The Resident Evil franchise has come a long way since its console debut in 1996. The changes were subtle at first, but little by little, the elements and general themes that made the series so loved and feared have slowly been chipped away. What started as an industry benchmark for survival horror has shifted with the changing times and become something much more akin to a traditional third person shooter.
While some of these changes have been well-received, and even praised for their innovation, this sixth addition to the core RE storyline is such a far cry from its origins that it may as well be called Zombie Death Murder 22 Electric Boogaloo. Capcom have basically gone with the kitchen sink approach to gaming here and packed Resident Evil 6 with four full campaigns and no less than seven, count ‘em, SEVEN, lead characters. It’s an ambitious strategy and one that certainly shakes up the franchise. But, as any malignant tumour survivor will tell you, bigger isn’t always better, and the bold attempt to pack four game experiences into one has left RE6 feeling a bit disjointed and thin.
The stakes are set high in the story department though and you’re no longer confined to one insignificant peasant village or a flyblown corner of Africa. The very world is at risk as humanity is gripped by the deadly C-Virus – a chemical agent so diabolical it turns ordinary humans into monstrous organic weapons in a matter of minutes. You take the helm as series veterans Chris Redfield, Leon S. Kennedy, Ada Wong and newcomer Jake Muller – the illegitimate son of Albert Wesker – and set to work unraveling the mystery at the heart of the global crisis. What follows are some of the most memorable and forgettable moments in Resident Evil franchise history, as you hop from character to character, following along with their globetrotting adventure.
This multi-layered, character centric plot defines RE6, highlighting both its greatest strengths and abysmal shortcomings. Each of the four campaigns has sprinklings of genius; the only problem is, they’re few, far between and book-ended by monotonous grinds. Being chased by the Nemesis-style Ustanak is thrilling. Doing battle with a semi-invisible snake in a dingy apartment, exhilarating. But having to slog through hours of generic cookie-cutter creatures to get to these points drags the overall experience down to the ground and leaves you wondering if the cast were auditioning for the roles of Space Marines in the next Doom.
The other problem with this type of story structure is clearly evident as the narrative starts to cross over and weave the individual campaigns into a single cohesive story. Each segment is seemingly self-contained and only hints at an overarching plot. This means that questions are rarely answered during individual playthroughs. Once you reach the end of all four, however, it starts to culminate into a fairly logical conclusion (B-Movie quality logical) but the set-up is accomplished by way of backtracking. This means that sections that should have been left to one playthrough are forced down your throat a second time as you retread old ground for the sake of story.
Backtracking in anything other than an RPG has always been a bit of a hit and miss premise (and even then it’s had its critics.) Simply playing through an earlier section in reverse or with a different character doesn’t equate to interesting level design and comes off feeling lazy. (Come on Capcom, that’s like Games 101.) Part of the problem may have been that each of the four campaigns were handled by separate development teams – which has affected the overall consistency of the game. With all the generic fluff, the truly enjoyable moments equal out to a couple of hours’ worth of play per campaign and rather than go with this truncated experience, regardless of whether one story section was slightly longer than the other, Capcom have arbitrarily stuffed it full of generic action padding. Highpoints are invariably followed with HOURS of generic move and shoot `action’ and it’s a move which is downright frustrating.
This emphasis on action also brings with it two new mechanics for the Resident Evil franchise; the addition of a stock-standard cover system and the ability to move and shoot. Not unlike those found in other, grizzly, chainsaw-gun wielding third-person shooters, the new abilities perform admirably, from a technical standpoint, but feel like a bit of a misstep overall. It’s a little hard to be intimidated by hoards of undead when you’re a walking death machine with more ammo than you know what to do with, and the shift in focus pulls the series even further away from its horror roots. It also leaves the game feeling like a bit of an imitator more than anything else.It’s not all bad though because the game does have some solid level and creature design. Both are a clear step forward for the franchise and well worth praise. Expect to see some of the most disgusting enemies you’ve ever laid eyes on and some great locales to match. (And that’s not an easy thing to say given the game’s history.) Graphics have also been given a bit of a shot in the arm and showcase some great lighting and shadow effects. Cutscenes are particularly nice and do a great job of framing key points in the storyline.
Overall it looks like the focus has shifted from bright exteriors and colourful character models, seen in Resident Evil 5, to dirty and grimy. (And that’s a good thing.) Another one of the high points is the ability to have a friend drop in and out via co-operative play at any point during the four campaigns. It does detract from the `horror’ elements, having a competent friend close by, but generally makes the game more enjoyable overall.
Once you trudge your way through the main campaign you’ve got a couple of multiplayer options to dabble with. Including classic Mercenaries mode, which is probably the best iteration yet, and a not-so-flash new mode called Agent Hunt which pits you against as the main characters as one of the generic mobs. All up you’re looking at about 30-odd hours of fresh content. But only about ten that’s actually worth playing. Extreme highs. Terrible lows.
- Reviewed On