Tagged: survival horror

Resident Evil: Revelations: The Case for an Upgrade (and the Wii U)

 

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2012′s Resident Evil: Revelations was a breath of fresh air for survival horror fans who have become frustrated by the direction Resident Evil has taken in recent years. Resident Evil 5Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, Resident Evil 6, and even the first 3DS Resident Evil title, Mercenaries 3D, have shifted the focus of the series from creepy exploration and survival with limited resources to standard third person shooter run-and-gun scenarios. Amid those releases, though, Revelations for the 3DS managed to bring back a feeling much closer to the original Resident Evil games, creating a hybrid of shooter and survival horror that harkened back to Resident Evil 4 and the add-on Lost in Nightmares mission for Resident Evil 5. The game became a hit for the 3DS and a reason for many disillusioned owners of Nintendo’s newest handheld to think twice about ditching the system. Now, in 2013, Revelations is no longer a 3DS exclusive, negating some of that impetus for keeping the handheld, but the 3DS’s loss a definite gain for Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and – to a greater extent – Wii U owners. But should you upgrade if you have already played the game? And if you do, does the Wii U’s dual-screen gameplay recreate the 3DS experience enough to make it the version gamers should choose?

Same Game with Twists

Players of the 3DS version will find that the game itself has not been substantially changed. The story, which takes place between Resident Evil 4 and the Lost in Nightmares DLC from Resident Evil 5, puts Jill Valentine and new partner Parker Luciani aboard a derelict ship carrying the results of a new bioweapon outbreak: the T-Abyss virus, which, instead of creating zombies, creates strange creatures known as Ooze (which are, compared to the enemies of other RE games, pretty disappointing in design). Chris Redfield and his new partner, Jessica Sherawat, seek to find and rescue Jill and Parker, while another duo, Keith Lumley and Quint Cetcham, seek out answers to assist both teams in their missions. You play as members of all three teams at different points in the tale. The game plays out through 12 multi-part episodes, each of which begins with a “Previously on Resident Evil: Revelations” video that helps provide momentum and gives the game a sense of style reminiscent of Alan Wake. Cutscenes, flashback segments (that you actually play, rather than watch), and such weave a complicated conspiracy tale that has more depth than most Resident Evil fare. Between the normal campaign and the co-op Raid Mode, very little has changed here, except for some placement of enemies and items, along with some minor new enemy types. However, the available Infernal difficulty mode changes things up and adds enough new challenges to allow for quite a bit of replay value for hardcore players who plan to upgrade from the 3DS to an HD console.

From Two Screens to One

The biggest gameplay changes to Revelations come from the need to take a game that was originally played on the 3DS with one regular screen and one touchscreen into something that can be played on a single television screen, while allowing it to be controlled by the dual-analog sticks and greater number of buttons found on the HD consoles’ controllers. The original 3DS game featured third person movement through the environment on the top screen, with the bottom of that screen usually staying uncluttered by indicators except for remaining ammunition. Your map, weapons, and items were all controlled via a crammed-but-functional touchscreen display with weapons running along the top, items running along the side, and the map taking over the rest of the screen. (With all the backtracking done in this game, you will need the map.) When drawing your weapon to fire in the 3DS version, the default setting sends you into a first-person mode from behind the weapon (which is in the center of the screen) for more accurate shooting on a small screen. You can choose a third-person perspective, but it is not the “normal” way to play. On the single-screen display used for the PS3, Xbox 360, and in two (of three) modes for the Wii U version, first-person viewing is no longer an option, as the game sticks with third-person throughout. Your selected weapon (and the other weapons you have equipped), along with your remaining ammo, is now displayed on the bottom right corner of the screen, while your secondary weapons (like grenades) are displayed on the bottom left briefly when selected. A 2D version of the map is displayed in the top right corner, orienting as you move, while a more detailed 3D map can be brought up within the game’s menus. This setup works well, and while not quite as convenient in some aspects (due to not having a second screen with a touch interface available), it makes the game feel similar to recent entries in the series. Moreover, the ability to use two analog sticks without needing a Circle Pad Pro attachment for the 3DS, plus the dedication of one shoulder button to the Genesis scanner, rather than having to swap to and from the device like any other item, are welcome tweaks to make gameplay smoother. That, however, is only part of the story when it comes to HD gameplay options . . .

How the Wii U Comes Out on Top

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The Wii U version of Revelations offers three different viewing options. The first two are identical to gameplay on the PS3 or Xbox 360: everything is displayed on a single screen. The Wii U, however, offers a bit more versatility, since that single-screen gameplay can be shown on the television screen or on the Gamepad itself, freeing players from the TV. More interestingly, the other viewing mode is an improved variant of the 3DS gaming mode with two screens. The TV acts as the top 3DS screen in that it shows all of the game’s action with minimal HUD items, allowing players to take in the action without overlays (similar to Dead Space). The Gamepad acts as the touchscreen on the 3DS, displaying your map, weapons, items, etc. However, with the Gamepad screen being larger than the 3DS screen, the layout has changed to be more comfortable. The map takes up the bulk of the screen’s middle section, while health items are accessible by tapping directly below it. Weapon options now run down the right side of the touchscreen, while secondary item options run along the left, with both of these columns being within easy reach of the player’s thumbs.

The Verdict

If you have never played Resident Evil: Revelations, and you are a fan of the series or the survivor horror genre, you should definitely check out the game on any platform. If you are looking for the best HD platform for playing Revelations, the benefits provided by the Gamepad make the Wii U version the definitive edition of this solid Resident Evil title.

ZombiU Review

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The Invisible Gamer concept is what drew me to this site, as both a visitor and a writer. Within gaming, there are certain opinions that tend to be shouted down by the major gaming media outlets, while huge numbers of fans see their collective opinions go without expression. In this age of Metacritic, our voices should matter, but theirs too often seem to “matter” so much more. Case in point: ZombiU. If you are a longtime survival horror fan like me, then you will love the experience provided by ZombiU. Unfortunately, early reviews from major outlets bashed the game to the point where it is thought of by the uninformed (and supposedly-informed) as a failure that has marred the Wii U’s launch lineup. Nothing could be further from the truth in the eyes of a survival horror fan who wants some real survival horror, rather than a third person shooter using jump-scares in pale imitation of true tension.

The Wii U’s first few months of life have not been particularly good for the system. Games to be released for the system have been canceled (though in the case of Aliens: Colonial Marines, that might be a good thing), formerly exclusive games have been announced as multiplatform (Rayman, I’m looking at you), and many games have just been glorified ports (Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Injustice: Gods Among Us) – often very playable ports with nifty new features, but sometimes lacking in functions that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 crowds take for granted.

ZombiU, however, is one of those exclusive titles that provides a solid reason to own a Wii U: these killer zombies make for a killer app.

Real Survival Horror

In a genre that has transformed from the true scares and tension of the original Resident Evil games, the first Dead Space, and their brethren into a genre filled with solid shooters like Resident Evil 4 – 6, Dead Space 2 – 3, and their ilk, “survival horror” has come to mean “survive wave after wave of bullet-sponge enemies that just happen to look like horror movie creatures.” When Call of Duty has a zombie-fighting mode and begins to call that mode “survival horror,” you know that the genre no longer lives up to its moniker.

Enter ZombiU, a true survival horror game that puts the tension and fear back into the genre, while providing innovations along the way.

ZombiU puts players in London in the wake of a “zombie apocalypse.” You play as a survivor, who is drawn into the safehouse of the Prepper, who provides you with your mission goals and advice as you travel in the growing, somewhat open world of London. Your missions will take you into the streets, sewers, military facilities, and even Buckingham Palace. All the while, you must face increasingly difficult enemies, some slow, some fast, and some who even teleport. (Yes, I know teleporting zombies sounds odd, but can be truly terrifying in confined spaces.)

In the game’s earliest moments, you find yourself wielding a cricket bat (London, remember?), then a small pistol. By the end of the game, you may eventually find yourself using quite a few different weapons, divided into pistols, shotguns, rifles, and the like. I say “may” because these are not “gifts” for completing levels or automatic pickups to progress the story as in many games. When you find a new weapon, it is generally a fortuitous find (or discovered through use of strategy guides that are, frankly, a necessity to get the most out of ZombiU). You could very well reach the end of the game having experienced only a few weapons. Either way, you will find ammo scarce enough that you will often resort to your bat, which can be used to push away zombies or to bash them to a second death.

As in many survival horror games, your inventory space is limited, though it does expand if you find larger backpacks during your travels. Fortunately, you do have a container back at the safehouse where you can put items you do not wish to carry at that moment. In general, you carry whatever you can fit in your pack, along with up to six items that can be placed into quick-access inventory slots in the top corners of the Gamepad screen. (You will usually want to have at least your cricket bat, one or two firearms, a grenade or Molotov cocktail, and at least one health item in those slots at all times.)

Controls are typical of a first person shooter, barring using the Gamepad’s inventory slots with quick thumb presses to switch items quickly. However, the use of the Gamepad shines (and provides extra tension) when dealing with your “Prepper Pad” and inventory management. The Gamepad (Prepper Pad in the game) can be held up and titled around to look for points of interest in the environment. You can then scan them for more information about their contents, the hidden meanings of certain glyphs, to add the locations of enemies to your map, and the like. When searching your inventory for an item, or when looting a body or cabinet to find supplies, you will also look down to the Gamepad to move those items via a touch-based menu into your own inventory. In these cases, your character on the TV screen will use his Prepper Pad or Bug Out Bag (backpack), while you are looking at the Gamepad. You must remain vigilant, however. As in the trend started with Dead Space that does not stop the action around you when accessing menus, you can still be attacked when doing these things, which forces you to keep glancing between Gamepad and television, heightening the tension.

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Light also plays a fundamental part in ZombiU. While there are several types of zombies to encounter, they are all attracted to light. This allows you to use a flare to lure zombies into an area and blow them up with a mine, grenade, or Molotov cocktail, but it also means that your own light (with limited power that must be turned off periodically to recharge) will draw zombies to you. You can use this to your advantage, however, grabbing the attention of one zombie at a time from a large area of infected to better your odds of survival.

Permadeath, Zombie Friends, and Asymmetrical Multiplayer

If the Gamepad wasn’t enough, two more truly unique aspects emerge with ZombiU: permadeath and its unusual takes on interacting with other players.

Within the game, you play as a survivor, who is given very little characterization and no spoken dialogue, putting you into the role more deeply, so that their eyes feel like your own more than when playing as a heavily-developed protagonist. When taken by surprise from behind, attacked at a low health level, or unable to respond quickly enough, a zombie will grab and bite you (an attack that can only be evaded by use of a Virucide shot that you receive midway through the game that is good for one use and can be refilled from drawing the substance into a syringe from special zombies that scanning with the Prepper Pad can identify). Once bitten (or killed by fire or a fall), your current survivor dies, permanently. If bitten by a zombie, that survivor becomes a zombie and inhabits the area in which you were killed. What makes this important is that this dead survivor is wearing your backpack with all of the gear you had loaded into it! You then wake up as a new survivor, and you must not only pick up where the “dead you” left off, but also hunt down the zombie version of your former self, so that you can kill him and take back your gear. To do this, you have only a bat, pistol, and whatever you have left in the container back at the safehouse, which makes it a particularly bad idea to carry all of your weapons at once. Moreover, if your new survivor dies before reclaiming your gear, then everything he was carrying is redistributed throughout the game’s various locations, and you must either do without or follow indications on CCTV cameras in the safehouse to find the items all over again. In this survival horror scenario, death actually matters and adds significantly to the game’s tension and scares.

If this wasn’t enough to add tension, players can try Survival Mode, a run through the normal single-player mode with one catch: if you die, the game ends completely. You will not wake as another survivor, but instead have to start over from scratch. This is truly for the hardcore survival horror gamer. Think of it as permadeath taken to an even higher level.

The game’s interaction with other players also heightens the experience, but those looking for the typical Call of Duty-esque multiplayer modes will find themselves disappointed. The game makes use of social components in two primary ways. First, if you have friends via your Nintendo ID who are also playing ZombiU, then when those friends die and become zombies, they do not just appear in their game to let them retrieve gear. They also appear in your game, so that you can kill them and loot items from them. This adds some unpredictability and social dynamics to this mostly solo experience, while not affecting your friends’ ability to get their gear back (via the incarnation of their zombie self in their game, which is not affected by their zombie appearance in yours).

The game also includes two asymmetrical multiplayer modes (or three, thanks to Ubisoft’s Uplay, which must be downloaded via the Wii U eShop to access any of its unlockable goodies). The key term here is asymmetrical: players are not all doing the same thing. The three modes include traditional capture and hold, kill-to-get-points, and see-how-long-you-survive variants. One player uses the Gamepad to be the “King of Zombies,” sending out zombies in a fashion similar to a real-time strategy (RTS) or tower defense game, gaining zombie types and numbers as the match progresses. The other player(s) play in a first person mode similar to the main game, fighting off the waves of zombies that are unleashed by the Gamepad player. (With the Gamepad already utilized, these other players will use a Wii Remote and Nunchuk or the Wii U Pro Controller.) While there is no progression system from match to match, and all multiplayer modes are local-only (no online multiplayer whatsoever), these multiplayer modes are highly enjoyable and can become quite addictive.

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The great local multiplayer experience is just the icing on the cake for a single player experience that truly deserves the “survival horror” label. The game starts slow, as you wade into the world and very slowly gain new gear, but by the end, this is an experience that should not be missed, including a final sequence that literally left me shaking for half an hour after the credits had rolled.

Survival horror fans owe it to themselves to check out ZombiU. It just might be the best true survival horror game since Dead Space.

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