Capcom is a publisher that isn't afraid to use assets originally conceived on last-gen home consoles or recent handhelds, applying a spit and polish and selling them to a whole new audience. We've seen it with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, and the trick's being repeated with Resident Evil Revelations. This time around a graphical masterclass that showed off the 3DS is being upscaled, so we can't help but wonder whether the results are spookily good or, well, scarily bad.
We'll know soon enough, yet we do have a demo to blast our way through for an initial taste. In terms of how much this freebie gives us, it's rather short, with a ten minute segment that kicks in shortly after the start of the main game — early enough to avoid spoilers but with enough monsters and spooky lighting to set the tone. It's on the Queen Zenobia, the spiritual "abandoned mansion" of this entry, so it's a fitting place to show what this title is all about — for the most part — which is tension, lurking shadows and bursts of action.
To address the controls first, this demo is playable with the GamePad or a synchronised Wii U Pro Controller, so the Classic Controller is out, sadly, as is the prospect of precise aiming with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. What's a little strange about the absence of pointer controls is that there is a "Classic" control option, which is basically the same as playing on the 3DS with the default control setup. So that's one stick movement and aiming, good for increasing tension due to the limited strafing options when firing but suggestive that, with a bit of thought and admittedly clunking button setups, the Wii Remote could have been incorporated. The option for Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition controls with some basic aiming strafing would have been very welcome.
But still, we're not sure the Classic option will be taken up by many — there's a reason that the 3DS title was available bundled with the Circle Pad Pro — as the "Shooter" option is far more desirable. The game is tense enough already, so dual stick controls are the way to go, especially as you frantically back away while gunning down the abomination trying to feast on your flesh. It's the classic ZL to aim and ZR to fire, sub-weapons like grenades are used with R — aiming those with ZL is also an option — while L brings up your Genesis scanner.
The same old "scan everything" policy also applies to pick up more herbs or identify loot. The touch screen isn't used a great deal in this demo, as you don't have much of an arsenal to cycle through, but either way you can switch weapons and use herbs to heal, while a map is right there to guide you. All of these touchscreen items have button alternatives, while scanning is with the stick only — any of you hoping to swivel around on your chair scanning the room, tough luck. There's also off-TV play, which will bring increased reliance on button shortcuts and the good old-fashioned pause menu, but it's a nice extra to have. Though, frankly, differentiating this from its handheld origins is kind of the whole point, and the GamePad screen can't recreate the fantastic 3D effect of the 3DS release.
So far, so typical of a shooting game on Wii U, and in some respects this brief insight is promising. This is reproducing what, in our opinion, was the beginnings of a return to form for the franchise (arguably then thrown away in Resident Evil 6, depending on your point of view); the environment is well-realised while the enemies, though they do divide opinion, are a nice change from the zombies and transforming human monsters of the past, and do make sense in the context of the story. Most importantly, they're quite intimidating to fight, with the ooze slipping and sliding out of your crosshairs as they lumber towards you. Despite the oft-cited lack of context sensitive hits, they are there, with hits on various parts prompting different reactions, while headshots stun the normal creatures for a quick melee attack.
That's all good, but this demo, though clearly far from a final impression of the game, has given us some nagging concerns. For one thing, considering this is an upscaled 3DS title, the engine, framerate and general movement isn't as smooth as we'd like. It's thoroughly passable, but lags slightly, when we'd have expected buttery-smooth movement of the crosshair, camera and, to be blunt, everything. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on Wii U is impeccably fluent 99% of the time, and we struggle to understand why this doesn't have the same feel. We know that tank like maneuverability is supposedly part of the Resident Evil experience, but the demo's performance is a slight concern.
The slightly underwhelming control is backed up by modest visuals, easily betraying its 3DS origins. It's all upscaled relatively nicely, and there's a pleasing sheen to the slimy bodies of the ooze, but there's certainly no wow factor over its handheld predecessor. It's HD but with fairly primitive lighting and, in some cases, textures, though Capcom has improved the shadows. It looks fine and, we can imagine, will shine at some points courtesy of the excellent art design, but its impact on the 3DS with the stereoscopic 3D maxed out is equally effective, perhaps more so — resolution isn't everything, and the little screen has its own strengths over the bombast of its larger cousins.
Those little niggles aside, it's solid Revelations gameplay. Casual and Normal are both relatively easy, while the Infernal mode replaces the Hell difficulty of the original, swapping out stronger enemies for a slightly different approach of adding more creatures of different types. Although the demo didn't show any of the creepy effects we've seen in trailers, it did sucker us into being over-confident and blowing through our ammo before being swarmed near the end. With less items to scan and scavenge, we found ourselves frantically dodging — which requires a precisely-timed push on the left stick along with B — to get back to the safety of the final cutscene. We can only imagine how difficult it'll be playing the whole campaign in that mode, and it certainly got our pulses racing.
Overall, our first impression of Revelations on Wii U is solid, but without the wow factor that the 3DS title engendered. It's only ten minutes, however, so we look forward to blasting through the whole experience ahead of our review.
We'd love to know what you think about this demo in the comments section, you can check out our Resident Evil Revelations 3DS review, while below our video man Rory has kindly recorded the whole thing for you to watch.