The most relevant way to view Resident Evil: Revelations for a home console owner is as an entirely new game, not as a port of a handheld title, because that's exactly what it is for most of them. The story of the game itself is set between Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5, and tries to fill in some of the details missing from 5's narrative. Campaign mode is told in "episodes" which jump around in time, location, and characters in order to fill in parts of the story in between each chapter of the main plot, complete with "Previously on Resident Evil: Revelations" video segments at the beginning of each one showing you what you just finished playing - no doubt someone thought that would be an amusing quirk instead of just as frustrating as similar segments are on DVD boxed sets. You get to control original heroine Jill Valentine to begin with, but later take control of Chris Redfield during episodes which fill in his part of the story, and Jill's new partner Parker Luciani at other times. Chris also has a new partner, Jessica Sherawat. There seems to be an interesting battle over which is worse between the script and voice acting for Jessica. Calling it a tie is probably fair; both are equally bad. Most of the dialogue is pretty poor, truth be told, and harks back to the old days of the franchise, including text-based responses to investigating parts of the various rooms throughout the game.
In fact, Capcom have tried to bring back elements of the original Resident Evil games which pioneered the survival horror genre in the first place all the way through this effort, and fans will be pleased to see the return of keys with crests and matching doors, creepy off-screen sounds, physically kneeling to pick up items, something you need being "hidden" at the bottom of a bathtub of dirty water, paper maps, shotguns on hooks on the wall, and a lot of decor strikingly similar to that of the Raccoon City mansion. Even those magic weapons boxes are back, although here they serve the purpose of providing an interface for upgrading weapons using gun parts found along the way.
Less impressive is the step backwards regarding physical attacks. There's no way to kick or punch enemies in open play now, just the old school knife slash (something which Chris in particular wields with unsettling superhuman speed). Therefore, in situations where your weapons are gone, you have no attacks at your disposal at all. Melee attacks are only possible when an enemy is stunned, at which point you can hold the action button to "charge" your strike before releasing and hopefully killing them.
Of course, the first question most fans of the franchise ask with each new instalment is "what have they changed?". Well, for no apparent reason, they’ve changed the controls. There are two control modes available, "Classic" and "Shooter". Oddly, they each include elements of the classic RE control system, but neither of them include all of it. Shooter is the closest, where the right stick controls the camera and the left movement, while Classic is more like Operation: Raccoon City where the camera remains permanently behind you, and all the right stick does is momentarily angle it in another direction before it snaps back to centre, which can be disorienting. Neither mode is as fluid as Resident Evil 6 but it doesn't take long to get used to either, particularly Shooter.
The newest element is the Genesis scanner, which can be used throughout the game to scan areas for items and bodies for viruses. As you gather more biometric data you work towards earning health items. The more unique species of Bio-Organic Weapon (BOW) you scan, the faster you earn. The scanner also provides the replacement for those ever-frustrating blue seals from the last few games. Now instead of having to find things to shoot as a collection side-mission, you have to find hidden handprints, usually of BOW victims, with the scanner. You get used to scanning every area once cleared of enemies pretty quickly, and given the scanner’s range, including being able to scan items through walls, finding everything in a room is not particularly difficult.
The enemies are tough, even early on they're slow and rather stupid. It will take at least five handgun bullets to fell even the smallest creatures (called Ooze) on the easiest difficulty setting, and if you get cornered, especially by something like the large, lumbering Globster, they're hard to force away from you, mostly due to the lack of physical attacks at your disposal. It is possible to take down some enemies with a single shot to the head, but this needs to be more precise than simply hitting the head, and shouldn't be relied upon.
Sometimes the movement and collision detection is a little shoddy, which is particularly evident with the mutated wolves in Episode 2, or when travelling in lifts, and it's often possible to peer into the next area and start shooting at the stationary enemies before passing the invisible trigger point which sets them into motion, just like in the original games. It would be nice to be able to say this is another intentional nod to nostalgia, but it's much more likely a mistake.
Even though it has included resurrecting some of the less-slick aspects of the old games, Capcom have done a very good job of bringing back the genuine survival horror gameplay everyone grew to love in the first place. The visuals are good, the game moves at a decent pace, and practically every room contains a nod to the old school. Plus, running backwards and forwards from one side of the boat to the other to open a door on one side with something you found on the other side really is true Resident Evil at its best. The game is fully integrated with ResidentEvil.net, just like RE6, so players can track all of their game statistics and achievements there, as well as earn badges and points to be spent on web-based items, or on weapons for use in Raid Mode. Extra characters and costumes for Raid can also be earned during the campaign.
And this is where some may find their options lacking if they are looking for a rich multi-player experience, although this is Resident Evil, so the focus should never be on pretending to be something it's not (look how that turned out with Operation Raccoon City). Raid Mode, an action-based sub-game introduced in the original Nintendo 3DS version, is the only additional mode available besides the main campaign. It basically involves areas from the main game being populated with waves of additional enemies for one or more players to cut their way through with an arsenal of pre-selected weapons which can be changed for each mission. Hitting different points on the creatures cause varying amounts of damage, and the game is scored on accuracy, clearance time, and hitting occasional bonus targets.
The only real difference is that where on the DS players could simply transfer weapons and items between themselves, now they can also be bought/won via the ResidentEvil.net site and transferred to the game. Many RE6 players will have already acquired several of these via codes revealed over the past two to three months. Some of those weapons are considered "rare", and collecting all of them is worth an achievement. There's not really much to this mode and it will get repetitive quite quickly.
As with all the best Resident Evil games this is about the main story, and overall Resident Evil: Revelations feels like it should have been made and released before Resident Evil 4. It feels much more like, and shares many of the deficiencies of, the first few games, but with the updated graphics and gameplay style 4 introduced, making it a far more logical step on the way to 4, 5 and 6. Most should welcome the return to the franchise's true nature, and in keeping with that heritage, Revelations plays out well, keeping the mystery of the plot going without too many contrived reveals, and focuses on proper gameplay instead of some kind of arcade-style action port. After a couple of mis-steps, between Revelations and RE6, the franchise is firmly back on track. The next instalment, if there is to be one, needs to combine the best from both of those - a tantalising prospect indeed. Nostalgia has never tasted so good.