Survival horror has become a loaded, dirty word in the last six months or so. Everyone seems to have a different, conveniently self-serving definition of the term, not to mention their own theory on why the genre is no longer “relevant” or “viable.” I say sit them down and make them play one mission of the console port for Resident Evil: Revelations, and if it doesn't turn them into believers, then we can all just go back to our indie PC survival horror games secure in the knowledge that we tried.
For those late to the party, Revelations was originally released, to near universal critical praise, as a 3DS exclusive. Sporting a refreshingly traditional RE look and feel, it garnered such success that Capcom decided to port it over to the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U - an idea that, while exciting, sounded technically infeasible to many. But with a little ingenuity and a lot of spit-shine, the company has managed to pull it off. When you pop Revelations into your HD console, you'll believe in every way that it's a numbered entry in the series.
By taking the high polygon models from the 3DS version's pre-rendered cutscenes and then re-texturing them, Capcom has created a look that appears reasonably at home on current-gen consoles. I skulked carefully about the Queen Zenobia (the cruise ship on which the game takes place) for around 40 minutes, and not once did the visuals or level design make me feel as if I was playing a handheld game. The audio and control packages have been upgraded to meet console standards too, with a second analog stick being a particularly huge boon for combat sequences.
Revelations will now be experienced by a new audience, and it's nice that Capcom has taken the time to make a number of improvements and additions for returning fans as well. Raid Mode is back, and is available to play right out of the box rather than requiring the player to complete the campaign first. You'll still need to progress through single player in order to unlock more Raid maps, but at least players looking for quick co-op action can get some right away this time around. Additional sprinkles on the Raid sundae include new playable characters, new costumes, and ResidentEvil.net support for tracking your co-op stats on the go.
Besides the more obvious single-player enhancements, there'll be new custom weapon parts, a new enemy type, and even an additional difficulty level, called Infernal, which features remixed enemy and item placement. Veterans of the 3DS version will be glad to hear that Infernal is available right away without any unlocking, so you can forgo replaying the standard campaign and just jump right in.
As neat as the extra bits of content are, what's really exciting is that old school fans will get a genuine Resident Evil experience for the first time in years. You can make all the justifications and business rationalizations you'd like, but fans clearly aren't happy with the series' new direction. Now, in a most unlikely way, the roots of the franchise are getting a second chance to take hold and grow. With any luck it'll do well, and teach companies that you don't need every release to sell 5 million units in order to succeed. Just think outside of the box, set reasonable goals, and stay true to your fans. The rest will take care of itself.
Look for Resident Evil: Revelations on Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii U on May 21.