Resident Evil 6 [Review]
Just so we’re all clear from the start, Resident Evil 6 is a fun, enjoyable game. Once it finds its feet and gets going, it’s a pretty good time filled with many different and interesting monster types to keep the game fresh. The drag is that there are a lot of junk ideas running around the game as well, and it always feels like the game is trying too hard to entertain every gamer from every demographic. If it could just decide what kind of game it wanted to be then it could have been a pretty good experience, but its flailing and indecisive nature mar a lot of what could be really good about it.
To get to any of Resident Evil 6‘s good parts you’ll have to choke down its absurdly boring introduction. Rather than start the game off with something exciting for the player, you’re treated with lengthy exposition, quick time events, and slow walking sequences. The game takes far too long to realize it’s an action game, forcing you to sit through long conversations that really aren’t interesting. When it isn’t doing that, it’s showing us how to do really basic things like opening doors or running us through quick time events. Sure, some exciting stuff is going on in the background, but how much fun have you had yet?
It’s hard to believe that this game falls in the same series as the battle in the pueblo from Resident Evil 4. If you don’t remember it or haven’t played it, all you need to know is you sat through one short cutscene and then had a small area filled with a handful of enemies that was built so you could learn about the game’s controls. After that, you were thrown into a pitched battle with dozens of enemies all at once. If you didn’t know the controls by that point, too bad. It was frantic, terrifying, and probably got you killed. If you were like me, though, you were hitting retry as fast as you could, itching to get back into that fight. It’s probably one of the coolest intro areas to a game, and I love playing through it every time.
That is how you start a game, and Resident Evil 6 absolutely drops the ball. The game just fills the introductory areas with handfuls of stray enemies, none of which seem put together to challenge you in any way. The starting levels in each campaign just smack of being tutorial levels, and they feel like they’re just far too easy and boring. I don’t mind if the action lulls a bit while they teach me something, but don’t start the game this way. Kicking off with thirty minutes of me yawning and wishing something cool would happen is not how you get me to like your game. Do something to draw me in at first and then start dropping exposition and tutorials in.
While on the topic of exposition, I feel like Resident Evil 6 can never get it right. Not that the story’s ever been amazing in these games, but I usually felt that what story they had was delivered better than it was here. Leon’s first chapter was particularly bad, as it seemed to want to talk all the time when I just wanted to play the game. It slowed down a game that was already boring me, and I was thrilled when they finally shut up and let me play. Later on, things started to happen that I didn’t understand. All of a sudden we’d get a message from Chris or Sherry about another event that had occurred and we’d shoot off someplace else. Things just seemed like they would happen out of the blue, and that the plot was advancing without me having anything to do with it or even seeing it.
I know that they were just setting it up so that they could have four campaigns that tied into each other to give you the full picture, but I felt like this was poorly handled. The things that happen to each of the characters are important to understand to get the full picture, and while you will understand things later, it makes for some jarring jumps in the narrative while you play each chapter individually. I think that the game should have just played as one straight campaign, shifting you to a different character with each chapter. That way I would have seen events in chronological order rather than having to remember something that happened to me a few days before when I’d been playing the previous chapter. It would have made things seem a lot more coherent rather than giving me these plot jumps that made the game feel like it was glossing over everything important. They obviously worked hard on the story and I just wish they’d worked a little harder on presenting it well.
The combat has been fiddled with a bit more to make the game fast-paced, for good or bad. The biggest change has been the added dodge feature. With a button press you can make your character weave to one side, ducking around any melee attack that might be coming your way. You can also use that button to execute a combat roll that will take you out of danger, and then hold it to land prone and shoot enemies from the ground. I haven’t found a practical use for the move, but I do have to admit that it looks cool.
All of the dodging becomes just about useless due to the game’s inability to pick what sort of game it wants to be, though. I used it quite a bit during Leon’s campaign, but once you hit the gun-toting zombies in Chris’s campaign it becomes pointless most of the time. There are a few enemies that will walk up and use melee attacks, but most of them will hang back and shoot at you. In fact, most of those melee attacks will land while you’re hiding behind cover trying to deal with the gun users. Unless you have eyes on the back of your head, you’ll be eating a lot of cheap hits when you have a perfectly viable way of dodging them.
One thing that they put a lot of work and care into was the monster design. It’s really out of control, and it adds an element of chaos to every fight. The new zombies, called J’avo, all mutate based on the damage they receive. Instead of just avoiding head shots so that I didn’t cause a mutation like I did in the last two games, there is now no safe place to hit the creatures. If I hit an arm, a longer one that can grab me from great distance will grow in its place. If I shoot the legs, it might grow wings or spider legs to give it a different kind of mobility. If I shoot the head, it might grow bees, pincers, or an exploding sac. Combat changes really fast in this game, and the only way you’ll get through it is by adapting to the constant chaos.
Chaos isn’t fear, though, and that’s another thing that’s upsetting about the game. Some people might say that fear has been gone since Resident Evil 3 or before, but I found the tension of Resident Evil 4 still had me shaking. The enemy mobs in that game were designed to whittle you down, to push you to the very limit of health and ammunition before letting you go, and that’s only if you were playing well. The idea of being surrounded and overwhelmed by these fearless mobs was scary. My heart was racing by the end of many of those sequences, and I was definitely feeling afraid of those creatures.
Resident Evil 6 struggles to pull this off, but chaos isn’t terror. The enemy mobs weren’t designed to work in tandem with each other in specific ways. Instead, I could go through whole rooms where the mutations just didn’t work well together and didn’t provide much challenge. All I had to do a lot of the time was seek cover and then pick off whatever was working its way toward me. Given that the enemies moved at a crawl after being mutated, I just didn’t get hurt all that much. I had nothing to be afraid of unless I had a bad string of luck. Beyond a few sequences with one regenerating enemy, I just never felt that tension that they put into the other action-oriented Resident Evil games.
That was because they made the characters a lot faster than the monsters. Sure, ammo seems more plentiful and the creatures don’t seem that intelligent, but it’s the fact that I can run circles around everyone that dissipated the last of the tension. Your characters are just far too mobile for enemies that are this slow, so I always felt like I was dancing around a pathetic foe. You’re never really left to feel like you’re outclassed by the creatures in any way but brute strength, and I’ll take maneuverability over that any day.
If you played Resident Evil 4, think of the Garador. It’s the creature with giant claws that navigated by sound. It was both faster and stronger than your character, so you had to be smart to fight it. There’s nothing like that in Resident Evil 6, nothing that feels like it can outclass you in every way except intelligence. You’re never in any kind of danger, never left with any sense of fear.
I can’t help but feel that this game was built to cater to every interest in action games. It has zombies, cover systems, stealth systems, and just feels like a mess of different designs all congealing in one vat. It feels like it’s trying to impress everyone with every style of action gameplay, and in doing so spreads itself too thin. It wants to drag in the Call of Duty and Gears of War crowds, to get that kind of money for the game by putting in the gunplay that they’d like. Everything that made the series popular has been diluted to achieve this, and in doing so it lost its identity. It’s sad to see it happen given that this series only exists because of how different it was at the time of its release. It was new and exciting, a risky gamble that paid off. I wish they’d remember that down at Capcom.
Again, Resident Evil 6 is a game that you’ll have fun with. I looked forward to playing it every day after work, and still do after playing it for a few weeks. Even so, it’s a shadow of what it could, and should, have been. With a lot more thought and effort put into combat and story presentation, it could have been something great. The monster/boss design was already there, but they needed people who were willing to inconvenience the players so that the gameplay could be made more challenging and intense. They needed to think about how vulnerability makes for an interesting game, and not how to placate anyone who might ever put the game in the tray.
Images courtesy of forbes.com, gameinformer.com