably be the ‘Survivor’, or possibly ‘Outbreak’ sub series.
I can tentatively recommend ‘Revelations 2’ to fans of the series, but not quite as highly as the first one; which frustrates me because there are things here that I really enjoyed. The characters are much more engaging than in ‘Revelations’, the atmosphere is excellent, and the locations varied. Unfortunately there is just too much filler to keep momentum and the ‘point-to-point’ structure just doesn’t feel in keeping with a series of which a large part is the the gradual exploration of distinctive & grand locations.
…as a sub-series?…
Each of these games brings something new and interesting to the Resident Evil world, but having reflected on them it is worth mentioning once again how different they are from each other considering that they are a sub-series within a larger series of games. I think either could be tackled as a stand-alone title but, as with my thoughts on Resident Evil Zero, for those who are new to the world of Resident Evil, it’s not the place to start.
As always feel free to jump into the comments section! Do you agree? Have you played the Revelations series?