Resident Evil is a series with a huge identity crisis; after the amazing match of horror and action in Resident 4, and Resident Evil 5’s big leap away from scares into all out action, 6 attempts to cater for all audiences. Opinions have been divisive across the whole of the gaming media regarding its newest iteration, so whether old Resi or new Resi is your preferred direction for the series will depend on the amount of enjoyment you get out of this game.
Right, lets get something cleared up very quickly; Resident Evil is not Resident Evil in its original form. Yes ,the scares and the claustrophobia that has long been a stalwart of the series is gone, and yes, there is a heck of a lot more action. Its time to accept that Resident Evil wont return to its roots anytime soon, especially considering the formula that was generated for the fourth iteration worked so well. Capcom have attempted to make a balance between the three (four after you unlock it) campaigns but all of these, bar Leons, represent action orientation mixed with body horror, rather than scares of old.
Each segment contains two different characters, and, generally, a different play style. Leon Kennedy returns alongside new agent, Helena Harper, whom fight there way out of a university after, (casually) killing a zombified President of the United States. Other than the complete disregard for protocol, and considering how nonchalant everyone is about it (Hunnigan also returns from Resident Evil 4 and she seems more worried about Leon’s life rather than the leader of the country she’s trying to protect?) Leon’s chapters are by far the best. A nice blend of atmosphere, suspense and action, keeps you on your toes enough that you spend much of it on the edge of your seat, waiting for the next thing the game decides to throw at you.
Chris Redfield and Piers Nivens, two BSAA agents sent to fight bio terrorism in Europe and Asia, cover the basis for nostalgia and the meathead part of the game; think Gears of War with more variety and characters with personality. This section is by far the weakest part of the game, and anyone who disowns the franchise due to it straying too far from its routes, will despise it even more. The areas tend to feel methodical and boring, with various cinematic tells, or a stack of ammo, letting you know something big is arriving on your doorstep, thus taking the wind out of the sails of any suspense that you gain from it. On the plus side, this segment has by far the best storyline, as you learn to have a rather large emotional attachment to both characters, especially if you ever played Code Veronica or Resident Evil 5.
The third and fourth segments, newbie Jake Muller, Albert Weskers child, Sherry Birkin, now all grown up from Resident Evil 2, and Ada Wong, blend a variety of elements from all genres. Muller and Birkin, despite Muller ignoring the use of a knife that the other characters have, and decides to punch zombies to death, makes you feel the most vulnerable; this is because there is a 3rd ‘character’ that is ever present and is the core thread of their story. Ada’s campaign compliments the lack of guns, the crossbow is the order of the day, an added stealth addition that fails more than it succeeds, and no buddy to help you out of a sticky situation.
Buying Resident Evil 6 essentially offers you four games, between 8-10 hours each without hunting for medallions, each with a slightly different play style hung together by a hammy plot that manages to be engrossing at the same time. Furthermore, Mercenaries and Agent Hunt is thrown in, alongside the standard coop for all of the different segments aside from Ada’s. Mercenaries, essentially throws you into a pen with a load of enemies, combos increase your time limit so the more you kill the longer you stay. It’s very enjoyable and is a nice break from the constant melodrama of the storyline. Agent Hunt is a very interesting idea in that you join a players single player game at random, allowing you take over one of the enemies leading a predictable play through to turn into a death screen if you are not careful; a nice adaptation of allowing human vs human in a single player environment without removing tension.
The game tends to go down the cinematic route, with everything and anything being thrown at you. Since the first Resident Evil only threw the undead at you, Capcom have seen fit to up the ante to something ridiculous; escaping a virus laden nuke, fighting what I can only describe as a unicorn crossed between a very dead lion whilst on a train track, and attempting to stave off attacks from a huge monster that is at least half the size of the skyscraper you are on. Set pieces are nothing if incredible, and the game manages to pull off AAA visuals with its traditional B movie storytelling and themes. That’s not to say that the dialogue and cut scenes are not voiced well, they are hugely entertaining in your own right, its more that the way some of the main characters react to certain situations is a bit bizarre, even if Leon and Chris have experienced almost every bio terrorist threat under the sun. Facing a 12 foot monster with a harpoon for a hand, and stating ‘here we go again’, as if you were just having an argument with your wife, rather than on the likely end of a whole heap of pain, is both hilarious and ludicrous at the same time.
Resi 6 attempts so many different things that, at times, it feels as if Capcom had too many ideas and weren’t sure what to do with all of them. When scares are attempted they tend to be cheap, anyone with a bit of common sense will notice how signposted any ‘jumpy’ bit will be. There is a huge reliance on the melee attacks, leading some fights to turn into punching until your energy runs low and running away; feeling helpless without ammo but punching like Mike Tyson becomes irritating rather than creating any type of vulnerability. All of the stories intersect at certain points, allowing online partners to join in a four player team, but it feels like the developers needed to find a popcorn moment that will make fans happy rather than this scenario actually working (yay Leon and Chris on the same screen). Enemies are varied, but require little skill to put down and the levelling up system, by collecting points within each mission you gain traits to use, seems like a very rubbish way to introduce RPG elements into a game that never needed or asked for it; just bring back the Merchant!
Resident Evil 6 isn’t really a Resident Evil game; it employs characters and facets of a rich backstory and certain gaming mechanics, adds a huge amount of action and explosions and leaves it at that. Its a thoroughly enjoyable experience in its own right, but it is, to an extent carried by its namesake, the fact that it is, or claims to be a Resident Evil game. Without its series quirks, this would be merely a good game rather than a great game. The fact that it seems to understand its own bizarreness, and sometimes unintentional hilarity, the fact that a top secret laboratory still uses 17th century cranks is ridiculous, helps smooth some of the cracks along the way. Be prepared to be disappointed if your golden age of Resident Evil to died when Resident 4 hit the shelves.