Previews

Resident Evil: Revelations: Returning to its roots

Something wicked this way sails...

Like some bio-freak cooked up in Umbrella's house of horrors, Revelations is a bit of this spliced with a bit of that. Resi 4's over-the shoulder gunplay is stitched onto Resi 1's more measured pace, before the whole lot is transplanted into Resident Evil Gaiden's ocean liner setting.

But as this strange beast shambles on to E3's show floor, should we be aiming for its weak spot or inviting it to gnaw on our hearts?

It really does feel like old Resi. Jill Valentine wakes in what looks like an abandoned stately home. With its peeling paint, spiral staircases and neatly laid dinner tables, this could be an unexplored wing of the Spencer Mansion. It almost looks as good as GameCube's revamped abode, too - like Luigi's Mansion 2, Revelations dials back the finer details in order to pump out some staggering lighting.

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This isn't a stately home, though, but a boat. We guess the home comforts are here to make sense of the name. Hey, evil can't be resident without a residence. And 'Passenger Evil' just doesn't have the same ring to it.

A bigger mystery is who owns the boat, and how Jill came to be onboard. These are the titular revelations to come. For now, Jill has to escape a locked room. Which she does by picking a screwdriver out of a bathtub. Like we said: old Resi.

Old Resi is silly Resi. Silly Resi does things such as hide screwdrivers in bathtubs. Nothing helps us relax in the tub like a squirt of Radox and some minor DIY. Silly Resi also likes to sequester meat monsters inside cupboards. Cupboards you can walk past once, twice, then... ARRRGH! MEAT MONSTER! MEAT MONSTER! Oldest one in the book. A big, silly book. But a surprisingly scary book.

The fact that a demo played on a four-inch screen, in the middle of a heaving throng of game journos, can make us jump is a seriously impressive one.

SPLATTERGUN EFFECT
Once the jumping is done, the bumping off begins. If you've played Mercenaries 3D (and if not, why not?), you'll know how shoulder-cam controls transfer to 3DS. It's basically Resi 4 with extra breathing room, as holding Y lets you move in first-person mode.

Revelations' meat monsters don't act like Merc's Ganados, however. These guys suck up bullets like a T-1000. Splodges of blood confirm that damage is being done, but there's no reaction. No recoil or tripping. Certainly no gory neck fountains. Just slow, unstoppable progress.

Maybe this is meant to whisk us back to the old days, the days of Crimson Heads and brown pants. We're not so sure. Resi 4's shoulder-aiming was created to make every shot count - it made you responsible for every bullet.

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Emptying entire clips into walking meat slabs feels crude. Shifting the focus from targeting to the ammo counter isn't a problem if Capcom limit the ammo, but they don't. Not in this demo, anyway. After 20 minutes, we're not sure if we're playing an easy survival horror or an unsatisfying action horror.

Hide and seek Big emphasis is placed on snuffling out ammo with the supply scanner. The new gadget, aimed in first-person, can reveal items hidden out of sight. It pings when goodies are nearby, and lights up when you're pointing at them.

In this demo it seems designed more to draw the eye to gorgeous locations. It's not just revealing ammo under a dining table, but making you stare at an amazingly rendered dining table. Here's hoping for slightly more meaningful usage down the line.

Thankfully, the few awkward design decisions are crushed under the atmosphere. The finest 3DS visuals to date (the light reflecting off Jill's taut, leathery buttocks is something to behold (until the demo lady threw a cup of cold water on us, anyway)) conjure all kinds of eerie scenes. Monsters pull themselves through the gaps in claustrophobic library shelves, while smoke obscures living corpses until you're well within chomping distance.

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