Perhaps the biggest complement we can pay Resident Evil: Revelations is that you can easily forget just how impressive it is. You can actually get too caught up in the experience of playing Resident Evil on a handheld that you can ignore the startling fact that you're playing Resident Evil on a handheld. Nor is this some cut-down, stripped-back version. With a few caveats, Revelations looks like Resident Evil, plays like Resident Evil and has the same joys and frustrations as Resident Evil. In fact, it's arguably closer in spirit to the survival horror of the early Resident Evils than the more action-oriented Resident Evil 5.
This is a tremendous technical achievement. Revelations doesn't simply match the five years old Resident Evil 4 on Gamecube, but comes close to approaching the visual quality of Resident Evil 5 on the 360 and PS3. You can see where corners have been cut in the complexity of the models, architecture or and textures, but the protagonists look good, the scenery is thoroughly believable and the lighting and effects are anything but primitive. We all know that the 3DS hasn't the mobile graphics power of an iPhone 4S or Playstation Vita, but if the mission here was to create a game that could stand next to a home console title without looking horrifically dated, then Capcom can consider it accomplished. What's more, while stereoscopic 3D effects aren't an integral of the experience they are well handled, adding an extra layer of immersion.
How you feel about other aspects of the game will depend on how you feel about Resident Evil. Feel free to moan all you like about the controls, which still have characters moving and steering with all the finesse of a tractor, and where the act of pointing a weapon at a monster leaves you rooted to the spot (though at least Revelations includes a useful side-step manouvre). This doesn’t make those controls any less a part of the core experience. Resident Evil isn't about running circles around monsters or taking potshots at them from behind cover; it's about the claustrophobic, panic-stricken experience of blasting away at hideous foes from five feet away, hoping desperately that you can put them down before they reach you. Revelations does this kind of thing very well.
It's also telling that, even with Nintendo's newly introduced Circle Pad Pro, Revelations still doesn't play like a typical third-person shooter. With the surprisingly chunky accessory clipped onto the underside of your 3DS, the left thumbstick controlling movement and the right stick controlling aiming, it's possible to move around a little while aiming to avoid attack. However, Capcom has deliberately kept the speed of movement slow, so you still can't circle-strafe or turn and fire in a flash.
And while we’re on the subject of the Circle Pad Pro, it does make playing Revelations a more pleasant experience. It’s perfectly playable without it, but the additional trigger R2 is a lot easier to reach than the Y button on the 3DS that it replaces, and the larger, more comfortable grip makes playing for long periods a lot more comfortable.
Touchscreen controls are used wisely, not just for the novelty stuff like tapping screws to get at a control panel or dragging cables around in simple puzzles, but for important stuff like viewing the map, selecting weapons or inventory management. The result is a less fiddly Resident Evil, where you don't spend so much time pausing the action to mess with your equipment.
In terms of narrative, Revelations is typical Capcom fare. It's somewhat baroque, both confused and confusing, and reliant on you keeping track of multiple nonsense acronyms and agencies and a slightly over-complicated plot. Voice acting runs the gamut from excellent to execrable and the story can take turns that are just plain silly. However, it brings in two of the series most beloved protagonists – Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine – and puts them in an environment – a mysterious abandoned cruise liner – that ties in with the kind of tight corridors, musty rooms and scenes of decayed grandeur that sit right at the series' heart.
Not everyone will like the way the game flits between three viewpoints – Jill, Chris and a duo of comedy morons – but the game uses it to set up some excellent cliffhangers, and the 'Previously on Resident Evil: Revelations' recaps that precede each chapter help give the game a cool TV series feel.