Review: Resident Evil 6

Resident Evil 6 is no horror game. It doesn’t have to be either. I might question why a product that abandons its roots clings to its namesake, but simply being unrecognizable is not reason enough to criticize something. What troubles me about Resident Evil 6 is that it does not even demonstrate competence in any of the directions it strains towards.

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
ESRB Rating: M
Released: October 2nd, 2012; PC [March 22nd, 2013]
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Version Reviewed: Xbox 360

The natural starting point out of the three campaigns available from the beginning, Leon’s, sticks closest to the series’ roots. The moonlit chaos of narrow city streets and the crashed helicopter feels like a callback to RE2. At best this sequence is a hollow effigy, because the developers have lost all sense of what made RE2 endearing.

Leon’s campaign is by far the least action-oriented campaign in the bunch. With a stellar use of light and shadow and a subtle soundtrack, it’s remarkably atmospheric, but it’s a far cry from tense or frightening, and it’s certainly not exciting.

leeAfter all, how am I supposed to feel when I have a huge surplus of health and ammo and infected are dispatched with 2 shots to the head, and anything that gets close eats a roundhouse kick that would make Bruce Lee blush?

The emphasis always seems to be on progressing through dimly lit corridors lined with small numbers of infected. Corridors are narrow and your objectives are clearly marked. There is little room to wander. Before long it becomes apparent that the levels aren’t going to open up. God forbid they present me with a locked door and force me to actually carefully explore to find a key.

There are a few finely crafted moments. At one point I was marauding through subway tunnels and there was a bright cone of light shining from behind a curve on the inside wall onto the opposite outside wall. I saw a huge shadow crawl across it, then another. Then 5. When I finally saw a formidably sized mob of infected round the corner it was dreadful and I relished that the game had managed to finally make me feel something. And then a train hit all of them and the moment was washed away like a brilliant sand castle being dashed by the tides.

RE6_Leon_SDCC_03QTEs are featured heavily, but that by itself isn’t a knock against the game. After all, RE4 didn’t skimp on the prompts and it is one of the best games in the series. It’s all about restraint and finesse. RE6 does not possess such qualities. For instance, I got into a fight with a huge mob while trying to rescue a group of people. All was going well until a scripted ambulance careened into the area and killed me before I had the chance to react. I replayed the section and a zombie grabbed me before the scripted section began. I sat there waggling the sticks furiously to remove my clingy rotting friend, and the ambulance subsequently crashed into me while I was immobilized and preoccupied with a QTE. Another section had me fending off a wave of zombies using a rotating lever that caused a wall to intermittently spit fire. I rotated the stick for 45 seconds straight and, much to my surprise, that was all I had to do.

Chapters are inexcusably long given how many of them there are; 20 in total, averaging about an hour each. Without engaging stimuli, each chapter left me feeling sapped. This was only 1/4th of the way through the game. By the end this homogenous mind-numbing mess of a game elicited a special kind of contempt and desperation for it to end that I haven’t felt since I played The Cursed Crusade.

moleeLeon’s final is boss is against a man who turns into a cheetah, a T-Rex, and a giant fly. It’s divided up into parts. I’ll be honest – at some point I lost track of how many parts there were to this fight. My conservative estimate was six, but my notes indicate that there were as many as 9 parts to this boss battle.

Chris’ campaign abandons any of the pretenses of being moody or atmospheric that Leon’s campaign might have teased. In this chapter, you fight rifle-wielding infected who wear luchador masks. Good thing there’s a snap-to cover system now, because we’ve entered the shootout portion of the game.

RE6_Chris_SDCC_02When you’re not fighting luchadors, there are irritating hostage rescue sections where fleet footed spider monsters dart around and weave under you causing you to stumble. They might just decide to do that 4-5 times in a row leaving you without any control for prolonged periods of time.

The main problem with Chris’ campaign is that, aside from the addition of being able to move while shooting, the combat is hamstrung by the vestigial mechanics that were appropriate for a survival horror game. The field of view is squished, the dodge roll is an ineffective lurch, cover doesn’t actually provide full coverage, and the camera in a tight space can just spin out of control. Enemies animate wildly when shot and the splurch of popped heads is satisfying, but it ceases to be entertaining when there is so much else wrong with the gameplay.

RESIDENT_EVIL_6_picture_3rd_release_1006_for_360

Without genuinely exciting gameplay, the game is forced to fall back on set pieces and one-off sections to be thrilling, but they too are deeply flawed. With no tension to back them up, the salvo of explosions quickly become pedestrian. Without engagement you’re just watching plumes of orange pixels and the sense of spectacle falls by the wayside. There’s even a point where an underwater lab explodes into a fireball. Emphasis on underwater.

And then there are the vehicle parts – turret sections, driving sections, plane piloting sections, helicopter piloting sections, motorcycle sections – Resident Evil 6 has them all, though a lot of them spill out of Chris’ campaign and infect others. The land vehicle parts and the turret sections involve doing almost nothing. There was nothing on the road and nothing to shoot. I spent half my time in the driver seat lethargically nudging the stick and holding the trigger down, and half my time in the passenger seat with literally nothing to do but watch a looping background fly by. The helicopter sections at least involve mindlessly shooting some targets down. The plane sections would be the best of the bunch, except that you get a barrel roll prompt to evade incoming missiles, and when you do that the camera cuts and a lengthy canned animation plays. Meanwhile, you cannot aim at your targets so you zip passed them. Once you’re free from the animation, you turn and reacquire the target, but by then the whole process just repeats anew.

RE6_E3_Chris_Piers_02

Speaking of co-op partners having nothing to do, moments like this are abundant. One player can be left waiting for up to 30 seconds while the other player/AI runs off to flip a switch.

Up next is the new comer, Jake Wesker’s campaign. Sherry tracks him down because he, being the son of Albert Wesker, has antibodies that will help stem the tide of this game’s C-virus.

RE6_E3_Jake_Sherry_Ustanak_02

Jake’s campaign picks up where Chris’ left off, except in this campaign we are introduced to an insipid linear stealth section versus a monster that the player has already directly faced several times prior. Also there’s a snow-mobile section and a motorcycle section that, to the game’s credit, provides some exciting sense of spectacle. The game manages to pull such thrills on rare occasions before going back to bumbling; competent and lively for the briefest of moments amidst the anemia.

Jake’s campaign was also my first and only experience with the story intersection feature. Since the game plays out from the perspective of each pair of characters (and Ada Wong), there are moments of overlap. During these moments pairs of co-op players can converge and tackle a section together. In this case, Sherry and I assisted Chris and his partner who were being attacked by a giant monster. We needed to take down 3 anti-air batteries to clear the area for air support before felling the monster. Refreshingly, I didn’t have any objective markers and there was a fairly wide open area to explore. Unfortunately, the player playing Chris had objective markers so instead of exploring I just followed him around from objective to objective.

RE6_E3_Crossover_Leon_Helena_Jake_Sherry_01

Ada’s campaign is, mercifully, much shorter than any of the other three. With an assortment of somewhat interesting puzzles, more open areas, no reliance on co-op sensitive button prompts, this campaign could have been a breath of fresh air, but it must first be unlocked by playing the game’s other three campaigns for roughly 18 excruciating hours.

I’ve been refraining from talking about the plot up until this point because the game attempts something that is intriguing. It attempts to unfurl a story that only truly comes together once you’ve experienced it from multiple overlapping perspectives. Ada’s perspective is the one meant to clarify everything. This ambition is commendable, but the overarching plot is too silly for the game’s self-seriousness and ultimately disposable.

RE6_E3_Ada_Wong_01

The gist of it is that Derek Simmons, National Security Advisor to the President of the United States, runs an illuminati-like organization called The Family. The game refuses to expound upon what The Family actually is. Simmons is in love with Ada Wong, but Ada rebuffs him. Meanwhile, his assistant, Carla, develops the C-virus and Simmons decides to use the C-virus to make a clone of Ada. After 12,000 failures he figures out that Carla, who is in love with him, has the perfect DNA to recreate Ada, so he manipulates her into being a test subject. He even goes so far as to tape the process of the C-virus birthing his Ada clone. Leon, by the way, finds this tape of “Ada Wong” being born from a cocoon and never sees fit to bring it up again. By this point Simmons has a clone of Ada Wong who he believes will never leave his side, except she goes nuts and embarks on a quest to do, in the most convoluted way possible, exactly what Wesker did in the last game while constantly mocking Wesker for being foolish and arrogant. She also creates Neo Umbrella which seems to be a huge red herring. I wish I was making all of that up. It is incoherent, convoluted, and laughably idiotic.

I wouldn’t take such issue with the writing if it hadn’t taken front seat and driven the game on such a protracted byzantine field trip through self-indulgent drivel. I simply don’t see why the game needed to be so miserably long to tell such a hackneyed porous story. If one were to argue the merits of short and tight games, one would need only to look at this game. Twelve hours or more of fat could easily have been trimmed from Resident Evil 6 and it would have left a far better taste in my mouth.

RE6_Gamescom_Jake_0000

Resident Evil 6’s development team was comprised of over 600 people. The phrase, “a camel is a horse designed by committee,” is appropriate here. RE6 wants to be a little of everything. It wants action, romance, tension, horror, open ended sections, thrilling linear sections dotted with set pieces, it wants to be homage to classic RE, it wants to drive the series in a new direction, it wants to be silly, it wants to tell a serious story, it wants to try new things with new storytelling techniques, it wants co-op, competitive multiplayer and singleplayer, it wants to feature 7 playable characters both new and old, it wants helicopters and motorcycles and turret section, it wants big explosions, but also creeping dread, it wants an RPG skill system. So much ambition seems virtuous, but it does absolutely nothing well. It does most things pitifully. The problem isn’t that Resident Evil 6 hasn’t stuck to its roots. The problem isn’t that it’s bastardized the series’ legacy by making the jump from survival horror to action. The problem is that it’s confused and strains in 2 directions while going nowhere except flat on its face.

Oh, but to its credit the partner AI has improved since RE5. So hey…the glass is 1% full.

2.5 / 10

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