Resident Evil 6 – Review
For a long time now, the Resident Evil series has been going through some changes, and like most things, it hasn’t always worked out so well. Resident Evil 4 saw the series move from the trademark fixed-camera view to an over-the-shoulder third-person view, brought in quick-time events, and, in a rather bold move, removed zombies from the equation. It was extremely well received, and still remains one of my all-time favourite games due to its brilliant gameplay, wonderful atmosphere and great characters.
Then along came Resident Evil 5, promising to take the groundwork set by 4 and make it even better by letting you bring a friend along. Sadly, this also meant that they ripped the inventory to shreds and reduced it to a horrendous size, completely removed the Merchant – one of gaming’s all time greatest characters – and brought in a story so ludicrous and silly that it was impossible not to wonder what the hell the writers were thinking. Couple that with the extremely irritating AI of your partner if you weren’t playing with a friend, who ran out of ammo in no time at all and generally just got in the way, and what you ended up with was a fairly disappointing package.
So, let’s just say I didn’t exactly have my hopes up for the sixth installment of the franchise. The initial trailers excited me, but I was also wary of the potential for the co-op partners to be as annoying as always – and with the ability to move and shoot at the same time – how tense and exciting it would be. Now that I’ve actually had time to sit down and give each of the game’s four campaigns a real go, I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised by the quality on offer.
The story this time is split between four characters, old-timers Leon and Chris, new kid on the block Jake, and an unlockable campaign for everyone’s favourite lady, Ada. Each campaign sticks very closely to each character, although they sometimes cross over at certain points, so you’ll need to play all of them to get a grasp on what’s actually going on. The problem is that the story is so completely bat-shit insane that it’s difficult to have any handle on what’s going on half the time. You probably won’t even realise it at the time; it only occurred to me how ridiculous it was when I sat down and explained it to a friend. If you try and ignore the ridiculousness of it all, however, then it’s four fairly straightforward stories that don’t do much more more than set up the scenarios for your characters to fight their way out of.
Overall, Resident Evil 6 handles pretty much exactly the same as the last two games, but slightly smoother and with a few sweet new additions. First off, Capcom have finally given players the ability to move and shoot at the same time. While this does mean that some of the tension is lost, since you can just walk back from enemies while blasting them in the face, instead of being stuck in one place desperately fighting them off, it really doesn’t affect the game all that much. In fact, it allows for some pretty cool stuff, such as the new diving feature, which allows players to throw themselves forwards to dodge attacks, before lying on their back and facing-off against enemies from the ground. It’s not a terribly useful feature, as you’re much slower and can still be attacked quite easily, but it’s pretty cool. It also means entering the dying state is much easier to handle, as you can slowly crawl out of the way of danger while shooting enemies, and can now automatically recover after a period of time if your partner can’t (or won’t) help you.
The melee has been much improved to make up for characters without knives; the knife is now an equipable weapon, as opposed to being assigned its own button, which is disappointing for fans of 4 and 5, but you get over it quite quickly after spending some time beating the crap out of zombies with your martial arts skills. Melee attacks are as easy as pulling the right trigger when not aiming, and you can line up some pretty sweet combos before stamping on their heads old-school style. There are also some awesome context-sensitive moves, like smashing their heads against walls, pulling their feet from underneath them when they’re on a higher level, or doing a flying kick right in the chest if you sprint at them beforehand. It’s an incredibly fun system but you can’t do it forever, as the new included stamina bar drains like hell when you’re melee attacking, eventually leaving your character knackered and only able to do a light kick to the shins. It’s slightly strange, but not an issue, that the stamina bar isn’t drained when sprinting, but it would potentially have been an issue if it had. Either way, the melee system is fantastic, and a definite highlight of the game.
Your partner AI has been given a good overhaul as well, and you’ll no longer be tasked with babysitting them as you were with Sheva in the fifth installment. When flying solo, the computer-controlled partner has infinite health and infinite ammo, so they can usually be relied upon to help out, even if you end up in a tricky situation. They can still be grabbed by enemies, meaning you will have to run over and help them out if you want to avoid being overwhelmed on a regular basis, and I found that their attacks are much weaker than your own, so you’ll still be required to do most of the killing, but they can still be relied upon to stomp on a few heads when required. It’s a far better system than the past effort, and you’ll be much happier not having to dole out ammo on a regular basis, or making sure your partner isn’t getting destroyed by a couple of bad guys.
Of course, as some elements are improved, others remain unfavourable. The inventory system, while not bad, is still fiddly and annoying for the most part, as now all your inventory items are presented on one line, which means it can sometimes take a while to find what you’re looking for – not a desirable thing to be doing when you’re being surrounded. However, you can now carry weapons separately from the inventory, although the number you are given has been greatly diminished so as to allow for character-specific weapons and the lack of a monetary system.
My main problem with the inventory is how herbs are now dealt with. For one, there are no yellow herbs in the game, so you can’t increase your maximum health at all (although six blocks is fine, for the most part), but more irritating is how you heal. First, you pick up a green herb. Then, you place it in the “store”, which is a little box that apparently turns the herb into a pill. Only then can you press RB and heal. Why did the developers see fit to add an extra step into the equation? It could be down to the use of blocks instead of a single health gauge, as each pill heals one block at a time, but that only adds more problems: you can only heal one block at a time. You can use multiple pills at once by pressing RB the desired number of times, but there’s something a little annoying about having to run around the area while your character chugs pills like an addict. There is a shortcut to combine all your herbs and put the pills made directly into the store, but this shortcut uses RB, so if you’ve got even a block of health missing then you’re likely to heal and then have to use the shortcut again to actually generate the pills. It’s a fiddly and annoying system, and a completely unnecessary change to work with a new health block system that adds nothing to the game.
The changes may be a mixed bag, but the campaigns are the real focus. Your first port of call will probably be Leon, who this time partners up with fellow agent Helena. In an interesting twist, you can now choose which character you want to play as during the campaign, allowing you to take on a sidekick role, so naturally I opted to play as the chick. Leon’s campaign starts off strong, with him shooting a zombified president in the face within two minutes of firing it up, and continues in a fashion that feels awfully familiar from the previous two games. The locations are all there; there’s the big scary church with creepy graveyard, the underground lab, which happens to be built on top of an intricate cave network… all it needs is a castle, and you’d be playing Resi 4 all over again. There are some fantastic urban sequences included as well, as our heroes traverse through the panic and hysteria that follows a bio-terrorist attack, and these sections are the definite highlights of the campaign when compared with the stereotypical locations found elsewhere. The story is pretty solid, and there’s a fairly epic boss battle at the end that is just absolutely ridiculous but a bag of fun at the same time. Stereotypical locations aside, it’s a solid campaign, and probably the most Resident Evil-y of the bunch.
The zombies are a welcome return to the series, and they’ve been given a few tweaks of their own. They can now run and jump at you, so you’re no longer given the luxury of running away with ease. There are also new types of zombies, all of whom have specific weak spots to shoot and take them down a little more easily. There’s one that screams at the top of its lungs, summoning a horde of zombies and causing your character to be stunned for a while. Another can only be shot through the heart, and is generally a complete bitch to kill, and one that’s just a huge fat zombie that soaks up your bullets and takes a good while to slay. The variety of zombie types mixes things up a bit, and prevents the combat from becoming a repetitive slog against the same enemies over and over.
Speaking of which, Chris’ campaign is as dire as you may have already heard. It begins with Chris, drunk in a bar in Eastern Europe and suffering from amnesia related to his last, failed, mission. Enter Piers Nivans (which is not a real name), who snaps him out of his drunken stupor and takes Chris away to kill B.O.Ws in China. Beyond that, it becomes a simple revenge story, complete with stereotypical military dialogue (Piers actually yells “don’t die on me!” when you enter the dying state) and about as much personality and originality as a piece of damp cardboard. Yet, there’s a twist right at the end of the campaign that strikes me as one of the most insane and yet surprising events to occur in recent Resident Evil history, and it very nearly made up for the blandness of the rest of the campaign.
Chris and Piers’ main enemies are the J’avo, a bunch of mercenaries who have been infected with the C-virus to give them regenerative abilities, allowing them to grow back the top half of their head after you blow it clean off, and mutate into horrific abominations if you target their limbs too much. This is interesting at first, and as you progress through the campaign the mutations get weirder and more horrific, but with absolutely no puzzles to break up the action Chris’ campaign boils down to being a generic third-person shooter that just happens to be set in the Resident Evil universe. This fact is doubly annoying since there’s still a lack of ammo for most of your weapons, so not only do you have to contend with hordes of enemies, but you have to make sure you conserve ammo in your fights with them. It’s a disappointing campaign, wrought with uninspired dialogue and too many forced fights on too little ammo, and it’s easily the worst of the bunch.
Jake and Sherry’s outing sits at a kind of middle point between the old-skool Leon campaign and Chris’ action-packed snorefest. Jake is a mercenary who just so happens to have the anti-bodies to the C-virus, so Sherry picks him up in Eastern Europe and they go off on an adventure to try and get Jake to the US of A so they can take his blood and make a vaccine. Thing is, Jake’s being chased by a giant ugly bastard called Ustanak, who acts as a kind of Nemesis character, constantly finding our heroes no matter how many times they think they’ve taken him out. The encounters with Ustanak are pretty interesting, all except the stealth section, which is completely out of place, but is thankfully so easy that you’ll barely notice it. It does get slightly ridiculous towards the end the amount of times you bump into this thing, but the encounters are usually fairly varied, so it doesn’t get all that stale.
Jake also happens to be my favourite character in the game, mostly because he’s the only character who isn’t either so focused on his mission he forgets to have a personality, or isn’t a completely emotion-driven idiot. His sarcastic approach to life is refreshing, and harks back to some of the seriously cheesy one-liners Leon spouted out in Resi 4. Jake can also beat people up with his fists as an equipable weapon, can use handily placed poles to jump to specific locations, and is generally just a cool dude. His story also features a little more intrigue and variety than the others, and includes snowmobile chases, eggshell-white-walled research facilities, and a particularly stupid final boss fight, which is both fun and completely idiotic. Overall, Jake’s campaign is pretty good; not quite as lovely as Leon’s campaign, but definitely worth a go.
Once you’ve beaten all those, you get your hands on Ada’s campaign, which felt a lot shorter than everyone else’s, but nicely ties up a few plot points that none of the other characters discover. There’s not really much else to say about Ada’s story; it answers a few questions, it’s relatively fun, and there are plenty of times where you crawl through tight spaces and get a good shot of her arse in leather pants. What more could you want to round off the game?
If that’s not enough gameplay for you, Mercenaries mode is back and as great as ever, tasking you with chaining up as many kills as you can in a short time span, although this time around you’ve got a smaller time limit, less time expansions, and a finite number of enemies to take down, so it’s an even more frantic rush than ever before to try and rack up those kills. It’s also pretty damn tough too, but is still as fun as ever, and will likely take up most of your time once you’ve beaten the campaign. There’s also Agent Hunt mode, which allows you to jump into someone else’s campaign as an enemy and try and take them down. This is quite an interesting twist, because you can cause someone to have a seriously bad day by constantly killing them (although you spawn as a complete weakling and usually get killed pretty quickly), but somehow it’s just not as fun or exciting as it sounds. Still, it’s a neat new addition, and will probably hold your attention for at least a few hours.
Of course, you can take on almost everything in the game in two-player co-op (Ada’s campaign is single player only, for the time being), whether split-screen, system-link or online. The local split-screen is done in the horrendous style with huge black borders on either side of the screen, which just feels like a gigantic waste of space, but other than that it works pretty well. I did try and play some online games, but unfortunately ran into a host of troubles connecting to other people, so I couldn’t check it out. That said, the game does have a rather lovely multiplayer menu, which shows every active player and the settings they’re running for their game, so you can find fellow players who think the same way you do and join in with them.
As you might have guessed, Resident Evil 6 is a behemoth of a game, packed to the brim of content, some great, some not so great. Even better, it’s absolutely gorgeous and gory to boot. For the first time you can actually chip away at bits of enemies, so blasting them in the side will tear away their flesh and give you some tasty ribs to eye up. The mutations and boss monsters are also glorious in their horrific vision, usually imitating some creepy-crawly or insect of some kind, and occasionally turning into something as stupid as a dinosaur. There were a few instances where the textures were seriously low resolution, and one cut-scene sticks in my mind for having cars that look like nothing more than a rectangular box on top of a larger rectangular box, covered in one primary colour. But these issues can be forgiven for the amount of work put into the characters, and the overall atmosphere that Resident Evil 6 gives off.
The soundtrack offers up very little to be remembered, but the orchestral score is suitably tense and dramatic for the game, except for one chapter of Leon’s campaign, where small electronic riffs are suddenly thrown in completely out of nowhere and totally take you out of the experience. The Mercenaries soundtrack deserves a special mention for being absolutely fantastic; with its thumping bassline that quite seriously gets you in the mood for some arse-kicking. The voice-acting is okay but it’s dominated by gruff manly voices to the point where almost all the main male characters sound like one guy performed all of their roles. Special mention goes to Troy Baker, who voices Jake, for bringing a great personality to the character which some wonderful voice-work. Beyond that, it’s all fairly standard stuff.
In the end, Resident Evil 6 is seriously well put together, for the most part. It looks gorgeous and handles brilliantly, even during driving sections, and is crammed with content to keep you playing for hours after the main story is over. Yet, there’s just something about it that prevents it from being anything more than “good”. Perhaps it’s the super fiddly healing system. Maybe it’s Chris’ lame campaign and a general lack of interesting or sane story throughout. It doesn’t have the same spark of genius that Resident Evil 4 had when it re-invented the series, and maybe it’s because this new re-invention brings it too closely in line with other games. It’s Resident Evil in story, characters and atmosphere, but it handles and proceeds like a lot of other third-person shooters on the market. It’s a vast improvement on the previous incarnation, and it’s still a great game, but it stops short of anything more.Pros
- Wonderful graphics and a lovely new level of gore
- Plays like a dream
- Stuffed to bursting point with content
- Stupidly fiddly healing system
- Ridiculous story and poor characterisation
- Falls into the same pitfalls as many other third-person shooters out there
Capcom were always going to have to do something special after Resident Evil 5 left many fans feeling cold, and they accomplished this by making one of the longest, most interesting games out there, with so much stuff to do it’s hard to know where to begin, and stunning visuals to keep your eyes entertained. But with all that content, sacrifices had to be made somewhere, namely in Chris’ stereotypical and rather dull campaign, and some of the characters' dialogue and personalities.
Resident Evil 6 has a lot to offer, and it’s still a part of the series at its core, but it’s like Capcom have tried to appeal to too many people and spread themselves a little thing. Definitely worth a look, but don’t expect anything spectacular.
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