Resident Evil 6
Resident Evil has been wrestling between identities for a while now, and has become oddly emblematic of several Japanese publishers’ attempts to please everyone at once. Resident Evil 4 practically defined an entire genre, turning the “over-the-shoulder” form of third-person shooter into a viable thing to be borrowed, emulated, improved upon, and generally lauded. It’s no secret why the game has received approximately eight million (I counted) re-releases and is brought up in every best-of-anything list, including ones that aren’t strictly about video games. NASA sent a satellite into deep space with several copies of the Wii version, with accompanied texts about the greatest video game achievement in history. People really like Resident Evil 4. It’s a thing.
Of course, like anything genuinely regarded as A Good Thing™, there is a lot of dissent, plenty of it quite sound. Resident Evil is now definitely a shooter first, horror game second, with the reasoning being good god look at how many copies of 4 we have sold – solid reasoning, but perhaps a reason that has left fans of survival horror in the dust. There’s also the fact that, while it was incredible in 2005, certain conventions have become standard and Resident Evil 5 drew ire for being more of the same thing as 4, only now the inability to move and shoot at the same time seemed archaic. There was also the fact that Capcom had dragged Resident Evil characters out of the past again to do more or less the same thing they’d always done – fight zombies. It was getting a little ragged.
This is the issue with Resident Evil 6. It’s almost sad to see: it’s clear Capcom was listening. You can move and shoot. There are new characters. There are slower, quieter, scarier moments. There is ludicrous, over-the-top action. 6 tries to fix every issue above and more, and ends up being a big mess.
The game features three campaigns (four, technically, but I’ll avoid mentioning the character) starring Leon Kennedy, Chris Redfield, and a new central character, Jake Wesk- er, Muller. Each of these campaigns is practically a full modern game, clocking it at around eight hours. Great, right? Three full campaigns, potentially starring my favorite old characters, different playstyles, and new stars? On paper it’s awesome. Leon’s campaign, after starting with a worryingly insane prelude, starts players in an intense, moody old building with plenty of spooky noises and jump scares. Chris’ levels are action-packed and features enemies with guns, which is a step up (in terms of modern mechanics) from Resident Evil 5. Jake’s campaign features some oddly affecting and disturbing moments that shed new light on certain aspects of the Resident Evil canon. Again, so far, so good.
It’s the way all of this plays that’s so damn disappointing. Leon’s chapters are low on ammo, like any horror game should be, but the enemies all take absurd amounts of ammunition to drop. There are scares, but too many of them are built into cutscenes or quick time events, meaning that barely anything in the actual game part of the game is actually frightening. Because the game is built around two player co-op, every other door requires Leon and his partner Helena to continue. The pacing is rotten. The same issue pops up as other characters, too – Chris’ levels are by far the most action packed, except for the fact you have to stop after every major encounter and open a big heavy door that requires two people.
Some of the actual action in the game is really good, too, but it clashes with the situations presented too often. Characters can slide, crawl, dodge – it’s actually a pretty comprehensive control scheme, not unlike Vanquish albeit nowhere near as refined. There’s even a cover system, although why I’ll never really know. Resident Evil logic has dictated that bullets are for stunning enemies and melee attacks finish them off for some time now, and that continues in 6. Why bother hiding behind things? In Chris’s campaign it at least makes a tiny lick of sense, since many of the infected enemies he faces have guns. Elsewhere, it’s entirely useless.
This action-game mentality messes up other aspects of the game, too. The objective “ELIMINATE ALL ENEMIES” pops up far too often outside of Chris’s gameplay, forcing characters like Leon and Helena to stay in one area and kill every zombie and monster until the game decides to stop sending them. It’s flat-out dull most of the time, especially given that this is supposedly the scary campaign. Likewise, attempted spooks and scares in Chris and Jake’s campaigns just feel jarring and out of place, and not in the way they should be. Then there are the quick time events, that appear in the middle of gameplay whenever a zombie grabs you, or in countless short cutscenes of something exciting happening. In the prelude alone, Leon avoids a falling fighter jet, runs from an explosion, shoots a zombie grabbing his wounded partner, and pilots an out-of-control helicopter through a subway tunnel. It sounds like a ton of fun, except that these are all things that are out of your control, and are simply bookended by short moments of regular zombie shooting. There are moments when the event-to-gameplay ratio approaches that of Asura’s Wrath.
This prelude level is particularly strange because it’s obstinately a tutorial, yet it only teaches the player about moving, shooting, the basic healing item, and quick time events. I mentioned earlier that, under the hood, there’s a beefy action game moveset in this game – all of that has to be discovered through experimentation. On the one hand, that sounds like a good thing – tutorials have gotten incredibly overbearing in many games. However, the game does have a tutorial, it just neglects to mention some of the best parts of the gameplay. Plus, there are plenty of games that teach without saying much, or anything at all – Dark Souls and Super Metroid, respectively – simply by coaxing experimentation out of the player through design. Nothing in Resident Evil 6 feels that nuanced, making the obscure nature of its best action controls more frustrating than rewarding. The fact that the game doesn’t even come with a manual doesn’t help.
Then there are the strange things bolted on top of the game. There’s a skill point system involving chess pieces of different values (because, you know, whatever) that can be used to buy upgrades for your characters. There’s Agent Hunt, a mode where you can play as the monsters and harass players in their campaign – awesome on paper, bizarre in practice. Mercenaries mode, Resident Evil‘s score attack game, is at least awesome.
Inconsistency is the name of the game. Resident Evil 6 tries so much to be all things to all people, and it ends up just being bloated, unwieldy, and frustrating. Even the graphics are uneven – absolutely stunning lighting and character models appear in some cutscenes, but blocky tertiary characters and ugly textures appear alongside them to make the whole thing seem slightly off. Animations vary from fluid and believable to stilted and stiff. The story is nonsense – both the good insane Resident Evil school of nonsense and regular, stupid nonsense. Perhaps there’s an awesome game underneath all of the rubble, but Resident Evil 6, as it is, is a disappointing mess. There are flashes of brilliance, but they practically have to scream to be noticed amidst the rest of the game’s issues.