The series isn’t dead yet
Much like the zombies and creatures you’re trying to blow away, the Resident Evil series has mutated in recent years and is now an altogether different beast from the 1996 original. Diehard fans are already bemoaning the changes and stomping their feet after playing the latest edition… Saying that though, Capcom has shipped 4.5 million copies of Resident Evil 6 since its launch a few days ago – and I must admit I think its detractors are being a little hasty.
Resident Evil, its remake, prequel, sequels and all the others that have borne the name have been known for their expansive environments, varied cast of characters and wild plots. While this edition is no different in that respect, it has polarized opinion.
Gone are the days of tension and horror that permeated the early titles, something which producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi admits was a conscious decision this time round.
With Resident Evil 6, the gameplay has very much switched from survival horror to a more action-oriented affair. Personally, I didn’t mind it so much – the tempo far more to my tastes – but naysayers are understandably disgruntled by the new direction.
To satiate our hunger for all things zombie, Capcom has crammed the disc with content and made this the biggest game in the series yet. Spanning four separate campaigns and giving you the option to control seven characters, the campaigns will probably keep you occupied for around 30 hours. Each level is huge – albeit linear – and spans numerous environments. The time-based challenge of Mercenaries mode also makes a welcome return and adds even more play time. Not only that but there’s also the introduction of Agent Hunt, which puts you in the rotting shoes of a zombie and plunges you into someone else’s game.
Back to the campaign and you can play as Leon S Kennedy, Chris Redfield. Helena Harper, BSAA member Piers Nivans and Sherry Birkin. Then there’s the introduction of new boy Jake Muller – son of Albert Wesker – and even Ada Wong makes an appearance. At certain points the paths of some of these characters cross and the story unfolds further. It’s a pretty impressive mechanic and shows how the various campaigns are interlinked.
Apart from Ada’s solo campaign, the others are tackled with either an AI partner or another player – either online or split screen. Thankfully, this time round your partner isn’t plain stupid; those memories of Sheva running about in Resident Evil 5 and swiping all the ammo and health can be put to bed. Now, your colleague’s AI is up to the task and they do come to your aid. The downside of all this co-op action is that having an ally along for the ride removes some of the fear factor that you had when you had to do everything solo – you never really feel isolated or outnumbered.
Even the fear of running low on ammo isn’t really there as there’s loads to pick up and more often than not you can just use the fairly effective melee combo attack if you run low on shells. Add the fact that you rarely find yourself in really confined spaces and you can simply jog past a horde of ravenous zombies makes them feel a little less threatening.
Still, it’s nice having a wide array of enemies. There are plenty of the well-drawn creatures spread through these campaigns. Most of the undead are a little trickier this time round, and not so profoundly stupid as before – some shuffle, some sprint, some wield weapons, while others crawl and leap. There’s a nice variety of beasts determined to make your playthrough trickier – although a well-placed shot to the cranium still instantly puts them out of action and turns their rotting corpse to a nice collectible bonus or ammo clip. Perhaps most notable are the J’avo – human at first sight but able to regenerate health when injured and mutate into weird and wonderful creatures, with limbs multiplying in size and becoming dangerous weapons themselves. These are intelligent and trickier to fight than your typical infected.
The prologue is big and brash, with flames, frantic gunfire and plenty of those infernal QTEs – setting the stall for the rest of the game. Accompanied by haunting score, and lots of fire and explosions, the opening section introduces you to the redesigned controls. Melee combos can put the boot in nearby zombies, you can take cover, dive over obstacles, and you can even move and shoot at the same time!
Then it’s up to you to select your campaign, controllable character, opt for solo or split screen and whether you’re happy for other players to jump in and out of your game to help/hinder your adventure. You can even stipulate if you’re playing entirely for fun, a serious player seeking medals, or you’re in it for the story – just so you don’t get mismatched with an inappropriate co-op partner.
By far the most enjoyable missions belong to Leon Kennedy and his trusty sidekick Helena Harper who start their adventure roaming the gloomy halls of Ivy University. Graphically, it all looks sharp and detailed – with the shadows and lighting really adding to the atmosphere. It feels very old school – like Spencer Mansion from the original game… even zombie dogs make an appearance. Then there are other impressively eerie settings such as the underground stations with their runaway instant-death trains or the Cathedral with its imposing gothic belltowers and hidden underground lair. This is a real nod to the days of old when Resident Evil was about zombies, managing ammo and solving a few rudimentary puzzles.
Alternatively you can follow the escapades of Chris Redfield, destined for the Orient with his compadre Piers Nivans. Their adventures see them taking on the infected J’avo in China in missions which are more shooter-based and make use of a fairly shaky cover system. This is perhaps the weakest of the campaigns.
As if two completely different styles of gameplay weren’t enough, the third shifts the action to the war-torn Eastern European state of Edonia and sees Jake Muller – himself a potential antedote to the virus – and Sherry Berkin trying to escape the relentless pursuit of the deadly bio-organic weapon, the Ustanak. Their tale eventually sees them run into some of our other heroes in China.
Ada Wong even makes an appearance and stars in her very own solo campaign, unlocked once you’ve completed the other three. She’s more stealthy than the others and partakes in a fair bit of puzzle solving.
Among the cadavers that litter the screen after a skirmish, you’ll find rewards in the form of skill points that allow you to upgrade your character. Initially you’re only able to afford basic upgrades and apply only a few of them. As you progress, however, more slots become available and as more points are accrued you can customise and improve your protagonist to your heart’s content. These perks include extra health, faster reloads, and improved combat skills.
The abundance of QTE does start to grate after a while; there’s only so many times stick wiggling, a well-timed press of the trigger or mashing the A button can be remotely enjoyable. Some of the set pieces are also a little cringeworthy – for example, early in Leon’s opening chapter when he dives into a car and you have to drive forward and back through prompts onscreen. It’s kind of pointless and breaks the flow of the gameplay.
Besides the rather irksome QTE, there are plenty of unskippable cutscenes – which look lovely and go some way to explaining the story – but do slow things somewhat. Then there are those infernal doors – loads of them. Besides the short animation that accompanies the opening of every single one, some require help from your colleague. Problem is, I often found my AI partner took their time to catch up and there was plenty of waiting around – leaving me a sitting target for any stray flesheaters.
Deaths on the higher difficulties can come fairly frequently but the checkpoints are generous. One annoyance, however, is occasionally being in the wrong place at the wrong time or not being quick enough to avoid your untimely demise when an action sequence kicks in. All too often I was smooshed by an ambulance, whacked by a car, thwacked by a train or blown up by an exploding barrel, only to restart in much the same position and see it happen all over again.
Finally, something has to be said about the over the shoulder camera, which does prove to be a little frustrating – the positioning of the character taking up nearly half the screen and often affecting your vision quite badly. The camera also has a nasty habit of adjusting itself, which can prove disorientating during a fight.
It’s not really a surprise that Resident Evil 6 has divided opinion. There really is something for everyone in this game – which ultimately means there will be plenty not everyone likes. Bear in mind, however, that there is a lot of content here – four lengthy campaigns and loads of other things to get your teeth into as well – and much of it is enjoyable. There are flaws but it does have some great ideas too.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Second opinion by Ravi Sinha.
This has been coming for a while now. Since previewing the game some time ago, and then partaking the demo, Resident Evil 6 has become both my favourite joke, my worst nightmare come true regarding gamer consumerism, and a bitter disappointment. And yet I settled down once again. As Leon, trying to fight zombies awkwardly firing guns. As Chris, seeking cover and running out of bullets in a Call of Duty-esque war-zone. As Jake, attempting…something. I’m still unsure about Jake. He likes hitting things but he’s bad at it. Go figure.
In an alternate universe, Resident Evil 6 would have been a good game. Never has a game made me so tired to approach for a review, even to outright pan the title. Never has a game disappointed or disoriented me on a level that Resident Evil 6 has. Never has a cinematic experience claimed set-piece and simplicity, cinematic smoke and mirrors, and gung-ho borrowing from every known genre and convention translated into such a weary, lumbering, exhausting, frustrating, disenchanting and above all, boring experience.
And really, we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of why Resident Evil 6 is such a colossal disappoint. There is one moment in the game, however, that gives you a faint glimpse of what the game could have been. It’s exhilarating, intense and highly action oriented. Sadly, it’s upset by another timed event, resulting in its demise. Another moment which puts some survival horror back into the mix is also upset by the rapidly spawning enemies, and their sheer annoyance.
Formulating the words for this review hasn’t been easy. Fortunately, a kitchen accident and the loss of several liters of blood has re-inserted me into the right mood for perfectly entailing what is wrong with Resident Evil 6: It’s just not fun.
The story is quite simple: Neo-Umbrella. C-Virus. BSAA. Leon shoots his buddy, the President of the United States. Find Ada Wong. Find Ada Wong. Find Ada Wong AGAIN. Tired yet? Now find her again. And maybe stop some missiles, and Jake is the cure to everything. Oh look, it’s Sherry from Resident Evil 2. Time has been kind but this game hasn’t.
What’s even worse than the game itself, is that so many of the elements don’t even add to the experience. They actually make things worse, like the controls which are clunky as hell. Why do we need cover mechanics? Why the melee system, which reduces some encounters to horrifying kicking contest when your ammo inevitably runs out. Why do the mechanics fight against you so much, with changing camera angles, convoluted cover inputs…and some things just don’t make sense in gameplay terms.
You get knocked down continuously. A few stray bullets are enough, and then you have to make use of shooting and rolling off the ground. The few times that you can leap back, and shoot your enemies as they miss their strikes are made difficult by the number of enemies around. The game is faster but feels so much more longer, packed with long stretches of incessant kicking and shooting, with a never-ending stream of cut-scenes and quick time events. These QTEs, by the way, often result in your death if you don’t hit them fast enough. Then there are scenes where the game just cheats you, attacking you with varieties of mutating enemies and little to no ammo.
Capcom also seems to have abandoned all pretense of pacing and wants to beat players over the head streams of set pieces. You’ll fly planes, protect allies, operate turrents, fight giants, defend positions, engage in small stealth sections, shoot tons of enemies, rescue hostages, engage in slow-motion shooting moments, driving segments, combat, shooting more enemies, boss fights, diversions, puzzles, swinging on bars, canvasing on rooftops (but almost 1% survival horror, if even that). It’s just crazy how much is going on, which doesn’t seem to make sense, all in the name of extending the action and milking situations for all their worth. The game has been compared to a Michael Bay but even Bad Boys 2 was entertaining in a trashy way. Resident Evil 6 just drains, like The Island. And the story is just so exhausting, eschewing well-rounded characters for a myriad of cliches and twists.
There are four campaigns to finish, with three being selectable from the outset. Leon’s quest seems an odd mash-up of Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 2, except with a nonsensical direction and annoying dialogue. Chris’s quest is Call of Duty, and lord, make it stop for the love of God. Jake…likes hitting things but isn’t very good at it. Seriously, how does this game some how manage to make zombies boring?
One could complain endlessly about RE6, and that’s not even counting the generic soundtrack, awful voice acting and shabby graphics. It’s a messy, ill-constructed smorgasbord of action, chasing from one impulse to the next, endlessly burning itself until there’s nothing left, let-alone the rotting skin and bones.
High production values, lot of content, replayability, co-op, graphics are good in places, extra missions, enemy variety.
A bit of a mixed bag, with varied missions and a few gripes. Loads of cut scenes and too much action. Where are the scares?
Resident Evil returns... and it's evolved. There's multiplayer, four campaigns, seven main characters and other game modes. Oh, and some zombies too - unscary ones!