Release Date: 10/02/2012
When Capcom first promised fans that Resident Evil 6 would return to its roots, many were skeptical, and with good reason. For many older gamers, the RE franchise is firmly rooted in its survival horror heydays of the mid-90s. In 2001 they took a sharp turn to a story-driven affair with Resident Evil CODE: Veronica, and then another deviation with Resident Evil 4 in 2005, turning the series into more of an action shooter. All of these twists and turns left many fans wondering to which roots the series will return. Answer: all of them…kind of. Not really.
In an attempt to cater to everyone, Capcom broke the game into three main campaigns: Leon S. Kennedy, Chris Redfield, and Jake Muller, who is Albert Wesker’s son. Leon’s campaign is a return to the old days, but unfortunately, it isn’t a return to the beloved RE1 or 2 days so much as a return to REC:V. His campaign features the most nonsensical plot, and this convoluted mess takes center stage, making it difficult to write off some of the twists and turns. The monsters Leon fights are similar to those in REC:V and RE0–one of the bosses is more than reminiscent of the Alexia Ashford fight.
Chris’ campaign is a clear nod to fans of Resident Evil 4 and 5, focusing more on tactical action and smarter, mutating enemies. Due to their bright face masks, I have renamed the J’ago to Juggalos (this stuff writes itself, people), and overall, they provide a jumpy sense of challenge. What I did mind was Chris’ dogged pursuit of Ada Wong who continues to be the most nonsensical of RE’s villain cadre, and that’s saying something.
Jake’s campaign is at turn the most awkward and yet, enjoyable of the bunch. Despite his muddy backstory, vapid one-liners and forced flirtation with Sherry Birkin–who is, herself, your standard perky Japanese female character–he is oddly likable. Maybe it’s Troy Baker’s voice work and, to his credit, he gives the dialog his all, or maybe it’s that despite his newness to the franchise, Jake seems to be one of the few people who “gets” what is going on. While the majority of his campaign is action-heavy, Capcom took a risk trying to replicate the sense of dread of the hunter/prey scenario of Nemesis with a towering creature which stalks Jake and Sherry. It’s a fair criticism to call him a rip-off of Nemesis but you know what? At least they tried. In fact, I’m comfortable saying I would have enjoyed this game much more had the entirety of it been Jake’s campaign. Yeah, I know.
As the world turns…with C-virus
While I’m on an apologetic note, I’ll say that yes, given the cinematic approach Resident Evil 6 takes on the whole, the contemptible plot twists and turns are hard to defend and stomach. But here’s the thing about Resident Evil: in the beginning, the plots were tight and concise only because they were, by today’s standards, deep or compelling. CODE: Veronica was the first game to peel back the curtain and start throwing random curves at us, and Resident Evil 0 continued this, which means that we’ve been slogging through this harebrained mess for a decade. I can’t help but say it seems quixotic to have expected this to be the title that suddenly made sense.
Yeah, but how does it handle?
There is no sugar coating some of the gameplay mechanics.The gun loadouts are oddly structured (Piers starts with a sniper rifle), and the inventory UI is a bad example of flash over function (Chris and Piers are the worst offenders). Switching between grenades and weapons is awkward, and the lack of a quick grenade throw was frustrating.
Also, the camera is unwieldy in the extreme. Control is often wrenched away, forcing you to look up or over in awkward angles for far too long a period just so the developers are certain you noticed a helicopter crashed into a building, or a flood of monsters wandering the streets. I realize it’s unfair to compare Resident Evil 6 to something as artful as Spec Ops: The Line, but Capcom’s failure to trust gamers’ own sense of discovery and observation makes me appreciate the latter title all that much more. The worst case was in split-screen co-op, when the camera would swing wide, and suddenly you found yourself running in a different direction because of the perspective. You know, like that terrible “feature” they long ago fixed?
The biggest disappointment is the replacement of gun upgrades with a nigh useless skill system. Occasionally enemies and chests drop skill points which you can use to purchase upgrades and perks like improved melee damage, faster reloading, increased capacity and better item drops. The problem is that the system isn’t at all compelling, and these skills’ effect on your gameplay is negligible. In fact, any time an enemy or chest dropped skill points instead of bullets or herbs, I felt like the game was giving me the finger.
Taking all of this criticism into account, you may be surprised that I rated this as “Rent it.” The reason is that I’m hard pressed to write this off as a bad game. If you’ve never been a fan of the series, or if you’re hoping to recapture the magic of Resident Evil 2 or 4, you’re going to walk away disappointed and confused. But if you’ve stuck by the series this long, chances are despite the annoyances and lazy design choices, you’ll still enjoy yourself and find something to (maybe) love, especially if you’re playing co-op. It’s not a horrible game, it’s just mediocre.