With Resident Evil 6, a once-mighty series makes another stumble. From a production standpoint, this atmospheric third-person shooter (this is no survival horror game, certainly) hits a number of high notes, weaving multiple stories into a single narrative that you untangle from different perspectives. It's unfortunate that actually interacting with Resident Evil 6 is an excruciating chore. This is a wannabe action film that resents your interference, and punishes you by forcing one horrible quick-time event after another upon you.
That Resident Evil 6 wants to be a movie is evident in almost every facet of its gameplay. Plenty of games dramatize their events through extended cutscenes, Metal Gear Solid being an oft-cited example of a series known for long-winded cinematics. Having many cutscenes isn't a problem in and of itself; constantly interrupting the flow of gameplay, on the other hand, is Resident Evil 6's disappointing calling card.
In a typical five-minute stretch, you might watch a cutscene, walk for five seconds, trigger another cutscene, open a door, perform a quick-time event, view another cutscene, shoot some mutated freaks, and then do nothing while you wait for your co-op partner to finish some task or another before you can continue on. All through that stretch, the camera changes position countless times, you're forced to walk really slowly for a while, and an almost-unavoidable scripted "gotcha" moment gifts you with a game-over screen ("You Are Dead"), forcing you to replay the sequence while wondering what you could have done to prevent it.
These problems infiltrate all four of Resident Evil 6's campaigns, though each campaign shifts its focus and tone--and all but Ada Wong's puzzle-driven campaign (unlocked when you have finished the other three) feature cooperative play. In Leon Kennedy's campaign, you play as either Leon or newcomer Helena Harper, while your cohort is left to the care of another player, or of the AI. Leon's campaign is the most traditional, recalling the fourth and fifth chapters of the series by way of mysterious locations like an eerie graveyard and creep-strewn city streets. In a campaign that looks to military shooters for inspiration, Chris Redfield joins fellow BSAA operative Piers Nivens in war-torn streets to shoot up infected foes and larger-than-life bosses. Jake Muller and Sherry Birkin's campaign is focused more on scripted events than the others and lacks the thematic cohesion of the other three (unless you count an overload of contextual button prompts as a theme). A short prelude introduces you to the basic mechanics, which are mostly identical across the campaigns. It also functions as a warning of what's to come.
Right off the bat, you notice what is to be a common theme in Resident Evil 6: quick-time events are prominent to the point of distraction. Keep your thumbs limber and your trigger fingers ready, for you will be hammering buttons and jiggling thumbsticks ad nauseam. Wiggle that stick to get the monster off you! Furiously tap that button to crawl faster! Making matters worse is that the quick-time events aren't even that well implemented. Some of them require superhuman wiggling speeds; others, like those that require alternating trigger presses, don't have a clear rhythm. And succeeding means triggering a sonic zing and a bright circular eruption that distract you from the dramatic animations.
Even ignoring quick-time events, button prompts are the rule rather than the exception. Capcom drops in so many set piece moments that they lose their luster. Good set pieces--that is, large scale events with major visual punch and limited interactivity--punctuate gameplay, rather than replace it. Here, they constantly disrupt the gameplay, and a few types of set pieces emerge as clear developer favorites. One such type is the "run toward the camera" bit, in which you hold a button to sprint toward the camera, and press buttons to leap over obstacles or slide under them. It takes a special talent to make such sequences work, but no such talent is demonstrated here; the camera constantly changes position, which destroys the flow of both the controls and the visuals.
Resident Evil 6 is constantly (and annoyingly) playing with camera angles, even outside of the running sections. The worst moments are those that yank control from you and force you to stare at a growling behemoth's dramatic entrance, or a helicopter's flyover, even when you're in the middle of a quick-time event, or engaged in a shoot-out. Smart games either have you hold a button if you want to witness a major incident, or simply allow the incident to happen. Resident Evil 6 is not a smart game. It doesn't care what you're doing: that monster is big, and the game forces the bigness upon you. (And when the sequence is done, the camera may not be in the position in which it started.) Such occurrences are, every time, detrimental to gameplay, and it's shocking how many of them there are.
Not that your co-op partner is usually harmful to the experience. If you play on your own, the AI does a great job of knowing what to do and where to go. The game does have a few good co-op ideas up its sleeve, such as a sequence in which one player swims from the snapping jaws of a finned fiend, and the other must shoot it. But the good ideas are too often let down by troublesome execution: in that same sequence, your mission objective might contradict what the game actually needs you to do. Other times, one player waits around with nothing to do, while the other slashes up bio-organic weapons (that is, B.O.W.s) and finally opens a door or lowers a ladder. Most cooperative actions simply involve opening a door together. And boy is there a lot of door opening in Resident Evil 6.