After Resident Evil 5, the game’s producer Jun Takeuchi admitted that for Resident Evil 6, the franchise would require a “completely new system”. And, although Takeuchi turned over the reigns to Hiroyuki Kobayashi and Yoshiaki Hirabayashi, it’s clear that Resident Evil 6 is unlike anything we’ve seen from the storied franchise before. After a number of anxiety-filled hours, I can say that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Resident Evil 6 is undeniably ambitious. Take three main characters with their co-op partners and craft three separate (really, there’s four), yet intertwined storylines and campaigns that make sense and are equally enjoyable to play. And while there is some instances of brilliance in their approach, the end result feels too disjointed, with two of the campaigns feeling more like a detraction from the best of them.
Right off the bat I’ll say it – Leon’s campaign is excellent. It’s not perfect, but it feels like a true successor and entry in the main Resident Evil series. It’s got the right amount of story, atmosphere, environment, gameplay, and even the slower lumbering zombies that’ll have long time Resident Evil fans feeling warm and content. The first couple of chapters, including the cemetery, cathedral, and sewer areas are striking, memorable, and exactly the type of experience I want from a Resident Evil game. The one thing in my eyes keeping it from perfection is a final boss with more forms than you could ever care to fight through. I mean, it’s not uncommon for a boss to have multiple forms, but this fucker just wouldn’t die.
The other two campaigns feel nothing at all like Leon’s. In this case, Capcom has tried to wear too many hats, please too many masters, and attempted to appease too wide an audience, ultimately failing to do so, and detracting from the overall experience.
Chris Redfield’s campaign feels more like a squad-based shooter, but not a particularly good one. Chris has mental lapses that go completely unexplained, and has no real purpose tying into the other storylines (whereas Jake’s purpose is mandatory to the complete the tale). Chris finds himself taking on the brunt of the new C-virus infected enemies. The C-virus is unpredictable in the way it affects humans, sometimes turning them into disgusting monsters, yet other times turning them into laughably goofy looking mutations. It’s embarrassing, not frightening, to encounter a half-zombie caterpillar, half-human torso wielding a machine gun combo monster. Or seeing a human sprout zombified butterfly wings and start hovering around, again, isn’t cause for fear, it’s cause for a facepalm. While there are some glimmers of hope in Chris’s experience, it’s a complete dud compared to Leon’s.
Jake Muller, Albert Wesker’s son, is the key to eradicating the C-virus and at the end, saving the day. If Chris’s purpose was to capture the Call of Duty crowd, Jake’s aim would be to poorly imitate Uncharted. Although highly cinematic, action-packed set pieces are found through each campaign, and are generally done very well, Jake also takes on some quicker hand-to-hand melee combat and humanly impossible platforming. You’ll have to rely on Jake’s punches more than you’d like to, because ammo drops are far too rare for comfort. Too rare for enjoyment, even. Especially when you need to save all the ammo you can to fend off Ustanak, a brand new, unstoppable boss monster in pursuit of Jake throughout the entirety of the campaign. Ustanak, despite being a constant thorn in Jake and Sherry’s side, is the best RE baddie since Tyrant and, in a sense, saves the day in what would be an otherwise meh campaign.
Of course, you don’t even have to play as the main three, instead electing to — or if you’re playing co-op, one of you will have to — play as one of the main three’s partners. Unfortunately, they’re little more than support characters and none of them do much of anything to add to the story. Co-op is strong, especially at a handful of key points where four players come into contact to team up to complete an objective. However, due to lack of online players, I couldn’t actually test this out with myself and three other human companions. The AI performs well enough in these situations, but there’s something special in having four friends together at once. These gems are too few, sadly.
Skill points appear when enemies fizzle away after you deal the final blow, and let you unlock different attributes. You won’t earn enough for many perks after the first playthrough, but a new game+ option lets you keep bolstering an already strong character to tackle to higher difficulties.
The shooting while moving gameplay is much better than what it has been in the past. It’s not perfect, but they’re headed in the right direction. On the flipside, they’re going down a slippery slope with QTEs, forcing them all to often, and executing them very poorly. Being grabbed and having to press a well-timed square button to escape is welcome. Having to press X twenty times during an escape sequence just to hurdle over boxes isn’t. There was one point with Leon where you alternate pressing and holding L and R to climb a rope that was so maddening, so frustrating, I wanted to give up on the game right there and then. And again, this was in Leon’s campaign, of which I enjoyed the most.
Puzzles and exploration are almost non-existent, aside from shooting blue emblems strewn about the game. There’s an Ada Wong campaign unlocked after you finish the main three that provides more in the way of puzzles, but until then, it’s sorely missed, and leaves the game feeling like the essence of what drew me to the franchise so many years ago isn’t there.
It’s also a shame that exploration isn’t encouraged, because Resident Evil 6 is one of the most beautiful games of this entire generation, despite being purposely disgusting and dank. Dark, too. But too dark at first, especially if you listen to the game’s initial darkness settings. As the game begins, it asks you to adjust the screen brightness until you can barely see the “6“. I did this, but it also meant I couldn’t see enemies at all at times, making the game unplayable and the same suffered for it until I realized I just need to increase the brightness. Once I did, not only did the game play better, letting me see the action and actually participate without frustration, but also allowed me to truly appreciate some of the lighting and shadows, and the imminent approach of enemies in the distance. If there’s one thing you take from this review, it’s to actually increase the brightness at the beginning of the game, and don’t decrease it as the game prompts you to. Don’t miss out by unnecessarily being blinded.
In addition to the main campaigns, including the unlockable Ada campaign that fills in some much needed storylines points for clarity, there is also a Mercenaries mode and an Agent Hunt mode. If you played Mercenaries mode in previous games, it’s the same formula. Kill as many enemies as possible under the time limit, collect skill points. I love it, but admittedly there isn’t much to it. Agent Hunt mode is very different, but not all that great. It lets you invade other player’s games playing as an enemy to try and kill the “agents” you play as in the main campaign. A very good idea, but not one that is well executed or worthwhile. Neither mode really matters, because the real multiplayer fun is dropping in and out of other’s campaigns to keep fighting the good fight against Neo-Umbrella.
As a total package, taking everything into account and averaging it out, Resident Evil 6 is a good game. I can’t help but believe that the addition of the other character’s detract from the “real” Leon campaign, bringing that said average down rather than adding value. Each campaign feels too separate, too different, and do little to complete a story that’s ridiculous and convoluted. When I was done with my first campaign, I thought “I’ll have to play the next one to fill in the blanks”. While that’s partly true, it still doesn’t come together cohesively, and ends being a disjointed mess. There’s almost too much content, diluting the shining moments that make Resident Evil 6 special. I can only hope Capcom learns from this and creates a more focused experience rooted in survival horror—exactly what made the franchise successful in the first place.