LOVED IT: Stellar voice acting and sound effects, great visuals, loaded with content, well-built online setup
HATED IT: Overuse of QuickTime events, routinely troublesome camera, vast inconsistencies in pacing
GRAB IT IF: You love the Resident Evil series, or are in the mood for an average third-person shooter
Early on in the prelude, you find yourself running away from a monstrous explosion, just moments after a horrific crash. You dash down the highway, leaping and dodging cars, then jump onto the rung of a helicopter.
These opening moments of Resident Evil 6 — as well as the menu cinematics that resemble the start of a Spider-Man movie — make one thing clear: This game means to be a blockbuster.
For better or worse, the series that once defined the survival-horror genre almost completely leaves it roots behind in Resident Evil 6. As Capcom tries to fully advance its series into the modern era, action and cutscenes and massive set piece battles take center stage.
But the end result is a game that’s too often chaotic and directionless. Instead of building on mystery and loneliness, it takes its cues from all those up-and-down Resident Evil films, relying on action and adventure. The elements don’t succeed here, though, and you’re left with that same empty feeling that you get after a “Resident Evil” film: You’ve seen lots of action and none of it was meaningful.
Is Resident Evil 6 a bad game, as so many reviews have said? No. But, a testament to the series, it certainly doesn’t live up to the lofty expectations we’ve come to expect from the series. In the attempt to usher in a new RE6 era, this game is a far more homogeneous experience, like the spring’s Operation Raccoon City, instead of the captivating, stubborn experience of Resident Evil 5.
RE6 blends both new and old ideas. The story is ambitious, blending four different campaigns into one intertwining arc. But the controls eschew so much of what once made the series a patient, well-parsed crawl, relying on a broken and faulty third-person cover-shooter scheme. The disparate parts never fit together, resulting in an uneven experience.
RE6 introduces a new storytelling mechanic into the series, breaking itself into four intertwining campaigns. Series mainstays Chris Redfield and Leon, as well as newcomer Jake Muller (the son of the evil Albert Wesker) all get their own campaigns, and the stories intersect at various key moments. Another unlockable Ada Wong campaign ties the entire experience together, lending cohesion to the tale.
Each campaign is meant to highlight a different brand of gameplay, which is both a creative tactic and an attempt to pander to a larger crowd.
Leon and Ada feel the closest to classic RE gameplay, blending puzzle-solving and patience. Muller and Redfield, meanwhile, present far more generic adventures. Muller runs around jump-kicking zombies to death, emphasizing close-quarters combat, while Redfield’s campaign is your stereotypical third-person shooter. Each campaign is fun, but the utter simplicity of Redfield and Muller will put you asleep, especially because of the overall lack of creativity. All characters in RE6 funnel down largely tight, linear paths, and that’s especially noticeable in the shooter/combat levels of Muller and Redfield.
This big bad story is one that Capcom desperately seems to want to tell and control, so it often rips control from the gamer. The hefty dose of cutscenes isn’t awful, but too many of the more “unique” gameplay sequences are. Whenever you’re not engaged in simplistic shooting or running, RE6 turns to those annoying QuickTime controls.
This disrupts the rest of the RE6 experience, with big button prompts preventing you from truly following the brilliant cutscenes.
QuickTime controls are a crutch for a lack of creativity in many mainstream games (and they bugged the heck out of me in Battlefield 3), but they’re hardly the lone basic convention that Capcom borrows.
Because the zombies of RE6 are surprisingly well-equipped with guns, the protagonists are refitted with third-person shooter controls. You can run-and-gun now, and you should be able to take cover, too, except the cover controls only work half the time, because of poor button mapping.
The camera doesn’t help. When RE6 isn’t robbing you of camera control to randomly focus you on some helicopter on the horizon, it’s leaving you with a too-close angle that prevents you from appreciating much of the game’s beauty.
It’s all disappointing, because I actually had fun throughout RE6. The story itself, while as over-the-top as the cutscenes, is enjoyable, mostly because Capcom deftly weaves its large cast in and out of different campaigns. Voice acting is superb, and really, every character comes to life; Redfield’s voice is tinged with regret in one early cutscene, while Muller exudes a proper brooding feel throughout his campaign.
Even better is the cooperative play. Every main campaign has a cooperative component, and Capcom does a solid job of varying the experiences. Often, both players are separated and help each other in various ways, perhaps shooting past a barrier to help their teammate before reuniting later. By and large, Capcom makes sure the separations feel organic; it never feels forced.
RE6 also makes cooperative play easy. Finding a match is never hard, and for those without the Internet, there’s a split-screen option as well. Capcom’s recent titles — think Street Fighter X Tekken — have mastered online gameplay, and RE6 is no exception.
Those production values (hey, this is going for blockbuster broke, here), and that splendid online experience provide the saving graces for Resident Evil 6, and they are enough to make this a somewhat worthwhile experience. If stellar production values and dominant online play can key Activision’s yearly Call of Duty releases, then RE6 is worth it at least for its well-told and outlandish story.
Thing is, we expected so much more from Resident Evil 6, the latest in a long line of stunning survival-horror games.
Reviewed on Xbox 360
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