At its pinnacle, the Resident Evil franchise was once considered to be the staple of the term “Survival Horror”. But over the past few entries, Capcom seems to have made it a point to move the series into a more action-orientated direction. While some praised this new direction with breathing new life into the games and changing its gameplay dramatically, it naturally divided its fans – specifically those who wished the series would return to its horror roots. Now Capcom has released Resident Evil 6, a game that appears it wants to be more than it actually is and unfortunately doesn’t deliver were it truly wants.
The story from Resident Evil 6 begins several years after the events of Resident Evil 5, although sections of the game you play will be in the form of flashbacks. After the US President has decided to expose the truth of the Raccoon City incident to the American public, the fictional town of Tall Oaks and other parts of the world are now being attacked by a new terrorist organization who calls themselves “Neo-Umbrella”. Not wanting another city wide outbreak to occur again, several characters from Resident Evil’s past come together, each trying to stop the evil in their own way all the while learning the truth behind who, or what is behind it all.
Instead of playing one specific path throughout the game, you will instead have the opportunity to play 3 different (plus one unlockable) campaign scenarios. You have Leon Kennedy teaming up with newcomer Helena Harper who will attempt to survive the incident in Tall Oaks and elsewhere. Chris Redfield is also present with fellow BSAA soldier Piers Nivans who respond to the calls of attacks from familiar enemies from both their past. And mercenary Jake Muller, who is more important than he realizes, will partner up with past character Sherry Birkin. As someone in game says, “It’s like a Raccoon City reunion”. By playing them all you will be able to see the complete overall story and fill in the blanks along the way you may have witnessed or not during just a single play through of one character’s story.
I believe the idea the game designers were attempting with bringing in three different parts together was to satisfy Resident Evil fans of all by trying to blend some of the series past with new. Leon’s campaign I felt dealt the “horror” campaign as you will battle (somewhat) traditional zombies with a few new enemies in urban environments and other settings reminiscing of Resident Evil 2 and 4. Chris’ story feels like it attempts to continue the “action” aspect of Resident Evil 5 by having you fight different creatures and monsters such as the new mutating J’avo. The third part I believe is supposed to deal the “suspense” of the game by having Sherry and Jake battle against another relentless chasing enemy similarly in vein to that of the Nemesis from Resident Evil 3. The problem here is that most of these (with the exception of Jake’s part) lose this direction quickly and just pertain to throw mutated monsters after more mutations for you to battle. So while it was nice to experience the classic zombies in Leon’s campaign, I was eventually made to battle the next huge “monster” that came next. And as a longtime fan, it bothers me somewhat to see Chris Redfield, one of the series leading men, reduced to a self-loathing, angry person driven simply by vengeance. This is not the Chris who is portrayed in earlier games, and even though it is explained why it is how he is, it’s a strange character turn for him all of the sudden. Though it is nice to see Leon and Chris finally share the screen and interact acknowledging each other’s presence.
Gameplay, for the most part, remains the same as the past few recent games. You will control your character in a third-person perspective and an over the shoulder look when shooting and battling enemies. Puzzles also return but none are overly frustrating and are mostly done in a cooperative mode. In RE6 you are also able to attack using kick/punch melee attacks and combos to get some needed distance when surprised by enemies. However, do not rely on this too much on this as your stamina bar will deplete when used. As you kill enemies, besides ammo and weapons, you are able to collect points used for purchasing add-on abilities to use for your characters. Doing this you will be able to raise your defense, steady your aiming among others. All inventory commands from mixing herbs, using first-aid sprays, all reloading and so forth are now done in real time and not through a separate menu window. So make sure that no enemies are around before doing so or you will be vulnerable to being attacked as I found out early in the game.
Another interesting part of the gameplay is that you are able to run and knock enemies down allowing you to kill them while on the ground. When you dive and attack them, or are knocked down during battle, you can draw your weapon to shoot while lying on your back. This is actually a useful tactic, that I used multiple times, that will give you a chance to defend yourself instead of simply laying down vulnerable waiting for your character to rise up.
Capcom also seems intent on having the RE games now become a cooperative experience with teamwork being the keyword. With online and offline split screen coop adventures, you and your partner are rarely ever split up far from each other except in a few rare instances when a door needs to be opened or switch needs to be pulled. The problem with this is while you or your partner are engaging in doing the appropriate button responses, your partner can only sit there and wait until the other is done. This happens in instances even when you are both together in the same room.
The AI within the game is also something of a mixed bag. Your partner, while controlled by AI, will in most cases adequately attempt help you out with enemies and revive you as soon as possible. Also they will not simply unload every bullet into enemies blindly wasting ammo as Sheva from RE5 did. The same can also be said when having them open doors or locks from unreachable spots for certain characters. Now the same cannot be said for your enemies. Most times they will simply stand moving little ways in one spot waiting to be shot. And after being shot, will continue to stay in place at times never seeking cover or attempting to defend them.
Quick-time events return way more often than needed. For almost everything from in game battles and specific cut-scenes, you will be made to push buttons at the most inopportune times. Battling in a fire fight with enemies just to be interrupted to push a sequence of buttons is not needed. Instances occur when you face a boss; shoot until time for a QTE, rinse and repeat until over. And as mentioned earlier, this is even more frustrating is that when your partner is performing in these, you are forced to simply wait until they’ve finished before moving on.
The game also ruins its surprising and tense moments by foreshadowing them before they even happen. In one case I proceeded down a hallway to a door with a lighted button, noticing enemies all around me and correctly guessed they would attack only until the button was pressed. As soon as that was over, I was lead down another corridor navigating around bodies laid throughout the floor to retrieve an item at the end of it, only for the bodies to reanimate as soon I reached the item and had to return to the door which I came through in order to make my exit. This takes the horror and surprise out of the game and makes it predictable especially when experiencing it multiple times.
Another problem with Resident Evil 6 is that you will be mauled with so many cheap deaths. Especially during the on-rails portions, you are sometimes placed in situations where you may be made to push sequences of buttons at almost the last second. Miss and you wind up badly hurt or in most cases dead and having to repeat those sections over again. You must almost play these parts perfectly, simply in order to pass them. Or at other times you face certain enemies than you cannot even let touch you. Let that happen, and it’s game over once again. This makes the game tiresome and more of a chore than an experience and makes the gameplay suffer.
Camera control issues are also apparent in the game. While given full 360 degree camera control, in tight corridors and spaces I had trouble sometimes getting the camera to focus where I needed it to. Camera collisions with items would happen making the game zoom in to places I didn’t need it too, and obstructing my view where I did. Other instances occur when events of significance happen and the camera turns to automatically focuses on it changing the camera angle. Problem is at times it can happen in the middle of battles and particularly in Jake’s scenario where I experienced this the most.
The graphics for the game unfortunately are hit and miss. Watching enemies’ shadows move in the distance before attacking and experiencing some of the larger enemy battles and sequences on screen are impressive and sometimes spooky. And I never experienced any slow down or freezing at any time particularly when this happened. Unfortunately this comes into contrast with other problems. Some environments look bland and background items will clash terribly. While playing Leon’s campaign, I walked up to what seemed like a tray of food only to discover the “food” was merely shapes with badly pixelated skins wrapped over them. And while this game isn’t focused on the food, the same can’t be said when this technique is applied to walls and other environments.
The voice acting is done fairly well though in my opinion. Characters for the most part, especially on cut-scenes expressed fear, surprise and hatred very well. You still have your fair share of over expression, but none too surprising if you’ve ever experienced any past Resident Evil game.
You are given a variety of online modes to try. During the campaign, when connected to the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live, you are able to have an online partner to help and play with you during your game. The campaign modes will even overlap onto other players connected to servers. So at times you may have up to four people battling together. Surprisingly there was little to no problems when playing this part online and did give off something of a different experience. Also available is the Agent Hunt mode, which puts you in the place of the enemy role and has you try to kill the heroes of the game. The returning co-op mode called The Mercenaries is also available. Here you alone, or with an online or offline partner, attempt to survive the time limit given and destroy incoming enemies for points and more time. Once again with the points collected you will be able to unlock extra abilities and in some cases costumes. You are even able to connect to RE.net which will keep track of top scores for leaderboards.
Resident Evil 6 is not a broken game, but it’s one that still needed more work, better design and to not simply rely on the same tricks over and over again. Longtime fans of the series now have to come to the realization that survival horror may be dead, at least in the world of Resident Evil.
Resident Evil 6 gets a 5/10
(This review can also be found at ThreeTallNerds.com)