Review: Resident Evil 6 / Developer: Capcom / Publisher: Capcom / Format; PS3, 360, PC / Release Date: Out Now
With seven playable characters, four campaigns and a storyline set across three continents Resident Evil 6 is not just massive in scope, but also in ambition. With this current generation coming to a close it really does feel like Capcom wanted their flagship franchise to bow out in epic fashion.
It’s no secret by now that the release of Resident Evil 6 has divided critics and fans more so than any game in recent memory. On the one hand there are those that feel the full move into action territory is a sucker punch to the diehard fans of the series and that the marketing tagline for this newest instalment (‘No Hope Left’) reinforces how much of a chance there is that they’ll see a survival-horror title within the franchise ever again.
On the other there are those, this reviewer included, that don’t mind what Capcom decides to do with its property, so long as the games give us an opportunity to revel in the universe we know and love. The franchise, to be fair, has been shifting into a more action-orientated affair since Resident Evil 2 and this was further amplified when series creator, Shinji Mikami, threw the camera over Leon S. Kennedy’s shoulder and, amidst the intricately designed levels and cerebral puzzle solving, gave us hordes of infected to shoot and epic showdowns with some outrageously designed bosses in Resident Evil 4.
It’s also a natural progression from a narrative standpoint. The storyline has been concerned with Biological Warfare and dodgy pharmaceutical companies since the first game and has been building towards a global threat over the past sixteen years. It wouldn’t really make a hell of a lot of sense to be running around trying to find the other half of an amulet to activate the plate that will allow you to unlock a bathroom door whilst the world itself is collapsing around you.
The four six to eight hour long campaigns have been designed to appeal to the four different Resident Evil fans that reside within us. Leon and Helena’s entry harkens back to the slow, suspenseful element of the series we grew up with. Chris and Piers’ chapter scratches that itchy trigger finger of ours. Jake and Sherry’s is a fast paced take on the idea of constantly looking over your shoulder and Ada’s mission focuses more on the puzzle solving aspects. Resident Evil 6 is, in point of fact, a regular, old school Resident Evil title writ large and sliced evenly into four huge slabs of action. Each one is packed to the gills with stunning scenery, outrageous set-pieces and, in the case of Leon’s and Chris’ chapters, some of the very best moments in Resident Evil history which we really, really don’t want to spoil for you. Throw in a smoothly implemented drop-in/drop-out co-op system, vastly improved combat and melee mechanics, a host of unlockables and collectibles, the welcome return of Mercenaries mode and an intriguing new online element, Agent Hunt, that lets you invade other players main campaign as an infected and what you have is an embarrassment of riches on one disc. If you’re a completist then there’s a good few months worth of bang for your buck, especially if you have a friend in tow.
But, a game this huge with so many cylinders pumping away is bound to have a few misfires. A lot of the big vehicular sequences (snow mobiles hurtling down a mountain outrunning an avalanche aside) feel like filler, like you’re just pressing and holding one button to advance the ‘cutscene’. They’re fun to watch but ultimately feel tacked on and unnecessary. Another big no-no is the game’s needlessly complicated cover system. We don’t have a problem with cover systems, never have (thank you Cliff Blezsinski), but this game’s implementation of the useful mechanic is broken to the point of uselessness. There are QTEs galore, and not even the fun kind. There’s also the, now trademark, overly long boss battles that will test even the patience of a particularly zen saint.
Of the four campaigns, Jake’s could be called out as the weakest due to a few dodgy level design choices and the fact that it doesn’t really know what it wants to be. It wants to be Leon’s chapter, it wants to be Chris’. Yet, it’s neither one thing nor the other and this lack of proper identity puts a slight dampener on his story. It’s still a fun ride but never really gets a chance to shine the way the other three campaigns do.
But this new entry gets more things right than it gets wrong. It’s beautiful to look at, a joy to play and has a desperate need to entertain you. It’s not the best in the series, but it’s also most definitely not the worst. Forget the naysayers and the purists. Sometimes all you need is a little triple A escapism, which Resident Evil 6 duly delivers. The horror may have taken a backseat to jaw-droppingly excessive action and co-operative hijinks, but it somehow manages to retain the spirit of the franchise and is, in a certain light, unmistakably Resident Evil.