The latest episode from one of the masters of the survival-horror video-game genre returns to its roots with some eye-popping results in Resident Evil Revelations (Capcom, reviewed for Nintendo 3DS, rated M for mature, $39.99) for Nintendo's hand-held gaming system.
Tethered to a conspiracy-riddled story (pretty much par for the course with not many revelations) and exploring what happens between Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5, familiar heroes are back along with some new members of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance to stop the evil organization Veltro.
The action plays out in episodic chunks complete with bumpers — "previously in Resident Evil Revelations " — to offer an easy-to-appreciate cinematic story tied to multiple plot threads that jump across time periods.
Team-ups throughout the campaign mode will find a player handling legends such as Jill Valentine with new partner Parker Luciani in support of Chris Redfield paired with Jessica Sherawat, for example.
Directing a character requires getting used to a cramping control scheme (for the big-handed types, anyway) but one that offers a nice level of flexibility, including a lifesaving dodge mechanic and running or walking, depending on the amount of pressure placed on the touch pad.
The 3DS' bottom touch screen manages using firepower such as shotguns, pistols and a time-delayed grenade (which also attracts enemies), viewing maps, reading manuals and any upgrades.
Be it searching a seemingly abandoned ocean liner, combing a beachhead for samples, fighting T-Abyss' virus-enhanced wolves in an Arctic mine or escaping an infested building in the forsaken city of Terragrigia, it's a methodically paced nail-biter at every turn with a variety of haunted horror mutations to encounter.
As in the early Resident Evil days, warriors meet with a limited supply of ammo (and in some levels no weapons), resilient monsters (imagine a mutant call for John Carpenter's "The Thing"), an assortment of heart-racing moments (not dictated by killing), opening lockers to find surprises and collecting those excellent green healing herbs.
This time out, however, they get some help with a tool called Genesis. This all-purpose scanner drops a sick green targeting pall over the screen and allows the player to home in on and ingest data.
At its simplest level, it means finding hidden ammo or helpful items, such as keys. At its most nerve-racking, it's scanning a mutant almost ready to attack to acquire percentage points and collect more health herbs.
Of course, Nintendo's 3DS brings the frightening savagery and fear level in your face through the top 3-D-ready screen, which never requires wearing those goofy glasses.
Just crank up the effect and hold it about a foot from your peepers, and don't shake too much. I also would suggest players pop in the ear buds for some unforgettable atmospheric sound effects guaranteed to make you flinch around every corner.
My reservation with the game, however, is that it sometimes is tough to get in the mood when playing in a confined (3 inches wide) 3DS space, even with the assortment of grotesque creatures popping up and dying into gelatinous masses of bloody goo.
Still, the cut scenes consistently dazzle (reference an entire city collapsing) while showing the power of the Nintendo hand-held as a slick entertainment device.
A survival mode called Raid offers additional replayability after the main event. It's essentially a solo (or with a partner — local or online) shooting gallery for the player while he is killing creatures to reach a goal and collect gun parts to upgrade an arsenal.
Despite the brilliance of Resident Evil Revelations — and it is the game to beat for the 3DS format so far — it still won't replace playing a classic Resident Evil game on a 52-inch television screen with the lights out.
For that level of fright, fans will have to wait until November, when Resident Evil 6 arrives.
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