Ever since Capcom shuttered Clover and disbanded Production Studio 4, I have had serious reservations about the future of the Resident Evil franchise. After all, the most important people involved in the creation and rebirth of part 4 have all moved on from the company. Resident Evil 5 stuck very close part 4s design, so much so that it was more or less a creatively bankrupt retread in Africa with haphazardly forced co-op. Recent spin offs have been less then stellar with a pair of below average light gun shooters and an awful outsourced third person shooter. Still there was some hope in last Februaries Resident Evil: Revelations. A title that while not perfect, was a very well made merger of old and new style Resident Evil. So with the release of the highly anticipated Resident Evil 6 there appeared to be some hope of an exciting new chapter in the long running series. But as the tagline would tell you, there is no hope left.
Before delving into most of what the game misses, credit should be given to the steps forward Resident Evil 6 takes before diving into the two, three, or four it takes back. While co-op with a partner is still a mandated part of the campaign, Capcom has wisely learned not have characters share items while playing solo. Taking a bit of a page from Revelations, when playing solo, the AI partner does not become a “pack mule” like Sheva, nor do they chew threw ammo and healing items you don’t want them to use. They may not be much help most of the time, but they do a much better job of staying out of your way. The best part of Resident Evil 6 comes from the enemy design. Unlike part 5 which seemed to reuse enemies from the series backlog, Resident Evil 6 introduces a new viral threat called the C-Virus which cocoons enemies and morphs them into a number of different monsters. The core human enemies remain the same, though with the Tall Oaks area they resemble zombies rather then the armed ganados in Edonia and China. The ability to have morphing enemies provides the game with a real creature feature of enemy types that resemble all manner of different animals, spiders, panthers, grasshoppers, gorons, and bees to name a few. This isn’t always a good thing though, one of the main villains has so many different animal transformations and some of them are so ridiculous it becomes comedic rather then thrilling or scary.
Graphically Resident Evil 6 takes a step back from 5, despite being developed years later. The reason for this is not clear either, with the first few Resident Evil games the developers relied on FMV static backgrounds to scenery. With part 4 Capcom pushed the Gamecube to its limits with visually stunning locals in real time, this resulted in the game being split into smaller areas but because of the non-loading of the cube discs you got some really amazing effects such as the Salazar boss fight or the lava room in the castle. With Resident Evil 5 you were still confined to mostly smaller areas again, but Capcom again pushed the graphical leap hard and Resident Evil once again astounded visually, especially on the PC with 5. With Resident Evil 6 the hit becomes all the more curious, because the physical space you actually move around in is no larger then any area in 5 and most cases is smaller, save for maybe the deck of an aircraft carrier. Perhaps this is because of the background scenery of a war torn eastern Europe or a busy Chinese city, but with only being able to move and interact in a small corridor of space it becomes all the more puzzling. This generation has brought out some really breathtaking games that occupy a large area such as Red Dead Redemption, Sleeping Dogs, and Just Cause 2. Games that probably had smaller development teams then the reported 600 plus individuals that worked on this one. Also it should be noted that the game when reviewed was chock full of graphical hiccups, enemies disappearing, leaping through solid walls and out of the game entirely, also when played split screen the textures failed to properly load every single time. Most of my experience with two players was done with nearly the entire game world as a solid glowing box of pink or purple surfaces.
Musically the title sounds expensive but is entirely unremarkable. Resident Evil 6 uses a very hollywood summer movie sounding score. The orchestra blares notes with predictable keys and interludes. This is a shame because Revelations had such a good score and really helped heighten the mood of the areas in the game. There are no moments in Resident Evil 6 musically that match entering the Hall for the first time in Revelations or exploring the ruins of the Queen Dido. Actor wise Resident Evil 6 recasts most of the main characters again. While the inconsistency of the series is a little annoying, the replacement actors actually do a pretty good job. It can’t save the script from being god awful, nor does it stop the overdramatic nature of the core story, but at least they do their job well.
The biggest and most glaring step backs Resident Evil 6 takes is in the streamlined nature of the game design. There are no in game files to read, there are no weapons to buy, nor upgrade, no treasures to collect and combine, and very little puzzles outside a couple moments in Leon and Ada’s early chapters. The blue emblems return, but they only unlock blocks of info to read outside the game in the specials menu and most of them are simply regurgitated information about characters you could read now on wikipedia. Like Resident Evil 5 there is no merchant, but there is also no weapon shop either. In its place are skill sets which act much like weapon and ability upgrades but you can only equip three at a time. Also upgrades to firepower are done in a broad spectrum encompassing all firearms rather then choosing to upgrade a particular gun of your choosing. Money is now skill points which are represented by little statues you find in crates or killing regular enemies. You can also find large statues in cases or downing larger enemies but that is the extent of the currency in the game. The core of Resident Evil is literally running from corridor to corridor and having a shoot out before moving on. Much like a action movie, everything in the game is designed to move the player forward to the next scene. Resident Evil 6 has very little want or need for the player to soak in their surroundings save for some notable exceptions in Tall Oaks. Exploration has been thrown out the window as well as nearly every area has a scripted pace and design to it.
The controls for Resident Evil 6 have changed as well and the stop and pop nature of 4 and 5 have been given the boot for a much more faster paced third person style of shooting. If you are familiar with titles such as Gears of War or Uncharted you probably won’t have any problem adapting here. Capcom has also done a fairly nice job of implementing a number of configuration options. Resident Evil 6 is entirely dual analog this time and with most of the regular enemies packing firearms or some kind of projectile this time, you won’t miss the old style. There is also a sliding and rolling feature that lets you fire while laying down as well, but save for a boss in a minecart sequence, this ability is near useless. Another big change from the old games is manual melee combat. Before you had to slash or shoot an enemy into a stun animation before being able to use a melee attack, not so here. Pressing the fire trigger without aiming now lets you dish out a manual melee attack on enemies. This is both a blessing and curse. It is a great way to conserve ammo, and the character of Jake even has a special move set you can use. However, melee is a bit to overpowered in the game and often times you can simply run straight at an enemy firing at you and deliver a jumping kick to their face knocking on the ground, even on normal difficulty. The one setback to using to much melee is the new stamina meter that replenishes automatically when attacking with melee or sprinting. Still, wisely using melee and upgrading it in the skill shop at the end of each chapter does overpower it and smart players will be bursting with ammo by the end of the game.
Speaking of items, Resident Evil 6 sticks close to the real time set up of part 5 but thankfully avoids the stupidity of losing space because your wearing a vest. You are no longer limited to 9 slots, but you can still easily fill up your space. The biggest item overhaul is healing items. While you can still combine red and green herbs, there are no yellow herbs to increase life. Much like you defense, life upgrades are put into the skill set up. Life is now dished out in pellet block system. You have 6 blocks of life, getting hit chips away at a block, you can wait to recover the life automatically but if you drop below that box, that life is gone until you replenish with an item. You replenish using pellets one at a time. Each tap of the R1 bumper puts one pellet in your characters hand. If you have enough pellets you can tap it up to five times to fully replenish your health. One green herb is equivalent to one pellet, combing with other green herbs or a red herb naturally gives you more. There is still first aid spray which is equivalent to six pellets. There really doesn’t seem to be any reason for this change either, other then to take more time to heal yourself. I guess the theory is that you can regulate how much you heal yourself, but its really a moot point most of the time. You usually only heal when your near death, and at that point your gonna heal as much as you possibly can anyways.
The main campaign is spread across four different characters that weave and interact with each other over two points in time and in corresponding locations. While the box says three different gameplay styles, the truth is they all play almost exactly the same. Jake being the lone exception as he has an expanded melee move set. The animations are different for some characters, but the core gameplay between Leon, Helena, Chris, Piers, Sherry, and Ada are all identical. Playing as different characters will every so often yield different results. Sometimes you may have to snipe during a particular spot, or pilot a hoverjet on your own, or sneak out of a different area of a base on your own. But for the most part, playing either character is mostly the same. It is nice that Capcom offered some variety in the forced Co-op of three of the four campaigns, but it is a small step rather then a huge improvement. Ada rides solo, so you only have to play through her campaign once to see everything. After completing one of the campaigns you will unlock mercenaries mode and agent hunt mode. Both can be played online as well but are very different from each other. Mercenaries is the same co-op score based multiplayer you have come to know and love, but with the advent of DLC your regulated to only three maps if you didn’t preorder. Agent Hunt Mode is a competitive multiplayer that has a set number of players attempting to hunt and kill another player who is a B.O.W. The two problems with this mode are its still really easy to tell when an enemy is a human player, and you can only do random matchmaking online with it. No friend lobbies or invites allowed for Agent Hunt mode.
If you do plan to see Resident Evil 6 through to the end I strongly advise you to install the game. You will be seeing the loading screen a lot otherwise. The game is constantly loading areas and even cutsecenes, in fact, there are many times where you will be watching a cutscene, only to have the game go to the black “now loading” screen and then back to the cutscene to finish it off. Other times you will load a game, run down a completely empty hallway or area, loading screen again, then cutscene, loading screen, and then finally an area where you actually shoot something. It is pretty amazing how chopped up the game is but thankfully a full install alleviates much of these problems. However that also means you gotta wait a long time before playing your new title if you want a better experience. You also better be a fan of quick time events because this game is chock full of them. There are even counter QTE attacks now, though I rarely ever felt the need to use them. If you are not a fan of quick time events, Resident Evil 6 will probably make you pull your hair out as they are everywhere and used at every opportunity.
Long time fans have put up with some pretty ridiculous yarns in the series over time, and while no one should ever take the storyline to seriously, Resident Evil 6 is where the franchise has finally jumped the Neptune even for itself. I would advise skipping this paragraph if you want a spoiler free review. Resident Evil 6 clearly shows Capcom has no idea where to go with the storyline for the series now that Wesker and Umbrella were neatly tied up at the end of Umbrella Chronicles and Resident Evil 5. Resident Evil 4 introduced a brand new biohazard and new set of villains but was neatly wrapped up by the end, at least until the shoddy PS2 port. Resident Evil 6 somehow manages to be leave completely unanswered plot points but also wraps up its own storyline. Much of the problem in the storytelling comes from the fact that the game skims over everything as fast as it can in the first three campaigns. Only by unlocking and completing the fourth campaign do you finally get some answers, and even those are found in the blue emblems you shoot. Once you find the answers to the story you might feel a bit cheated as it is embarrassingly bad. Resident Evil 6 is a story about two people who are each in love with someone else but each persons love is unrequited to the other which causes two of them to go insane and unleash all the nasty bio weapons on the world. As if that weren’t bad enough Capcom simply makes up two world powers to explain how they even are able to accomplish their goals, but gives no explanation to where they come from. Neo Umbrella simply exists because Capcom needed a big giant bad corporation to fight but they have no idea how they came to be. It doesn’t stop them from having Tanks, War Helicopters, Hover Jets, Aircraft Carriers, Long range missiles that cover the globe, and a massive underwater research facility nearly the size of rapture. Not only that, but these huge installations are devoid of people running them, but are armed with zombies in killzone armor with bird beaks. The in game files even point out that how or where they come from is a mystery. Even more poorly thought out are some of the villains motives, such as sending a person to an giant dormant submarine where everyone on board is trying to kill you but the locks are set to activate to your touch and voice. The end result is so incredibly bad I almost wonder if Capcom really, truly does not care anymore and is writing plots to test if people honestly pay attention at all.
In the end with all the exploration, puzzles, and treasure hunting removed all that is left is simply a corridor and small area space third person shooter. All the weapons you acquire are either given to you, or acquired on site. They are also locked to characters, for example Sherry is the only person who has a Matilda in the main game. The replay value on the main campaign has been stripped to almost nothing. You can still unlock special skills such as infinite ammo but without any perks for beating the game on harder difficulty there really isn’t any reason. Unless you really want to unlock more dog tag emblems for your online ID. If you own a XBOX 360 every single Gears of War game is better paced and better thought out, with an emotional story that completely destroys the anime drama bullshit spewed here. If you own a PS3 every single Uncharted game outclasses and outshines this game in every area. I bring these two series up because Resident Evil 6 has literally boiled itself down to playing exactly like these titles. The only thing separating it at this point is its monsters, but that doesn’t excuse it from being a mediocre third person shooter lacking the polish the series was once known for. While not outright terrible in every regard, this is easily the worst of the mainline over the shoulder Resident Evil games, and lacks the brilliant multiplayer of Revelations. With literally nothing else unique to it you are much better off saving your money for something else. Which is a real shame as well, considering part 4 was and still is one of the best video games ever made.
Final Verdict: RENT
Resident Evil 6 is unpolished mishmash of a title that try’s to be everything at once and fails mostly at all of it. It has stripped down the core gameplay into nothing more then a mediocre third person shooter lacking all the nuance, exploration, and replay value of past titles. While it fixes a few issues with your partner that part 5 did, it can’t save it from this poorly told, utterly disappointing mess of a tale. A weekend rental is probably all you need to play through this once and never look at it again. Go buy Revelations instead if you need a good Resident Evil fix.