|Title: Resident Evil 6
Console: PS3/XBOX 360
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Genre: Third Person Shooter
Rating: ESRB M
Resident Evil 6 stands on the shoulders of giants; Resident Evil 4 single-handedly revitalized the franchise, and added a series of gameplay elements that are still being copied verbatim 7 years later. Resident Evil 5, though not as fresh, was still a rock solid game. Now, 3 years later, Capcom has released Resident Evil 6. Does it live up to the expectations placed upon it by its predecessors?
Resident Evil 6 is a complete departure from the previous 2 games in the Resident Evil series, and seemingly for no reason. At times, it seems like the developers of Resident Evil 6 strived to move away from the traditional tension-inducing survival horror the series is known for, and towards a nonstop action Call Of Duty clone. A frustrating development, considering the leaps and bounds made by the previous games. There’s just so much that shouldn’t be, which is an utter disappointment considering the potential that Resident Evil 6 had. Take combat, for instance. At its best, your character moves seamlessly from enemy to enemy, killing without effort. Melee has moved from a quick time event to an actual effective tool (at least in theory), sometimes to the point that gunplay is completely eschewed. It feels so right to be able to dispatch enemies with kicks and punches, and when it works, the response of input to execution is almost immediate. More often than not, though, it does not work. Not only is the melee itself iffy, but the reach of a character’s attacks is never consistent. They could use a sweeping leg attack that knocks back every enemy around them, but they are just as likely to try to hit an enemy with the butt of their gun. The frustration of this is compounded by the vast difference in range on either attack, meaning that melee is more of a dangerous risk left to chance than an effective tool.
The multiplayer is yet another “could have been excellent but was held back by bad decisions” situation. Aside from the campaign, Resident Evil 6 sees a return of mercenaries mode, and also introduces the new Agent Hunt mode, where you play as random infected in other player’s games. An interesting idea, though very obviously borrowed from From Software’s Souls series. Admittedly, Agent Hunt doesn’t have any of the nuances of the Souls games, and feels more like a method of annoying other players than an actual game mode. As for the campaign, the combat is great when it works, but often feels like you’re rushing from one enemy to another, with zero challenge to make you feel like you’ve accomplished anything. Sadly, combat is the most enjoyable aspect of Resident Evil 6, as all others feel like padding added in to extend the game longer than it wants to be. Most of the games scenes not involving combat consist of “stand around and wait for your partner to do A so you can move on to point B.”, something unacceptable in a game of this caliber. However, that is not the worst part of the multiplayer of Resident Evil 6. That distinction goes to how unnecessary it feels. Playing online with a human feels exactly the same as playing offline with an AI, the only difference being that an AI cannot die. So unless you happen to be playing with a friend, online co-op feels more like a liability than an essential aspect of the game.
To the game’s credit, it looks amazing. Resident Evil 6‘s use of shadows does an amazing job of conveying the desperate situation of the characters, and the utter devastation wrought by the zombie apocalypse. However, there are times where Resident Evil 6 uses darkness a bit too liberally, to the point where you simply can’t see what is happening.
The sound isn’t too shabby either. The Resident Evil series has come a long way from “stop it, don’t open that door” in terms of voice acting, and this is most apparent with Leon. He still delivers his one-liners, but they have more bite this time around and feel far less cheesy than in Resident Evil 4. However, that isn’t to say that it’s all roses and sunshine when it comes to voice acting. Resident Evil 6 has taken a turn for the unnecessary when it comes to melodrama, and this is especially apparent for Chris’ campaign. The first few times he pines for the men under his command feels like pathos. After that, he’s just complaining.
The story, however, won’t win any awards for originality. There was not a single moment throughout the many events of Resident Evil 6 that I did not see coming a good half hour before it happened; even the moments that are supposed to come as a surprise are seen from a mile away. In fact, most of the story seems to be as stretched as the gameplay, taking forever to reach plot points that have been obviously coming for hours. Let’s not even get started about the 3 intertwining storylines. It feels like the developers put all their effort into Leon’s chapter, with Jake and Chris’ campaigns as an afterthought. Though they both have their moments, the large majority of the game’s most memorable scenes are placed squarely with Leon.
These are all minor complaints compared to the gameplay. It should have been spectacular, but far too often great mechanics are held back by obtuse and unnecessary elements that, frankly, don’t belong there. Take melee, for example. As I said before, it is a mountainous step up from the quick time events of 4 and 5. However, the varying range of attacks often makes it too risky to use, an enormous shame considering how good it feels when it works. There were times when I wanted to completely eschew ranged combat for melee, but I just couldn’t bring myself to take the risk, forcing me to use ranged attacks. Most of the time, ranged works fairly well; aiming and shooting has the same lightning fast response time as melee, but has a strange caveat. Instead of just aiming a red dot at your enemies, you have a red dot within a cross-hair. You control the cross-hair, but once you target an enemy, the red dot meanders randomly around them, making precision aiming almost impossible. This is of course, unless you spend your skill points to upgrade your accuracy, yet another disappointment. Gone are the days of collecting gold to buy and upgrade weapons, replaced by collecting skill points represented by chess pieces to buy and upgrade your own skills.
The skill tree system isn’t necessarily a bad idea; there’s a fairly diverse amount of skills for you to tweak your character with. From the expected Firearm skill, which increases the damage dealt when using guns, to the unusual Shooting Wild skill, which removes your aiming reticle in exchange for a vast amount of damage (a personal favorite of mine). However, like everything else in Resident Evil 6, there is an unneeded obstacle holding back greatness. For some reason, you can only equip three skills at a time, forcing you to ignore all but the most simple of character builds. While not so much of a problem in Agent Hunt, this feels irritatingly limiting when you consider the 43 skills in campaign and the 20 skills in Mercenaries mode. You can switch skills mid chapter, but doing so puts you at risk of attack, as accessing the inventory doesn’t pause gameplay.
This brings up Resident Evil 6’s most apparent flaw; it’s enemies. In Resident Evil 4 and 5, the enemies were unpredictable. Every time you played was different because every time the enemies reacted differently. They could all charge at you, they could come at you one at a time; you didn’t know what the enemies were going to do. Compounding this, the enemies could seemingly mutate into something even more dangerous and unpredictable at any time, which is what added to the tension. It is what made the game exciting. Resident Evil 6, however, boils its enemies down to a few classes who perform a set action and nothing else. There is no excitement. You know exactly which enemy is going to do which action the second you lay eyes on it. There is no tension. There is no suspense. This leaves the game feeling less like you’re fighting for your life in a city completely overrun with infection, and more like you’re moving from one group of enemies to another, with a few quick time events arbitrarily thrown in between. Even the bosses have been stripped down to their most basic elements, often serving as glorified bullet sponges thrown in at the end of a chapter.
There have been a lot of games in the past few years that have been criticized for doing the same thing over and over again, year in and year out, never innovating. Resident Evil 6 is strange in that it does the complete opposite, but for all the wrong reasons. Capcom has thrown the baby out with the bathwater in this game, and for no clear reason, which is what makes Resident Evil 6 so disappointing. It could have been great. If it had just remembered the pros and cons of its predecessors, it could easily have been game of the year. Instead, it took an amazing concept and muddled it up with frustrating gameplay elements, which is all the more disappointing. Instead of taking a step forward, Capcom took a step to the side, where no one asked it to go, and frankly, no one wanted it to go.