Resident Evil: Revelations splices the survival horror DNA of classic Resident Evil with the new, brisker strain of Resident Evils 4 and 5. The result isn't an Umbrella-style crime against nature, but a healthy, happy hybrid: an optimum mix of tense, creepy exploration and stop-and-shoot action, telling a tale of bioterrorism and unwise genetic meddling aboard an abandoned ocean liner. It's also lovely to look at and, with a 10-hour story campaign, it's a meaty slab of a single-player adventure.
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Veteran monster mashers Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield return, both in the service of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA), but not as partners. The game is set after Resident Evil 4 and before 5, in the wake of a bioterrorist attack in which the high-tech island city of Terragrigia gets obliterated. Chris is paired with the flirty Jessica Sherawat, and Jill with Parker Luciani, a husky BSAA agent with a dubious Italian accent. The story plays out in TV-style, bite-sized episodes, each sandwiched between a "previously on Resident Evil: Revelations" recap and a cliff-hanger ending. It's a fun format for the compellingly hammy melodrama of Resident Evil tradition.
Much of the early game is spent playing as Jill or Chris in search of Chris or Jill, scouring the giant ship of horrors with your respective AI partner in tow. The new partners aren't hugely engaging--when you first meet Jessica, she's in shorts and ankle warmers, moaning about the cold on an arctic mission--but you're at least not responsible for their safety, since they can't be killed. Still, you wonder how much lonelier and scarier the game might be without the sidekicks. One of the most atmospheric portions is one that also most resembles old-school, haunted-house Resident Evil: Jill wakes up in a ship's cabin and has to venture alone and unarmed through the decaying luxury of the once-grand cruise liner.
The pace alternates between slower segments of cautious exploration and fraught sequences where you fend off waves of mutants while waiting for an elevator, for instance. In the slower sections, sinister ambiance and the odd well-placed jump scare come to the fore while you navigate ship corridors and dim rooms on the hunt, generally, for a key. The infrequent puzzles are on the slight side (one has you win coins from a casino slot machine and use them to unlock a high-roller suite), but they're agreeable palate cleansers all the same.
Not so agreeable: the comic relief double act of nerdy BSAA computer expert Quint Cetcham (really?) and his playable straight man Keith Lumley, whose comedy banter completely misses the mark. Their appearances, at least, are mercifully brief; Jill and Chris get the bulk of the screen time, the episodes flitting between BSAA teams, and there are plenty of stretches with these long-serving characters for fans of the series to enjoy.
As in Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, the franchise's first foray onto the 3DS, you use the circle pad for moving or aiming, the right shoulder button for snapping into a laser-sighted aim mode, and the Y button for firing. It's a comfortable, reliable control scheme that makes for tactical and deliberate combat in characteristic Resident Evil style, and it holds up well even in more hectic fights with fleshy boss monsters. Battles are taut, measured standoffs, where you weigh the option of standing your ground to shoot an inbound enemy against the option of lowering your weapon to retreat to a safer spot.