Resident Evil 6 marks a continued departure for the franchise, holding firm to the quick-time events, third-person camera, and action emphasis that defined the Resident Evils of the current generation, while reuniting seasoned characters to put down a fresh bioterrorist threat. Chris harnesses the power of his biceps in two explosive tours across Edonia and China; Jake Muller, offspring of Albert Wesker, relies on martial arts once the ammo supplies run low; Leon faces claustrophobic, nighttime environments; and Ada’s personal vendetta centers on light puzzle solving and silent assassinations.
But Capcom's choice to divide the narrative between four campaigns instead of one cohesive experience reveals a menagerie of shortcomings that persist from chapter to chapter. The cover system fails Chris when J’avo advance with their machine guns, the atrocious melee lock-on often leaves Jake swinging wildly at the air, quick-time events pester Leon’s steps more so than the others (contributing to many unwanted deaths and restarts), and Ada’s attempts to operate from the shadows could not be more awkwardly executed, thanks to a broken stealth system. These gameplay malfunctions sprinkles themselves throughout 30 hours of storytelling.
Much like Resident Evil Revelations, Resident Evil 6 expresses its own self-contained plot, providing nothing new to the mythos beyond another letter-based virus. Files associated with hidden serpent medallions also fill in backstory when needed, though you need to dig through several menus to locate them. With four separate scenarios, players witness the international outbreaks from multiple point of views and how characters react to the situation given their unique bioterrorist backgrounds. For example, Jake's monetary greed surfaces upon learning he produces C-virus antibodies. On the other hand, Chris believes he not only has to save his fellow BSAA soldiers, but the whole world. While intriguing, the writing does lead to major overlap. Characters meet with old faces only to confront another B.O.W. of Neo-Umbrella creation. If you’re playing through to completion, you’ll fight these bosses twice ... at least. Most abominations absolutely will not die, as you fend off a J’avo wielding a chainsaw ten times over the course of two campaigns.
Piers Nivans, Chris Redfield's newest BSAA partner, works to free his captain from a mutated J'avo.
The tedious repetition rests not with the boss designs, nor their settings. The Ustanak awakens repressed memories of a relentless Nemesis pursuing Jill through Raccoon City; a mega moth-fly hybrid opposes the protagonists on top of China’s skyscrapers, like Mothra (Godzilla) invading Tokyo; an invisible snake rouses tensions of the Yawn confrontation in the Spencer Mansion; and a final showdown above a lake of lava references Mr. X and his defeat at the end of Resident Evil 2. Many grander set pieces actually harken back to the escape from Raccoon City, such as the smoldering debris of Tall Oaks in flames.
No, what truly hampers the boss encounters falls on the gameplay’s shoulders. Instead of conventional weapons, the heroes rely on contrived environmental means that never kill off these mutants until their fourth or fifth defeat. Several of these C-virus spawn require players to cheese and abuse their lapses in artificial intelligence. For instance, a fist fight turned into a spam of Jake's uppercuts that interrupted a behemoth's own moves rather than exploiting each hook and jab at the sign of an opening. The remaining enemies beg for mercy at the hand of development issues. J'avo rarely flinch, and the game fails to reinforce players when they actually damage a boss. Was I supposed to weaken the creature, or merely dodge its attacks until the next set piece occurred?
Other assailants can only be finished with a meaningless quick-time event. Resident Evil 4’s QTEs strengthened the gameplay, impaling Leon on spikes, crushing him beneath boulders, or slitting his throat when players let their hands off the controller. Like Dead Space, each death rewarded onlookers with a unique sequence if failed. Not here. Resident Evil 6 randomly injects these button prompts into the gameplay, whether you’re parachuting from a plane, searching for car keys, or hot wiring a bus. Just being in the wrong place at the wrong time often results in immediate death, as said bus crashes through a barrier and transforms your character into a grotesque hood ornament. Worse still, the window to input the designated prompts has decreased significantly, and one quick-time event nearly crushed my enjoyment of Leon’s campaign. In particular, climbing an elevator cable requires rhythmic releases, not presses, of the Xbox controller’s triggers. If at any point players fail to keep a finger on the shoulder buttons in between each hand-over-hand maneuver, Leon falls 20 feet and must repeat the process again.
Prepare to evade, or suffer the pain of rotating the analog stick to free Chris from the snake's constricting coils.
If your co-op partner should miss a cue, you both restart from a checkpoint. The cooperative aspect, however, bolstered initial impressions. My friend and I finished Leon’s scenario (the most traditional of the four) in good spirits. We communicated effectively, watched each other’s backs, and soldiered through any restarts. Your AI confidants do not provide that same comradery. They often act too late to save you when downed and contribute little firepower to the cause, yet their invincibility and infinite ammo pardon many faults attributed to Resident Evil 5.
The AI does not struggle with the third-person perspective, either. The camera controls fine in open spaces, preventing many unseen ambushes – finally, players can look behind their backs without performing a 180-degree turn. In confined corridors, the constantly rotating camera clips through walls and disorients the senses. At several points, the action shifts the character's focus to a cinematic explosion. The interruptions do not pause the combat, leaving you vulnerable to more zombie bites when you cannot defend yourself. And somehow, the heroes control worse despite the tank-like movements of Resident Evils past. Their newfound agility allows players to sidestep projectiles or seek urgent cover, which raises problems when lining up with interactive objects, be they doors, levers, or ladders. In a handful of sequences that force you to run towards the screen, I missed the ensuing ladder to safety, culminating in one more bothersome death.
These hindrances conspire against revolutionary features new to the core Resident Evils. Moving while aiming and rolling left or right counters crippling blows to the protagonists’ health, yet the game never lays out these advantages in the lengthy tutorial. The fake opening teaches the basics of taking health pills and completing quick-time events, but the more helpful tips hide within loading screens. The mutating J’avo occasionally enter a cocoon-like state, then reemerge as birds, spiders, lizards, and other beasts radically different from their human forms. A loading screen suggested I use flashbangs as they burst from their chrysalises for an automatic kill. Each area transition divulged more well-kept secrets: Consuming pills near teammates also restores their health, and Amateur difficulty performs every QTE for you without fail. Retail box copies of Resident Evil 6 don't even ship with a manual, so players continue to fumble blindly with many obscure mechanics.
Cooperative games periodically intersect, as seen here when Leon and Helena fight the Ustanak with Jake and Sherry.
At least Capcom makes working together easier. In Resident Evil 5, gamers fought their friends and Sheva for weapon and ammo drops. Those drops are now independent, meaning players can hoard all the magnum rounds they desire without being chided by their teammates. Those precious bullets should not be wasted, except Capcom makes aiming stressful. Players may use a traditional laser sight or FPS-style crosshair. Although the crosshair means targeting is slightly more forgiving, the laser sight within the reticle affects accuracy. This red dot shows where your shot will land, yet the beam bounces around for no logical reason. One, the actual laser sight is not turned on; two, the characters hold their weapons with virtually no sway, even when fatigued. The crosshair already accounts for recoil. Why add a needless dimension to the gameplay?
Resident Evil 6 may even be the least addicting of the main six to ever release. Between Resident Evils 4 and 5, I've sunk at least 200 hours into my tours of Europe and Africa across numerous platforms. The weapon upgrades kept me playing obsessively, as I spent dozens of playthroughs collecting treasures to enhance each firearms’ stopping power, reload speed, and ammo capacity. Resident Evil 6 does away with that structure, and the gold. Now players buy perks after picking up skill points (currency). The abilities – including increased firearm damage, stronger melees, frequent item drops, and infinite ammo – contain multiple, expensive levels of unlocks. Players may only equip three at a time too, and chances are you will settle on a comfortable few because there is no incentive to experiment.
Mercenaries makes farming for skill points less of a grind. The fundamentals remain unchanged: eliminate as many enemies as possible within the time limit, build your high score, and smash hourglasses to prolong extraction. While every character dons an alternate costume, each with its own set of armaments, the game offers a meager six stages to play around in. Except, Mercenaries' gameplay still shines. Without the interruption of set pieces and quick-time events, players get back to the true appeal of Resident Evil: slaying zombies.
These canines are much more terrifying than polygonal dogs bursting through Spencer Mansion's windows.
Agent Hunt adds another cooperative opportunity to troll unsuspecting players. This mode puts two players in control of zombies and J’avos, which lack a certain sense of empowerment. I felt like a statistic padding the humans' kill counts rather than a commander that would see the infected to victory. Not to mention, you cannot select from a list of open servers or choose which creature to spawn as. If you actually get lucky and slay one of the heroes, the game ends, returning you to the title screen.
The production values remain the one rock-solid piece to this disheartening sequel. Except for aliased shadows and one instance of a shirtless Jake, Capcom squeezes every last drop of power out of the dying consoles. What emotions the characters do display can be seen in their facial expressions and heard in their maudlin vocal performances, and explosions cover the screen in mushroom clouds of fire and shrapnel. If the set pieces did not cheat players with quick-time events, racing down a mountain on snowmobiles while an avalanche gives chase, subduing a boss on a runaway train, landing a plane in China’s streets, and destroying infected before a bus careens over a cliff could be memorable for the right reasons.
There’s a great campaign buried within Resident Evil 6, even if it’s chained by unimaginative gameplay. Fans could fill a book with technical issues, as the content quantity never matches the quality. Resident Evil 6 boasts a rich atmosphere, pronounced action sequences, iconic characters, and a passable story, but these elements exist as individual bullet points. They never work together for the benefit of the audience, entrapping Resident Evil 6 in the same cage that houses this year’s soulless Operation Raccoon City.
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Number of Players: 1-2 (Campaign), 2 (Cooperative), 2-4 (Multiplayer)
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3