You don’t have to be a fan of the Resident Evil franchise to respect what the series has done and its huge fanbase. I fall under both categories, and while I haven’t actually “disliked” a Resident Evil game before Resident Evil 5 (which simply did not sit well with me), I could still appreciate what it was doing with its story and the strides it made with its impressive cooperative gameplay. Sadly, something went wrong between that game and its immediate sequel, Resident Evil 6. While the last game, as I said, “didn’t sit well with me,” this one was a flaming train wreck that made me hate the 25 hours of my life I spent with it.
The narrative of Resident Evil 6 is utter nonsense, though at this point the series’ storylines play something like a Mad Libs of zombie cliches. This time, an organization called Neo-Umbrella has released the C-Virus, which turns people into zombies and other monsters. Some of these creatures are made of muscles (apparently), while others carry guns and wear Luchador masks because of their multiple eyes (I guess zombies can feel shame now). The game also elevates the plot device of keeping players in the dark to astonishing degrees. The omnipresence of Ada Wong could be turned into a drinking game, and her appearance every few minutes has her constantly switching sides. She transitions almost instantaneously from infecting a squadron of soldiers to saving another character’s life. That’s not necessarily to say that the story is bad; it has its interesting beats, but the overall premise is a bit dry.
What makes the game most unique are the four separate campaigns – three of them cooperative either locally or online. Several characters from series heritage make appearances, including Leon Kennedy, Chris Redfield, and Ada Wong, as well as a new character named Jake Muller, who turns out to be the almost-equally-ass-kicking son of series antagonist Albert Wesker. All of the campaigns have their intersecting points with each other, and each consecutive storyline fills in the blanks from the others.
The story is driven forward by a relentless action movie feel, packed to the bursting point with ludicrously massive setpieces. This is actually the best part of the game, despite the fact that most of these are basically cutscenes. I’m a confessed lover of shlock and excessive lunacy, and several sequences in Resident Evil 6 certainly hit the spot. It’s hard not to smile when running from an impossibly huge explosion, fighting a villain inside and atop a speeding train, using a jet to stop the launch of a missile, or flinging barrels of TNT at a mutated shark while racing through a tunnel of rushing water. While many of these had me shaking my head and saying, “that was stupid,” I still happened to smirk or chuckle during some of them, and that counts for something.
Unfortunately, this means that while the more action-oriented focus makes for a faster-paced shooting experience, Capcom chose to include an excessive number of “kill all of the enemies” or “survive these waves for X amount of time” sequences. By far the most irritating in the game, these segments feel like artificial means of prolonging the game’s already-bloated length.
I have to applaud Capcom for its vision for Resident Evil 6, at the very least: The game is a huge undertaking, with no fewer than four campaigns lasting around six hours each. That’s fairly impressive and doesn’t even include Mercenaries mode, the now-classic timed monster hunting side game. There’s also a mode called Agent Hunt, which allows players to invade someone else’s game online as a monster, though this mode is more of a peripheral attraction than anything else. Joining and starting an online match is a breeze, and several parameters (such as reason for playing) can be adjusted for the perfect game. I also give props for the creature design, which is as nasty as it has ever been. Men with spider’s bodies, creatures that burst forth from split skulls and other products of nightmares make each experience unique.
Resident Evil 6 does add a couple of clever gameplay additions; the first of these is a nice skill system. Slain enemies may drop skill points, which can be spent at the end of each chapter on a series of stat-boosting skills, which do anything from increasing damage to improving accuracy. Purchased skills can be equipped in sets of three in between missions. Secondly, I really appreciated an intuitive new risk/reward system for the life-giving herbs: any herb can be converted into a “tablet” which can be consumed on the fly to add a bar of health. However, patience is rewarded as two herbs can be combined into three or even six tablets, so if a player thinks he can survive an area on one block of heath and happens to stumble across another herb, he can combine it with the first for additional tablets.
My fears from the demo have not been alleviated, unfortunately; technical issues still abound in the game. One of the most egregious problems stems from the fact that many of the actions in the game require a button prompt. These very actions cannot be executed without the visual cue. At times in the game, it’s impossible to execute an action because it doesn’t tell you to press the button—and you can’t do the action without the game giving the prompt to do so first. Worse, sometimes the prompt will appear and the action doesn’t execute. I can’t count the number of times where I pressed R1 to execute an enemy on the ground and instead the character swung his fist at the air like an idiot. In fact, the control scheme as a whole is atrocious. The cover system requires a more complex input of buttons than I have ever seen in a game (go to cover, aim, press X to get behind it, then keep aiming and move the control stick up to lean over), and it creates a lack of harmony with the game that almost single-handedly ruins the experience.
The camera is another serious offender. Oftentimes taking the most inconvenient angles, the camera was to blame for countless instances of getting lost or dying unfairly. The latter almost made me toss my controller through the TV, as a huge chase sequence across a series of platforms has the camera insisting on swapping between a forward and rear view and forcing me to push my control stick in the opposite direction. A second’s delay would result in me dying. The lighting is appallingly bad. Even with the brightness turned all the way up, my room light turned off, and my television’s contrast turned up, it was still difficult to see some areas of the game, to the point where it actually hindered gameplay.
Absolutely the most tragic thing about Resident Evil 6 is that there are moments of clever gameplay ideas littered throughout the game. Drop in/drop out online multiplayer is incredibly smooth when the network behaves; the skill system and herb combination mechanic are great additions, and the ability to move while aiming alleviates one of my primary gripes with the series. Similarly, each of the campaigns have a bit of merit here and there: Leon’s campaign has some nice moments of tension, and the constant feeling of being hunted is still present. The ways in which the campaigns crisscross would be cool, although this leads to a handful of recycled sequences (including a fight with the game’s most irritating boss).
Resident Evil 6 is an astonishing failure and an utter disaster on nearly every level. It’s difficult to comprehend how Capcom’s behemoth could have fallen so far, although a likely culprit is that the scope of the game got too impossibly out of control. Resident Evil 6 is simply too much, and a fatally schizophrenic production with a severe identity crisis. That might be forgivable if the game had technical polish, but the fact that this is also missing makes Resident Evil 6 a terrible game that I cannot possibly recommend.
Resident Evil 6 was developed and published by Capcom. A PlayStation 3 copy was purchased by the editor for the purposes of review.