Resident evil fans have eagerly been awaiting the next installment in the famous survival-horror series and that next chapter is finally here. With its ambitious campaign setup involving four separate characters packed into one game, Resident Evil 6 has attempts to do it all. At times, it delivers a great experience, reminiscent of my first play through of Resident Evil 4; however it betrays several elements that contribute to what fans of the series believe should make it a true part of the Resident Evil series. That being said, Resident Evil 6 has much to offer with an impressive amount of content including the return of Mercenaries and the addition of a new mode called Agent Hunt. We were given a chance to review the Xbox 360 version and after my time with the game I found that the result of the newly combined content creates a game that delivers both brilliant aspects and several uninteresting portions simultaneously.
At Resident Evil 6’s core are four campaigns accompanied by the seven lead characters. Each campaign focuses on separate characters that contribute to an over arcing story that reveals itself the further you get into the game. Capcom’s choice to present Resident Evil 6 in this manner highlights both its brilliant execution in several portions of the game, all the while displaying its surprising shortcomings. Questions regarding the plot remain unanswered until the entire story emerges through different perspectives. At first I was puzzled by this design choice, but I later understood the intentions of the developers. Capcom deliberately chose to hold back on particular things, only to unleash them at a later time during the campaign when playing with a different character. For me this made the effort of pushing through four individual campaigns worth it; however I am sure that not everyone will feel the same way as some gamers may not appreciate having to go through the game four times to fully understand everything. Regardless, with a cumulative narrative effect occurring throughout the game, Resident Evil 6’s unique delivery of its story is really well done.
Following a short prologue at the beginning of the game, you are given the choice to play as Leon, Chris or Jake (the newcomer). Each campaign plays out significantly different. When playing as Leon, you can expect to find different enemies, different people, and go on a wholly different adventure into different environments when compared to Chris’ or Jake’s story. Somewhere during each campaign you can also expect to cross paths with the other characters, but only when the narrative calls for it. Unlike previous games in the series, you will not simply play a different character in the same scenario as a bonus; rather you get a different scenario for each character. Capcom does a great job at establishing different tones for each campaign. Each one begins feeling like an entirely different game. Chris and his team member initially roll in feeling in charge, but are soon overwhelmed. Jake and Sherry are repeatedly forced to flee from the hulking Ustanak. Leon and Helena are just squeaking by attempting to survive Tall oaks and what it has to offer. Finally Ada, the fourth campaign’s protagonist, is kept busy solving puzzles in a submarine. Ada’s campaign is unavailable until one of three initial campaigns is completed.
In regards to the atmosphere of the game, Resident Evil has always been known for its disturbing situations created through the combination of great environments and great creature designs. Much like previous Resident Evil games, Resident Evil 6 also has numerous memorable moments. For example, the Ogroman is a massive beast. You will run into multiple ones within Chris’s story, and they are always a handful as they are huge, ugly and they can kill you with relative ease. Overall, both creature and environment design has remained top notch in this latest chapter in this long running series.
At times Resident Evil 6’s narrative style works against it. As interesting as its delivery is, the game forces players to replay sequences. Some of these sequences can be quite lengthy and I found it more of an annoyance then anything else to have to play through the same sequences twice. There is nothing gained from this repetition, as the story is delivered through scenes rather than gameplay. With the game’s design focusing around multiple characters contributing to one story line, Capcom seems to have forgotten that repetitive sequences don’t equate to a fun game.
New to Resident Evil, the mutant and militant J’avo creatures join the fray. I feel as though they alter the experience greatly, and for the worse. For example, given that the J’avo are able to use guns, Chris’s campaign begins to feel much like a very conventional cover based shooter. Alarmingly I found myself engaging in firefights with soldiers who are equipped with machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket launchers. I realize that guns have made an appearance in other Resident Evil installments, but never have they been implemented in such a way that it alters the overall tone of the game. Along with the addition of a cover system and the ability to walk while shooting, these changes came across with the intention to shift the franchise towards something entirely different, something it has never been.
Resident Evil 5 gained a reputation for its notoriously bad AI partner. This time around your ally is actually quite useful. Sure, occasionally I would witness my AI controlled ally doing questionable things, such as running into walls, but during the majority of my playtime I found that my partners in the various story arcs behaved themselves. Optimally the game is to be played with a friend. Fortunately dropping in and out of a multiplayer game is simple and can be done on the fly with a very effective drop in/drop out anytime setup. Online play was smooth and easy to get into. My only qualm with the co-op partner system involves how it affects the atmosphere of the game. As much as I enjoy a solid cooperative gaming experience, tense and terrifying moments are simply not as effective with the added company.
Beyond the campaign, Resident Evil 6 also offers other alternative game modes. Mercenaries Mode returns, allowing ‘skill points’ to be earned depending on your performance. These skill points can be applied to upgrades such as increased power against zombies or increased melee damage. You can equip three active upgrades, and these upgrades can be used in any of the core campaigns or in Mercenaries mode. The new Agent Hunt Mode may remind some gamers of Left 4 dead. This new mode allows you to take on the role of an enemy in a random online player’s game. It is a fun mode to try out, but the controls are quite awkward, doesn’t have the staying power I had hoped for, and I found that this new mode feels somewhat tacked on.
As mentioned earlier, Capcom has succeeded in introducing a memorable roster of monsters. The visuals in Resident Evil 6 are incredible. The textures look topnotch, along with the animations and lighting. The visuals effectively carry out a specific tone in each area, and many of the sounds used were both nostalgic and pleasing to the ears. In contrast to Resident Evil 5’s sun bleached environments, Resident Evil 6’s aesthetics are layered in darkness. Much of the experience in a horror game relies on the usage of visual effects and lighting. The environments manage to feel expansive without becoming overwhelming and without clear direction. Atmosphere is key to establishing an environment that both intrigues and frightens players, and Capcom nails it in each and every location visited during Resident Evil 6. The soundtrack in the game is dramatic, exciting and dynamic. It increases in intensity at the perfect moments, and descends for calmer scenes. Of course the voice work is what you would expect in a Resident Evil game, so be prepared for some “campiness” and presentation that you are already used too. Finally, the sound effects in the game are another strong point. They manage to both play with your mind and compliment the visuals. For those of you with a beefy sound setup, you are in for a treat.
For a franchise as old as Resident Evil, it is only natural that the 6th game in the series will not be the same as the first. With that in mind, when Resident Evil 6 is at its peak, it is both fantastic and innovative, unfortunately the game struggles to be one of the best in the series due to its lack of a clear vision. Throughout my time with it I found a game with uneven design and strange pacing. In trying to be a jack-of-all-trades, it truly left me feeling like it was a master of none. That being said, Resident Evil 6 packs an impressive amount of content and this alone warrants a close look, especially for fans of the franchise.