Sixteen years ago, Capcom brought about the game that introduced a lot of us to the genre of survival horror. Sure, there were certainly others before it, but the Resident Evil franchise was the first to become a blockbuster hit and has not lost it’s steam since due to Capcom’s steady stream of support. Resident Evil 6 marks the sixth title in the main line of games, and has a lot to live up to due to how quickly the industry has evolved.
Will it be scary? Is it going to be better than the godly Resident Evil 4? What more can this aging franchise deliver? Those questions have been on a lot of minds, and thankfully, they can all be answered with this monumental release as that day has finally come and Leon, Chris, and a few new faces are back and ready to take it to the next level. Is this next chapter the high point of one of the most famous names in gaming, or is there truly “No Hope Left”?
I’ve said it before – and I’ll say it again. Resident Evil as a whole franchise does not need to be “scary”. We were all a lot younger when the first few titles made us keep the lights on while playing, and the biggest mainstream criticism that the series has received during the past decade is that it can no longer provide that classic feeling of unease – or “spook” the player with the old jump scares that put Capcom’s hot property at the top of the horror food chain years ago. If you want a scary game, go play Amnesia: The Dark Descent or the original Dead Space. Resident Evil 6 does have it’s moments, but it’s impossible to feel true fear through eyes that have seen it all – and that is why Resident Evil is no longer about the art of horror. Newer IPs such as the aforementioned can pull off the “fear factor”, because no one knows what they are in for in a unfamiliar environment. We all know that the zombies and infected are the enemies within Resident Evil now, and this game’s key to success is how well it pulls off the intensity of hope for survival.
Leon Kennedy is now partnered up with agent Helena Harper, several years after the events of Resident Evil 4 (2013 – for those who are interested). While investigating a bioterrorist attack, a major event occurs that sends both protagonists looking for answers. For spoilers sake, I won’t go into detail, but this plot is one of the most exciting the series has seen to date, with twists, turns, and revelations that will leave fans who have followed Leon immersed until that post credits roll. The best part? That’s just one of four campaigns within the game. Chris Redfield is down on his luck and still shaken from past events, and has almost turned into a shell of his former self when BSAA agent Piers Nivans forcefully puts that patch back on his arm, encouraging the wartorn hero to look for the answers he is seeking while continuing his own legacy in the process. Jake Muller is the odd man out, partnered up with Sherry Birkin, who has ties to Leon that go back to Resident Evil 2 and the events that unfolded in raccoon city. Jake is a wanted man and very reckless, which leaves the surprisingly brave Birkin to act as a bit of a protector to the C-Virus carrying anti-hero. Ada Wong plays a large role herself within these interwoven narratives, acting as the silky ribbon that ties everything together neatly. Yes, she has her own campaign too, but again, we won’t go into that.
As you can tell, there is a lot going on here. Back when Resident Evil 6 was first announced, I honestly didn’t know what to think of any of the new characters as their personalities didn’t come through all too well. Aside from the somewhat dry Piers, I am now a fan of each to an extent. Helena may be my new favorite female for the franchise as well. Yeah, of course she has looks on her side – but there is a veil of mystery and depth to her character that hasn’t been seen in a Resident Evil game before, which makes progressing and learning more of her own story all the more pleasureful. Each plot could have settled as a game on it’s own – and it’s quickly obvious that no campaign is less important than the next, as all four blend into eachother perfectly. Go ahead, just play one. You’ll get your money’s worth, but the satisfaction of Resident Evil 6 comes from the full experience of tackling every plot and watching the epic encounters and interactions unfold along the way.
Trot, Trot, Trot…aim..SHOOT! Trot, Trot, Trot…aim…SHOOT. Ah, the good old days. Years ago, the main gameplay elements of Resident Evil was simply to survive, conserve ammo, and keep those herbs handy. Things are a lot more complex now, and this engine has now been refined greatly. Resident Evil 4 brought about the over-the-shoulder camera view, which did wonders for the series. 5 added in a fine-tuned co-op mode, allowing for two to tackle hoards. Resident Evil 6 takes cues from both, but manages to stay unique on it’s own behalf by refining the overall experience and adding in a lot of features that keep the action intense during every bout.
Now if you have played more recent entries, you should consider yourself in familiar territory as all of our protagonists control about the same when it comes to basic movement and combat. Each character has a fragmented life bar, with a newly added stamina system that controls the amount of melee maneuvers that can be used in one bout. Remember in 5 where you could punch or kick a stunned enemy? Well, that element has been greatly enhanced this time around. If you so choose, you can walk up to a zombie or other dastardly foe and deliver a kick to the head, punch to the face, or even a sturdy pistol whip at the tap of a button. There are plenty of times that ammo will be scarce, so this allows the player to put those physical attributes to work and deliver chained attacks that can level the playing field quickly against most enemies. Each character have their own unique physical attacks as well, which makes each playthrough as a different protagonist feel distinct and adds incentive for completing the game multiple times.
Running is a bit more important this time around as well. There are some sequences that require the player to simply get out of the area stat but if you are weak, stamina must be slowly regained by remaining unharmed for a short amount of time. In true cinema style, each of our heroes can now perform a new slide while running, ducking under large foes in the process. It looks as awesome as it sounds, and is actually a fantastic addition as players can deliver shots as they slide, which comes in handy due to how fast-paced the combat is within 6. Yes, this game has the most action the franchise has ever seen to date, but manages to stay true to it’s roots by slowing down the pace occasionally to keep the players on their toes.
Speaking of speed, one of the biggest problems we have had in the past with most of the Resident Evil titles was the inventory system. I mean, yes…it worked – but took players out of the action and into a menu if they wanted to do something as simple as use an herb or equip a weapon. That may have worked in the slower entries, but I don’t think it would have worked here which is exactly why Capcom revamped the layout. Players can now use the D-Pad to quickly thumb through their weapons and items at any time without interruption. Herbs can also be combined on the fly, and used seconds after with a press of the shoulder button. I will admit, this quick way of using items and equipping your arsenal does take a bit of time to get used to, but after a short time, it all becomes second nature and I can’t imagine going back to the archaic schemes of the past.
I keep using the words “speed” and “fast”, but I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea about the way Resident Evil 6 plays. By no means has Leon turned into Sonic…the game has simply added options to make up for the more action-packed sequences. A good portion of stages are all about puzzle solving or require an item to be found to open the next door or entry way ahead. This will be a formula that most remember from the past, and not a lot has changed when it comes down to the fine details. Due to the fact that 6 is built around co-op, a good portion of the puzzles require players to separate from their partners in order to open a door up ahead, which increases the challenge a bit due to the single player aspect. Once reunited, hitting switches or busting through doors in unison can be performed, and the player can then progress on. Resident Evil 6 has also made boss battles a more clever affair, where players must utilize a bit of thinking, teamwork, and strategy in order to succeed.
Sheva was great and I miss her dearly, but her AI was definitely one flaw within Resident Evil 5. Luckily, the AI is very competent this time around and almost invincible to an extent, which lets a player playing solo relax a bit and focus on their own problems at hand. You will never need to heal your computer controller partner, and they are usually quick to assist when danger occurs, reviving your character at a moments notice. I did have a few occurrences where I would see my partner unable to assist when he/she was pinned down, but that is a more realistic reason than staring at a pot or hoarding ammo (yes, looking at you Sheva), so most shouldn’t have too much of a problem during the single player runs. I will say that co-op with a real player is the ideal way to play, but there is nothing that a solo player will lose from going in alone.
As far as weapons go, the basic inventory of shotguns, pistols, magnums, and sniper rifles can all be found, with a few explosives mixed in for good measure. Some of the more difficult enemies will only go down with heavy weapons, so knowing when to use what weapon and how to conserve that ammo plays a large role into your survival in a chapter. Skill points can also be acquired, allowing for boosts in many techniques as well as defense and combat. Each skill set is made up of three boosts, and there are eight sets in all that can be customized to your own liking, allowing players to choose the route they take when it comes to their own enhancements.
Now, as far as the whole “separate gameplay styles” that Capcom promised within each campaign – that is definitely true, but not in the way you may be thinking. Leon’s campaign is a bit of a mix with puzzles and classic zombie showdowns that fans of the older Resident Evils are sure to cling to first. Chris’ campaign is a bit more gun heavy, and relies on the newly in place cover system due to the new threat of the gun-wielding J’avo. Jake’s plot is a bit of a mix of the two, but more action-oriented as a whole. There is a difference in concept, but the gameplay really remains the same outside of the strategies utilized within each campaign. To tell these stories and keep the player involved, there are quick time events. Yes folks, be prepared to waggle that stick and hit buttons and the proper moments, as RE 6 will throw a QTE at you at the blink of an eye. With that said, I feel that most of these moments are done simply to keep the suspense rising during the more intense spots, and there isn’t really any annoyances or repetition aside from my own personal hatred of the stick waggle – so again, these timed button mashing sequences should cause little grief and simply act as a reminder of this generation’s attachment to the flashy and cinematic feature.
The Mercenaries is back, and better than ever. This once side game is now a selling point of Resident Evil 6 on it’s own, giving score hungry players a reason to keep on going even after beating the nearly 40 hours of campaign time. For those unfamiliar, Mercs mode has the player partner up or go in solo into one specific area and defeat as many enemies as they can before the timer runs out. More time is earned depending on how you take out your foes (or if a time crystal is broken), and the strength of the hoard grows as time continues on and that score rises. After the bout, you can level up your own character with collected skills and unlock more content for the mode based on performance, so the replay value is nearly infinite for those who become addicted like myself.
Agent Hunt is a new entry into the franchise, and lets you enter other players own campaign as an enemy such as the J’avo, where your goal is to make life harder for the protagonist at large. Players can choose their spawn point before entering a game, and simply have the goal of ending the life of a would-be hero. It’s not the most deep mode by any means, but I found it to be interesting and something that could be broadly expanded upon in future entries.
Visuals and Audio
Every model is Resident Evil 6 looks fantastic. There really is no other way to say it. Leon appears a bit older this time around, but has kept his famous locks and ditched that jacket for a sligtly new look. Chris appears a bit stressed, but doesn’t seem too much older in appearance other than a change in hair style and outfit. The enemies are also varied and all have their own intimidating qualities, but due to the fact that most will want to be surprised of what’s in store, I won’t speak too much of that now. When it comes to the campaigns, there are several areas all over the world players will be visiting, and each are well detailed and provide that dark, menacing atmosphere that many have been begging for. Even the HUD has gotten a facelift in this entry, giving each character set their own unique style to assist in making all these stories distinct from one another.
As far as the soundtrack goes within the game, I found it to be damn near perfect. Every boss battle’s level of suspense is heightened due to the thunderous track blaring in the background, and the intensity of the light and subtle beats during slow moments will certainly make some weary to look around that next corner. There is A LOT of dialogue within Resident Evil 6. This is the most scripting we have ever seen in a Resident Evil game to date, and all of the original voice actors have returned to yet again lend their talent to those personalities we all know and love. The J’avo and zombies definitely have their own screams and full sound effects as well, and there is one enemy in particular that will be certain to give even the toughest player a jolt when it lets out a surprising blood-curdling shriek.
One of the greatest parts of this industry is watching how franchises evolve. Where some die off due to change, others thrive and continue to grow. Resident Evil 6 is the best entry to date among the prestigious series, as it not only delivers the most content we have seen thus far, but also offers many improvements that only benefit the newly added action sequences. As far as the horror goes – yes, you will have some jumps from time to time, but this sequel is really more about perfecting it’s own motif, providing four stories that are sure to keep you glued to the edge of your seat until the very end. The gameplay might catch returning players off guard due to the changes, but worry not as everything within is solid and killing zombies has never been more enjoyable. Resident Evil 6 is the exclamation point after a sixteen year journey, giving us further indication that the king of the survival horror genre still reigns supreme.