Blind Impressions: The Resident Evil 6 Demo
A loyal fanbase is important to any franchise as it ensures that each and every instalment has an immediate audience that will not only splash their cash but also, through their committed evangelism, further increase the fanbase….so that the cycle can commence again when the next game arrives. No matter how big a franchise gets however, there will always be those who have yet to give it a try and who publishers would love to lure into the fold. With this in mind, we thought it would be interesting for a D+PAD writer with limited experience of the Resident Evil franchise to take a look at the demo for the sixth chapter in the series; sure, this might not be the usual way of doing things…but the power of a fresh pair of eyes should not be underestimated. Raymond Webster reports… :
One: Leon and Helena
Not being a significant devotee of the Resident Evil franchise, I suppose I am the target audience for this game; its developers claim their intent in making it is to expand the appeal of the franchise to a new audience. I’ll take a look at the three sections of the demo separately, each of which offers the player a choice of characters, and a different gameplay style.
My limited knowledge of this franchise is that it is a survival horror game – and that its roots are in exploration and resource management. The demo begins with a Gears of War style walking-while talking section in which I am not even permitted to raise a weapon or control my pace, and the game provides clearly marked waypoints and a “breadcrumb-trail” button which tells me where to go, I am not merely disappointed but annoyed. It’s not making the most of the potential for games to cover horror; if I know when a scripted event is due because my HUD disappears, or I am close to an objective and nothing has happened, the scare becomes predictable and dull. It may elicit a jump, but that is hardly using a medium such as the video game to its fullest. Furthermore, the significant amounts of banter, exposition, tutorial and music going on create a busy soundscape; Bioshock, a game which I feel handled horror far better, knew when to be silent, when to rely only on atmospheric noise and when to go wild with sound to disorient the player. Generic horror building strings and creaking floorboards combined with some lackwit AI ally (and lackwit they are, blocking narrow gangways, bumbling around amusingly during cutscenes) telling me to shoot zombies in the head and cramming exposition wherever it will fit kills the atmosphere completely.
The first “horror setpiece” is an objective to “follow the shadow” – the player’s control is removed and they see something move around a corner. Here is a place where the omnipresent chatter could be useful – leave the player in control, leave it up to them to be looking in the right place, but have their partner say “Did you see that?” or some such – if the player didn’t then suddenly they’ve been made aware of something but don’t know where, or what. That’s horror – that’s evoking Alien in the best possible way. Having a big arrow pop up saying “go here” is just the wrong kind of gamism. Similarly, this marks a point where you can arbitrarily move faster than a walk, although only for one room before being hobbled again to build up suspense. This stop-start pacing, combined with the game’s insistence that you see what it wants you to see, at the time it wants you to see it, is awful. In this first sequence, you spend less time playing the game than watching it do things for you, the result being something neither fun nor suspenseful.
There is no sense of discovery by the player, instead it is a haunted house in which you are ushered from creepy moment to creepy moment with incessant talking in between. A massive part of successful horror is the sense of the unexpected; that danger comes out of nowhere, and no safe place is truly safe. Resident Evil 6 instead offers you brief, predictable moments of tension with neat resolutions in a straight line. Even an apparently tense dining room scene is a maze of immobile chairs; a hugely illogical concession to gamism that feels like wasted potential. There is nothing to explore, no potential to deviate from the game’s precise logic. Indeed, even when the interactivity of a game offers the potential to outthink horror cliché (find a suspicious person and choose not to trust them rather than have them lead you into trouble), you cannot – your bullets bounce off allies, they open doors for you that you apparently cannot otherwise. The experience is so closely curated that it has no value.
When the moment of release of this pseudo-tension occurs, in the cramped confines of a lift with a zombie in it, even the response is curated in this way; the player must complete a quick-time event to defeat it. The subsequent confrontation with many more undead is similarly lacking in tension; what seems to be a deadly ambush is resolved in seconds and potentially ominous moments like the revelation of a zombie horde again remove the player’s agency, creating an absolute sense of safety – the zombies will not attack because the player has no means to respond.
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