October 01, 2012
There was a time when zombies were actually something of a novelty in games, and not the enemy of choice in practically every shooter ever made ever, ever. Ever. Resident Evil stood out as something distinctive and fresh back in 1996 when it was originally released, but Resident Evil 6 is no ordinary Resident Evil game. But then arguably neither were Resident Evil 4 and 5, since they bucked the series staples and went third-person. Back in the 90s, Resident Evil conjured images of something very different. A slow-burn B-movie inspired survival horror packed with puzzles, creeping tension and a rogue's gallery of monstrous laboratory-made mutants and zombies to shoot, Resident Evil has moved on considerably in the last 16 years or so. Resident Evil 6 is less survival horror and more a third-person action game in the same mould as 4 and 5, but everything has been cranked right up all the way to 11.
Capcom has brought together three protagonists, each with their very own campaign that cross over at certain junctures. It's a well put together narrative, and it's absolutely enormous. Freewheeling from set-piece to set-piece, Resident Evil 6 is by far the most action-oriented instalment in the series yet, especially in Chris Redfield's campaign, demanding use of cover and copious amounts of ammunition to fend off the mutating, C-Virus infected J'avo. Jake Muller, the son of series villain Albert Wesker is the plot's lynchpin with valuable blood that could save mankind from certain annihilation. He's paired up with Sherry Birkin from Resident Evil 2, who's cast as an agent tasked with bringing Jake in.
As a mercenary, Jake has a high asking price for his unique blood with life-saving properties, but he and Sherry find themselves relentlessly pursued by the bizarre Ustanak, a nigh-on invincible lump of infected muscle with a variety of interchangeable mechanical arms. He's a nasty piece of work, and forms the part of the game designed to appeal to fans of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, in which you were also relentlessly pursued by the titular hulk. There's much more to Jake and Sherry's part of the game of course, with the pair engaging in some fairly annoying stealth sections, while it's relatively light on puzzling. It's for all intents and purposes the middle ground between Leon's tense campaign and Chris' balls-out action bit. Although it does still include insane set-pieces, like being chased by an enormous tank through a building for example. Mad.
Each of the three campaigns intertwine neatly though, and are divided into five hefty chapters, regrettably with an irritatingly unforgiving save system. Regular checkpoints minimise frustration, provided you're dug in for a long session, but your game is only saved sporadically meaning extended periods of play are in order each time you fire up the game. It's a pretty dated way of doing things, and we're not entirely sure why each checkpoint doesn't constitute a save. In short, it's stupid and means only being able to play for hours at a time before your progress is saved. It's one of a few shortcomings in a game that still succeeds in building upon Resident Evil 5 by quite some margin. Resident Evil 6 is a far more accomplished, interesting and playable game than its predecessor, boasting an engaging narrative with pleasing third-person shooter mechanics. The trouble is, there's not a sniff of Resident Evil's survival horror roots in evidence anywhere in the game.
While Chris and his co-op buddy, the rather bland Piers Nivans, make the most use of the newly introduced cover shooter gameplay, Leon and his partner Helena Harper, and Jake and Sherry all have the same abilities at their disposal, and it all works surprisingly well. And while fans may bemoan Resident Evil's continuing, inexorable journey towards becoming a fully-fledged shooter, rather than the old-skool survival horror game of old (I count myself as one of those very fans), there's no denying that the series is moving on unabated, whether you like it or not. We enjoyed Resident Evil 6 as an action game, but as a survival horror title, it fails on almost every level.
First and foremost, there are no moments where you feel as though the odds are truly stacked against you. RE6 is light on scares and almost entirely devoid of tension or suspense. Again, as an action game, Resident Evil 6 hangs together perfectly fine. As a survival horror game it doesn't work at all, and fails to deliver on that front. Robust shooter controls take precedent, meaning movement is no longer as restricted as it once was. You can move and shoot for the first time in the mainline series, making crowd control much easier and the sense of mounting terror far less prominent.
Supporting the robust shooter mechanics is an equally robust melee system, which enables you to bust zombie and J'avo heads without expending as much ammo as you normally would. You can creep up on enemies for an instant kill, run and barge, dodge, slide, roll... The amount of moves at your disposal makes Bio-Organic Weapon (B.O.W.) slaughter all the more enjoyable. It is however, limited by your combat gauge, meaning you can only do so much while your stamina holds out. Keep flailing and kicking like crazy, and you'll wear your character out.
Getting wrapped up in the 30-odd hours of content on offer across all three campaigns might make some of your misgivings surrounding RE6's status as action shooter gradually fade, but you'll still long for the old feeling of fear. RE6 is the equivalent of three games in one, with additional, unlockable modes to boot. But it repeatedly retreads a lot of the same kind of ground throughout making it feel rather flabby. It would have been better to pare down the content and keep it lean and focused, rather than spread thinly across tens of hours of gameplay.
You can purchase skills with collectible skill points (represented as chess pieces of varying skill point values you can pick up) lending the game some light RPG elements - you can equip three skills at a time – adding a little extra depth to proceedings, but their effects are quite subtle for the most part. It's also worth noting that the menu interfaces are overly convoluted and differ from character to character, just to make things even more annoying. It's a problem that marred Resident Evil 5 and hasn't been sorted for the sequel. Bring back the goddamn grid-based attache case!
The Mercenaries makes its return for RE6 too, which is pretty much more of the same, albeit with your character's upgradeable skills integrated into the mode. Surviving for as long as possible and racking up kill combos is still the order of the day then, and it's as compulsive as ever. You'll need to unlock a lot of its content though, with only a single meagre map initially available with a further two to access later. Expect lots of DLC...
Agent Hunt is another new mode that adds considerably to Resident Evil 6's longevity, unlocked once you've completed one of the campaigns, turning the tables on the game's heroes as you assume control of a B.O.W., zombie, J'avo or other hideous creature. Extras-wise, Ada's campaign is also a welcome unlockable, adding another five chapters to play through, bolstering the playtime by almost another ten hours. RE6 is an amazingly generous package, it must be said. And learning how Ada slots into the labyrinthine story is a treat.
All four campaigns have a number of memorable sequences too, although in Leon's case, there's more than a few incredibly bad drivers that seem to wreak a ridiculous amount of havoc. The amount of times Leon and Helena suffer a crash in a vehicle becomes farcical in the opening hours of their campaign. Everything from cars to buses, trucks, ambulances and motorcycles end up flipping, rolling and exploding. Which hints at the level of action that Leon's supposedly slower-paced campaign descends into. That said, there's a fair dose of the old mystery and intrigue during Leon's portion of the game, as Helena strings him along, harbouring her own dark secrets. It's almost the old Resident Evil you know and love. Almost.
There is something pleasingly gooey about Resident Evil 6's violence though, as you blast chunks out of zombies, J'avo and other gloopy monsters, like the towering Ogroman, which melts in a shower of sludge following its final death throes. It's all part and parcel of an incredible visual tour de force, and Resident Evil 6 is quite possibly one of the most stunning games we've seen from a visual standpoint this generation. With such incredible visual fidelity, you'd expect more vivid moments of horror, but for the most part, Resi 6 wheels out some rather predictable attempts at jump scares and little more. Still, in terms of raw body horror, Resident Evil 6 musters up some quite nasty moments, with bursting pustules, tendrils sprouting from tearing flesh and other such grisly loveliness rendered in intricate detail.
Adding to this visceral joy are the game's achievements, which are fairly by the numbers for the most part, rewarding you for completing each of the game's chapters and for accumulating kills. It'll also require repeat playthroughs on harder difficulties to acquire the full 1000 Gamerscore, but we wager you'll want to delve into some solo or co-op action on more than one occasion. A little more imagination in the list wouldn't have gone amiss to be honest, with the usual collectibles required – this time in the shape of blue 'serpent emblems' – and action figures to grab. It's not a bad list by any means; just not a particularly great one.
Resident Evil 6 is quite possibly the grandest and most ambitious title in the series yet, and certainly one of the most visually impressive games we've seen this generation. It's just a shame that Capcom has entirely jettisoned the last vestiges of Resident Evil's survival horror legacy. There's no disputing the level of quality in RE6, and criticisms levelled at RE5 have been duly addressed, but even the previous game had moments that managed to shred the nerves. In spite of its flaws and the fact that it's not in any way, shape or form a traditional Resident Evil game or indeed a survival horror, Resident Evil 6 is a cohesive and entertaining entry in the series that still deserves your time and attention. Let it infect you...
The best voicework in a Resident Evil game to date is joined by a heavy orchestral score, mixed with the sounds of a mental patient mashing keys on his Yamaha home keyboard. Suffice it to say, the soundtrack is somewhat inconsistent, but the squelchy sounds of dissolving monsters, exploding heads and guttural roars are all present and correct. It sounds utterly fantastic on a home cinema system too. Crank it up.
It's mind-boggling just how good Resident Evil 6 looks in comparison to other games of a similar ilk. More inventive monsters would have been nice, but everything is satisfyingly squelchy and looks tangible and nicely detailed. Squint, and you could almost be looking at a next-gen title.
A wonderfully playable action game or a well below-par survival horror game. Take your pick. An overabundance of QTEs also soon gets tiresome.
Utterly massive with over 40 hours content when taking into account unlockable extras. Resident Evil 6 can't be accused of skimping on value, but it fails to offer much in the way of diversity in its gameplay and scenarios. The in-game menus are also horribly clunky, making us long for Resident Evil 4's attache case.
A decent, if by-the-numbers list that does its job well enough. It's a little light on imagination, sadly.
Resident Evil 6 is a truly immense RE title that succeeds as a third-person action shooter, but falls flat on its face as a survival horror game. Yes, times have changed, but if Dead Space can still provide a good balance of scares and set-pieces, then why can't Resi? Here's hoping that Capcom sees the next-generation of consoles as a golden opportunity to take Resident Evil back to its roots. Or perhaps a reboot is in order. Until then, Resident Evil 6 is certainly not a bad game by any means, just a bit of a disappointment. Nonetheless, it'll still get its slimy hooks into you if you let it.