Like the mutated viral strains that inhabit its many undead bodies, Resident Evil keeps adapting. As a result, each new game has to ponder the past, present and future of the series. Should the next Resident Evil be survival horror? Should it be modern-style action? Should the camera really been so fascinated by ladies' bums?
Resident Evil: Revelations, the fourth handheld outing for the series, only knows how to answer that last question: and on that front (or rear?), it's a resounding yes. Other decisions are thrust onto the cartridge with less conviction. Unable to choose between the balls-out action of Resident Evil 5 and the classic tension of the original games, Capcom settles on a haphazard combination of styles that never quite works.
Much of Revelations takes place aboard the Queen Zenobia, a luxury cruise liner that resembles the original Resident Evil's iconic Spencer estate mixed with The Crystal Maze's Ocean zone.
The Queen Zenobia - designed by George Trevor, for fans of the series' tangled lore - originally recalls all that is cherished about the series' vintage titles: ornate architecture, gentle puzzling, and the back-and-forth traversal of an unwinding map as your inventory swells with an abundance of keys, security cards and elaborate trinkets. Interspersed with these engaging moments, however, are rote action sequences across bland environments. Trekking through some snow shooting mutant dogs feels like playing a limp version of John Carpenter's The Thing, for instance.
Surprisingly, Revelations' faults are not due to its technology, and the power of Capcom's MT Framework Mobile is nothing short of phenomenal, effectively realising the dream of bringing a console-like experience to Nintendo's handheld. Even the stiff controls are perfectly adequate, though its creators have finally bucked and added a strafe option which unwittingly robs Revelations of the series' most frequent scares.
While the game supports Nintendo's new Circle Pad Pro attachment for dual-stick aiming, the game's sans-Pro configuration switches between movement and aiming when your gun is drawn, effectively emulating the series' control scheme post-Resident Evil 4. The game's default setting has you aiming and firing your weapons in first-person, however, and while this makes targeting individual enemies easier, it can be switched to the series' more traditional third-person (and its inherently greater awareness of your periphery) via the options menu.
Conserving ammo is vital, as always, but inventory management has been scaled completely back. Boxes are now used solely to swap and upgrade weapons with the game's mix-and-match tinkering system, and any weapon left behind (you can only carry three at once) when out in the world will magically reappear in storage. It's also impossible to stockpile green herbs, as you're given a maximum limit of five at any one time. These changes make Revelations more manageable, which is perhaps what you'd want on a handheld device, but they also can't help but rob it of some of the series' tension and colour.