Resident Evil 6
If there’s one thing that Resident Evil 6 has done exceedingly well, it’s divide opinion between both critics and the gaming masses. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the series has taken a different turn in recent years, shifting to an over-the-shoulder view in the fourth instalment and then moving on to sunnier pastures, even adding a partner for co-op play in RE5. Some fans were left raging at the absence of the isolation that was so prevalent in the series up to that point, but there’s no denying that when taken on its own merit, Resident Evil 5 served up a good chunk of zombie slaying action. Capcom has taken another bold step in this latest entry, but has the experiment gone awry like Umbrella’s mistakes before it?
One thing that can’t be criticised is the game’s length, doubling, even tripling that of its Africa-based predecessor. There’s plenty of bang for your buck as Leon Kennedy, Chris Redfield and Jake Muller take on the shambling hordes in their own respective campaigns, and while these may act as standalone tales, it’s no surprise that their paths intertwine and diverge at specific times. You and a partner will fight alone for the most part, acting with a unique set of goals and motivations throughout. There’s an arching storyline at work, though you shouldn’t go in expecting to find anything remotely thought provoking – for better or worse, this is standard RE fare with all the shifty characters, intense glares and ‘oh no, not you again’ moments you’ve come to expect from the franchise.
The real issue (and it’s the one that divides opinion) is how each campaign has been handled. You’ll begin Leon’s journey in familiar territory, and it’s his adventure that has held true to the game’s survival-horror heritage. The first fifteen minutes send things off to a slow start, but the action soon ramps up as the world goes to hell in what appears to be yet another zombie apocalypse. Leon and his partner Helena find themselves plodding through an underground tunnel with little more than a flashlight for company; it’s creepy, it’s tense, and the use of light and shadow reveals an understanding of horror not seen from Capcom in some time. Unfortunately, the game becomes so intent on forcing set-pieces and frustrating battles down your throat that it often forgets to slow down and lead you through the creeping unknown.
Such an issue could be forgiven had the rest of the game been up to snuff. Instead, it tries so hard to be a jack of all trades – taking inspiration from a number of other hit titles, especially when it comes to the chase sequences – that not only does it end up a master of none; it loses all sense of identity at best and crushes itself beneath its failures at worst. Even Chris Redfield’s action-oriented campaign excels at one time or another; one top boss encounter involving a camouflaged snake will test your nerve as you keep an eye out for the tell-tale slither that betrays its position. Having a good time? Too bad, as you’ll soon be pushed into some bizarre scenario where a car slams into you because you were standing in the wrong place or you might be forced into combat with a missile-spamming helicopter. Collecting three keys while under constant pressure from a regenerating enemy is forgivable once, but at three times it’s abhorrent. Resident Evil 6 will amaze one moment, only to utterly dismay the next.
Things are a little bleaker for Jake Muller. Wielding fists of fury that send the infected back to their graves, he’s certainly not a man to be trifled with. He’s also unlikeable, and has his hand in the most experimental side of the experience. Capcom seemed unclear as to how to use the character, forcing an irksome turret section before leaving him to navigate a night-time snow storm in what is easily one of the vilest game moments in recent memory. RE6 just doesn’t use darkness effectively in most cases, obscuring the action without developing any sort of suspense or drama. Charging down a mountain on a snowmobile or through city streets on a motorbike should be good fun, but by lacking direction and creativity, these serve as little more than needless filler.
Those brave enough to finish all three stories will be granted access to a final campaign. There’s no AI or playable partner here for the time being (Capcom has promised this as downloadable content), so you’ll have to leave your friend in the lurch as you take on the challenge alone. The Mercenaries Mode returns to the fold and is perfect for score-whores or anyone looking to step away from the story for a while. The co-op campaigns can be played online or via split-screen, though of course there’s something to be said for going it alone, especially now that partner AI has developed some common sense. Agent Hunt allows you to invade another player’s game as a member of the infected, and this is one area in which the developers have shown some real initiative.
RE6 is no slouch on a visual level, featuring solid animation and detailed environments. Be it a flaming city tearing itself apart or a suburban home filled with the haunting glow of a television, it’s clear that hard work has been poured in to the creation of almost every setting. The graphics, pacing, characters and abundance of cutscenes make for a game that is spectacular to watch, if not always great fun to play. Holding the trigger buttons to cling to a rope, then pressing each in turn to ascend isn’t something you’ll be keen to repeat, but repeat this task you will… and yet again with another character.
Boasting intense action, hideous enemies and high production values, there’ll certainly be an audience willing to forgive the game its sins. It can only be a sad thing, however, that its flashes of brilliance are so frequently mired by failed experimentation in a set of campaigns that will test your patience far more than your nerve. We’re not calling RE6 a lost cause, but we are saying that it’s a disappointment full of dubious concepts, iffy execution and unrealised potential. Resident Evil 6 is crying out to be watched rather than played and it will gleefully punish you for daring to do so, in which case you might want to kick back and let someone else do all the hard work instead.
This review is based on an Xbox 360 retail copy provided by Capcom.
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