There’s no question that Capcom have lost their way with its venerable horror franchise, Resident Evil. From a B-grade blockbuster film franchise to the maligned Resident Evil 6, public opinion has never been lower. Desperate to turn the tide and get back to the heart of S.T.A.R.S., Capcom released Resident Evil Revelations for the 3DS last year, and brought a better-looking version to every other platform a few months ago. Being late to the party made me no less enthusiastic to give it a go during a flash sale, but as I soon discovered, the past is likely best left right where it is.
Capcom does its best to rekindle the classic Resident Evil atmosphere by reassembling the pieces from the game that started it all. The Queen Zenobia, an elegant cruise liner refurbished for modern passengers, is primed to emulate Spencer Mansion; you’re shuffled through ornate, claustrophobic corridors where monsters potentially lurk behind the next corner. When it works, your eyes wildly dart across every new room, praying that you find any threats before they find you. Your weapons often lack the firepower or ammunition to deliver quick kills, so your teeth clench as you slowly back into a wall, unloading round after round, delivering the final blow as it prepares to lunge.
The return to the “slightly-armed rat in a cage” is certainly welcome, but the rest of the baggage associated with that era also makes its return. An overreliance on backtracking manages to make the diminutive play space feel too large, as getting from point A to point B often involves retreading empty hallways for 10-20 minutes (longer if you didn’t memorize the convoluted route). The process is further hampered by your character, who refuses to run and has the maneuverability of a large boulder. Piloting S.T.A.R.S. members like they were M1 Abrams was hard to justify in 1996, and downright inexcusable decades later.
It doesn’t take long before the modern Resident Evil rears its ugly head and heaves itself onto an already unstable foundation. Since the campaign never permits two players at once, your tagalong A.I. partners are absolutely unnecessary. They never take damage, fail to attract any attention from the enemies, and rarely hurt enemies with their peashooters. They’re only useful when you need to open a door that requires two people, which wouldn’t exist in the first place if these wastes of space weren’t included in the first place.
Partners are especially keen on ruining the ship’s atmosphere as often as possible. They rarely leave your back and always open fire whenever a foe enters your general proximity. After a while, any sense of danger evaporated as my magic little monster detector beeped whenever trouble was approaching. Without the fear, all you have is a lethargic shooting gallery in a cramped ship!
Adding insult to injury, Revelations likes to dump you and your oaf of a partner into wave-based shooting arenas. As zombie mutts and other nasties surround you from all directions, the tank-like controls downgrade from cumbersome to useless, and munitions run dry at record speeds. Most of the deaths can be chalked up not to player agency, but to design decisions well past their prime.
It took me ten attempts before I decided to abandon Revelations at an early boss encounter. What started as an exciting excursion into the glory days of Resident Evil turned into an excruciating test of endurance. Capcom clearly recognizes that they should return to their roots, but their attempt to bridge the new with the old only highlights what was wrong with them in the first place. Resident Evil Revelations is the worst of both worlds, and that manages to be even more disappointing than the thoroughly mediocre Resident Evil 6.