Why do we idolise Leon Kennedy?
It’s got nothing to do with his way with the ladies or his snappy one liners but it’s because this notoriously fringed hero has had the luck of being centre stage for Resident Evil’s highlights – starring alongside Claire Redfield in the much adored Resident Evil 2 and the revolutionary Resident Evil 4, which Kennedy took a starring role in.
It’s given him something of a Midas touch on the series, which is why all eyes are on Leon to deliver a vital injection of survival horror into Resident Evil 6′s threefold campaign.
For a man who arrived to his first day on the force covered in blood and escaped from an exploding island on a jet ski, Leon’s latest story cranks up the dramatics in its opening seconds by having Kennedy cap the undead president of the United States.
Being the ladies man he is Leon is joined by secret agent Helena Harper, a secret agent who claims responsibility for the bioterrorist attack that turned a simple presidential visit to Tall Oaks University into a hotbed for zombie activity.
Thunder and lightning outside, power predictably out, and shadows alluding to dangers around each corner. Resident Evil 6 lays the atmosphere on thick, restricting your movements to a slow pace to let Capcom’s efforts spook and scare.
As we stroll through the dining room, where decorations for the President’s arrival are still hung, a shadows in the distance stirs the duo’s careful approach into a chase.
Before long they encounter a survivor: one of the university’s members of staff whose daughter is missing somewhere in the halls.
Plodding back through the dining room, the survivor starts coughing and the obvious starts to set in. Sooner or later, this chap’s going to try and use Leon and Helena’s lobes as a bargain bucket but until then, his directions and set of keys are the only way out.
Behind a door with a bloody hand mark stretched across it, we find Lizzie, bloody and from the looks of the dead bodies scattered around, we’re guessing she didn’t come out of it unharmed.
It’s the home stretch. We’re in an elevator making our escape; our stragglers now slumped on the floor. A father reassures his daughter that she’ll be ok. As the final signs of life drain from her face, the elevator’s lights cut and the sound of chomping fills the tiny space.
The torches are whipped out and greeting Leon and Helena is the delighted face of Lizzie, no doubt overwhelmed to finally be tucking into her father’s flesh.
It’s something of a powerful moment. After years of slaying Spanish farmers and massacring Majini, Resident Evil’s favourite fodder have shuffled back into the picture.
It’s a moment that can’t be savour for too long as Lizzie’s ready for her next meal, leaping upwards to bite that fringe right off Leon’s face. Analogue sticks are waggled furiously, shots are fired, and moments later the elevator doors open and we’re overwhelmed by the undead.
Now it’s time to get to grips with Resident Evil 6′s combat – refined from the much criticized ‘stand-still-and-aim’ approach seen in Resident Evil’s 4 and 5.
More agile than before, moving and shooting, sprinting into action, and diving are all compulsory to Leon’s skill set. Tapping Y switches out one gun for two allowing Leon to dual-wield pistols sacrificing accuracy for firepower.
It’s easy to chew through bullets at a rapid pace but there’s a couple of handicaps in place if you empty your clip too early. Tapping the right shoulder trigger allows Leon to punch and kick his way through crowds of rotting zombies without having to cap them in the knee and wait for a prompt.
There’s also a quick fire move executed by pressing both the left and right shoulder triggers simultaneously that will make Leon shoot multiple enemies in one fell swoop. It’s a cheap move suggesting that Resident Evil 6 isn’t quite prepared to fully backtrack from Resident Evil 5′s action-heavy direction.
From the safety of a security office, Leon and Helena watch from security cameras as students get massacred by their now undead dorm mates. Confusingly, Leon insists that they should attempt to save the now infected students.
This from a man whose shot down zombies in the hundreds and gunned down Ganados in the thousands. Leon’s heroic tendencies have been admirable in the past but in this closing cut-scene to Resident Evil 6′s E3 demo, it just seems ludicrous.
So is Leon on track to reanimate Resident Evil’s survival horror corpse? There are chills and scares to be had certainly but it’s all underpinned by the gung ho action of Resident Evil 5.
One back, two steps forward, Leon’s campaign is set to live up to much of its promise but there’s an underlying doubt that Kennedy will be able to deliver the good a third time.
Check back next Sunday when we’ll be talking through our impressions of Chris Redfield’s action-oriented demo.
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