Resident Evil 6 Review
When last we crossed paths with Leon S Kennedy, Capcom had inadvertently just passed the point of no return.
So rigidly templated were the five ‘proper’ Resident Evil games – that’s the original and its two numbered sequels, plus Code: Veronica and RE0 – that Resi 4’s over-the-shoulder viewpoint and cinematic approach represented a bold play on Capcom’s part, but it’s one from which there could be no turning back.
After such flowing and exciting action, going back to daft puzzles, static camera angles and stiff tank controls would – and in fact did, with the XBLA release of Code: Veronica – prove horribly jarring, showing up the old-fashioned design as being exactly that.
And with the last game taking RE4’s action slant to the extreme and dividing audiences in the process, Capcom went back to the drawing board to come up with a bunch of ideas as to where it should take the series next. Then stuffed that entire drawing board in a box and called it Resident Evil 6.
Whether through fear of the kind of backlash that Resi 5’s pure action approach brought upon it or just chronic indecision, Capcom has rammed Resident Evil 6 with more gameplay variety than it should be possible to wring from the core conceit of ‘go kill a bunch of zombies’.
One moment, it’s typical survival horror fare, a string of constant fight-or-flight decisions where saving ammo is as important as saving your own skin.
Dogs are a menace in the main campaign, yet in The Mercenaries they go down in a single shot.
The next, it becomes a cover shooter so generic that if you squint, you can just about make out Salem and Rios from Army Of Two. Then you’re on a snowmobile, caning around in the middle of a blizzard. Then it’s a stealth game for a bit.
Then it does an Ace Combat impression. And by the time it’s all over, you’re left wondering if the Kinect zombie dance-off was just a bad dream or if Capcom actually went there.
It didn’t, don’t worry. But it wouldn’t have surprised us if it had.
The curious thing about this ever-changing beast is that while it can’t seem to make its mind up as to what sort of game it wants to be when it grows up, more or less every kind of gameplay it puts forward actually works.
The core mechanics, an evolution of those in the last couple of games, are clearly designed to fit chasing after zombies just as well as running away from them, though even more exotic elements like vehicle sections, save for the odd shocking example, are generally up to scratch.
It’s rare for a game to try so much in the first place, let alone come away with such a good hit rate, so it’s certainly an impressive game in that respect.
J’avo sometimes go down easy without mutating, but usually they go all wrong and become proper tough to kill.
With complaints galore about Sheva’s AI, it’s unsurprising that Capcom has gone to town in making sure solo players aren’t offered an inferior experience to those who play in co-op.
AI partners don’t need to be constantly fed with ammo or revived – it’s unclear whether or not they can even die, as we never had to save any of them – but they don’t hog all the glory either, plus Capcom has done far more with clever situations that split up players or give each a certain role to play in a set piece.
These moments are better in co-op, sure, but it’s good to see that they work almost as well offline. Each of the characters also has a unique loadout, making both going back to older missions on your own and jumping online with a friend well worth doing.
While Resi purists might not like the fact that this continues in the action-heavy vein of the fifth game, callbacks to older games mean they should be able to enjoy it just as much as those less hung up on the bygone days of tank controls and illogical puzzles.
And with four campaigns that cover everything from survival horror to cover shooting and stealth to vehicle combat and then some, Resident Evil 6 has something for pretty much everyone.
The only real issue is whether you’ll find enough of the bits you like the most in so wildly varied – both in terms of design and quality – an experience to consider it a classic.
Ustanak is usually seen chasing Jake, but that doesn’t mean he’s too busy to make friends with the rest of the cast…
Resident Evil 6 Campaign Breakdown: Leon/Helena
Given that the prologue chapter puts you in control of Leon, it’s fair to say that his campaign is the ‘main’ one. It’s the longest too, and will likely be the most appealing to long-term Resident Evil fans – it’s as close to a traditional horror experience as Resi 6 gets, with its minimal ammo reserves and legions of braindead opposition.
The occasional puzzle breaks things up in classic style, though the new move set is still clearly geared towards action rather than the typically slower pace of earlier games in the franchise.
After a blistering opening, though, things slowly go downhill a little. A couple of ridiculous bosses don’t help matters, though it’s only really in these showdowns that the experience dips below the ‘great’ mark, and even then only momentarily.
It’s bound to be the highlight of Resi 6 for many and understandably so – it’s a generally awesome campaign that, with maybe a couple more chapters, could stand alone on this disc and still be worth the asking price.
Briefcases often contain ammo or Skill Points. Don’t worry about missing new weapons, though – they appear on your HUD.
Resident Evil 6 Campaign Breakdown: Chris/Piers
We’re perfectly happy to accept a more action-heavy take on Resident Evil, but everyone’s favourite boulder beater doesn’t exactly get off to a flying start – the opening section of Chris’s campaign does itself no favours whatsoever.
It’s an Army Of Two-esque shooter with military gibberish being thrown around like confetti and mechanical hangovers from the more horror-inspired scenes, primarily in the way it still restricts ammo despite being a straight shooter.
But since it is a straight shooter, it has a far clearer path along which to evolve than the other campaigns. J’avo mutations grow more numerous and severe as it rolls on, the action building in intensity with each firefight and set pieces escalating at a similarly ridiculous rate.
By the end, you’ll be exhausted from all the awesome, almost to the point of forgetting that limp opening. Almost, Chris. Too bad you didn’t get to punch any rocks this time, old friend…
Jake isn’t only about the fisticuffs.
Resident Evil 6 Campaign Breakdown: Jake/Sherry
Our original hope that Jake’s campaign would develop into more of a flowing fist-fighter akin to Rocksteady’s Batman games didn’t exactly come true, though we do at least understand his combat mechanics a little better after eight hours in his company.
It’s all about burning through your Combat Points to use his awesome martial arts attacks, hence his bar seeming to recharge slightly quicker than the other guys’, with guns to fall back on when you run out of stamina.
There’s also the recurring motif of running the hell away, recurring pursuer Ustanak frequently popping his borderline-invincible head in to say hello.
As with Chris, it’s a slow start but the campaign gets much better from the third chapter onwards, especially if you’ve learned to effective combine his melee proficiency with gunplay.
Be warned, though: Jake’s campaign does features some of the game’s weakest sections, so there’s some muck to wade through in order to get to all the good bits. In summary, far better than we feared it would be.
Sound the alarm in Ada’s first mission and it will let you play on, but you’re as good as dead if you do.
Resident Evil 6 Campaign Breakdown: Ada
This surprising inclusion only becomes available once you finish the other three campaigns, which makes sense as it serves to tie up the three narratives while telling its own equally interesting side story.
Since Ada goes it alone, the co-op aspect that has been around since the last game is dropped and that feels quite strange at first – there’s nobody to help you up when you get taken by surprise and no one to draw fire away from you when things get hectic.
While her arsenal isn’t all that inspiring – bar the super-useful crossbow, of course – shooting is still an option, though Ada is better served by a considered, more stealthy approach.
When played like this, the pacing makes it feel closer to older Resi games than even Leon’s section, so those barking at Capcom for changing things up too much would do well to bite the bullet and rinse all three of the main campaigns. This is a brilliant reward for doing so.