I can still remember my excitement two years ago when I purchased Resident Evil 6. I’ve been a big fan of the franchise since the very beginning, and the hype machine was in overdrive because the latest rendition was being released on the powerful (for then) PS3. But for whatever reason, I didn’t even get around to the game until a couple of months ago, and by then I had heard all the lukewarm reviews and jokes about the logo looking like a man blowing a giraffe (don ‘t tell me you don’t see it too).
In a nutshell, RE6 is a failure. Not a complete and utter failure, but a failure nonetheless when you consider the history and prestige of the franchise. The original Resident Evil was an instant classic that spawned a whole new survival horror industry, and the sequel, RE2, was one of the best sequels ever made, ramping up the pace, action and the zombie count without losing that creepy, unsettling atmosphere. RE3 kept up the standard of play, while RE4 reinvented the series and took the genre to a whole new level with the over-the-back shooting system that has become a staple of so many games since. RE5 was a step back, in my opinion, but the problems with the game were largely overlooked because it was the first to debut on the PS3 and the dazzling graphics made up for its shortfalls.
With RE6, you can tell they were trying some new things and were swinging for the fences with several ambitious features, but ultimately the game just didn’t come together like it should have. Like its two immediate predecessors, RE6 utilizes the over-the-shoulder shooting system with the laser pointer for accuracy and quick time events that require players to press certain button combinations suddenly in a short span of time. The herb and health systems are similar to before (though health boosts can now be turned into tablet form to speed up usage), and there aren’t too many new innovations with the weapons. There are more zombies than ever this time, with a new breed called J’avo that can interact with each other and user weapons like humans, and massive monsters referred to as BOWs (Bio-Organic Weapons).
Instead of one long campaign with a single protagonist, RE6 offers four different scenarios with a total of seven usable characters. There’s the familiar floppy-haired Leon S Kennedy, who is teamed up with agent Helena Harper; there’s beefcake Chris Redfield, who is backed up by the more level-headed Piers Nivans; there’s the new character of Jake Muller, son of villain Albert Wesker, who teams up with returning character Sherry Birkin; and of course, there’s the leggy Ada Wong, who has the only solo campaign in the game.
As a result of all these different campaigns, RE6 is probably the longest game of the franchise (we’re talking at least 20 hours of gameplay and maybe even close to double that). You would think that’s a good thing, but it actually becomes kind of frustrating if you intend on finishing all four campaigns because the repetition is quite high.
There are subtle differences to each campaign. Leon’s for example, is more traditional as he fights of hoards of zombies with guns and melee attacks; Chris’s campaign is more of a shooter as he takes on the human-like J’avos; Jake’s is more focused on physical and melee action because he has special abilities; and Ada’s is different because she’s on her own. However, as the scenarios are interlinking and occasionally cross paths, you’ll find that there are certain locations you will have to play twice. Even the cut scenes are repeated. In a game that’s already so long, having to do the same thing or watch the same thing multiple times can get tedious in a hurry.
I’m not a big fan of the game’s co-op play. It’s good when you are playing the game with a friend or online, but sucks if you want to play the game alone. The partner AI is probably better this time around than in RE5, but having someone there with you all the time really destroys the creepy atmosphere the game is known for. You know you can always count on your partner to save you if you get in trouble, and you don’t really have to do the same for them because you know they’re practically invincible. There are also moments where you just have to stand there and wait for your partner to complete some act so that the game can continue. I didn’t like it at all.
RE6 also places more attention on melee fighting. There’s a lot of ramming, kicking, rolling around and stomping, which helps you save ammo, but on the other hand it can get repetitive and lessens the fear factor of the zombies. The game is much scarier if you know you must conserve ammo and can’t get too close, whereas in RE6 you often find yourself running toward the zombies to kick them in the head.
The game also has a cover system that most players should be familiar with, though I personally found it frustrating because it rarely works properly. Not long after starting the game I more or less abandoned the cover system, and it didn’t make much of a difference.
The graphics of RE6 are naturally solid because it’s on PS3, but to be honest the visuals of the game did not impress me at all. In fact, I think it’s arguable that RE5 is the better looking game. For some reason I think the textures of sets, background and the characters all look less realistic, and I feel like the detail is just not there a lot of the time.
On the other hand, perhaps there was a conscious effort to make the game look more like the animated films, or maybe the game was just so big that they could not put as much effort into the visuals. Or maybe I’m just so used to seeing excellent graphics on the PS3 that I think decent graphics don’t quite cut it any more. At the end of the day, I guess the graphics are good enough such that the differences between the gameplay and cut scenes are not jarring.
Most of my complaints about RE6 are with its gameplay. Almost immediately I was struck by the amount of pointless repetition in the game. For example, you might walk into a room with absolutely nothing you can interact with. At the end of that room is a door. You walk up to it and it tells you to press a button to open it. You do so, opening the door up to a corridor with nothing in it. At the end of the corridor there is another door which you have to press a button to open. And this kind of stuff happens a lot. I understand characters need to get front point A to point B somehow, but come on, give us something to interact with, some enemies, something creepy to unsettle us. At most there might be a drawer you can open, or a zombie you can stomp, but that’s really about it. It was like dumbing down a classic horror movie by removing its atmospheric scares and replacing them with cheap thrills.
The quick time sequences used to be a positive for the game, but now they are kind of pointless too. On the standard and easier modes they are not a challenge at all, and even if you fail it’s not a big deal because you get to try it immediately again. The camera angles, even after all these years, can also still be a problem at times, making you blind to zombies closing in on you from dead angles, on the ground or on the ceilings.
The RE franchise has been heading away from survival horror towards first person shooter, and it’s gotten to the point where you can’t even call RE6 a survival horror game. Most of the time you are either walking around from room to room or shooting at zombies. There’s not that much in between. In the old days, most of the fun and the atmosphere from a RE game is wandering around, exploring different places and trying to solve puzzles. RE6 offers zero autonomy and no puzzles whatsoever. There is usually just direction to move in with no options to even go into side doors or other rooms. And even if you get a little lost there’s always a button you can press that will tell you where you need to go and how to get there. It can get boring.
That said, after initially thinking I might give up on the game I ended up coming back for more and completing two of the campaigns. Once I got past the repetition I admit I had some fun — albeit not at the heights of its predecessors. The best parts of the game are the set pieces — such as warding off a whole host of zombies or monsters, trying to run from point A to point B in a limited period of time, or even driving a car or shooting out of a moving car. The boss fights are also extremely epic and can take a long time to finish.
Story-wise there’s not much to write home about. It’s never been a strong suit of the franchise and nothing has changed here. The cut scenes are done well, even though they are filled with the usual zombie/video game cliches and trite dialogue. You kind of get used to it after a while, but to be honest I never paid enough attention to figure out what the hell was going on with the story line.
There’s no doubting that Capcom has taken a step back with RE6. The franchise has lost that survival horror edge that made it so popular with fans in the first place, and instead what we have is a dumbed down arcade action shooter with lots of repetition and not much atmosphere. There are moments when the game still shines, but on the whole the added length from the multiple campaigns and the co-op element end up being detriments rather than positives. It’s good to hear that Capcom is going back to the series’ roots with a quieter, creepier spin-off called Resident Evil: Revelations 2, so perhaps there is hope that the franchise will not keep heading in the wrong direction.
PS: Here’s the trailer for Revelations 2.