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Resident Evil Revelations HD review: survival-horror's road to redemption begins here

By Alex Dale on Monday 20th May 2013 at 7:00 AM UTC

We often talk about how games purpose-built to be played on a television lose something in translation when ported to handheld, but the reverse can be true, too.

Typically handheld games are designed for shorter bursts of play, and this can make them feel disruptively bitty when they're blown up for the big screen, where they're expected to entertain for hours at a time.

The most high profile example of recent years is Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, a smart compaction of the MGS formula which was perfect for PSP, but didn't really flow as well on console. It just never stood still long enough to draw us into Snake's world in the same way Metal Gear Solid 3 so effortlessly did.

So when the news broke that Resident Evil: Revelations was migrating from 3DS to console, our fear was that game's short, snappy episodic structure wouldn't translate well to extended playing sessions.

But in the event, we shouldn't have worried. This superb HD reworking will indeed put the fear in you, but for all the right reasons.

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3DS owners already know what the rest of us are about to find out: that Resident Evil: Revelations is one of this generation's best kept secrets. It's the greatest Resi game in nearly a decade, and it's great because it concentrates on what made the series so iconic in the first place - making you scream like a 13-year old at a One Direction concert.

Rather than allowing itself to be seduced by marketable gunplay - the fate that has befallen both the mainline Resident Evil series and its arch-rival Dead Space in recent years - Revelations remembers that it's a survival-horror game first and foremost. Both thematically and structurally, it's a throwback to the original PSOne titles.

That's not to say that Revelations is regressive, however. In terms of where it sits alongside the rest of the Resident Evil series, Revelations is a bit of a mutant game, as if injected with the t-virus. Revelatons fuses the deliberating pace and sense of foreboding of the early games with the improved controls and intimate over-the-shoulder viewpoint of the later games, and as you'd expect this 'best of series' fusion is a winning combination. If you're coming into this for the first time, you'll be amazed that Capcom managed to squeeze a game of this scale and ambition onto 3DS in the first place.

It helps Resident Evil: Revelations' cause that its primary setting - the not-as-abandoned-as-you-might-have-liked abandoned cruise liner The Queen Zenobia - is a brilliantly unnerving setting that's up there with the very best in its genre. The idea of horror at sea might be cliché (it's the third Resi game alone to be set on a boat), but the Queen Zenobia proves that you can stick to the classics as long as you're committed to doing them right.

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Dim, dank and dreary, the Queen Zenobia's waterlogged crew chambers are a terrifyingly eerie place to explore. It's one of those game settings that manages to both bombard and deprive you of sensual feedback at the same time. Drips and drones and creaks and groans prick your ears into stand-by mode on an almost continuous basis, but Zenobia's penchant for blind right-hand turns makes it impossible to let your eyes reconcile with what your ears already know until you're practically in grabbing range.

Later stages see Capcom's artists reach for a warmer colour palette as our heroes progress into the opulent passenger side of the ship - but despite the more welcoming surroundings the architecture continues to conspire against you, with narrow, claustrophobic corridors stifling movement and freak-spewing vents ensuring that even previously-explored dead ends can only be marked as safe in pencil.

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