Review: Resident Evil 6
By Paul Hunter
Playing through Resident Evil 6 was one of the most enigmatic experiences I’ve ever encountered in a video game. The franchise, which was once known for its survival-horror roots, has all but abandoned its petrifying, spine-chilling moments in favour a mishmash of genres ranging from stealth, to puzzle, to all-out third-person action. The problem isn’t that Resident Evil is attempting to evolve; it's that the franchise is trying so hard to morph into a jack-of-all-trades that it ends up being a master of none.
That’s not to say Resident Evil 6 is a terrible game – because it certainly has its moments – it’s just that with such an enormous development budget and the largest production team ever for a Resident Evil title, there are way too many moments that left me wondering “what in the world was Capcom thinking?”
The opening 10-minute prologue of Resident Evil 6 is reflective of what the majority of playing Resident Evil 6 is like. In this tutorial of sorts, you assume the role of familiar series mainstay Leon S. Kennedy, who along with his new partner, Helena, are both attempting to escape from a zombie-infested city that's quickly burning into ashes. During this introduction, you'll learn the basic movements such as the new dodge mechanic and cover system, how to flip through the now real-time inventory menu, and get a grip on your new ability to run and gun. However, punctuated throughout this entire tutorial are an endless number of quick-time events (QTEs), from opening a door to wrestling off a zombie, that have you wiggling and waggling your controller around like you were playing Super Street Fighter Turbo on maximum turbo. Even more baffling are the over-the-top setpieces, such as the obnoxious helicopter chase sequence, that somehow manage to make Resident Evil look more like Call of Duty zombie mode. What's worse, these setpieces invariably contain numerous QTEs, so while you want to relax and enjoy a nice cutscene, you end up having to sit at the edge of your seat anticipating the next waggle. Dodge, QTE, shoot shoot, QTE, reload, QTE QTE, massive explosion, repeat -- this is the Resident Evil 6 experience.
To Resident Evil 6's credit, the game does pack-in a lot of content. There are three main campaigns, each of them playable co-operatively via local split-screen or online through Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network. The campaigns each contain five chapters lasting about an hour each, for a total for fifteen hours. What's interesting is how each campaign differs from the rest, and how they draw influence from past Resident Evil games. Leon's campaign, which is reminiscent of Resident Evil 4 with its dark atmosphere and the eerie locations such as the cemetery and its central cathedral, is as close to survival horror as Resident Evil 6 gets. Chris Redfield's campaign is action-oriented a la Resident Evil 5, and many scenes include squad-based assaults featuring tanks, heavy machinery and towering bio organic weapons (BOWs). Newcomer Jake Muller, who happens to be the son of the now-deceased Albert Wesker, spends the majority of his campaign running from an unstoppable BOW called the Ustanak, giving a clear Resident Evil 3: Nemesis vibe. Each main character is paired with a partner for the duration of their campaign, and both of the characters are playable.
What's more, the three campaigns follow distinct timelines, yet occasionally have crossover moments where, for example, Jake and his partner Sherry Birkin (all grown up from Resident Evil 2) bump into Chris and his sniper support Piers, and the four of them team up to take out a particularly menacing BOW. These are moments where Resident Evil 6 shines, particularly when you factor in that during these crossover moments four players online can all participate simultaneously.
Playing Resident Evil 6 is another story altogether. While in many respects the series has evolved, such as finally allowing running and gunning, the series controls are increasingly feeling archaic. As an example, the "new" cover system (wait, didn't Resident Evil 5 have a cover system?) Capcom introduced is so finicky, it's practically useless. Unlike games like Gears of War, which features a seamless wall sticking cover system that allows easy targeting over obstacles, in Resident Evil 6 it's not always clear which areas will provide cover, and when in cover, the camera never seems to position itself right for the clean shot. Fortunately, you can progress through all three main campaigns without using cover, as it's more of an option than a necessity.
Rounding out the story mode is an entirely new single-player campaign starring Ada Wong that unlocks after beating the three aforementioned campaigns. Her campaign is the most interesting of them all, featuring a hefty dose of stealth and puzzles, and provides new twists on the other three campaigns. All together, there is over 20 hours of campaign content here -- the most ever for Resident Evil game and about twice as long as the standard action game.
The best new addition in Resident Evil 6 has got to be Agent Hunt mode, which unlocks after the individual campaigns are completed. In this mode, you can jump into another player's online game as a zombie, or other grotesque BOWs, as you attempt to take them out. It's fun, fresh and it's the mode I keep on coming back to play more of. The popular Mercenaries mode returns as well, rounding out the online features.
After putting in thirty-something hours into Resident Evil 6, I'm just as boggled as I was during the first ten minutes into the game. Why Capcom decided to stretch Resident Evil 6 into a game that caters to so many tastes is baffling when you consider that the core mechanics are just simply flawed in some respects. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty to enjoy in Resident Evil 6, such as the twenty hour campaign and solid Agent Hunt mode, it's just that given the pedigree of the development team this game should have been much better. Resident Evil 4 was, and still is, the best entry in this series, and sadly, the only real horrifying aspect of Resident Evil these days is watching this once-great franchise steadily decline with each new iteration.
Resident Evil 6 is out now for Xbox 360 and PlayStation. The game was developed and published by Capcom.
Resident Evil 6 is rated M for Mature by the ESRB.
[This article originally appeared on the Future Shop Tech Blog]