Resident Evil 6 Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4
Time for the world to let out a big zombie groan of despair as Capcom’s quest to resurrect Resident Evil games from days gone by continues with an as-polished-as-you-can-get remaster of number six. Generally considered to be weakest in the main canon, Resi 6 was originally released back in 2012 and took the series another step further away from it’s survival horror roots. Instead, it tried to cosy up with the Call of Duty in-crowd of that time by ramping up the action and contractually obliging every cutscene to feature at least one explosion.
To be fair to Resident Evil 6, it wears the hand-me downs of it’s older siblings with pride. In fact, many of the game’s threads and gameplay styles seem to be directly influenced by the rest of the saga, pulling together ideas and concepts from the entire franchise to create an experience that will satisfy individual fan tastes. Unfortunately, this culminates in an absolute mess of a game, consisting of an incoherent plot and gameplay elements verging on the redundant.
The game’s opening sequence pretty much highlights every one of these faults within the first ten minutes. The story begins as fan favourite Leon Kennedy frantically darts through the chaotic streets of a Chinese city, amidst a breakout of a new zombie virus. Accompanied by a new partner, Secret Service agent Helena Harper, pair must work through a series of tutorial set pieces and quick-time events in their hunt to capture one of the responsible parties. It’s an explosive introduction to the game but one that seems to heavily stand apart from the mood setting and tension building atmosphere that most of the other titles managed to create so well.
Upon completion, you’ll then be invited to start one of the game’s four campaign modes. Selecting Leon’s story will take you back to the beginning of the outbreak with gameplay that fits in with Resident Evil 4’s broody horror vibes. It eventually falls into the run-and-gun pattern established by Capcom’s ground-breaking game. The new strain of virus sweeping the globe allows for zombies to carry weapons, so naturally our characters have a little more fluidity in their aiming and shooting than in previous games. It’s all a little fast-paced for a survival-horror and while no-one expects the awkward aiming mechanism of the PlayStation One era, at least we’ve got one gameplay aspect working as designed.
The same can’t be said for the new cover system, which allows our the characters to dive from pillar to post in order to avoid enemy gunfire. Appearing to work almost at random, your character tends to stick to walls when he shouldn’t and completely ignore your orders when he should, leaving you as a sitting duck for the incoming flesh-eating horde. If they do get too close, at least you can make use of the entertaining, if not rather bizarre takedown sequences to make quick work of enemies in tight situation. These stick-waggling, button-bashing quick-time events are a nuisance, but at least they lead up to a satisfying finisher and if you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like to perform a suplex on a zombie then look no further.
Breaking up the action are a number of monotonous puzzle sequences, but these severely lack the noodle-scratching, item-collecting antics of the first few games. Instead, you’re required to work with your partner to pull levers in unison or figure out the correct combination of buttons to press in order to open doors. In fact, the sole purpose of these puzzles seems to be trying to justify the co-op system, which as before is totally optional. But the lack of variety or flair just emphasises that Resident Evil has moved on, and it doesn’t care whether you like it or not.
The rest of the campaign modes may spread the story across the globe, but all work off the gameplay template set out in Leon’s quest. Generally, each level consists of fighting your way from A to B before a quick cutscene points you in another direction and you’ve to repeat the process all over again. Quick-time events will generally only happen to whoever is managing player one, leaving poor old player two to just sit there and wait. The only real benefit of the co-op system, aside from the few and far between puzzles, is that it at least tries to bring an element of arcade gaming into proceedings. the whole game can be played solo with the in-game AI taking on the role of the secondary character but with your efforts scored and ranked at the end of each mission, playing with a friend at least adds some element of competition to an otherwise pointless experience.
Of course, we've seen all of this before and for anyone expecting a little diversity from their sequels, then Resident Evil 6 does plenty to expand the series’ horizons. But it’s another misstep by Capcom. For example, Chris Redfield’s campaign leads to a sequence that involves manning a machine gun on top of a moving Jeep, while shooting at other vehicles. It’s probably the least horror-esque gameplay sequence the game can offer. Meanwhile, newcomer Jake Muller seems utterly forced into participating into a rather frustrating, inconsistent stealth sequence for other reason than the developers decided to put one in there on a whim.
Rounding off what feels like a saga than a single instalment is familiar face Ada Wong, the mysterious double-agent who conveniently crosses paths with Leon whenever the weather forecast predicts that today will be cloudy with a chance of zombies. The original release relegated her campaign to an unlockable after-thought. This remastered version at least gives you the option to play from her perspective whenever you so wish. But in a game that’s already so crammed full of content, it seems like a pointless inclusion altogether, aside from creating to fans of the character.
Also included right from the outset are Resident Evil 6’s multiplayer modes, complete with all the downloadable content released since it first arrived. Usually these are reserved for anyone who completes the game, so it seems clear that Capcom are banking on returning players who want to jump into the action straight away. Mercenaries has always been a favourite amongst the fans and at least this is one area in which the over-the-top action excels. A survival mode at it’s core, the game pits you and a friend against hordes of zombies, with the objective being to kill as many as possible before the time runs out. It’s arguably the most fun experience that the game has to offer.
The package also includes Agent Hunt mode, a unique multiplayer mode that borrows quite heavily from the Dark Souls series. Here, you’ll actually play as a zombie and invade the campaign of another player. It’s a nifty idea, but anyone who has ever seen a zombie film will immediately realise that these undead beings rank and being rather slow and weak on the supernatural spectrum. The controls are clunky and unresponsive as well, making this mode another valiant but ultimately unsuccessful experiment in the name of varying the gameplay.
Aesthetically, Resident Evil 6 is a notably quite a drab visual experience for the series. The graphics and tone consist of a generally bland set of colour schemes while most environments are dark, boring to work within and tend to be cliches seen time and time again in previous instalments. The lead characters at least stand out, but enemies (both human and infected) have a tendency to repeat themselves over and over again within each level. The frame rate at least benefits from the PlayStation 4 hardware but overall, the rest of the game ultimately is starting to show it’s age, a worrying thought given that it’s only four years old.
A bold but ultimately damned experiment, the game unfortunately does not offer any huge benefits in its PlayStation 4 re-release. Admittedly, the action orientated gameplay can be rather fun but does become stale rather quickly, particularly given just how long each of the four campaigns can be. Benefiting from enhanced frame rates and resolution is a also a big plus but by giving players access to previously locked content right from the get go, it someone undermines the usual challenges that these games have to offer. All in all, Resident Evil 6 is just as polarizing now as it was back in 2012.