In between the frequent set pieces, the quick-time events, and the cooperative door kickings, there is some mutant killing. The core mechanics are similar to those in other third-person shooters, but with the idiosyncrasies that defined Resident Evils 4 and 5. The camera stays close behind your back, movements like leaping and crouching are contextual rather than freely available, and the pace is deliberate. Shooting grotesqueries often results in new mutations: bulbous growths sprout from the necks of advancing fiends, and disgusting diminutive creatures spawn from their hosts and skitter along the floor. You can also kick and pummel your foes, though whether you prefer to keep your distance or get right in there, the lumbering lunatics react properly, knocking over other infected as they lurch from the power of your shotgun blasts. If you find the deliberate action appealing, you can devote some time to the returning Mercenaries mode, in which you and a buddy (or you alone) off as many enemies as you can before the clock ticks down to zero.
It's unfortunate that Resident Evil 6's campaigns want so desperately to take you out of the action. A single bullet from a sniper can knock you to the ground; you can either get to your feet and reposition yourself, or just shoot while you're down until the right time to rise presents itself. In Jake's campaign, getting knocked down on a particularly icy slope means sliding all the way to the bottom, and having to make the climb again. As is typical for Capcom action games, long animations need to finish before you regain control--and that kind of approach could have worked fine in a game that sticks closely to the Resident Evil 4 template.
But Resident Evil 6 is focused less on building tension than any previous game in the main series, and the over-deliberate mechanics don't always mesh well with the action-game sensibilities and highly linear levels. The claustrophobic behind-the-back camera in cramped hallways, the knockback loops, the cumbersome method of combining herbs and healing yourself--these facets once worked well to help instill a sense of terror and make you consider every action and every step. In Resident Evil 6, a game that mostly leaves its survival horror roots behind, the same attributes hinder your enjoyment.
That isn't to say that Resident Evil 6 is hard. On medium difficulty, you can often run right past the baddies, or just spam a trigger and punch them to death. You needn't worry about ammo all that often; the only time you're likely to run out is when you face a bullet-sponge boss and there's no more ammo to be had in the battle arena. But while you won't often die due to the level of challenge (unless you crank up the difficulty, of course), you might not be able to escape a few of the game's "gotcha" deaths. With little warning, a vehicle might crash through a barricade, and if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, you're dead. When an avalanche occurs, if you don't know to expect it, you might not have enough room to veer your snowmobile away. (This is one of several mediocre vehicular segments.) That's not challenging: that's cheap, and it's bad game design.
While Resident Evil 6 is no survival horror game, it does have a few memorably tense moments. In Leon's campaign, flashes of lightning in a dark cemetery might have you jumping once or twice, and the appearance of Resident Evil's famous zombie dogs will have you reliving the franchise's good old days. The visit to an old cathedral that follows is similarly evocative, considering its roots in the series' past. Where the game most impresses is in its production values, particularly in sound and narrative. Each campaign tells a different story--but those four stories overlap in interesting ways before they diverge again. You need to play the unlockable campaign to make sense of every mystery, but this is a great way to learn tall tales of the latest global threat.
Grand voice acting gives the melodramatic story plenty of weight. The talented cast makes every sullen regret, every cry for help, and every enthusiastic encouragement ring true, even in the midst of the most fantastical of events. The gross, squishy sound effects are so potent that you might try to wipe imaginary goo from your clothes. The cutscenes deserve special mention. A slow-motion shot of a bus's interior, a character's shocking fall from a great height, and a tense standoff between allies are but a few examples of the excellent cinematics that drive the story onward.
But how far can cinematics get you when the gameplay sandwiched between them is so poorly paced, so utterly misconceived, so reliant on stick wriggles and button tapping? There's a place for contextual prompts and cinematic storytelling in video games, but Resident Evil 6 is a mishmash of elements put together without any sense of care or direction. Series faithful might stumble through for the sake of story, and perhaps to appreciate those few moments that recall when Resident Evil was at its peak glory. But this long, poor sequel is the ultimate test of patience for even the most dedicated.