Capcom are back with yet another installment of the Resident Evil franchise. Before the release of Resident Evil 6, previous games in the blockbuster series had already sold over 50 million copies. The first game released back in 1996 on the Sony PlaySataion console. It was a claustrophobic survival horror game where the player needed to escape from a mansion infested with all manner of mutated beasts by solving puzzles and discovering information in order to progress. The monsters were as dangerous as they were ugly and were to be generally avoided due to the scarcity of ammo, so when they leaped out, normally suddenly and when least expected, it would be a brief moment of pure terror.
Subsequently, this game spawned an unending series of games across many platforms and genres, the modern incarnations favoring combat over suspense, fight over flight. Inevitably, whilst enabling a whole new audience to enjoy Resident Evil games, there are some who see the (un)death of classic game, that it has become a foul mutation of its former self. Brought about by the infectious virus of Hollywood action movies and big budget shooters. They would see the Resident Evil series shot in the head out of pity and for the good of mankind. If you are one of these people, you should probably avoid Resident Evil 6. It is a third person shooter with melee combat, quick time events and more blockbuster set pieces than any movie or game I can recall.
The first choice to make is which campaign to start playing. There are 3 unlocked from the start, all open for single player or online co-op play. The first is the Leon campaign. Leon Kennedy is a secret agent and personal friend to the US president. Chris Redfield, BSAA marine and Jake Muller are the other two protagonists. Each has a supporting character who will fight alongside either as an AI or an actual human over Xbox Live or PSN. All six of them have a story that is linked to the previous Resident Evil Titles in some way or another, as well as a large part to play in the narrative here.
The gameplay alters slightly depending on the storyline you are following. The guns, melee attacks, enemies and menu layouts are different for each campaign. At first, zombies will be slow and stupid, standing around, waiting to be shot. This gives the opportunity to learn the basic controls. As progression is made however, tactical play will be required as the creatures become ever more grotesque, deadly and numerous. Ammo preservation is important so melee combat plays a bigger role later on.There are a huge amount of Horrible, fleshy beasts. Some can fly, others can spit acid and some can call upon hordes of zombies with a piercing shriek. Many zombies seem to die easily only to come back from the (un)dead in a much more (un)deadly form and then there are bosses, huge buggers that usaully require some thought and experimentation to beat. This variety keeps the gameplay fresh and challenging. The controls do become rather awkward and seemingly too sluggish when you get surrounded by groaning flesh bags, but it is as much of a lesson learned as it is a problem, and combat is generally fairly satisfying.
Most of the game is excellent to look at. Gameplay and cinematics have been blended together to great effect in order to keep the action coming at a fast pace. Level design is hit and miss though, ranging from superbly atmospheric graveyards to generic buildings with many generic floors, but there will always be some nasties around. The creatures are animated and designed with real imagination by some terribly twisted minds. Zombies will lose big chunks of rotting flesh when shot. A leg,half a torso, an arm or two thirds of a head can be removed with a single gunshot. If they are unfortunate enough to fall to the floor, you may employ the “Stomp on head and squash like a melon” technique. It feels like fair amount of work on the zombies was put into portraying something particular…..Decomposition. Right, what’s for breakfast!
There is the freedom to play the different questlines in any order, for example, you could play as Leon for a couple of chapters and then switch to another campaign for a while, unlocking cut-scenes as you progress that are added to an overall timeline. This gives a sense of where everything fits into the bigger picture. There are points where the different protagonists cross paths with one another. When chance encounters happen, 2 player co-op can become 4 player. Players who are on different storylines but at the same point in the game, can join together over Xbox Live to tackle a certain boss or horde. This feature, accompanied with the Pulp Fiction style narrative structure, works wonderfully for a time, and actually offset some of the linearity of the gameplay, but later on, the script writers seem to run out of ideas as chance encounters become so ridiculously unlikely, that some of the amazing work done to build a unique story telling structure is lost, which is a real shame.
Resident Evil 6 feels like a game torn between the past and the future. The core game mechanics are solid, tried and tested but the decision to build an all out action game around them feels a little dis-jointed. It is a game obsessed with set pieces,explosions, hanging from ledges, crashing vehicles, thrills and more explosions. Most action sequences are controlled by pressing buttons or stick wiggling. All of this is ok for the first few hours but Resident Evil 6 is a very long game and it is so relentless, it becomes tiresome. This game engine worked at its best in Resident Evil 4, but a few things that made it great have been omitted here. Weapons cannot be upgraded, instead skill points are collected which can be spent on perks, 3 of which can be equipped at any one time, hence there is no shady vendor lurking in the dark, ready to open his trench coat and say “What are ya buyin?” The capacity of the inventory cannot be increased and herbs need be to combined, turned into pills and eaten, all in the heat of battle, however these are small annoyances and mostly forgivable given the scope of this game.
Overall then, this is a really good game, hugely ambitious and a lot of fun for the patient gamer. However, it does not quite attain true greatness due to a few minor mis-steps, a couple of poor plot choices and a control scheme that doesnt quite fit. That being said , these are still usable gameplay mechanics and fans of the other modern Resident Evil games will appreciate 6, and warm to it like an old pet dog. It just goes beserk, chews the sofa and craps on the stairs now and again, but we forgive it.