Game Review: RESIDENT EVIL 6 [Demo]

PrintE-mail Written by Andy Hall

There’s been a lot of negativity surrounding the Resident Evil franchise since the fifth instalment back in 2009. Capcom’s decision to almost completely remove the series survival horror roots in favour of co-operative action turned a lot of people off and it became increasingly evident to the hordes of fans that the series would never reach the dizzying heights of the now legendary Resident Evil 4.

I’m gonna cut right to the chase here. I adored Resident Evil 5. Sure, the horror elements fell to the wayside in favour of guns, explosions and a dodgy AI partner. But it was slick, well produced and provided hours of cheesy dialogue, epic showdowns and a ridiculous yet thoroughly entertaining finale.

The public demo for Resident Evil 6 was released this week and was Capcom’s final chance, before the release of the full game, to prove that they had learnt lessons over the past few years and that they could please all of the people, all of the time. How have they done this? By stuffing three full campaigns (featuring Resident Evil stalwarts Leon Kennedy and Chris Redfield, alongside newcomer and son of Albert Wesker, Jake Muller), catering to all types of fans of the franchise, onto one disc. As fellow gaming columnist and Resident Evil 4 devotee (seriously, he practically uses it as a litmus test with which to judge all other games) Earl Strider pointed out to me in an excitable text conversation, “’Catering to all fans’ is a shitty business model. Why would a franchise with such a strong brand identity intentionally dilute it by pandering to the masses?”. Well, I spent an entire day with the demo. I went beyond just the one playthrough. I’ve pored over each chapter, exploring every avenue of gameplay and eking out every nuance of combat. I’ve played with all six characters, both online and off and I’ve come up with some answers that may give Mr. Strider food for thought. Below are six (6!) things you may or may not be aware of, even if you’ve played the demo, that could make this Resident Evil a strong contender for one of the best in the franchise.

MOVEMENT

Perhaps the one aspect of the series that has fans split equally down the middle is the notorious control system. Even though Resident Evil 4 brought the franchise kicking and screaming into the 21st century with its over-the-shoulder perspective, it still retained the unwieldy ‘tank control’ scheme.  Yeah, you heard me. Despite claims that not being able to move and shoot made for a tense gameplay experience I still to this day maintain that the series needed to free itself from these shackles. There was enough tension from not knowing what was around the next corner and the almost crippling lack of ammunition and health related items. Resident Evil 6 has finally been set free and it’s initially jarring to discover just how nimble Leon Kennedy and Chris Redfield are now. Aiming and shooting whilst moving gives the series a new lease of life, but it goes beyond just that. You’ll be running and jumping with all the grace of an Olympian and the combination of dodging, sliding and rolling makes for some frenetic moments during combat. Even if you’re knocked back on your arse you can still remain on your back and take enemies down before rolling out of the way and picking yourself up when the coast is clear. The cover system is a major improvement over the previous game although it’s still not perfect. You’ll often find yourself sliding over the object you wanted to take a breather behind, but since taking cover is almost like an optional extra this can be overlooked.

COMBAT

All of the above is perfectly balanced with the revamped aiming mechanics. Previous titles gave the protagonists deadly precision with almost any weapon and recoil could be compared to that of a spud gun. You may have been rooted to the spot, but your aim was true. Now, to offset the freedom of movement you’ve been granted your accuracy has been reigned in to near realistic levels. You may get one accurate face shot but the substantial recoil means another pull of the trigger in rapid succession will just sent the bullet sailing past the enemies head (even with the more reliable side-arms or sniper rifles). There’s a ‘Quick Shot’ option (tapping Aim and Fire at the same time) for times when you’re feeling overrun or taken by surprise. It fires one shot that knocks the nearest enemy back a couple of feet and it’s a useful tool for giving yourself a little breathing space, yet it’s by no means a 100% guarantee.  You’re going to have to be absolutely positive you’ll get a hit before firing in Resident Evil 6, particularly during times when ammunition is at a critical level. Yes, ammo and health reserves aren’t going to be plentiful and being the trigger-happy sort could leave you in a situation where you’re scavenging the battlefield for supplies whilst either avoiding the enemy or relying on your vastly improved melee moves…

MELEE

…which, to be fair, are not a get-out-of-jail-free card. Whilst the melee system is superior to anything offered in the previous game (a simple tap of the Fire button without readying your weapon can unleash a vast array of moves, from devastating roundhouse kicks to disarming tactics to gory finishers) it’s all contextual and tied to a stamina gauge that sits below your energy bar. By contextual I don’t just mean environmental kills such as slamming an enemy’s head into a nearby wall, but also positioning. Activating a melee attack whilst you’re too far away and you’ll just swing into fresh air, or move in for a head stomp on a downed zombie whilst at the wrong angle and you’ll just end up landing on his arm or leg. All the while that stamina gauge is being emptied and it won’t be long before you’re just flailing about doing next to no damage.

TAILORED CONTROLS

Ok, on the surface, this may not sound like a biggie. Every game has some way to remap the controls these days. But this time it’s really important. There’s a surprising amount of variables in the options menu to tweak the control settings to your liking. Whilst the new default setting is perfectly functional, the option to have the same set-up from Resident Evil 4 may be just the edge some of the hardcore fans need. Is the new dot style reticule getting on your nerves? Switch to the classic laser targeting system. Prefer your aiming and movement to be switched around on the analogue sticks? Fair enough, you crazy bastards. This is Capcom ‘catering to all fans’ and I genuinely don’t see a problem with this.

RISK/REWARD

Your skill on the playing field will determine how your game plays out. There’s a certain amount of risk versus reward with regards to getting your hands dirty or simply running away like a humongous girls blouse. This is particularly evident in Leon and Jake’s campaigns. Hanging around to take out a few more zombies or BOWs (Bio-Organic Weapons) may drop you some much needed herbs, ammo or skill points (yes, there’s an upgrade system in place). However, if you’re running low on supplies and don’t see a stand up fight as a viable option you can simply head straight towards the exit and hope you can stock up for future encounters further on. In the demo, it’s possible to run straight from the opening of Leon’s demo to the end in under 4 minutes (my initial run through took around 20). But I don’t know what will happen after this particular chapter and my briskness could have denied me supplies and secrets that may prove useful further on in the campaign.


CO-OP

This is the element of Resident Evil 5 that rubbed many fans up the wrong way. Not only because it diluted the survival horror aspect of the game to negligible levels, but also because the AI of your offline partner bordered on useless. Seriously, it was a wonder that those without access to the online capabilities were able to complete the game, such was the sheer incompetence of Sheva. Resident Evil 6 is all about co-operative play. All three main campaigns feature it, both offline and online and also in split-screen for those vinyl junkies out there. Thankfully, the entire system seems to have been fully addressed by Capcom and at no point during my time with the demo did the AI let me down. Not once. Be it out in the open, or in cramped confines the AI was always on the ball. Holding their own in a huge battle or having my back during a close quarters fight in a cramped corridor.  So much so that, when I played online I didn’t notice for quite some time that the other player had quit out. The actions of the AI partner seem so natural, so kudos is due to Capcom in that respect. Also, the buttery smooth implementation of the online has to get a mention. It’s drop-in/drop-out and it’s quick, lag free and doesn’t impact on your game in any way. Set your session to allow players to join and that’s it. If you’re in it for the long haul you’ll see players come and go but your game itself won’t take a hit. And this is only the demo. Hopefully this solid online system will be able to withstand the traffic that the full game will no doubt provide.

There are a few flaws, to be sure. There were a couple of QTE sections that didn’t have a fail option (Leon and partner Helena in the police car springs to mind) and the occasional inability to proactively shoot dormant zombies (again, this is evident in Leon’s campaign). Fingers crossed that these are just demo specific.

Earl asked why the series was leaning towards action as opposed to sneaking around empty mansions trying to find cranks and keys. I explained that this is the natural end game for the series. The story has been building to a global threat from the very first game and it’s now, essentially, all out war.

“I understand ‘global’. I do” he replied, “But there must be a way to amp up the threat without changing the genre. I knew Mario would eventually pass his test, but I still don’t like Mario Kart. If the genre of the game changes then someone’s screwed the pooch.”

Hopefully, after reading this, he may be willing to at least give the demo a whirl. Resident Evil is changing and I honestly believe it’s for the best.

Resident Evil 6 will be infecting the PS3 and 360 from October 2nd.

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