This month’s episode of “The Plot Thickens” is brought to you by Moe’s Southwest Grill. No, they didn’t give me any money, but I went there for lunch today and who’s to say that food wasn’t the difference between starvation and being well-fed enough to post this? That’s Moe’s Southwest Grill – “Feed the MOEment.” (Disclaimer: Has nothing to do with The Simpsons.)
Today we’re going to take a look at the recently released Resident rEvil Revelations... rowza. Because the answer to the question “who gives a (crunch) about the plot in (Game X)?” is ME! I give that (crunch) … all day long. So let’s explore some depths of the game’s narrative that might go overlooked or underappreciated. Can you survive the horror?
By the way, this is the song that runs through my head every time I think about the title of this game. So, it might as well run through yours while you read this article! Audioslave - Revelations
The plot in the Resident Evil series has it rough. They fight a battle that, unlike your parents’ walk to school, is truly uphill both ways. On the one hand, RE is based on fantastical zombie apocalypses (apocali? Can you even have more than one apocalypse?). The long history of b-grade horror movies has conditioned us to believe that all such works of fiction are intentionally or unintentionally comical.
On the other hand, from day one, the RE series has tried to be a grade-A video game, giving us large amounts of voice acting from waaaaaay back in 1996. We all know that voice acting in games is like bringing food to a bear. Sure, now the bear doesn’t have to do as much work to eat… but he’s also going to maul you mercilessly in the process. Point being: when you do voice acting you put yourself out there. You open yourself up to criticisms on the most subjective level. You also give unforgettable audio to lines like “you were almost a Jill sandwich.”
What's the boob size to survival ratio?
To sum up, the RE games were going to inspire laughs and in many ways, the creators of the series have owned up to that and embraced it. While I don’t feel they have ever wanted the series to be a comedy, they have included modern gems like Chris Redfields’ “it’s in my face like a disco ball,” which I do believe are nods to fans who appreciate the ridiculous and/or melodramatic dialogue. And let’s not forget the character of Rachel whose large exposed cleavage and in-trailer attack feel like paying homage to those b-movies who don’t aspire to anything more.
No matter where, the BSAA is on the case.
But, at its core, the Resident Evil fiction has aspired to more, much more. It has tried to weave a tapestry of horror and intrigue that spans decades, continents, and, thankfully, pro/antagonists. And that’s no small feat. While many franchises would be content saying “plot? Here’s your plot: it’s one man’s existential burden to SHOOT SOME (fish)ING ZOMBIES!! Now, get the (elevator) out of my office!”, the gang at Capcom felt there was a market for people who wanted a little more.
So, what does Resident Evil Revelations’ thread in this tapestry look like? Well, first let me say it is difficult discussing plot without giving away spoilers. So, I really do my best and, to my knowledge, these article do not contain anything I would consider a spoiler. That said, if you’re really super concerned about the slightest reveal(ation?), you have been warned!
Parker Luciani can't lose.
Anyway, Resident Evil Revelations does that cool thing I talked about a few paragraphs ago: it keeps the cast fresh by using new protagonists and antagonists (freshness in this case is relative to most video games!). Like many installments in the franchise, it does this while simultaneously anchoring its narrative to a long-standing fan-favorite. So while Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield have taken turns starring in nearly every Resident Evil game, we’ve also been introduced to unforgettable characters like Rebecca Chambers, Barry Burton, Ada Wong, Jack Krauser, and Sheva Alomar.
In Revelations, we meet two former members of the FBC (Federal Bioterrorism Commission) and new members of the BSAA (Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance). They are Jill’s new partner, Parker Luciani, and Chris’ new partner, Jessica Sherawat (no known relation to Oshawott). The inclusion of Parker’s character in Revelations is notable. Just as Resident Evil 5 took place in Africa and featured the African Sheva Alomar, Resident Evil Revelations takes place in the Mediterranean Sea near Italy and features the Italian Parker Luciani. Little details like these make the world of Resident Evil more sensible in structure. As much as it falls victim to the “USA saves the day!” trope, it still sprinkles in these little nuances which show the audience that the viral threats have reached, and been met by, global proportions.
The Italian flavor in Revelations does not end there, however. The primary instigators of this latest threat are a radical bioterrorist outfit from Italy known as “Il Veltro.” The group was formed around the idea that the Earth became sinful and decadent; a living representation of Italian poet Dante Alghieri's hell in his famous poem, Dante’s "Inferno." Furthermore, “il vetro” means “the greyhound” in Italian. In Dante’s “Inferno,” the greyhound is the first of several prophecies regarding a savior figure who will come redirect the world on a path of truth and virtue.
More new characters include the aforementioned Jessica Sherawat. She’s the classic femme fatale type. But maybe we can actually trust this one? Then there is the comic relief of the game, the third set of playable characters, Keith Lumley and Quint Cetcham. They are from the, fittingly involved, European branch of the BSAA. They walk the good side of the fine line between loveable losers and annoying game-ruiners - I’m looking at you, Final Fantasy IX’s Quina Quen. Unlike many comic relief characters, they are actually of relative competence, which is a novel plot device all its own!
Bigger threat: virus or cloning?
The leader of the BSAA makes his first appearance in Resident Evil Revelations, Director Clive R. O’Brian. He’s the calmer, more subdued kind of leader that you don’t see too often in video games. His character is more like your cool grandfather who buys you ice cream but tells alarmingly peaceful stories of how he single-handedly stopped a nuclear attack back in the war. Physically, he bears more than a passing resemblance to Peter Faulk’s “Columbo.” Speaking of passing resemblances, isn’t the newest member of the FBC, Raymond Vester, exactly what Conan O’Brien would look like if the comedic parts of his brain were surgically removed and replaced with “bad-assery”? And isn’t it a little odd that both Director “C. O’Brian” and this dead-ringer appear in the same game?! Hmmm. Though apparently the whole “Director O’Briæn” thing is merely a nod to series voice actor/director Liam O'Brien who previously collaborated with Capcom on Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles. Ah well, I still think someone at Capcom is a member of team TeamCoCo.
Lastly, there is FBC leader, Morgan Lansdale, who is too old, white, powerful and brow-furrowed to not to be up to something. But what’s his game? After all, he’s responsible for eradicating Il Vetro’s first attack, the Terragrigia Panic, which takes place just prior to the events of Resident Evil Revelations.
And that’s really where the narrative of Revelations shines. The game is split into many bite-sized episodes woven together through gameplay. While battling through these episodes, you will skip back and forth in both time and location. Gradually, as you relive the events of the recent past, and gather pieces of the plot puzzle from all over Europe, the game builds a marvelous crescendo towards the finale. A lot of games claim to be able to “keep you guessing” ‘til the very end but we all know that just means they have one big twist that you probably figured out after level two. But with Revelations, though you’ll have your suspicions from the get-go, you really have to stay-tuned even beyond the end credits to know for sure.
It's go time, people!
Ultimately, the twists and surprises themselves are not very original or fresh, but they are done well enough to keep the audience constantly wanting to see what happens next. And isn’t that about all we can ask of our gaming?
I only just finished Revelations last night and wanted this game to be the subject of February’s “The Plot Thickens.” Thus, as the content of the game sinks in over the next few weeks and as I continue researching the game’s details, I may update this article further. Regardless, I hope this has inspired some of you to appreciate the narrative of this latest entry in the Resident Evil series, or at least look at it in a way you hadn’t yet. Enjoy your gaming and I’ll see you next time on “The Plot Thickens!”
I also liked the way in which the game is presented to the player. It's fun to jump from one place to another, knowing they are interconnected and immediately relevant to the overall story progression. However, I also found that this method made me lose track of the story more easily. Even with the "previously on Resident Evil Revelations" bits, I kind of felt lost as to the overall story. Luckily, it's not overly complicated and can essentially be boiled down to a similar pulp that constitutes the plot of other Resident Evil games.
Just getting to this now. "too old, white, powerful and brow-furrowed to not to be up to something" SO TRUE!
And I knew I wasn't the only one to think that dude looked like Conan O'Brien.
The only thing is... the twists in this game kind of made a lot of what happened make not so much sense. Especially the last one. It was like oh... ok, but... ?
I have to be honest though, I miss the whole "lone person/s stumbles into a terrible situation and has to get out alive" plots from the older Resident Evil games. Now there is so much BSAA this and counter-terrorism that and whole teams of crack troops and yada yada the whole fear of isolation / survival thing is lost in the shuffle. There was a bit of that with the Jill stuff in Revelations, but not quite enough.
Thanks for resurrecting this! Nice to know that even on the internet things aren't 100% fleeting.
Thanks for validating my thoughts on the old, white dude and "Clone-n O'Brien" (NinSage trademark).
As for the twist, yea, I suppose Capcom is just too enamored with that sort of thing for their own good. It was unnecessary. In Japan there was a bonus CD thing that had a little vignette which sheds a LITTLE more light on that twist... but not much. And obviously, it was not provided to us Yanks, so, yea ....
In terms of the lone person VS. the BSAA, obviously the former is more captivating and exciting, and I was glad to get some of that flavor back in Revelations. Much more so than RE5 and, from the looks of it, RE6. However, I will defend the BSAA-type organizations because it really does make narrative sense. A lot of fiction with sequels don't include sensible things like this because they want to maintain that original draw. But if viral outbreaks kept leading to zombie-infested nightmares all over the world, it makes sense that large, military-style organizations would be formed to counter these events. Even if it would make a better GAME, it doesn't make sense that the world would continue to say "meh, if a zombie outbreak occurs I'm sure someone with a handgun will figure it out."
Thanks for commenting! And we should totally play online sometime!
PS - There will be more TPTs in the future. Signing on as podcast co-host has clearly shifted my focus, but I'm always thinking of ideas for TPTs. I think one may happen regarding Pokemon in the not-too-distant future.