Besides the numbered entries to the series, the canonical status of most Resident Evil titles is often questionable. The events portrayed are either never mentioned again, a different take on established events, or just plain ignored and made redundant by later releases. However, one spin-off series broke that mould and are very much a part of the main continuity of the Resident Evil timeline.
RESIDENT EVIL: REVELATIONS – 2012
Following the release of Resident Evil 5, Capcom made the decision to release a new Resident Evil game on the Nintendo 3DS, the newest version of Nintendo’s popular hand-held gaming console. Both the 3DS and Resident Evil: Revelations were publicly revealed at E3 2010, with Revelations quickly becoming one of the most anticipated releases for the upcoming hand-held in what looked like an incredibly impressive line-up for Nintendo.
At first glance, Resident Evil: Revelations looked very similar, gameplay-wise, to Resident Evil 5, retaining the over-the-shoulder camera used in both that game and Resident Evil 4, as opposed to the fixed camera perspectives utilised in the earlier entries in the franchise. Unlike the previous games, however, the player could now move their character at the same time as aiming, rather than being stuck to the spot. That’s right, it took over 15 years for the ability to move and shoot to appear in a main Resident Evil title. Whilst this was an effective gameplay mechanic in the original games in order to heighten the tension, and worked to the same effect in Resident Evil 4, being frozen in place was often frustrating in Resident Evil 5 as the shift from survival horror to action was in full effect, so a simple thing such as full movement whilst fighting off enemies suddenly became a big deal (especially to longtime fans of the series). I personally think the addition should have been added to Resident Evil 5, but not necessarily to Revelations, as the tight corridors and enclosed spaces heavily featured throughout the game were more reminiscent of the original PlayStation games. In fact, for a good portion of the game, I found myself standing still whilst aiming, not thinking about trying to strafe the enemy.
Another big change seen in Revelations was the way it told its story. Rather than the usual start-middle-end from one perspective, this time we were given bite-size portions of the story that changed the characters, locations and time periods frequently. Sure, Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5 had Acts and Chapters, but they still followed a straight line, story-wise. For Revelations, the action was presented in a style similar to a television series, with the story being split up into “Episodes”, each complete with a recap of previous episodes, and finishing with a trailer for the next part of the tale. This “Episodic” style had been used in other recently released horror games, Siren: Blood Curse in 2008, and the Alone in the Dark reboot/monstrosity in 2009, before going on to be used by Telltale in almost every game they make. I’m a fan of this style of storytelling in some ways, especially here on a hand-held device, where you are unlikely to play the game for extended periods of time. This way, you can play through an episode or two, and then go back to it later, with a short recap of what’s happened in case your memory isn’t what it used to be, or you can play for a long time, kind of like binge-watching a television show. It also meant plenty of cliffhanger moments, meaning the plot could feature many crazy twists and turns.
As for the plot, Revelations is set before the events of Resident Evil 5, and it featured four main characters; Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine return for what seems like the millionth time, and this time each has a new partner. Jill’s partner is Parker Luciani, who looks like he should be the comic relief character at first glance, but turns out to be kind of alright. Chris gets to have Jessica Sherawat on his side, but she turns out to be a double agent working for the antagonistic Tricell Incorporated, who were like a diet version of Umbrella. There’s an episode that serves as a flashback featuring both these new characters working together to investigate the oceanic city Terragrigia after terrorist organisation Il Veltro launched an attack on the city using BOWs because they were against solar power or something. Honestly, I found the story so all over the place I don’t remember what the hell was going on in the long run. The episodic style of storytelling may work for this kind of game, but when the story is as batshit insane as here, nothing can help it make sense.
The setting for Resident Evil: Revelations begins on a cruise ship, the “Queen Zenobia”, which lends itself well to the sense of isolation and claustrophobia. The enemies you face are also a great fit, with sea-life elements incorporated to their design. One boss in particular is very memorable to me, where you come across the Comms Officer for the ship, who has been infected by the newest incarnation of the T-Virus, this time called the T-Abyss Virus. He’s been mutated into a big, blubbering mass of flesh, teeth and tentacles, but what makes this boss memorable was that the man seems to have retained his memories but is no longer in control of his actions. All the way through the fight, the boss constantly screams for you to put an end to his misery, and his life. It’s something seen before in many movies, but there’s something extremely creepy about it during Revelations, as it’s so out of the ordinary when it comes to boss fights in a Resident Evil game.
Resident Evil: Revelations was later released on home consoles in HD for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U and PC. This is the version I played the most, and the transition seems to have been pretty smooth. The graphics are fairly good for a portable game, and fare well in the upgrade, although some textures in the environment are a bit ugly. The controls are much better this time, as the game seems made for a controller, and the 3DS isn’t the most comfortable design in my opinion. The lack of major headaches caused by the 3D is a welcome feature too. However, it remains one of the few Resident Evil games that I haven’t completed, not because it’s a bad game, but because I just got bored of it. The new characters are on the Billy Coen scale of the spectrum here, and no amount of double crossing or bizarre wetsuit designs can change that, and the established characters (Chris and Jill) face no real tension in the plot, as you already know they’ll be fine as they appear in the already released Resident Evil 5.
After a very strong start to the game, unfortunately Resident Evil: Revelations drops the ball and becomes repetitive and dull, with it’s plot adding nothing to the overall Resident Evil story, except maybe a few question marks such as “why was Terragrigia and the following shenanigans never mentioned in Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6?” and “What happened to everybody not named Chris or Jill?” However, the game was a success, and it paved the way for another entry in the spin-off series a few years later.
RESIDENT EVIL: REVELATIONS 2 – 2015
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 was announced not long after the bad taste left in the mouth of fans had diminished from the much-derided Resident Evil 6, and straight away the first trailer showed promise. Featuring series favourites Claire Redfield and Barry Burton, the tone of the game shifted away from the explosive action and set-pieces of Resident Evil 6 and had a much more isolated and creepy vibe. The connections to the first Revelations game is tenuous at best – one of the new characters, Natalia, lived on Terragrigia with her family when it was infected with BOWs. That’s about it. However, Revelations 2 shares some gameplay similarities, such as having a partner with you, different character perspectives, and an episodic layout.
The new characters who serve as your partner are Moira Burton, daughter of Barry Burton, and Natalia Korda, a young girl trapped alone on the island. Moira serves as Claire’s partner throughout the game, and Moira teams up with Barry. Unlike previous co-op characters, if playing the game in single player mode, you can switch between the two characters at will. This is mostly in order to complete the various puzzles scattered throughout the game, as both you and your partner have different abilities. Whilst Claire can use weapons, Moira cannot due to a fear of guns brought about by a traumatic event in the past. She can open crates with her handy crowbar, and also has the only torch on the island, which is useful for both lighting up areas and stunning enemies.
Natalia’s abilities are more supernatural, including spotting creatures through walls, seeing invisible enemies as clouds of red mist, lobbing bricks at targets and pointing at things. All four characters can have their unique abilities upgraded with currency collected through the game, and used at the end of each of the four episodes. The different abilities for each character is much more interesting than the dynamic found in Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6, where your partner had the same abilities as you for the most part (Jake’s crazy Kung-Fu skills and Chris’s boulder bashing powers not withstanding). Single player works great with the option to switch character whenever needed, but the multiplayer co-operative mode really shines here, more than the previous titles in the franchise. This also creates impressively eerie and at times somewhat terrifying moments, such as one section with Natalia having to point out to Barry where an invisible monster is as it’s making it’s way towards them, plus the ammunition is scarce throughout the game, and one hit from these critters will lead to a grisly demise. In all, I find the balance between the two characters playable at the time to be well managed; both are useful in their own ways, and Natalia’s new abilities are a real positive, making it one of the few video games where the child character isn’t so annoying you want to leave them to fend for themselves. Moira’s character goes through an interesting ark, explaining her hatred of guns, why she no longer speaks to her father, and why she swears like a dock worker.
The story for Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is set over four episodes, and each episode was released roughly a week apart, in the same way as a television show is broadcast each week. I found each episode to be of a pretty solid length in general, lasting just long enough for you to want more, without getting repetitive and outlasting its welcome. Episodic releases are still something of a mixed bag in the gaming industry, with some people thinking it’s beneficial for certain games, and others claiming it’s ruining the industry (2016’s Hitman comes to mind as far as this argument is concerned). I feel it works here, as the wait between each episode wasn’t as long as other games make you wait, and it was only four episodes as well. But that’s a subject for another article sometime.
I won’t go into too much detail about the plot, as Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is easily available on all current generation consoles as well as PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, as well as Steam, and is often on sale for a very good price, so I would recommend you pick yourself up the complete series and play it through yourself. It’s one of my personal favourite entries since the change to a third person perspective, even if the final boss is complete bullshit (check out RGM Live’s Twitch or YouTube back catalogue to find me making a pigs ear of it if you fancy). Also, Barry Burton is back. That should be enough.
So there we go. That’s almost all the Resident Evil games covered. I know that’s not every game, but I haven’t played Resident Evil Gaiden on the Game Boy, and I refuse to go back to Operation Raccoon City and will never touch Umbrella Corps as long as I live. I’m not a sadist. If you think it’s good, let me know in the comments, I dare you to convince me otherwise. In my opinion, they’re not Resident Evil titles, and I’ve covered Dead Aim in this series. As I’m writing, we are two days away from Resident Evil 7: Biohazard launching, and I can’t wait. It looks like another reinvention for the franchise, much like Resident Evil 4. Make sure you check out our Twitch and YouTube channels for upcoming livestreams from myself and possibly others, and I’ll round up this retrospective with a look into the game once I’ve made it through the story.
Oh, and the final movie in the ongoing cinematic spin-off series is also releasing in a couple of weeks, so I’ll save that one for when I’ve watched it. See, even they’re better than Umbrella Corps.