Shinji Mikami was the guy in charge of the Resident Evil series for the first sixteen years or so. He was also one of the developers in Clover Studio, and left Capcom after it was dissolved. This is one of the reasons why Resident Evil 5 has such a different feel to it than any of the games that came before, as it's the first entry in the main series that Mikami wasn't involved with.
RE5 also made a point of wrapping up most of the series' outstanding plotlines, which makes Resident Evil: Revelations an interesting game in a lot of ways. It's the first entry in a new status quo, with very little to do with what came before it aside from the presence of Chris and Jill; it's the first game of its sort on the Nintendo 3DS; and it's the return of the series to a deliberate focus on atmosphere and horror after RE4's shift to action.
The game's basically got two plots going on simultaneously. One is a cloak-and-dagger sort of exchange where two high-level bureaucrats are trying to outfox one another; the other is the player's end of things, which involves Jill Valentine fighting monsters aboard a ghost ship. It gets fairly murky, like Tom Clancy halfheartedly writing a horror novel, but it's an odd and novel approach.
In 2004, a floating island city named Terragrigia was attacked by a terrorist organization called Veltro, using black-market bioweapons to flood the city with monsters. The survivors, in an attempt to kill off those monsters, sank the city.
A year later, Chris Redfield is trying to track down what's left on Veltro, as one of the original members of the fledgling BSAA organization. He follows a lead to an isolated corner of Finland, and then drops off the map.
His supervisor at the BSAA dispatches Jill Valentine and her new partner, Parker Luciani, to the Mediterranean Sea on a rescue mission. Chris's last known location has somehow turned out to be aboard a floating, seemingly-abandoned cruise ship called the Queen Zenobia. When Jill and Parker get aboard it, they find that the Zenobia was apparently a well-disguised hideout for Veltro, and that, more relevantly, a new breed of bioweapon has contaminated the entire ship.
If you played the "Lost in Nightmares" DLC for Resident Evil 5, you'll have a pretty good idea of what's going on in Revelations. It combines the updated RE4-style control scheme with a deliberate attempt to create tension and horror, and mostly succeeds on that front because the new monsters - a breed of aquatic creature created by a new virus called the T-Abyss - can come out of nowhere at almost any time and are all complete bullet sponges.
You can collect better weapons and upgrade the ones you've already found, increasing their damage output, fire rate, clip size, and other special factors, but most of the monsters in Revelations still take a tremendous amount of raw punishment to bring down. This is one of the bigger problems with Revelations as a whole, because a lot of fights, particularly bosses, rapidly go from tense struggles for survival to frustrating slogs as you empty every weapon you have into something that just won't die, which is frequently surrounded by an infinite number of equally annoying monsters.
This is made more difficult by the fact that you spend most of the game playing as Jill, who's reacquired the lack of health she used to have in the first RE. Many of the fights turn into a pitched scramble at close quarters, and while you can heal at almost any time just by pushing A, it's still easy for Jill to drop dead before you realize she's even in trouble.
It's still mostly a successful experiment. This is a more "realistic" approach for the series than what we've seen in the past, with a return to using real-world weapons and a story that is, in the end, about government bureaucracy fighting itself. It's not quite the high drama of past installments (RE4 still has level design like the most awesome fever dream anyone's ever had), but that was and is Mikami's stock in trade. This is different, and often quite effective.
When you clear the game's main story mode, which should take between eight and twelve hours, you gradually unlock levels in Raid Mode, which is arguably the real reason to own Revelations. Like past RE minigames, Raid Mode sets up chunks of the main game's levels as corridor shooters, with monsters thrown in by the half-dozen and allowing you to gradually unlock and purchase new and more powerful weapons to kill them with. It also features the return of co-op wireless mode, letting you blow through the tougher missions with a partner, and it's oddly addictive for something that's basically recycled. It also has a lot of levels and content, as well as multiple unlockable characters, which works well for pick-up-and-play portable entertainment.
It's not an entirely perfect game. Playing it without the Circle Pro results in hand cramps after a couple of hours, and playing it with the Circle Pro automatically shackles you to a counterintuitive control scheme that appears to have been designed for a telekinetic octopus. There's a dodge system that's meant to be your primary method of avoiding attacks, as opposed to watching enemies' patterns and just running past or away from them, but even after spending twelve hours with the game I can't seem to dodge consistently. The plot is delivered in nonlinear episodes and requires a flowchart to follow, with at least two major holes in it.
I'm not sure I'd buy a 3DS just for Revelations. It's not a system seller, but it's a good, solid third-party title. As an installment in the larger series, it's an interesting and hopeful glimpse of where Resident Evil is going now.
This review is based on a retail copy of Resident Evil: Revelations for the Nintendo 3DS purchased by the reviewer.