Resident Evil: Revelations Hands-On Preview -- Taking Survival-Horror Back to Its Roots...In 3DBy Sinan Kubba - Posted Sep 02, 2011
In our Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D review we described the game as “almost a technical demo for what the 3DS is capable of.” So if Mercenaries was the 3DS’ undead massacre prelude then the pressure is on Resident Evil: Revelations to be a rousing symphony which harmonizes the system’s impressive graphical power with a game that lives up to the venerable Resident Evil name.
As I find out at this year’s Gamescom conference when I’m privileged enough to speak with Capcom veteran and Revelations producer Masachika Kawata, there’s more to Revelations then the need to be a decent 3DS game. In our review, we were not that thrilled by the blend of survival horror and action that was Resident Evil 5, and the way Kuwata talks about Revelations it seems he and Capcom have taken on board the calls for the series to take slow, tense steps backwards.
“[Revelations] is a survival horror game,” Kawata tells me at Capcom’s booth in Cologne. “In recent years, a lot of our Resident Evil games have focused on action, but we want to bring Resident Evil back to its roots with Revelations. We focused on making it simpler than Resident Evil games of the past. Resident Evils 4 and 5 had hordes of enemies coming at you at once. We focused [in Revelations] on having one enemy at the right time, just to freak you out.”
Kuwata doesn’t mean that Revelations will be any easier than the recent Resident Evil games, but survival horror fans don’t need me to tell them that. Unloading bullets like they grow on trees, as most shooter games would make you believe, just isn’t going to cut it in Revelations.
“We’re focusing on survival of your character and what you need to do to survive. So, for example, there won’t be ammunition all over the place like there were in later installments. You’ll have to use ammo conservatively and wisely. You’ll have to use the scanner to search for hidden items as well. Those kinds of elements should bring about that feeling of survival horror."
I see Kuwata’s words in action when I get hands-on with the Revelations Gamescom demo in the role of chunky series stalwart Chris Redfield. As he was in Resident Evil 5, Chris is part of the Bio-terrorism Security Assessment Alliance and is investigating a snowy European mountain with fellow BSAA operative Jessica Sherawat. As for their attire, some things about Resident Evil don’t change. Chris is clad in thick armor with an arctic camouflage, while Jessica’s showy snow boots, purple tights, and fashionable ushanka make her look like she’s just stepped out of a Moscow mall.
As was possible in Mercenaries, I can quickly switch between first-person and third-person view. I stick with the more natural feeling over-the-shoulder view as I guide Chris through the snowy terrain. Suddenly a small jet spirals in the sky over us before crash landing violently into the rocks ahead. As they say, when in Rome investigate the flaming wreckage of a crashed plane, and that’s what we do.
We investigate the plane to find out what the hell is going on – clearly there’s some larger context I’m unaware of. Nonetheless, I intrepidly open the plane’s cockpit door to look for survivors, only to be rewarded with the burnt corpse of the pilot suddenly lulling out of his former chair and out the door. If it hadn’t of been an automatic cut scene, I’d have jittered out a couple of cowardly bullets.
It’s a little cheesy maybe, but I always preferred Resident Evil when it was hamming it up anyway. What it does do successfully is tense me up for investigating the remainder of the nearby area. There are no zombies lurking hidden beneath the smoldering wreckage or anything, but I can tell that the game’s just playing with me now. It’s a just matter of when I’m going to get caught out, not if. Out of nervousness, I try using my scanner to search for extra ammo, but I come up short.
“The scanner’s going to be a very integral part of the game,” Kawata’s words ring in my mind. “You will have to use it to be able to survive. It does play a very big role in the game, because with it, not only will you be able to look for hidden items, things like vital health items and so on, but you’ll also be able to scan for enemy weak points, and maybe even hints for how to progress forward through the game. You might, for example, have to scan to find a key, so it’s very important.”
After searching the plane, apparently the next thing we’ll be doing is searching a nearby cave. I greet this news by looking at the meager shotgun and pistol ammo in my inventory. As we search the cave, that ammo count only depletes further as we’re attacked by a group of deathly-looking wolves. As I guide the laser-sighted bullets of my pistol into the bloodthirsty canines it takes me back to the first Resident Evil and watching that "You Died" screen pop up after another failed defense against a Doberman assault. Thankfully we survive the onslaught, and I even find some ammunition to keep me going through the rest of the cave. I start to almost feel assured.
Then, of course, the game does catch me out as I crash through some unstable rocks beneath me, landing in an icy depression and hurting my left leg in the process. I'mm left sprawled on the frost with only my right leg allowing me to maneuver a shooting angle. And, doubly of course, out of nowhere a pack of wolves runs at me, slowly encircling me before choosing their moment to pounce. Their motions give me just enough time to take each one out with the shotgun before being attacked, but with the pistol it’s much more touch-and-go. Also, I’m running out of shotgun shells. Kawata said that Revelations wouldn’t be so much about hordes of enemies coming at me, but as the packs of wolves come at me relentlessly, I realize he didn’t say that’s how it would be the whole way through.
Just as my pistol ammo descends into single figures, my partner, who I’d actually forgotten suddenly appears on the icy platform above me to save my bacon. That’s where the demo ends – phew.
I realize that for all my efforts I don’t appear to have gleaned much more about what’s actually going on with the story in this game. Kuwata says that Revelations takes place between Resident Evils 4 and 5, and it will be tied to the events that led to the formation of the BSAA and their struggle against bio-terrorism, but like the demo, he’s not ready to divulge much more when pressed. Still, fans of the series and its ridiculously extensive lore will likely have plenty to dig their teeth into in Revelations. Oh, and what about that other classic Resident Evil staple, the puzzles?
“There will be puzzle elements in the game and we made it so that fans of the old games from the series and their puzzles will very much at home with Revelations,” Kuwata grins knowingly.
The way Kuwata describes it, Revelations will be a love letter to fans of the older Resident Evil games, but I wonder if it will have any ramifications for the main series Resident Evil games and in particular Resident Evil 6, which I suspect will be revealed at the upcoming Tokyo Game Show.
I ask Kuwata about this, but he turns the question on me and asks what I would like to see from Resident Evil 6. A little flustered, I reply that while I enjoyed parts of Resident Evil 5, I thought RE4 did a great job of combining survival horror with the new high-octane direction, and that I’d like to see Resident Evil 6 to be more like that. He gives a little nod before smiling and saying that he was a big fan of Resident Evil 4 too. Given all the rumors that have been flying about, I’d say make of that what you will. As for Revelations, both 3DS owners and Resident Evil fans will likely be keeping it and its expected 2012 release on their radar.