Resident Evil writers could retire and spend the rest of their lives raking in the cash by advising television shows on how to extend plot lines well past their sell buy date.
Fifteen years old now, Capcom's horror series might suffer from the same pre-climax stress as long-running TV shows - how do you conclude a story to the satisfaction of its audience? - but has discovered a workaround solution: don't.
Plot lines stretch like tentacles over the entire series, and its taken over a decade to gain proper closure on one that started way back in 1995. That saw double-crossing ex-teammate Wesker do a Gollum down the bottom of a volcano in 2009's Resident Evil 5.
But the principle villain of the series saw ex-S.T.A.R.S members Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine stare retirement in the face and bail. Instead, they've strapped on the gun belts and sheathed the combat knives to head up another mystery, gaming's own Mystery Gang slash C.S.I agents extraordinaire.
And in a way, if Revelations is readying the launch of another dozen plot threads for the years to come, at least the execution will be applauded by some. Because Resident Evil's gameplay has come full circle, returning to the slow-paced dread and bullet-scrounging of the original.
The hands-on demo offers a good chunk of gameplay, far more than the frustratingly brief glimpse to be had in Mercenaries 3D, and its a succulent taster of what's to come.
We explore multiple rooms - dining areas, bedrooms, libraries - that remind heavily of the Spencer Mansion, only to find they're carefully upholstered living quarters in the belly of a massive shipping vessel. We hot-wire security locks with the Touch Screen. Jerk in surprise as mutated freaks leap out of closets and smash through display cabinets, and curse as we hear the click of the trigger hitting an empty chamber.
Bullets are in short supply here. By demo's end we've secured a shotgun alongside the standard pistol, but the attackers, greyed mutants with either huge claws or swollen bodies ripe to burst, are bullet sponges. While iron-sighting calls in a FPS-style camera shift which ramps tension further even as it improves aim, you're best conserving ammo for those encounters you can't avoid. You're no longer the walking armoury you were in Resident Evil 5.
While Y fires, extra items can be assigned to the X button. On-screen prompts flash up when you can interact with doors, and pick-ups, be they green herbs or hand grenades, glow strong against the gloom. We'll not miss the days of hammering a button while butting against every bit of furniture around in the hope of landing a treasure.
There are puzzles, as much as Resident Evil's "find object A, interact with object B" kind can be. They may be basic, but the franchise has earned the right to dole them out in such a fashion, as they are as much part of its character as the shuffling undead. Upon waking in a bedroom at the start, we guide Jill into the bathroom, drain the tub to reveal a screwdriver, which is then used to remove the casing of the security lock on the sealed door keeping us locked in the room.
It's in this moment we get to grapple with a Touch Screen puzzle, requiring us to rewire the circuit and move a series of switches in the correct order. A brief and not entirely original interlude, it at least fits perfectly with previous brain-teasers in the series.
The 180-move remains, letting you escape in a hurry, but the Touch Screen allows you to sweep the camera around to investigate your surroundings by dragging you finger. We do so on entering a large-scale dining room, mist billowing between the tables and a large stairwell curving from the middle of the room up onto a first floor.
It gives us a chance to appreciate the graphics. While we notice Jill's model has angles that are slightly jagged than completely smooth, it's no different than what Mercenaries had, and this game has reportedly another year's worth of development ahead of it.
On the other hand, the room we're admiring is stunning, gas lamp lighting casting a yellow hue on the room, the detailing of cutlery on the cloth-covered tables and painting-filled walls gaining multiple appreciative swoops of the camera.
Shame then that we choose a door at random and return to the drab plain greys of the ship proper, all masquerade gone. The loading is such that we assume we've fast-tracked to later in the game for the purposes of the demo, and we stumble upon Chris Redfield Ver.2, a buffed up gun nut with a stomach paunch called Parker, who seems to be Jill's new partner on this mission.
He calls to follow him, and we're left trailing behind as he charges through doorways towards the bridge, our lower screen map flashing him as a red pinpoint when he goes out of view.
On entering the bridge we're straight into a high-quality cut-scene, as the two gaze out the window to see the boat they arrived in exploding in the turbulent seas outside. Jill and Parker are attacked, Valentine grabbed as a meat shield by a beret-wearing soldier whose detailed rendering suggest he's more major player than grunt. There's a brief moment of recognition between Parker and he, before the stranger fires a shot - and the screen goes black.
We were thoroughly impressed by what we played, as much for the change of pace from the more recent action-focused slant of the series. While enemies didn't blow us away with either design or attack patterns, we're aware we're still early in the game's development and Capcom wouldn't want to spoil any surprises early.
Restricting bullets to such a degree brings back something we though lost from Resident Evil; helpless terror. If the title embellishes on what we've seen today for the rest of the game, then we'll have the makings of a top-tier Resident Evil title, and we'd be happy even if this narrative is pure prologue to another five years worth of dangling plot lines.
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