Few introductions have left us picking our brains quite like Resident Evil 6’s.
In the opening five minutes, you’ll scout for items, combine herbs, and get reacquainted with the first zombie to appear in a Resident Evil game for almost a decade. Moments later and you’re outrunning explosions that wipe out entire streets, piloting a helicopter that brushes the side of a train before crash landing inside a building full of undead punters.
It’s no secret that Resident Evil continues to straddle the line between acknowledging its fans who’d rather see a return to the series’ humble survival horror beginnings and keeping up with the escalating popularity of a AAA brand. Resident Evil 6 is no different but this latest effort entertains the idea of leaving no fan behind.
So if you can’t please everyone with one game, why not try three?
It’s this belief that Resident Evil 6 has been built around: three unique campaigns, each roughly two-thirds that of Resident Evil 5’s, tied together by an overarching melodrama of global bio-terrorism and the arrival of yet another deadly virus spilling blood.
Headlining this trio is Leon S. Kennedy who kicks off events by capping a zombified US president. The luck of Leon is that he’s starred in all of the series’ most revered installments making his appearance here is something of a good omen. Joined by guilty party Helena Harper, the two traipse through the zombie-infested sewers, streets, and graveyards of Tall Oaks trying to piece together how the outbreak occurred whilst satisfying the urge to put Leon’s Ganado-mowing skills to the test in a Raccoon City-inspired chaos.
Series veteran Chris Redfield picks up the story in the fictional Chinese city of Lanshiang, enlisted back into the BSAA by former squad mate Piers Nivans following a brief hiatus. Packing heat, Chris’ campaign is more in line with the sort of gun totting transgressions that many criticised Resident Evil 5 for. Then there’s mercenary Jake Muller, a little less ambiguously aligned that Chris or Leon’s campaigns but no less eventful. With a special blood that’s immune to the virus doing the rounds, Jake’s in high demand, drawing the likes of agent Sherry Birkin to bring him in and the Big Daddy-like behemoth Ustanak to constantly pursue the two.
Though each side of Resident Evil 6′s tale is told slight differently there’s much shared here. Stories regularly cross over allowing other characters to join the fray for choice set-pieces and aside from a few mutations, they all share the same core mechanics that have evolved vastly since Resident Evil 5.
Ducking, diving, free-form melee, and a clumsy cover system give each character a little for flexibility but none more so than the belated arrival of move-and-shoot gunplay. Inventories have also been streamlined, allowing for swifter changing of weapons and prepared health items can be accessed at the tap of a button.
In the absence of money, treasure looting, and sadly a friendly merchant, your rewarded Skill Points for your killing technique. These points can be spent on a raft of attachable perks that increase accuracy, reduce recoil, increase weapon drops, or even stop your co-op buddy from picking you up with you hit the ground. Costly as they are to attain and level up, you can only equip three at a time and their progress carries though the entire Resident Evil 6 experience including all four campaigns and Mercenaries.
Co-op also makes a return, spread across all three stories. It’s a little better tailored this time round with many levels encouraging players to split up and adopt different roles and tactics. Those going it alone however will be happy to hear that the buddy AI has been given a much needed shot in the arm. They’ll no longer badger you for ammo or heals and can take care of themselves in a shootout.
Neither return to form or revolution, Resident Evil 6 feels much more like an evolution of the last game. It’s still a little rough around the edges (vehicle sections are less than perfect but arguable have never been this good) but Capcom has addressed almost every complaint levelled at its former. It’s the sheer amount of game however that’s dangerously overwhelming. In order to satisfy each character’s desire for a full campaign, sections feel needlessly drawn out with added shoot outs or length corridors you simply jog through. It’s a little jarring considering elsewhere the jacked up pace that courses through Resident Evil 6.
Upon completing all three sides of the story, a fourth tale becomes available as does returning point-chaser Mercenaries mode, easily the most expansive it’s been to date benefiting from the added depth of play and the aforementioned attachable skills. There’s also the cleverly spun Agent Hunt which allows you to hop into the action of another’s campaign disguised as an enemy tasked with interrupting the hero’s journey. Finally there’s Re.net, an online social network unavailable for our review but designed to track in-game achievements and progress and dish out in-game objectives with the promise of rewards.
In many ways Capcom’s effort deserves applaud. A game with so much scale, turned around in what has seemed like a short amount of time is a coup that’s atypical of Japanese development. But trying to please everyone has left the series in the same limbo it was previously stuck in.
Fans will pick up on numerous winks, subtle nods and throwbacks baked in but will ultimately lament it for lacking any of the qualities they’ve been clamouring to see return. Those who asked for the refinements in Resident Evil’s combat and a greater challenge will be satisfied but left wondering where things can actually go from here.
Save for its cast of familiar faces and the advent of new ones, Resident Evil 6’s survival action opera is lacking in the dread-driven haunts and out of the blue scares that once pioneered the series.
For all its epic ambition, Resident Evil 6 is largely forgettable.
An epic in every sense, Resident Evil 6 delivers action by the spadeful but little of it memorable.
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