E3 2012: Resident Evil 6 hands-on
Watching the horror seep out of the Resident Evil series is like watching a slinky make its way down a lengthy staircase. The slinky does not act on its own, but rather is pushed, gently, towards an eventual goal it does not know or understand. So while the original Resident Evil game was the closest the series has ever gotten to being primarily horror over action, every game has slowly sprinkled bits and pieces into the formula to pull it over to the latter. Better controls. Bigger weapons. Grenades. Machine guns. Bigger bosses. More exciting cinemas. Every little addition was just another step closer to where we are today. It was inevitable.
And though Resident Evil 6 isn’t a scary game (with the lights on and thousands of people around you), it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t utilize its horror elements. There is structure and pacing to the story and the action to allow the characters to develop. When Capcom said they were giving up on horror being the primary concern, it only got pushed back to secondary. It’s not removed.
For example, in Leon’s part of the game, he discovers a man fleeing in between darkened corridors of an empty college campus. He travels with a partner, at least in the temporary sense, who can possibly answer all his questions. She tells him that they need to move. He decides instead to play the hero, and he follows the man with the intent of a rescue. The man has his own mission: his daughter is somewhere nearby and needs rescuing herself. Leon agrees to help find her, despite the complaints of his partner.
The girl is in shock. Blood stains the floor beside two nearby corpses, and a wound across her right arm is dark and red. She falls to her knees as her father approaches. She dies in the elevator. There are no dramatic screams. No theatrics. She merely fades away in her fathers arms, and then is still. Then, the lights flicker out. Leon turns his flashlight on and looks down. She’s there, gazing back at him with white eyes, blood dripping from her bared teeth, her father dead on the floor.
She lunges at Leon, and when he manages to shake her off she switches up her attack and jumps at his partner. He shoots one bullet into the girl’s back, stunning her. Leon’s partner takes advantage of the situation and finishes the job with a bullet to the head. Leon attempted to be the savior and failed, reuniting family only for them to die of the same virus that was already killing thousands in the city around him.
There’s still a stiffness to the movement. It’s a consistent theme to the series, and despite the fact that the newer iterations have sought to make controls better, it doesn’t mean they’re fluid. You can move and shoot at the same time though, slowly, but that’s more than before. Leon can also choose to either fight with a single pistol or dual wield, easily switching between both on the fly. On paper this seems to lean too much towards the action side, but the act of dual wielding doesn’t make him a superhero. Each shot carries weight to it, and firing too quickly will only deplete your supply of ammunition.
Melee has also recieved an upgrade this time around. For years melee had been delegated to a knife, of which not only was it weak and short-ranged, but it also occupied precious inventory space. Resident Evil 4 eliminated the knife’s inventory usage, as well as granting punches and kicks to use on stunned Ganados. Resident Evil 6 grants a basic kick function to be used whenever, just in case you need a little room to separate yourself from the infected.
I don’t mind the secondary role of horror elements in the game. For Resident Evil to exist as a series and maintain its level of polish it it needs to be able to create some profit. Resident Evil 6 is going to be a big game, complete with several characters to play as, all leading a complicated path towards the latest biological monstrosities. The story will be big and it will be ridiculous, but then it’s a Resident Evil game, so I would expect nothing less.