Okay, sorry, here’s another late one from me. I’ll try to be less tardy in the future – pinky-swear. Anyway, this time, we’re looking at Resident Evil 6, and opinions are quite mixed on this one. I’ll give you my own take on the situation, but I’ll try to provide the raw facts too, so you can make up your own mind.
Platforms: 360 / PC / PS3
I’ve been a fan of Resident Evil since the first game, and I was actually in favour of every new development as the game slowly evolved. I was especially enamoured with the huge shift in gameplay that occurred when Resident Evil 4 was released. Of course, there were a few sad cases who whined about the change, constantly spouting their weak argument that the retarded, clunky, tank-like controls of the old games made it “scary” because you were constantly in danger of dying. Um, no you weren’t, you were constantly crippled and at the mercy of the shitty controls, unable to perform actions that your character would perform in the given situation. Luckily, that has slowly been changing with each new game in the series.
Now, why did I give you this history lesson? Well, I just wanted to give you a small taste of where Resident Evil fans are coming from, and how picky and obsessive some of them can be with regards to changing gameplay elements or making them “too much like other games”. The series has come a long way since its inception, from a sluggish Alone in the Dark clone to a very modern feeling over-the-shoulder shooter – and Resident Evil 6 is the most action-shooter like in the series to date.
Resident Evil 6 is divided into three campaigns set during another viral outbreak in the US – very much like the one in Resident Evil 2. In one campaign, players control Leon Kennedy and his new partner, Helena Harper. In the second campaign, players control Chris Redfield and his partner, Piers Nivans. In the last campaign, players take on the role of a new character, Jake Muller, the son of Albert Wesker, and his partner, Sherry Birkin – yeah, Sherry Birkin, the little girl from Resident Evil 2. I guess she’s all grown up now and involved in anti-bioterrorism after her parents met their gruesome fate dabbling in it. You can play the campaigns in any order, either solo or in split-screen or online multiplayer with a friend controlling the secondary character.
These campaigns are fairly standard action-shooter romps. You constantly get new objectives, which could be anything: find a key for this door, get to this rendezvous point, rescue this character, and so on. There are hundreds of enemies in your way, and you’ve got a limited supply of ammo and weapons to deal with them. You’ll need to shoot accurately and aim carefully for enemies’ weak spots to make the most of your limited ammo supply. Luckily, you can also use melee attacks (at will this time, as opposed to in special situations only, as in previous games), and they are very powerful – but don’t get too ammo-stingy and try to punch and kick your way through the game – your melee attacks are governed by a stamina bar. When this stamina bar runs out, it takes a long time to come back. You move a lot slower and you can’t dodge while your character wheezes and tries to get their breath back.
You can also use this stamina bar to perform a special move called a quick shot. This will make your character immediately face the nearest enemy and perform an instant attack with their current weapon that does twice the damage of a normal attack. This is very useful, especially against the new zombies that leap through the air and grab onto you, and against the nimble dogs that might be hard to target otherwise. Other new additions to the series including the ability to perform diving rolls in various directions, a new counter move which can be triggered when an enemy attacks, and the ability to use cover like in other cover-shooters. The cover system is clunky and hard to get working – but it’s mostly useless anyway, and the only times I ever used it myself was to avoid the projectiles of the spitting zombies.
As you defeat enemies, they’ll drop items, which are mostly ammo for your weapons or other supplies, but sometimes they’ll drop silver skill point icons. You’ll want to collect as many of these as you can, because you’ll need hundreds of thousands of skill points to purchase new skills. These skills have to be purchased from the main menu, meaning you have to drop out of the game to do it. Odd design choice there. You can equip three purchased skills at a time, and they’re pretty much what you’d expect – increased weapon damage, increased enemy item drops, increased defence, a longer stamina bar and increased ammo for specific weapons.
In addition to the main campaign, there are two extra modes you can play any time you want. The first is the typical “mercenaries” mode that has appeared in several Resident Evil games. Kill a certain amount of enemies within the time limit for the best score. There are three characters available at the start, but you can unlock more as you progress. Then there’s a new mode called “agent hunting”, which becomes unlocked after you complete the main campaign, where you play as enemy characters trying to kill the good guys. Okay, interesting. It kind of works. Anyway, in both modes, you can earn skill points to buy skills to use in those modes. Interestingly, you can use skill points earned in these modes to buy skills in the main campaign, and you can use skill points earned in the main campaign to buy skills in the extra modes. So, pick your poison.
Altogether, it sounds like Resident Evil 6 has a lot to offer, right? Well, yes, it does. Playing through all three main campaigns, and the extra, unlockable one, makes the game plenty long enough, with the added value of the extra modes – but there are a few things that drag it down a few notches. Almost all of these are poor game design choices that I can’t believe were not found in playtesting. The first thing that pissed me off multiple times was the instant-death events. Now get this. Sometimes, while running around the main campaign, a train will come along and flatten everything in its path, or an ambulance will come around a corner and sideswipe everything. Often these events get rid of a lot of enemies for you – but they can also kill you. The first time it happened to me, Leon had a zombie munching on him – and even though Helena screamed that there was a train coming, there was nothing I could do. Splat! Okay, bad luck there. So I made sure not to get munched on the next time. The train came, I tried to run to the side of the track to avoid it – and got splatted again. Turns out it was a quick-time, button-press event to dodge the train, which I wasn’t quick enough to do – maybe ‘cos I was playing on the hardest setting. Okay, annoying, but I got it the next time.
Now, it isn’t long before it happens again. This time, it happened when there were two tracks next to each other. Helena told me a train was coming, so I waited for the prompt to press the buttons – and splat! Okay? What the f***! Turns out that because there’s enough space for you to run away, it’s not a quick-time event this time. How the hell are we supposed to know that? A little consistency would be nice – otherwise it’s like some kind of idiot-trap that’s guaranteed to kill you the first time. That’s really, really bad game design there. Then there are the cases that defy explanation. I was fighting a bunch of zombies and suddenly – SPLAT! A goddamn ambulance came flying from off-camera and killed me and everyone else in it’s path. If you’re not facing the right direction when it shows up – you’ve got no chance of avoiding it. Good lord! Is this how we’re going to play? To be honest, this doesn’t happen all the time – but it certainly happens enough times over the course of the game to be annoying.
Other problems arise in the combat. You can throw out melee attacks at will, but the range is short and you can miss quite easily and waste your stamina. Secondly, the counter move, which you do by pressing the button just as an enemy attacks, is fiddly. The timing is already pinpoint and difficult to hit (a typical Capcom thing there) but sometimes you won’t be in exactly the right spot for the counter to register – but the enemies will still hit you while you wait for a prompt that doesn’t appear. If you’re playing solo, your AI partner can be as much of a hindrance as a help. You don’t have to heal them, and they’re pretty proactive in fighting enemies and helping you up when you get knocked down. That’s pretty cool. But after about the fiftieth time you’ve tried to line up a skillful headshot to save yourself some ammo – and they shoot the enemy a split second before you do – causing them to recoil and flinch so that your headshot misses… well, you’ll wish you had a button you could press to turn around and punch them.
On the plus side again, the graphics are good and the controls are smooth and easy to use. The game is fun to play despite these flaws, but here’s hoping that future patches will address them. There a lot of value for money here, and if you enjoyed any of the Resident Evil games from Resi 4 onwards, this is probably a mandatory purchase.