Where do I even start? I’m sitting here with a long list of things that are wrong with Resident Evil 6, tasked with the job of putting them into some sort of coherent form so I can let you readers know if you should spend your hard-earned cash on it. The list looks like a mish-mash of different ideas I need to touch on, but I need to do it in a way that the reader can follow and hopefully appreciate. In a lot of ways writing this review is like playing Resident Evil 6; except I’m trying my best to make sure everything threads together nicely and not just throwing in a mess of ideas in the hope that sheer greatness results from it. Do you see what I’m getting at now?
To be fair on Capcom we can’t call Resident Evil mainly a survival horror series anymore, although they still stubbornly cling on the last vestiges of it and – ironically – these tend to be the most enjoyable parts. The last couple of RE games have taught us that we’re so far removed from the RE games of old that going back to them now feels like you’re stuck in a painting sitting in the storage room of a dusty old art gallery. These are now action games that would make Michael Bay shed a tear of joy, and when I say action I mean plenty of explosions and surviving said explosions by the skin of your teeth every time without a scratch to show for it. Once the action starts in RE6 – which is, erm, straight away I suppose – there’s no let up and you’re constantly having to face some exploding vehicle or crumbling building; as well as the hordes of bloodthirsty monsters out to rip out your guts of course. The problem is that most of this action takes place during cut scenes, which are admittedly very pretty and well put together but far too numerous. That’s not to say you never interact with big set pieces, but doing so usually means the dreaded Quick Time Event (QTE’s).
In fact QTE’s are abundant throughout Resident Evil, employed in everything from rotating your stick to turn a crank or wiggling it to fight off a zombie. I don’t mind QTE’s when they’re used for the odd thing, but Capcom seems to have decided to use them in lieu of actually coming up with an innovative way that doesn’t nearly break your finger an hour into the game. Plus, if we’re going to talk about hitting buttons the controls aren’t exactly stellar either. For starters it takes 3 buttons just to roll, ending with you sitting on your arse like an idiot. By the end of the game don’t be surprised if you’ve knackered your pad, which sort of happened to me as the battery pack kept coming loose while I was bashing the buttons hard – something you have no choice in – which obviously disconnected my controller. Unlike most games these days RE6 doesn’t automatically pause when this happens, so I died quite a few times thanks to this. The game also refuses to pause when you simply want to adjust the brightness or sound settings, which seems an odd decision. Entering your inventory is also in real-time, but I’m not too fussed about this as it lends an air of haste to your actions – even though I kept accidentally storing a herb instead of combining it.
All these bombastic action scenes and QTE segments wouldn’t seem as bad if they were all threaded into in an interesting story, but unfortunately RE6’s never quite hits its stride. Instead of trying something new Capcom returns to the usual formula of a ‘nasty corporation with hidden labs’ and ‘virus named after a letter’, which you may have thought had been concluded after RE5. This time around it’s Neo-Umbrella and the new mutations of the ‘C Virus’, continuing Capcom’s attempt to create a virus named after every letter in the alphabet. Wesker is even back, sort of, with his son Jake putting in an appearance and even having a campaign all to himself where a big brute constantly chases you, reminiscent of Nemesis. There are a further three campaigns; Leon Kennedy’s has the president being zombified and a tromp through yet another backwater zombie infested town, complete with spooky cemetery and dark catacombs. This campaign plays more like the RE of old, with rotting zombies that slowly disintegrate with every bullet staggering round tight corridors and small rooms. Chris Redfield’s campaign, meanwhile, is the complete opposite. Chris has to deal with J’avo; virus infected crazies who shoot back and transform into various abominations like a half-man half-spider – nasty little critters that can crawl along the ceiling whilst also shooting at you. The cover mechanic and slowly walking with finger against the ear sections are blatantly inspired by Gears of War, bolstering the theory that Capcom has tried to inject various Western game mechanics into their game, not all of which work well together. This campaign proves that, and to be perfectly honest it bored me to tears and felt like I was playing a mediocre third person shooter than a survival horror game. There is a fourth hidden campaign that’s unlocked after you’ve completed the other three, and while I won’t ruin the surprise the fact that the back of the box reveals the campaign exists means that’s it’s not exactly as top-secret as it’s first made out to be.
All of the campaigns do tie together; with all the characters meeting each other at some stage in their respective campaigns. Unfortunately this leads to having to repeat the same boss from another campaign because your character was present in the boss fight from another characters campaign. Ultimately, with everything having already been wrapped up in the previous game, Capcom is trying to craft a story where there needn’t be one. Nothing is really important in the grand scheme of Resident Evil’s canon, and you get the impression that they’re trying to slap together something just for the hell of it. Maybe it’s too late in the generation for Capcom to start afresh with something new and interesting when it comes to the RE canon, but if that’s the case then why bother releasing this game in the first place? Why not wait until the next generation and maybe even re-boot the whole series? It would be nice to not to have to re-tread through the same old tropes.
So the story turns out flat, although it would be more bearable if the game itself wasn’t so frustrating to play. The camera has never been the most obedient thing in an RE game, and Capcom have obviously yet to crack that particular annoyance. Unfortunately it seems to have got even worse, and when a camera is leading to your untimely death it becomes more than a minor annoyance. I just can’t understand how this late in the current generation’s lifespan a developer can be designing a camera that has to be constantly kept under control by the player, one that loves to stubbornly point at things that may interest the player; even when you’re trying to actually, you know, play the game.
Combine that with the sheer panic you start to feel when you’re getting overwhelmed whilst simultaneously wrestling with the bad controls and camera and your screen starts to look like you threw a camera in a bin and pushed it down a very steep hill. It also doesn’t help when you’re doing this in extremely small spots, such as a tiny room that’s already full of people fighting off zombies – with more of the rotting corpses climbing through the windows constantly. It’s ok though, they can’t die, but that doesn’t stop you getting knocked to the floor by a zombie that just crept up behind you through the mess of activity as you’re tackling another three in front of you. When you’re close to death a timer bar will appear, counting down to when you can get up again. You can pull out your weapon and fight off anyone trying to approach you, also shuffling around slowly on your arse, but you’re at the mercy of one swift hit until your AI partner eventually decides to stop staring aimlessly into nothing and drag you up. Not that this is always a big help, as no sooner than the recovery animation is complete you’re getting one swift crack round the head and you’re out for good. It’s a cheap way to die, and it would have been nice to get a couple of second’s grace period to move out of the way of the mass of enemies who had congregated around you.
There are a raft of other negatives I can lay at the games feet – such as a constant lack of ammo that leads to situations where you just have to stand there while your partner plugs away, a lack of clear indications on how to defeat bosses (there are some superbly designed bosses, but finding out how to kill them is often pot luck), bad AI that means your partner carries on fighting when you want them to help you get through a door, taking cover is awkward and a makes it hard to get an angle to shoot – but we really would be here all day as I blabbed on about them. The funny thing is that Capcom have already proven that you can still make an over-the-top action game and still have strong elements of survival horror, they just seem to have forgotten to inject the same formula into this one.
It’s not that the game is never fun; playing it in co-op obviously gets rid of the AI problems and shooting zombies with a real person by your side is always going to be a laugh. Although co-op actions rarely extend past opening a door or lowering a bridge for your partner when you’ve both been separated, and often they can be fighting off zombies while you can only stand there with an itchy trigger finger. The mercenaries mode is as good as ever and Agent Hunt mode lets you drop into another players game as one of the monsters (although they control horribly, so you’re best of sticking to Dark Souls). It’s the fact that all the annoyances add up to a frustrating slog through a game that also tends to be on a pretty linear path; going from A to B, rapidly tapping buttons, watching a cut scene of an explosion and then doing it all again gets tedious no matter how cool the cut scenes may be. There is more than enough content here, all dressed up in some brilliant visuals and some admittedly fantastic monster designs, but having all this doesn’t matter if your game does so many things wrong that people are unwilling to put themselves through the punishment of seeing it all through to the end.
In an effort to appeal to a wider crowd Capcom have tried to cover all bases on the gameplay mechanics front; leading to too much emphasis on one style of gameplay and not enough on another. What results is a mess of different styles with not a single element coming out on top. The very games that RE6 is emulating can safely look down from the top of the pile, regarding RE like an old dog that sadly may need to be put down – at least for a while.