Resident Evil: Revelations for the Nintendo 3DS was a great title. It was a graphical powerhouse (for a handheld), and it offered compelling, bite-sized gameplay (for a handheld). In short, it was one of the best Resident Evil titles of recent memory.
If you’ve noticed there’s a lot of “for a handheld” dispersed throughout the opening paragraphs of this review, you know where I’m going with this. The transition from handheld gem to HD release has not been kind to Resident Evil: Revelations, and this HD reissue is not worth your time.
The HD treatment has given the textures an upgrade over the 3DS version, which already looked great, but the environments have lost a sense of scale that fit well on the 3DS’s smaller screen. Blowing the overall picture up to 40 or 50 inches from 4 or 5 brings along with it challenges that Capcom simply didn’t account for. While it looks competently done, the overall presentation comes off as feeling cheap. Enemies aren’t varied in appearance, and it generally feels like each area of the game only has one enemy type to throw at you. Again, on a handheld this is acceptable, as both the structure of the game and the form-factor allows for certain concessions. However, a person who buys this game because it has Resident Evil on the box without knowing that this is a port of a handheld game will be sorely disappointed. It looks like a budget title, with animation that looks more like Deadly Premonition than any of the slickly-produced Resident Evil titles of this generation.
The sound suffers similarly, as the enemies’ groans and moans sound flat and tinny. Again, coming out of the 3DS’s speakers renders these issues moot, but when hooked up to a surround sound system or on high-quality headphones, the sound is awful. The voice acting is average, but the sounds seem encoded at a low bitrate, and the presentation suffers for it. Playing this alongside something like Metro: Last Light (a game that’s only $10 more on consoles) demonstrates a wide gulf in production values.
The gameplay in Revelations is designed to be consumed in short chunks, and again, while this structure pays off on the 3DS, where 5-10 minute play sessions are more common, it harms the game on the Xbox 360. The pacing is uneven and staccato, and the game has these TV-style episode buffers which recap in 30-60 seconds what the player just finished playing less than 2 minutes ago. In a game like Alan Wake, this structure made sense, as those episodes were between 60-90 minutes long, and often wouldn’t be completed in one sitting. In Revelations, a player could blast through 5 chapters in less than an hour, rendering these recaps useless. It’s like if commercials between segments in Mad Men recapped the scene that just aired.
As I said before, the gameplay sections are heavily partitioned from each other, typically featuring one or two enemy types that dominate the proceedings. In one scene you’ll fight mutant dogs, and in the next you’ll fight Hunters, with little connective tissue between them. The controls are executed better here than in the 3DS version, but again there’s a thoughtlessness to the implementation. The game was balanced for users of the 3DS, with its control limitations. The Xbox 360 version instead gives an action-focused default control scheme, which makes many of the combat scenarios far easier than on the 3DS. Part of the fun of so-called “survival-horror” games is the scarcity of ammunition and the way the game is designed around that limitation. However, Revelations controls like a standard over-the-shoulder action game combined with the limited enemies of a survival-horror game. That added precision makes headshots easier, which makes enemies fall faster, which makes resources less scarce, basically breaking the game.
Allowing more people to experience Resident Evil: Revelations is on its face a good thing. It’s an under-appreciated gem on the 3DS, and one of the better Resident Evil games. However, Capcom never stopped to think about why Revelations was designed the way it was, and what taking that design from the 3DS to the Xbox 360 and PS3 meant for those design choices. What was a great handheld title on 3DS feels like a budget rush-job in HD, harming both this title and the franchise in the process. Some things are better left undone.
A copy of Resident Evil: Revelations HD for the Xbox 360 was provided to us by the publisher for the purposes of this review.