If there’s one Capcom series that needs a shot in the arm (and doesn’t have the words “Mega Man” in the title), it’s Resident Evil. Despite overcrowding the survival horror genre with a barrage of titles for almost every platform back in the day, Resident Evil 4 signaled a serious revival of ideas and genuine scares. Yet, somehow, those same ideas appear misplaced in Resident Evil 5, the next big sequel which chose to focus primarily on cooperative play and daytime survival horror.
Either by carefully choreographing two separate adventures into a cohesive whole à la Resident Evil 2, or changing the rules of over-the-shoulder style terrors entirely with RE4, Capcom always finds a way to keep you on edge in a Resident Evil installment. In fact, some of the scariest scenarios of the series happen when you’re alone, and to that effect the latest demo for Resident Evil Revelations — available on the 3DS eShop in Japan only — starts out on just the right note.
I’m by myself in a dingy-looking bedroom and in control of Jill Valentine. For those who need a refresher: Jill has survived the zombie outbreak at Spencer Mansion in the original game and the madness of escaping a zombie-filled Raccoon City in Resident Evil 3, but Revelations marks her first appearance since some RE5 DLC a few years ago. Judging from her elaborate surroundings, it’s easy to forget that you’re on a huge freighter at all — a primary setting for this installment — and much like prior games in the series, everything unfolds though exploration.
I discover a screwdriver in the bathroom that I can then use to get out of the bedroom, but on my way to unlock the door a creature attacks. As this shambling, nameless monstrosity lurches forward, I’m reminded that this Resident Evil sequel still relies on strange-looking bio-terrors as opposed to zombie-led bio-terrors. But while the details of this new enemy are still scarce, I can say that taking aim at it using the Circle Pad Pro feels remarkably better than the standard control setup. And, more important, the control scheme implemented has all the right options in place.
In Revelations, characters can easily move and shoot at the same time (just not quickly), it’s easy to quickly reload or even switch weapons, and the controls seem tailored to use the face buttons less when the Circle Pad Pro is recognized. The ZR button (think bottom right trigger) picks up items and opens doors. Also, similar to the setup from RE5, the directional pad switches weapons. If anything, this one implementation reminds me that the control setup of RE5 helped a lot to free up Resident Evil’s slower moving parts. The series shifted at that point; and in the formula for survival horror, the survival part became easier and horror became almost slightly less relevant.
Click the image above to check out all Resident Evil Revelations screens.
I’m still surprised by how responsive a second analog feels — even though the added bulk of the Circle Pad Pro makes the system feel a lot less portable. But while Revelations is tuned to play fine without it, the option to use a more comfortable control setup you’re familiar with seems required for sheer enjoyment; and the experience feels better for it. But Capcom’s $40 retail price tag plus an additional $20 for the Nintendo add-on may extinguish the Circle Pad Pro’s positive effects — it’ll cost you a little over $60 to experience a portable Resident Evil the way it should be played.
As I explore the rest of the demo and go on route to meet up with my partner, a new character named Parker Luciani, I see a few different spaces and more elaborate décor. And after a while of exploring, it still doesn’t feel like I’m on a boat until I arrive on the ship’s bridge. Through the brief experience, I still have no idea what the heck is going on in this game. But, at the same time, maybe I don’t have to know yet — this is, after all, a demo and the final release is still less than a month away. Still, I can’t help but notice the slower paced enemies — they usually travel in packs of two or three at most in this build — and wonder if the experience will intensify or not. As of now, the answer seems unsure, but everything else I see feels like a possible return to a predominantly single-player form for the series. Let’s just all hope it’s a scary one as well.
Editor’s Note: This preview has been updated to reflect a price change from Capcom. Resident Evil Revelations costs $40 MSRP, and not $50 as originally reported.