Resident Evil 6 Demo First Impressions

Dragon’s Dogma owners, we’re in for a treat. For two months we get to feast on the delectable Resident Evil 6 demo while the fans beg at our feet, or watch the videos on YouTube. I came away impressed despite my initial concerns, but I’ll let you form your own opinions based on the following details.

Leon’s scenario begins with the death of the zombified president. An outbreak has swept through a small rural community, infecting the local Ivy University campus where Leon Kennedy and Helena Harper happen to be stationed. Who exactly started this outbreak? Helena promises Leon answers once they reach the nearby chapel, and with the constant creaking of floorboards and timed lightning strikes, the atmosphere floods the quarantined college with a solemn ambience. After a lengthy tour through classroom corridors and a banquet hall, Leon and Helena rendezvous with a campus employee searching for his daughter. But the man is clearly ill, taking frequent breaks to cough off up whatever disease is worming its way through his system.   

The trio reunite with the man’s injured daughter and make their ways to an emergency elevator. Predictably, the situation escalates to survival mode quickly. The lights go out and the previously diseased girl becomes ravenous, killing her father. Helena and Leon manage to dispatch the teenager but not before stumbling out of the fire into the frying pan. The pair arrive at the underground parking lot where a recently deceased man triggers a car alarm. Here, I make the best of the confined space to bait the zombies to me. With a quick tap of the Y button, Leon whips out another pistol for double the firepower. This marks the first distance of dual wielding firearms in Resident Evil’s main installments. I rapidly expend all my ammunition, however, forcing me to make use of Leon’s martial arts and context sensitive kills to dispatch the dozen or so zombies.

Capcom developed several small details that make Leon’s methodical, paced adventures more immersive. Unlike the non-zombies of Resident Evils 4 and 5, the undead do not dissolve after death. Instead, their carrion bodies litter the environments, and should Leon make contact with a corpse while running, he will hurdle or stumble over the rotted remains. With their way now clear, Leon and Helena make plans to escape the campus before the whole town is overrun.

 

Leon and Helena arrive in China with a bang, but what terrors await the group? What is Neo-Umbrella's goal? Why is Ada working for them? Beware, this trailer contains major spoilers.

 

Chris Redfield’s campaign opens with the ex-B.S.A.A. officer drinking his sorrows away in a European bar after several soldiers perished under his command. Seconds before Chris smashes a man's skull during a short altercation, a fellow B.S.A.A. operative, Piers Nivans, forces him to confront the bioterrorist demons of his past. The remaining patrons casually gather around Piers as they tell Chris they intend on taking their Captain back no matter what.

The following scene finds Chris and Piers accompanied by a handful of other B.S.A.A. recruits fighting masked gunmen atop the slums somewhere in China. Here, we get a first glimpse of the J’avo, the parasitic humanoids with the capacity to mutate on a whim. Unlike the zombies, J’avo wield firearms and combust upon death. I send a few rounds into my first J’avo, tearing nasty gashes in the sides of his abdomen. The next projectile finds a home between his four eyes, taking the upper right portion of his skull with it. Trust me when I say bullets produce sickening sound effects as they make contact with the zombies/J’avo. Another well-placed shot takes out the being’s legs, but the parasite mutates. A winged bat-like creature sprouts from the J’avo’s back, allowing the beast to take flight in the absence of lower extremities. Likewise, obliterating J’avos arms conditions them to form stronger muscled appendages perfect for blocking shots to the face.

Chris nearly plummets to the streets below after crossing a precarious bridge, but his muscle memory kicks in as he grabs a bamboo pole to shimmy across the gap while Piers provides covering fire. After the death-defying stunt, I continue the slow advance from rooftop to rooftop towards the large skyscraper ahead. The final checkpoint requires Chris and Piers to hold their ground until reinforcements arrive. J’avo encircle the pair, scaling the walls or bursting from doorways leading somewhere down into the building’s infrastructure. There is a cover system in place, but with the thirty or so enemies flanking my position, I opted to keep on the move instead of being blindsided from behind. Unfortunately, I encountered frequent issues with discerning enemies blending in with the patchwork shanties and neon lights of the environments.

 

J'avos prove more formidable once they mutate.

 

Jake Wesker, the son of Albert Wesker, begins his demonstration fleeing from more J’avo in Edonia with the help of Sherry Birkin. The cutscene flashes to a sight of the Ustanak, a Nemesis-inspired experiment, piercing another man with needle-like implements composing the giant’s mechanical anatomy. Jake and Sherry's firefight draws the abomination's attention, causing the behemoth to pursue the duo relentlessly as they fend off masked J’avo. The abrupt demo comes to a close after escaping the Ustanak in a collapsing warehouse when Jake and Sherry fall through a crater in the floor.

After the short tussle, and although I experienced no issues with the AI, I jumped online to test the cooperative aspect. Overall, there were no distinguishable differences adding another player to the mix besides his or her more active role in combat. While I did not have a chance to confirm this feature, Resident Evil 6 takes a page out of Diablo III’s book. Players receive separate ammo, weapon, and health drops unique from their partner. In Resident Evil 5, players could only pick up a hidden weapon once, which means the other person was forced to replay the chapter again to obtain the same firearm.

 

The Ustanak will crush Sherry or Jake if they are caught in its metal vice. 

 

As I mentioned before, I came away from the demo with less apprehension. Capcom wishes to contend with the likes of Call of Duty, and while they may not accomplish that goal in sales, the controls take a step in the right direction.

The characters’ movements are less restrictive and more responsive. Whereas Resident Evils 4 and 5 confined their protagonists to a slow walk or rapid jog, Resident Evil 6 defaults to a run, but players can utilize a faster sprint when holding down the A button. While dashing, the characters parkour over any ledge or gap they come into contact with.

Dodging in combat offers more flexibility. Simply tap the A button and left analog stick while holding down LT in the direction you wish to roll (maybe it's not so simple then), or flick the stick forwards or backwards to make your character adopt a supine position, allowing them to take potshots from the pavement. While the tandem shooting and moving is still big deal for Resident Evil 6, I fould the ability to dodge incoming attackers more useful and versatile.

The expanded melee combat helps conserve precious ammunition. Chris, Leon, and Jake throw punches and kicks to shove back encroaching zombies with a tap of RT while dropkicks and elbow drops are context sensitive. The knife is no longer a toggle weapon as players can freely switch between their blade or firearms. But zooming in for the sake of firing your weapon situates the camera too close to the characters' backs, meaning you cannot anticipate strikes or projectiles with your peripheral vision. Thankfully, you can swap shoulder orientation when aiming with a click of the right analog stick.

 

Headshots remain the quickest method of thinning out zombie hordes. 

 

At first, the health system seemed baffling, but the final product is more akin to Mass Effect 3’s partial health regeneration. A character’s health is divided into six blocks initially. If half a segment is lost, he or she can regenerate from the damage incurred provided you avoid more attacks. But health only rejuvenates up to one full block, and missing bars can be recovered after using a green herb or first aid spray.

If Resident Evil 6 needs one thing, though, it’s a user interface makeover. Each protagonist’s UI differs, and having to relearn the placement of ammo counters and health bars is confusedly idiotic. I am still mastering the ins and outs of the inventory system, but players can swap between all equipped firearms pressing left or right on the D-pad or cycle through grenades and health sprays with the up or down directions.

Other less surprising components to the demo include the gorgeous graphics I expect from each core Resident Evil and  the serviceable voice acting that gets the point across.

Also, the new FPS-style crosshairs can swapped for the traditional laser sights, but I actually found the crosshairs more accurate.

If I could describe my feelings in one word after playing the RE6 demo, I would choose optimistic. Although Chris and Jake's scenarios perfect Capcom's action approach to gameplay, Leon's perspective never evokes the sense of fear the company affirms, but why should they empty their bag of tricks in the game's first fifteen minutes?

Look for my final impressions when I review Resident Evil 6 this October. 

UPDATE:

Click the videos below to see RvB play through Leon's haunting campaign followed by Chris Redfield's trip to China.

Reid Wildenhaus's picture

Very nice first impressions. I had a pretty similar take on the demo as well. The only thing I thought differently is that during the Chris Redfield mission, the camera doesn't seem nearly optimized as well for faster action/close quarters type of gameplay. Maybe I just played it too fast, but the camera seemed to have a hard time giving a good view. 

Josh Kowbel's picture

I completely agree with you on that front. I got lost a couple of times because the ladders and doors aren't very distinguishable from the rest of the environment, but if that's the biggest complaint I can mount, I can say for sure that Resident Evil 6 is still one of my most anticipated games this year.

explicit_baron's picture

The Resident Evil games seem to be moving in a direction that attracts action fans of the Call of Duty and FPS genre. I have a question does this game convey any sense of horror? I haven't played a Resident Evil before, but I have noticed a big difference from the first few Resident Evil games and the ones on the Next gen systems.

Reid Wildenhaus's picture

I didn't find Resident Evil 5 scary at all. This was executed much better, but it didn't really get the opportunity to scare the player (which sucks, because the dark atmosphere of Leon's campaign was perfectly set up for it).

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