Resident Evil 6 Review
I hope you got friends on the other side, no one’s going to miss you here.
The Resident Evil series is one I’ve truly been with since the beginning. From walking the halls of the mansion with Jill, Barry and Wesker to tearing up the African countryside with Chris and Sheva, I’ve seen it all. I’ve also watched the series transform over the years and some of those changes I’ve liked, while some I haven’t been a big fan of. The truth is, the Resident Evil series turning from a survival horror series into a full blow action series and, with Resident Evil 6, the transformation is now complete. If you were waiting for the series to swing back to its survival roots after the mostly action-focused Resident Evil 5, you’re going to be disappointed. But change can be good, right? Right?
Being that it’s one of my first gaming loves, I’m always excited when a new Resident Evil game is in the works; even if I know it’s going to be much different from the core games that I’m such a fan of so let me get this out of the way now; Resident Evil 6 is not going to please the purists. If you didn’t like the direction that Resident Evil 5 took, you’re really not going to like Resident Evil 6. This isn’t to say I’m bitter that the series has changed, or that the game suffers simply for making this change, I just want long time fans to know what they’re getting in to.
Resident Evil 6 offers you the choice of three different campaigns that can be played in any order, with a fourth opening up once you complete the game. This fourth campaign stars the series most famous lone wolf, Ada Wong, and is only single player so it’s positioned as a sort of bonus. The bulk of the game will be contained within the three other campaigns, of which I would recommend starting with Leon’s.
You’ll be controlling one of the two characters in each campaign and, if you’ve played either 4 or 5, you’ll be familiar with the over-the-shoulder view and basic control scheme. There are a couple of key differences this time; first you’ll be able to move while you’re aiming and shooting and second, you’ll be able to perform melee attacks regardless of the weapon you have equipped. In fact, melee attacks factor quite heavily in the general combat system. I’ve always said that you should be able to roundhouse kick a zombie in the face whenever you please, and now you can.
What we saw of Leon’s campaign, prior to the release of Resident Evil 6 painted a picture of a creepier, more zombie filled campaign than that of Chris’s journey. While you do get the zombies (again, finally) the atmosphere doesn’t last very long. Soon you’ll be out of the starting area, blasting your way through hordes of the undead with a few NPC’s at your side. In truth, the game often feels a lot like Operation Raccoon City as you’ll be joined by many more people than just your partner, and the focus is on racking up a body count rather than exploring or solving puzzles.
Those scenarios that could, maybe, have been called puzzles are robbed of any intrigue or difficultly by the ever present, floating, objective icon on your screen. Even when you need to find a key, or other item, to continue the game leads you right to it. Most of the environments are very linear, save for the boss fights, with scripted action pieces and Quick Time Events thrown in to try to liven things up.
So it has no charm, and none of the same atmosphere, but it’s still fun to blast zombies right? It can be if you can get past a number of strange design and technical issues. First, and most annoying, is the fact that you can trip over every body that’s laying on the ground. Even ones that aren’t going to eventually get up to try and eat you, you can literally walk back and forth over a body and stumble every time. This is made into a problem because the bodies that are lying around are often unavoidable. Why can’t Leon just step over the body? I’m not sure, but he can’t and I can’t figure out what this mechanic adds to the game.
The second thing that really bothered me was the item drops from enemies. After you defeat an enemy he may drop ammo, healing items or skill points. First, why do I have to pick up skill points, why can’t they just be awarded to me? Second, item drops don’t appear until about two seconds after an enemy dies so you’re left standing there waiting to see if each enemy is going to drop something and this really slows the game down. Two seconds doesn’t sound like a long time, but when you’re doing it a hundred times the experience can become very disjointed. Not to mention, during a later sequence, skill point drops are littered all over the ground as you speed away on a snowmobile. The only way you can collect these is to hammer the X button during the whole sequence as you have less than a second to see them on screen.
Aside from the obvious design issues, there are some technical issues as well. The camera, for instance, is supposed to sit comfortably over your shoulder but frequently can be found flying off at a different angle. There are even a couple of sections where the camera briefly switches to the old-school, fixed style from the early games, leaving you baffled as to which direction you’re supposed to run. These sections only last for a frame or two so I don’t believe they’re by design, to pay any sort of homage, the camera simply doesn’t know what to do so it stays put. The game will also turn the camera to show you an event, instead of going into a cut scene, but won’t let you turn back to the action, leaving you open to pot shots from enemies you can’t see.
While I’m not totally opposed to the new action focused, third person view, Resident Evil games, and I even loved RE4 and enjoyed RE5, everything I liked about their progression systems is gone. Instead of buying and selling items, and upgrading your weapons, you are given new weapons at set points in the game and the only progression you do is between chapters when you spend your Skill Points on skills. These skills are such things as increased general weapon or melee damage, increased item drop rate, and so on. You can have three equipped at any one time and you’ll be able to upgrade each skill’s power as you earn more skill points. This system felt lifeless and made me really miss upgrading my guns and gear.
The story will have elements that will please long time Resident Evil fans, like myself, but for the most part the actual plot outside these small details doesn’t present a very coherent narrative. I know that Resident Evil is a work of science fiction, and the enemies are deliberately fantastic, but it was always faintly realistic within its own bounds. In Resident Evil 6 you’ll encounter some of the most unbelievable and ridiculous scenarios you’ve seen yet, and some truly groan-worthy moments. These go far beyond the cheesy, but endearing, dialog of the first game and are made worse by the fact that you’re supposed to be taking them seriously.
If you can get past the technical and design issues you’ll find yourself with a lot to do, as this is the most ambitious Resident Evil game yet with three main campaigns that will top seven hours or more each and a fourth bonus campaign that is a few hours in itself. That much, I can say, is impressive.
All three main campaigns can be played with two players, either online or via split screen. The co-op works well and you can use the matchmaking system to find a game with the exact chapter you are on, and even join other games in progress. There are a couple of boss encounters that can be fought with four players, as the stories cross over each other, but the game will simply dump two other players into your game, and there isn’t any way you can match up with two of your friends who are playing the campaign that crosses over with yours.
The Mercenaries mode, which has you competing against the clock to rack up as many kills as you can is a lot of fun to play, but unfortunately has a very annoying flaw in the matchmaking system. When you search for a game, it will show you a list of games you can join. When you choose one, if it happens to be full, it will tell you so and then dump you back to the search instead of letting you pick another game from the list. This can get very tiresome as Mercenaries matches fill up quickly, and you’ll encounter this a lot. Luckily, you’ll be earning skill points you can use for the campaign while playing Mercenaries so there’s a reason to stick it out.
The other multiplayer mode, Agent Hunt, feels like an afterthought through and through. In Agent Hunt you can invade other player’s games, controlling an enemy in an attempt to kill the players who are controlling the main characters. The problem is that you often spawn as a normal enemy, only to be dropped by the players in one or two shots. Even when you do spawn as something a little more menacing, the two players can quickly dispatch you just as they would if the AI was controlling that enemy.
I truly can’t fault Capcom for trying to take the Resident Evil series in a different direction. As much as I enjoyed the classic games, the developers had a vision for a new type of game and they saw it through. Unfortunately the finished product carries a number of different design and technical issues that I just can’t overlook. If you can ignore these issues then you’re left with a mediocre, mostly linear, action game that doesn’t have a strong enough story or progression system to hold it up. When you take away the atmosphere, puzzles and exploration all you have left are on-screen objective markers and explosions.
Available On: Xbox 360 / Playstation 3 / PC