Resident Evil 6
Developed by Capcom
Published by Capcom
Available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Mircosoft Windows
Remember the time you wanted a DeLorean for your birthday but your parents got you a truck instead? That’s what Resident Evil 6 is like. For a series that’s redefined horror games twice over in the past, the disappointment that there’s a lack of cool new door-opening mechanisms comes too easily this time around. Still, you shouldn’t let it distract from the reality that a truck will still get you where you need to go and is quite capable of doing it well. Because besides the games’ refusal to innovate — and a story unafraid of confusing the player — Resident Evil 6 delivers a good 20 hours of varied monster-maiming action.
The game also features the largest cast of playable characters in a single Resident Evil yet. Perennial fan-favourite Leon Kennedy fights through two zombie outbreaks, Chris Redfield embarks on missions with an anti-bioterrorism military force and new character Jake Muller is on the run from people who want his antibody-laden blood. Pairing up with Leon and Chris are the utterly forgettable Helena Harper and Piers Nivans, while Jake’s campaign sees the welcome return of Sherry Birkin after her seeming abandonment following 1998’s Resident Evil 2.
As in Resident Evil 5, the player takes on the role of one of the characters of each pair, with the option of either the computer or a human playing the other. When these stories intersect, the game attempts to link you and your partner with another person’s game, which is neat because you could potentially get through every scenario with each playable character actually being controlled by a real human.
After making it through the three stories, a fourth is unlocked featuring a solo appearance by Ada Wong, who tends to drop by any game featuring Leon. While it’s nice to see her again, it’s been 14 years of real time since her introduction, and she’s still as enigmatic as ever. Her “mysterious spy woman” schtick is a decade too old at this point. Regardless, Ada’s scenario fills in the blanks as the player weaves through the paths of each of the character pairs.
While everything eventually makes as much sense as any Resident Evil story does, it’s not without storytelling problems. Multiple five-chapter campaigns of around five to six hours work from the standpoint of enabling effective cooperative play — you can sit down and play with a friend for an evening and put the game down without having to set aside an entire weekend. But as you’re slogging through, you can tell you’re only getting part of the story — this is especially apparent during those intersecting sections: characters do things that don’t make sense until you get to their campaigns. As well, with a total of seven protagonists and two and a half antagonists — the half being a totally personality-less monster chasing Jake and Sherry their entire game — it’s hard to care much about anyone.
As far as the gameplay goes, it would’ve been nice had these many characters been better distinguished from each other when in combat. Unfortunately, they all essentially play the same person with only a few differences in weapon availability. You don’t have to relearn the game every five hours, but besides a couple weapons, you end up with seven characters differing only cosmetically.
That aside, this is the first Resident Evil game with fully satisfying combat — though it’s a shame it took Capcom so long to combine the now-common over-the-shoulder view they pioneered in Resident Evil 4 with the groundbreaking innovation of walking while aiming and shooting. And while this is a fantastic step, other developers have successfully taken that bold risk several times over by now. Still, it fits well and shooting is now both fluid and augmented by viable melee attacks.
In a fan-pleasing move, zombies have shambled back into the Resident Evil world after a two-game absence. Capcom’s provided a variety of zombie types to destroy this time around — from the basic walking corpse to lumbering corpulent blobs. These are the most common enemy of Leon’s campaign, while Chris and Jake instead fight off the J’avo — humans infected with a strain of the virus that sometimes cause them to mutate violently upon what should be death. Some of the token “boss with a million forms” sequences drag on too long, but all in all, the gameplay itself is fun.
Resident Evil 6 also sees the franchise straying further from its survival horror roots — the first half of the series focusing on making the player feel fragile and isolated with a slower, exploratory pace and individual enemies scarcer but more dangerous. Resident Evil 6 is unapologetically action-focused in this regard.
But while the lament that the survival horror genre has morphed into a more action-oriented, visceral shooter horror genre is legitimate, it has no bearing on the decision of Resident Evil 6 to consciously not be survival horror. Treating it on its merits as an action game, it doesn’t exceed many standards, but it at least meets most of them. Like that reliable truck your parents got you, it may not impress the kids at school — but it’s still a good truck.
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