The majority of the gaming press would probably agree that Capcom’s long-running Biohazard/Resident Evil series has suffered its fair share of injustices over the years (perhaps not surprising, given the number of entries). Often quoted as the (most recent) return to form, Resident Evil 4 served to remind fans why they cared so much about the franchise in the first place. It created a welcome sense of nostalgia as the IP once more became frightening to play, with tension dominating over action. While attempting to reinvigorate the series, Resident Evil 5 brought changes (most notably its revamped aesthetics, bringing the franchise kicking and screaming into the sunlight); as undeniably entertaining as this campaign was, the feeling of participating in an action-centric form of interactive entertainment made its unwelcome return. Promising to shake the series up, and to “return to its roots” (yet again), on the surface Resident Evil 6 looked to be the best hope to reinvent the universe and earn back the coveted survival horror crown. Alas, it was not to be, as fans were less than impressed with the wealth of forced action set-pieces that dominated from the outset. Meanwhile, owners of the Nintendo 3DS were treated to what many critics referred to as the “genuine Resident Evil” experience, Resident Evil: Revelations. Both a critical and commercial success, the game delivered on the many promises of the home console’s counterparts, and once more proved the IP capable of both entertaining and scaring its audience. With Resident Evil 6 prompting gamers to question the longevity of the franchise, Capcom responded with the news of a Revelations HD makeover and multi-platform release. A franchise’s saving grace or a desperate attempt at misdirection? Let’s take a look.
Firstly the setup. For the most part the drama unfolds aboard the abandoned cruise ship the Queen Zenobia, with series regular Jill Valentine enjoying the glare of the spotlight, and with Chris Redfield making frequent (playable) appearances during the campaign. Jill’s mission is to prevent yet another terrorist organisation – in this case Il Veltro (Italian for "The Greyhound") – from unleashing (yet another) modified version of the T-Virus. True to form, the story and its many political conspiracies remain as convoluted (and baffling) as ever; despite the many examples of cartoonish villainy, however, only the most cynical of gamers could fail to enjoy the pantomime that is planet Resident Evil. As with most successful survival horror experiences, the environment is the star, and the Queen Zenobia proves to be an effective stomping ground. Corridors are suitably suffocating, and the other locations varied enough to hold our interest, with fatigue only setting in towards the end of the story (whilst varied, being forced to retread old ground soon becomes irritating). Nevertheless, the Queen Zenobia serves as a deliberate and successful homage to the franchise’s early entries, complete with a lack of ammunition and many a jump scare, and manages to evoke the tension later entries in the series have all but abandoned.
Sadly, the move to high-definition hasn’t been as kind to the game as one might hope. While the character models are impressive, the environment textures don’t fare as well, and with its dated blocky textures (PC version tested, with setting maxed out) it’s easy to be reminded of the title’s origins as a handheld experience designed for a small screen. Dated low-resolution textures isn’t the only problem to have been ported across; a lack of enemy variety, questionable AI and irritating framerate issues also make an appearance. Add to this some minor control issues (a somewhat unwieldy aiming reticle when using a gamepad during the game’s more action-heavy segments), and you might be forgiven for thinking this port was developed at speed in an effort to counter the negative press surrounding the release of Resident Evil 6. The fact that Revelation is still enjoyable despite all these foibles is testament to the game’s quality, and highlights the level of commitment (and forgiveness) fans of the IP have when presented with an experience that has been noticeably absent in the last few iterations. Resident Evil is at its best when tension abounds, environments intimidate and scares are plentiful. Revelations HD is certainly a flawed port, but for those yet to experience the original on 3DS it will remind you why each newly announced game provokes a feeling of excitement, even if it is heavily laced with nostalgia.