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PLATFORM: 360, PS3
ESRB RATING: M
Let me start by saying that I absolutely loathe Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5. That said, I also have a disdain for Capcom’s way of doing business. It doesn’t work for me. On-disc DLC, absurd downloadable packs that add little to no value to the actual game and lack of balls when it comes to establishing new IPS (Dragon’s Dogma notwithstanding), the company has since reorganized itself and re-dedicated itself to the notion of smaller dev teams, less risky IPs and a stronger play for the mobile market. No thank you, Capcom. Like George Lucas, you’ll be playing in the same sandbox forever, it seems.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let me say that Resident Evil 6 is not the complete failure it’s been made out to be. While the “horror” aspect of this long-beloved (why?) survival-horror franchise is long-gone, there are elements to its bizarre narrative that make the latest entry worth playing. Remember all those exciting snowmobile chases and frantic quick-time events from the original games? Yeah, me neither.
Take everything the Resident Evil franchise was founded on, light it on fire and throw it off a bridge. Add in more action. Remove horror completely. Add in voice actors who all sound exactly the same. Add female support characters who aren’t as interesting as Jill Valentine, Claire Redfield or even Alice from the movies. Add monsters that succeed in being both obnoxious and silly at the same time. Regurgitate moments from Resident Evil 4 and 5 suitably. Divide the narrative into three very different-feeling adventures starring classic characters from the original games (Sherry Birkin, Chris Redfield and Leon Kennedy). Shake well. Congratulations, you have Resident Evil 6. Albeit, not a bad thing entirely.
The game’s narrative is convoluted, but here it is in a nutshell: the President of the United States is dead (you find out why in Leon’s narrative). Shady governmental conspiracies are at play. The original virus that created the zombies in the Spencer mansion has been refined and is able to create smarter, faster zombies and mutant creatures. Powerful baddies still stalk you (albeit, not with the terrifying pressure of a Nemesis or Mister X), but the fights with those big bads aren’t as tense as they used to (should) be.
Resident Evil 6 has some clunky controls, I won’t deny that. Are they something that ruins the entire experience for you? Absolutely not, in my opinion. I’ve been avoiding what the internet has been saying about this game, so I don’t know what the common issues are with the title. What I can say is that the game plays like your standard third-person action/adventure game, albeit, that play varies slightly depending on which narrative you’ve chosen.
The shooting, until upgraded, is somewhat jumpy, and the weapons aren’t nearly as powerful as they perhaps should be. I’ve always had this problem with Resident Evil, though, as unloading almost a full clip into a zombie or mutant enemy just doesn’t work for me. While headshots make things far simpler, they’re inconsistent. Landing a headshot doesn’t always result in an insta-kill, which seems silly.
The characters control suitably slightly different than one-another. Leon is a tad more measured than Jake, and Chris is tank-like. This matters in terms of their narratives, as Leon’s story is more traditional Resident Evil, a slower-paced adventure with more scares and a suitably twisty plot. Chris’ story is far more action-packed, playing more like a modern shooter than the classic horror we associate with the franchise. Jake Muller, who partners with Sherry Birkin, is a fine balance of the two. His story leans more toward the action side of things, but overall, the game errs on the side of Michael Bay-inspired invincible heroes and balls to the wall nuttiness than the true horror the game made its bones with while we were all dating cheerleaders. That’s a Godfather reference. I don’t know if it works here, but I wanted to say it.
I enjoyed the three aspects of the story, overall, and together, they melded together nicely. Bits and pieces of interaction between all the leads was nicely woven to create a near-seamless (near) experience. I just wish that experience was scarier. That’s not to say there aren’t some genuinely shocking moments, the best being one early in Chris’ story, where he bursts into a seemingly empty room and then realizes that creatures are laying in wait on the ceiling. There’s just not enough of the terror that made the original titles such enjoyable slogs.
I say “slogs” because, let’s face it, those games were entirely too long for what they were. Go here, do this puzzle, fight this gigantic alligator in the Raccoon City sewers. Go here, oh no, it’s the Nemesis, fight him, loot his body, solve the puzzle. Wesker. Repeat. This game, too, is a slog, as each of the three narratives takes a while to unfold.
The Resident Evil universe has seemingly fallen into its own trap of silliness, and while that’s a shame, you have to admire the truly insane narrative at play here. It’s almost like a soap opera infused with bizarre fan fiction. There’s a love story in this horror game, for the love of Pete. I don’t know who Pete is, but I bet he loves unconditionally.
What makes this particular title interesting is that players can now enlist the aid of someone online to be their partner. I turned this feature off originally, however; after taking a break, I switched it on and found myself (playing as Jake and Sherry) coming to a boss fight sequence against the terribly annoying Ustanak (this entry’s stand-in for the Nemesis, surely). Right before the boss fight began, I was informed that a player was entering my game world (“intersecting” was the term, I believe) and would be taking over duties playing as Leon and Helena, alongside my Jake and Sherry.
What was interesting was that this unknown partner and I worked perfectly as a team and took down Ustanak pretty efficiently. I enjoyed this concept of Capcom’s latest, and welcome its return in the future. The idea of that other player (another journalist or writer playing the game for review, perhaps) going through Leon’s story at the same time I was going through Jake’s makes the game oddly personal yet also elevates the concept of co-op. Afterwards, my co-op partner was gone, continuing his adventure. As was I. I had the world to save, after all.
I’m a sucker for Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil: Nemesis. Those are my “jamz,” as it were. While Resident Evil 6 has its share of problems, including a horrific camera during incredibly annoying “chase” sequences, the game looks stunning. It’s not the best looking game this generation (that goes to Battlefield 3), but it’s the best-looking Resident Evil title ever.
The locations visited on your globe-trotting adventure are also beautiful and well-rendered. Virus-ravaged China looks gorgeous and makes for a strange departure after spending time playing United Front Games’ Sleeping Dogs. There are certainly locations and sequences that make little sense (Jake and Sherry go from a snowy mountainside to China in the blink of an eye, it seems), but overall, everything looks great. There are times where the darks are a little too dark for my taste, and often, the action is a tad frantic, obscuring a lot of the neater visual cues, but the game still works.
This is perhaps the biggest cast of any Resident Evil game, too, but I wish there was a better way to distinguish who is who. In terms of personality, Chris, Jake and Leon are very different, but vocally, they literally sound exactly the same. Gruff and weary tough guys. Jake has a little more life to him, as he’s quick with the one-liners and jokes (sometimes too many), but at least his character shows signs of life. Leon is, by loose definition, the “leading man” of the piece, in that he squares off with the cruxt of the game’s major narrative. Chris is simply a soldier, doing a soldier’s job with a team of badasses (even though his partner’s name is Piers and looks like Taylor Lautner).
Very high. There’s a secret narrative I didn’t mention because once you complete the game as all three characters and their partners, you unlock it. You play as a woman who seemingly exists to keep secrets and hide plot points from the other characters, so it’s a nice departure, even though I find her character insufferable. There are plenty of unlockables and some nice little secrets here and there to unravel, so multiple playthroughs are required.
Resident Evil 6 is not a perfect game. In fact, it’s not the best Resident Evil game that exists. It’s a solid adventure, with some interesting aspects (the multiplayer, some sequences), but overall, it comes up short of the epic and satisfying adventure Resident Evil fans deserve. The convoluted story doesn’t particularly work. The characters and their globe-trotting exploits seem silly and such a wildly drastic departure from the original games. As of now, the game plays like your standard third-person shooter, without the brains of something like Gears of War or Max Payne 3.
It’d be nice to see Capcom take the series in a different direction or just shelve it for a few years until a young visionary is able to make the franchise special again. Maybe hand the keys over to an American developer and let them run free. The guys at Crytek could probably knock a Resident Evil story out of the park, or maybe if Spark Unlimited delivers on Lost Planet 3, hand it over to them. I think it’s time to give Resident Evil a rest. It’s not scary anymore. Refocus the narrative. Build tension. Ensure a return to the tenets of horror.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars