By TAN KIT HOONGbytz@thestar.com.my
Capcom's latest entry in the Resident Evil franchise for the Nintendo 3DS is a winner.
RESIDENT Evil has been a franchise in transition. Ever since the seminal Resident Evil 4, the series has slowly moved towards being a more action-oriented third-person shooter than a claustrophobic survival horror game.
Perhaps Capcom went a little too far into the action category with Resident Evil 5 - while the game was certainly a competent third-person shooter, the series had reached a point where it wasn't really scary any more.
So it's a bit of a surprise then, that the Nintendo 3DS would be the platform where Resident Evil gets back to its survival horror roots, with a game that effectively strikes a balance between an action shooter and the more classic survival horror game.
Set between Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5, Resident Evil: Revelations achieves this fine balance by having the player take control of multiple characters. In the game, you'll get to control series favourites Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield and a couple more new (and ultimately forgettable) characters.
Jill and other members of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA) are dispatched to investigate a new bioterrorism threat called the T-Abyss virus which is being used by a terrorist group called Veltro to hold the country to ransom.
Of course it's a race against time for the BSAA to find the leaders of Veltro and stop the T-Abyss virus from being released to infect the public.
Since Revelations follows multiple characters, the developers have the opportunity to balance the gameplay. For example, the Jill sequences take place mostly on an abandoned cruise ship called the Queen Zenobia and brings to mind classic Resident Evil, while the Chris sequences are more action-oriented.
On the whole, the game is quite well-balanced and offers one of the most engaging stories in the Resident Evil series (though a trifle convoluted) with voice acting that is a little more restrained than the over-the-top acting in previous instalments.
Let's get this out of the way immediately - the game looks gorgeous on the 3DS and will likely be the showcase for the 3DS's capabilities for some time to come.
The graphics on the small 3DS screen actually look amazing, with loads of detail, and thanks to the increased graphical capability of the hardware, Capcom even has a lot of dynamic lighting effects which make the game look that much better.
The 3D effect is also pretty good. There's enough stereoscopic goodness to give you a sense of depth without being so "in-your-face" that it becomes tiring to the eyes.
I played the whole game with the 3DS's 3D control pushed up to maximum, which is something I could not even do with Nintendo's own Pilotwings Resort which I had to dial down a bit to avoid eyestrain.
In terms of control, Capcom has a number of control schemes available for the 3DS. With only one joystick (Nintendo calls it the circle pad) available on the handheld, the default set-up is you controlling the walking while the game controls the camera for you.
To shoot, you hold down the shoulder button and use the circle pad to aim and shoot.
The system works, though like all Resident Evil games, you're rooted to the spot when aiming and shooting.
The second screen on the 3DS is utilised to show you a map of where you are, while weapon switching can be done by tapping the icons on the screen (or alternatively, by using the direction pad.)
However, the game gets really interesting when you use the Nintendo Circle Pad Pro - this optional attachment not only adds a second circle pad, but also extra trigger and shoulder buttons, making it similar to an Xbox controller.
The attachment may be bulky, but it's more comfortable to hold and the control scheme improves tremendously - while walking is still tied to the left circle pad, aiming and camera is now controlled by the right circle pad.
More interestingly, the addition of the Circle Pad Pro also allows you to shoot and move at the same time, which, if I am not wrong, is a first for a Resident Evil game.
Needless to say, if you want to experience Revelations in the best possible way, the Circle Pad Pro is the way to go.
The soundtrack is also worth a mention here. It's a rousing and sometimes scary score that's best experienced with headphones since the 3DS' speakers are just too small to really give you an immersive aural experience.
Revelations isn't only a third person shooter - Capcom has added quite a few underwater sequences where you are required to navigate the maze-like submerged interiors of the ship.
You either love these underwater sequences or you don't - I personally enjoyed these levels a lot although I can see that they may be disorienting for some.
A major new addition to the basic Resident Evil gameplay is the ability to use a scanner to look for hidden objects such as health packs and ammo.
The scanner, which is available in most of the Jill levels, also allows you to scan your enemies, which fills up a scan bar - scan enough enemies to fill up the bar and get a free health pack.
While you can only scan most enemies once, most bosses at the end of the levels can be scanned multiple times, thus giving you access to much-needed health packs at these critical points.
Another interesting addition to the gameplay is taken right out of Naughty Dog's Uncharted 2 playbook, where you need to drag around an injured teammate while avoiding or shooting enemies.
Talking about enemies, Capcom hasn't left out what's good about Resident Evil games - there are loads of zombie-like creatures as well as giant bosses to fight.
You can also get more extensive play from it with a new Raid mode, which allows you to play certain levels either solo, or locally with a friend who has a 3DS or even over the Internet where it randomly chooses a partner for you.
Having clocked in at 14 hours on my first playthrough, I have to say that Resident Evil: Revelations is a great game.
With the many changes and tweaks to the classic Resident Evil formula, I think Capcom has finally hit on the correct balance between satisfying fans who want more action and fans who want more of the classic survival horror stuff.
If you have a Nintendo 3DS, it's a no-brainer - just get this game!
Pros: Gorgeous graphics; relatively balanced gameplay.
Cons: Circle Pad Pro demonstrates why Nintendo should have integrated a two-joystick system in the first place.
Resident Evil: Revelations
Third-person shooter for Nintendo 3DS