Written October 07, 2012. Played on Xbox 360. This review contains spoilers and expletives.
"Ada! You disobeyed me!" >8O
So let’s get something obvious out of the way. Resident Evil 6 is an action gaming experience. If you employ nostalgia for the Resident Evil of ‘ye olde’ as the basis against which to measure the experiences found here, you will likely be disappointed. Probably entirely. But it’s kind of perverse to do that since it’s been no surprise what direction the series has been heading in since part 4.
That being said, a fan of any series should have enough integrity to recognize the worthiness as well as the shortcomings of entries in the franchise they are so-called fans of. And while it does nothing revolutionary as an action-adventure title, there’s still fun to be had - especially in co-operative play. I just wouldn't have called it Resident Evil. RE6’s problems stem from the fact that in trying to diversify, it does so much compensating that it's almost a parody of the many other games people have been comparing it to (although they should probably just go play those games instead of looking for threads of them in this one).
There shouldn’t be any mystery as to why its release has produced such mixed results. Where it has built on what made the action in previous titles good, it also overwhelms by trying to offer everything that other popular titles offer, and it does this all at once. That has also contributed to feelings of alienation felt by Resident Evil players across the spectrum. There are many things the game does well - from telling its silly story to birthing its creatures, to the artistic details of its world - but the gameplay designs too often interrupt the player’s control or completely trivialize it (in scripted sequences and segments rigged on invisible timers) which feels cheap. That shouldn’t suggest that games which implement those devices are crap, but when it becomes so prevalent [in certain campaigns] it feels like a point and click adventure which is neither action nor survival, and that ruins the enjoyment.
I approached the game with expectations for an action title, aware of what was on offer in each campaign, and aware that each campaign was designed by a different team. And this is what I think.
Controls & Visuals
Controls require getting used to but once you’ve mastered the moves (some of which can be exploited) it’s a fairly competent scheme. It’s faster to slide into crates than kick them, and it’s also cool to slide under charging enemies, reverse roll, and shoot them in the back. Countering enemy attacks is still something I haven’t been able to do in succession, and it’s difficult to complete a combo because your AI partner will often come to your aid and finish things for you. Sprinting can be accomplished by pressing down on the left analogue stick (which I found more comfortable as opposed to pressing A and forward, although the latter will allow you manoeuvre for the camera’s position more easily – like during set-pieces). Aside from some weird response times during co-op play, I had no major problems with control scheme in the end.
Inventory management was pretty good in Resident Evil 4. And since going for this Dead Space type interface, RE6’s inventory hasn’t really gotten any worse or better since Resident Evil 5. It’s manageable and more immediate than the one in RE5, but the game seems to expect you’ll get to grips with it immediately (and maybe you will). It just required some patience for me personally. I hate that you can’t share items with your partner and that 150 Handgun bullets can fit into one slot while only 60 Assault Rifle bullets fit into another. Switching between guns and grenades is a bit screwy as well. I ended up using first aid sprays on numerous occasions while trying to access remote bombs (which I like more than grenades). And I still don’t understand why we are collecting herbs to turn into tablets, which requires more mixing and matching than previous titles. Surely it would have been more practical to simply collect tablets, right? Leon’s menu is the easiest to navigate (no idea what they were thinking with Chris’s).
One thing which is a problem throughout all campaigns is the camera. When it’s not swinging madly about during a crowded battle and melee takedowns, it’s sometimes right behind your head when you’re leaning out from cover so that you can’t even see your aiming reticle/laser sight. You can adjust the player controlled settings in the menu, but it only eases the judder on screen. And I still end up switching guns from the right hand to the left by accidentally hitting the right analogue stick too hard when lining my sights with enemies. I thought you could just lock your character camera to one side, but it doesn’t look like it since you are flanked by enemies from both sides (which I guess is where this feature is somewhat helpful). There are other instances where the game assumes control of the camera and will ‘show’ you things or swing around for a set-piece event. I didn’t appreciate this much. And rarely, it becomes fixed in place and will only pan to follow you as you sneak along or whatever. This I didn’t mind and it reminded me, albeit briefly, of how the game might have looked in the mise-en-scène of old Resident Evil.
I also think a patch should be released so that your online co-op partner can see what the hell you’re aiming at, since they can not see your laser sight and you can not see theirs. It would make going for the same enemies more avoidable and it also helps to signal where you want/need to go.
In terms of visuals, this is one of the prettier games I’ve played on the Xbox 360. The detail in the characters and enemies is what I’ve come to expect from Capcom, and apart from some washed out textures and jagged shadows, the lighting is very good. Great reflective and luminosity shaders. Water and fire look voluminous. Weather effects are nice and there are some details which reminded me of REmake’s pre-rendered prettiness. Some cutscenes look pre-rendered, while some are simply in-game. Can’t speak for PS3 although I don’t imagine it would be different. It’s weird that the game is nigh 10GB on PSN download, so whether that included localized content or not, I wonder how it fit on the Xbox disc. It’s a long game and there are so many cutscenes. Didn’t notice any screen tearing.
Now for the campaigns.
---------- Leon ----------
I played this one last of the main three and it’s easily my favourite (and longest). It feels a bit like Resident Evil 4. The settings and situations it places you in heavily mirror that game. It also features the boss battle which convinced me to buy the game (probably for the same reasons a lot of people hated it).
Leon and Helena’s story is probably the one without which the other two make less sense, not that it’s amazing or anything. The story itself concerns Leon and Helena’s mission to prove their innocence in being the prime suspects in the President’s murder – never mind that there’s a virus turning everyone into zombies – and exposing the true evil within the government. Oh the intrigue. The voice acting throughout RE6 is pretty good and the cutscenes are well executed. It amazes me that Leon can pilot a helicopter out of near death type danger, but instantly crashes a car when a zombie scrapes at the window. Since RE2, Leon S.Kennedy has had bad luck with vehicles. Still, the characterizations are okay and are not as clichéd as what we got in RE5. The villain is not as dastardly as I thought he’d be, but his henchman is pretty good at playing the maniac.
Throughout RE6 campaigns, you’ll mostly find yourself in invisibly fenced areas in which you are required to go from A to B, and survive everything in between. This includes some set piece events and boss battles. There are bits near the start of Leon’s story where your control is limited (your ability to shoot/sprint) but thankfully it isn’t milked for long and the rest of the game is in your hands. Throughout my RE6 playthrough, the AI partner was very good at coming to my aid (maybe too good), but Helena was a fucking liability.
At one point we were required to sprint across crumbling underground bridges (Lord of the Rings style) and while I was beast at this part, if I may say so myself, Helena was unable to stay off my heels. I landed on a giant slab of crumbling rock and she landed right on top of me (a common occurrence in my single player game), which made Leon undergo a ‘stumble’ animation. After I stumbled, a floored zombie grabbed me, which triggered a ‘wriggle the analogue stick to get free’ prompt (it should be noted that wriggling the right analogue stick seems to completes recovery faster than the left one). Anyway, while I’m struggling to get free and other enemies are closing in or grabbing me on this crumbling soon-to- collapse bridge, that bitch Helena can be seen leaping past and continuing on to the end of the trail. It was one of the more frustrating sequences. So that was memorable for the wrong reasons.
She was good in boss fights though and I never had to revive her. Ever. She even saw that train coming, which I didn’t. Which brings me to the ‘cheap deaths by way of scripted events and silly quick time prompts’ complaint. There were several parts of this campaign in which the difficulty curve skyrockets and I only passed because of the practice effect (having died and knowing what to expect). Then there were instances where climbing a rope and scaling a ramp were tedious button pressing exercises (the key to doing these is to hold one trigger down while pressing the other – and don’t release buttons you’re pressing during cutscenes!). Thankfully these instances are not as abundant as they are in other campaigns. But the folly lies within the fact that you can not escape scripted event deaths if you are, say, helping your partner or struggling with an enemy. It also means that certain battles (such as an ambush at a gas station) script the strategy by which you have to play. Some simply require you to ride out the attack for an unspecified period of time. So while the AI is diligently wasting ammo, I just run around collecting items while I wait for the next scripted sequence to kick in. I would have preferred more leeway to fight my fights, and this kind of interference makes the experience more linear when compared with RE4 or RE5.
Still, fighting is enjoyable and the damage you deal is seen effectively in the enemy animations, proportionate to the weapon you use. Helena’s Hydra is somewhat lacklustre when I compare it to what it did in RE5, but shotguns and handguns do very nasty things (especially when I compare them to what the weapons in that verkackte Operation Raccoon City did to enemies – not a lot). Here you literally shoot the meat off zombies. And sometimes their heads weirdly dislodge from their shoulders regardless of where you got the kill shot. Going in for a melee/environmental kill is also very satisfying and there are plenty of head stomps, face smashes, floor slams, and dragon kicks to be had.
The skill system was something I initially ignored, but eventually decided wasn’t such a bad change from the buy/sell feature in RE4 and 5. What’s tricky is figuring out which skills to assign different sets because some are pointless. But it does become useful to be able to switch between them for different occasions. I have sets which are designated only for Leon, Chris, or Jake, as well as some which are useful for any of them. [I.E On Pro mode I switch between one offense set (which features Firearm Lv.3, Defense Lv.2, and Infinite Handgun) and another defense set (which features Defense Lv.2, Combat Gauge Boost Lv.1, and Melee Lv.2)]. What would have been useful would have been an option to switch skill sets on the fly without having to go into your menu. It also keeps things challenging rather than ending up with infinite ammo for all your weapons which is what made RE5 kind of boring in the end, co-op and sunny delights regardless. I suppose you could just assign all infinite ammo skills to different skill sets with their associated Master level skills and just switch between them if it took your fancy. Some skills are useless and some I don’t even know if I’ll ever use. Zombie Hunter is useless in conjunction with Firearm Lv.3 because both increase your damage dealt by 50%. And the firearm Master skills seem redundant as well if Firearm is all you need to stay on top of things. But maybe we can expect some new ones?
Enemy AI is, well, inconsistent. There are moments where enemies make a bee line for you and others where they either run past you, or stand feet away from you without reacting. There’s a new feature which allows you to recover from dying status (should your AI partner not come to your aid). Only once have I managed to recover completely while surrounded by enemies, and this involved a lot of rolling and limp kicking. But it was a relief when I was able to get up on my own and pop some pills and continue instead of having to depend on someone like Sheva to not get a game over. Some of the zombies seemed smarter than the J’avo and they were also more aggressive in my experience (although this might have something to do with the difficulty setting).
While most of Resident Evil 6 is a linear affair, this campaign features the best locations and creatures, in my opinion, although some players have had massive grievances over the final boss’s reluctance to die. It’s reminiscent of the final boss battle from Parasite Eve 2, which is why I liked it. It falls prey to some invisible timer shenanigans as aforementioned, and while it’s not as good as the Saddler Boss, it’s better than the volcano fight at the end of RE5. There’s also one enemy which I always devote my entire attention to executing because it creeps me out so much. When you first meet it, it comes out of a pig’s head.... Oh yeah, there are some very amusing enemies here. It’s not scary, but things like that boob creature are fucking vile. And there are zombies, even if they are uncharacteristically spry and agile. Having played as both Helena and Leon, I’d say this campaign is the best designed one that RE6 has to offer. It’s the atmosphere and setting which makes it, really. By the end of each campaign it’s balls to the wall Michael Bay action, but at least this one builds up to it. Helena’s a bitch, though. Helena should die.
---------- Chris ----------
I played this one first because I wanted to get it out the way as soon as possible and thought it was a sensible bridge from RE5. And it’s very much like RE5. The demo was somewhat misrepresentative of the type of fights you’ll have because there are plenty of instances where the fighting takes place in the confines of narrow spaces or from afar, where there is no benefit in taking cover, stopping, dropping, and rolling (or maybe the cover mechanics aren’t that good). And aside from previously mentioned camera issues, these constricted fights are the times when Chris’s campaign is the most fun.
Yes, this is the campaign all about firepower. It’s a bombastic, testosterone fuelled circle jerk, and features some of the most asinine dialogue I’ve ever heard (delivered with such conviction). A chapter in, you play flashbacks to the horror in Edonia and this is where the campaign is the most uninspired. The large scale fights you engage in seldom have a good enough payoff (or the boss you just killed will be replaced with another one just like it) and there’s nothing left to top the endless shooting. Oh wait, there’s set-pieces. But to be honest, I expected all of these things on Chris’s campaign because I expected it to be the worst. While it’s full of dickhead design choices, it wasn’t as bad as I anticipated and Edonia didn’t last forever.
The part of this campaign around which I wished the entire thing had taken inspiration from involves a fight with an invisible snake. My experience went from boring to good fun really quickly, and I almost wanted to prolong the fight for just that reason. Soon enough though, you’re back to vaulting over roofs and diving into frenetic firefights. What makes it all the more laughable is that Chris has his panties in a twist about losing men - and has vowed to make the person responsible pay for it - but he so readily sends people to their deaths while orchestrating the deaths of others in the process. So I couldn’t care less about anyone who dies in Chris’s squad. Chris is now the male version of Alice from the movies. Follow him and you die. And he has Piers. Piers’s sniper rifle is really good though and if you’re hunting for emblems in this campaign then he’s the one to use.
J’avo. Fighting J’avo (the principle baddy here) is not as dangerous as I thought it would be. J’avo are entertaining enemies because for all their exciting mutations they are thick as pigshit. Some variants will simply run in circles. One mission sees you saving hostages from a spider type mutation. I couldn’t help but laugh watching the J’avo parade the hostages around on their backs like butlers shifting h’ordeuves, high on PCP, scuttling about endlessly in search of nowhere. At least in RE4, if they made it to the door with Ashley in the bag, it was game over. Here it’s just kind of pointless. I’ve only ever been grabbed once by one of those Bandersnatch types. And if they don’t come to get you, they shoot from afar. On Pro Mode their accuracy is really good considering their eyes are in all the wrong places. There are several J’avo types but the spider type is the one to watch out for, personally speaking. It’s the chrysalid creatures which are, for me, the better designed enemies. There are some Brute type creatures lifted from Dead Space which are a pleasure to fight and a fly swarm type which I kept hoping would turn into Drahmin from MK.
Then come the rail sections... Why did they have to include those? First you shoot, then you drive. I could have really done without these sequences. It got better when I got to fly while Piers took care of things on the aircraft carrier, but it just became tedious after a while. Pacing wise Chris’s campaign is the second worst. It’s like you’re doing a really hard workout but you’re only losing weight in random bursts. I think that’s a good analogy. For the work you put in, the payoffs are far and few. The set piece preceding the final boss was more of a challenge than the final boss. That doesn’t mean it’s all bad. Chris’s battles allow for a more open fighting strategy than the battles in RE5, with the exception of the Two on Two fight. But I definitely performed the least melee kills with him.
Chris’s story somehow aspires to be the most character driven one, but it falls flat on its face wherever it mistakes melodrama for sincerity. Chris just needs to take a shit and let it all out. Right on Piers’ face. But I digress. The campaign is okay. I could have enjoyed it less, and the fact that it takes place mostly at night actually soothed me. I was really annoyed though that you get a grenade launcher but no rocket launcher. You always get infinite launcher in Resident Evil. Donda esta?
---------- Jake ----------
This is the veritable run and gun scenario. It features the best character team, has too much happening in it, and my set piece efforts looked like a behind-the-scenes stunt double nightmare.
Let me start by saying Jake and Sherry are possibly the most sympathetic Resident Evil characters we’ve seen up till now. I never followed the like for Claire and Jill. I only root for Jill because, like Sidney Prescott, she’s the original. But Jake and Sherry (from now on referred to as Shakey) are more or less likeable. You’ll get an idea of how wet behind the ears Sherry is and how friendless the antisocial Jake is, and how nice it is that they can be freaks of nature together. It’s almost irrelevant who Sherry is in the lore because she certainly doesn’t seem traumatized by nearly being impregnated by her mutated father’s tentacles, and being experimented on and kept in a room for most of her life. And Jake seems unnaturally vindictive over the death of the father by whom he was abandoned, although I think this parallel is incidental. Whatever, I skipped none of their cut-scenes. Chris and Piers were not so lucky. Sherry is here to protect Jake from She Who Must Not Be Named because Jake’s blood contains the antibodies to stop the C-Virus biohazard. And Jake has agreed to help Sherry end the C-Virus terror for 50 million dollars – which is peanuts.
The offer on the table in this campaign sounds like a lot of fun. You have most of the available weapons at your disposal as well as kick-ass melee moves which are more entertaining to perform than anything else. And it is fun. Especially playing as Jake, whose overpowered neck-breaking moves I never tire of. But such things, unfortunately, are not meant to last. Ustanak shows up. Now I have no idea where reviewers draw the comparisons to Resident Evil 3: Nemesis from. Ustanak’s pursuit of you is nothing like Nemesis or even Haunting Ground. It’s more YOU that keeps running into him. And during the first meeting, it was all very exciting and I got put in the cage and it was a big dose of yippie-ki-yay-motherfucker. But suddenly you are plunged into some scripted escape sequences.
And this is where Shakey’s campaign makes me irate. Your fights with J’avo, chrysalid mutants, and Ustanak are cushioned by set piece events or button mashing sequences or a combination of both. And some of these cushions are fucking dense. I died the most on two vehicle sequences: one on a snowmobile and one on a bike. Mind you, all in all, these sequences last no more than 20 seconds. Maybe less. But it took forever. It was seriously like playing a level in that PS2 Stuntman game. Now, I am sure part of this is due to my own ineptitude for driving sequences in most games, but this was pure horseshit. And what was more annoying was that the death animations were predetermined – like the game had accounted for which parts of the concourse were the hardest. I crashed twice into the same truck in the road, but it showed me crashing into a regular car further back. I dread to play these sections cooperatively. We will be stuck there for hours I tell you. Unless I play as Sherry.
There are fetch quest puzzles in each campaign, but the ones in Shakey’s campaign which see you traversing blizzard beaten terrain is infuriating. Being an Agent Hunt hotspot, enemies continue to spawn and navigating the many hidden passages makes you want to skip the section altogether. At one point we are given the option to ride around on snow mobiles, but by then I had already collected all the keys so didn’t understand why this option had been made available to me. I could best describe this campaign as half-baked because it has hints of good ideas but those fail more than they work. And the drama of Ustanak and traveling between locations is so often bridged by these stop and start QT sequences, that it will start to piss you off and stop you feeling like getting you have any control.
I should probably get Agent Hunt out of the way as well. This mode is pretty hit and miss. Literally. I fell into Shakey’s campaign as a J’avo, but no matter how many times I made for an attack, the other players would glitch out of them. Perhaps it was a connection issue, but it didn’t control well. Or I just suck at it. Take your pick.
Then there is the subject of pacing. One of the best bosses, which is better than Ustanak in my opinion, is an annoyingly short lived event and culminates in an invisible timer segment. As if that wasn’t disappointing enough, the final boss battle is undone by a reliance on Jake to deliver most of the damage, so Sherry is pretty much on standby and can only wait for the fight to be over. There is a lot of this standby business, especially in crossover sections. And just when you think it’s over, we are treated to an escape-death-by-crawling-with-the-left-and-right-triggers sequence that had me rolling my eyes so hard I thought I was going to hurt myself. The fight overstays its welcome and needn't have been so long. The boss in Leon's battle, however, at least invites different tactics and use of your skill sets with the change of environment.
There are varied bits which I enjoyed, like a stealth section and a hide-and-seek game with Ustanak, but despite overwhelming you with bombast, it was ultimately pretty bland. Some sections would have been better off as simple cutscenes, and I get the feeling that they tried to make it as interactive as possible. When you do want to interact it’s a scripted event, and when you’d rather get a cutscene you are forced to engage. Shakey’s campaign is a truly a mixed bag of good moments outdone by bad designs and shit for brains pacing. It is also the one campaign which I think a bad co-op partner will make worse. These shortcomings made this campaign the most disappointing, and disappointing because I was looking forward to it a lot.
---------- Ada ----------
Ada’s Wong’s adventure is differentiated from the others in that it is solo and emphasizes puzzles - mostly. It began pretty badly for me, as the first level sees you infiltrate a submarine without being detected. I must have had to restart ten times before I simply gave up and legged it through the level with a horde of J’avo solider things chasing me. So I was not in good spirits at the start. Soon enough, shit hits the fan, and you are tasked with escaping. And then the more dangerous baddies came out to play and I had no ammo whatsoever...
And then I was in high spirits. Before it dives into its China levels, I would say Ada’s campaign is a close enough dose of survival horror offered by a current gen Resident Evil title (should Revelations not come to the console market). But mostly because you have ostensibly no partner, bar one occasion. It can be very hard to get by because there is no one to help you and enemies are very aggressive. A boss I liked from Shakey’s campaign returned here and I had a really good fight with it, after it killed me a few times...
I was expecting this campaign to be like Separate Ways in getting me to replay sections I had already gone through with the other characters, and while it does that to some extent, it’s different enough to be more than an add on. It features one of the harder puzzles in the games since RE3’s water sample and clock puzzles, but more because I picked up on the wrong clues. Still, it was weird to be stuck. In every other campaign the ‘puzzles’ (mostly fetch quests or lever finding quests) are more of a distraction. Not that they lasted long in this one. And another boss had me stumped for a while as well before I figured out how to beat it. There isn’t much of a reliance on QTE, but definitely some invisible timer stuff. There’s only one gunning sequence I feel existed to lengthen the playthrough before the final fight began, but I could be Wong. The rest of the campaign is fairly substantial.
Ada’s leather pants crease up around her fanny when she’s crawling through vents and ducts and tunnels. I only know this because I’ve been looking at her ass having to crawl through so many vents and ducts and tunnels. It’s very bony, but I think Jill still has everyone beat in the look-how-skintight-my-crack-is department. But I remember a lot of crawling around in this campaign. I didn’t hate it. I think I was still jittery from all those Quick Time Events and was expecting something outrageously over the top to happen.
Something outrageously over the top does happen. It reminded me a lot of Silent Hill.
No, Ada’s campaign moves at a good pace. One similar to Leon’s. None of the sections seem rushed, although during crossover bits I did just feel like the fifth wheel. Apropos, crossover sections are really hard to get going with four players online, which I’m kind of glad about (there are lots of trolls out there). I think the story here is what kept me interested (after having played the other three campaigns in such quick succession). And the reveal in this campaign that made Resident Evil Damnation’s ending interesting (although it didn’t take a genius) was good. If Ada and Leon’s scenarios had come as one game I would have been happy. It's a shame that this was not unlocked from the start. It would have fit well between Chris and Jake.
Resident Evil 6 is not a totally broken game. It just has a very vague identity as a Resident Evil title and a very splintered one as a dose of action-adventure. It has good action elements, if uneven, and I found most of the problems pooled in Shakey’s campaign. You will be running and gunning, parkouring, fighting hand to hand, driving, riding, flying, swimming, climbing, sliding, 'stealthing,' dodging, and wriggling lots of analogue sticks. You will face loads of Quick Time Events. It can be perfectly fulfilling as an action game to pass the time, has strong replay value and, like RE5, it pays to play cooperatively (although the partner AI is significantly better than any Sheva). But some design choices don't work at all in the interest of the gaming experience while others could have been more intuitive. It’s definitely no survival horror. Capcom are kidding themselves if they believe that. Here is a game which set out to meet the expectations of the gaming audience beyond the regular Resident Evil enthusiasts, and consequently it has spread itself too thin (or too thick perhaps) to please any of them.
The story is convoluted, characterisations contrived, and every narrative beat is just another trope from the trope bag. In a bid to appear more rounded and dynamic, these Resident Evil characters have all been rendered damaged; they either have daddy issues, abandonment issues, inferiority complexes, Stockholm Syndrome or a combination of all. But there’s a meaty story in there if you're after story and can be bothered to follow it. Unfortunately, Mercenaries/Agent Hunt didn’t hold my interest.
You won't miss much by not playing it, and your enjoyment will certainly be at the mercy of your expectations. I did have fun with it, I just don’t to ever play it again. And where was that damn giraffe?
+ Creature design, detailed gamestate, large scale
+ Leon/Ada campaigns
- Chris/Jake campaigns
+ Selected Boss fights
- Recycled boss fights in cross over sections / Timed fights
+ Competent AI partner
- Cheap deaths from gimmicky scripted events / Abundance of QTEs
+ Fun melee combat
- Inconsistent pacing / gameplay disrupted by stop and start sequences)
+ Decent replay value
- An awful, convoluted, and totally contrived story (as usual)
- Agent Hunt is hit and miss
- Blowjob Giraffe did not make an appearance.