"Resident Evil 6" Takes the Bad with the Good Review

 Resident Evil 6 is the next step in an evolution to keep the series fresh and keep those numbers increasing. Reviewers all over the web, both critics and fans alike, have been absolutely savage to the new title. No matter what you personally think of these changes, the only thing that is apparent about this new game is that it has massively divided the community.

I feel like I stand in the middle. I see a vision of what the developers were trying to accomplish, and when it all comes together, I am in huge support of it. I believe that Resident Evil 4 is one of the greatest games of all time and its sequel, Resident Evil 5, while harboring some problems, still manages to slide by and be a great game. Resident Evil 6 tries hard to add something new to the direction the series has been going, but it lacks polish and (most importantly) focus. It's the text book example of what happens when there are too many ideas and no one is there to properly manage them. It's bloated and desperately needs some fat trimmed.

Resident Evil 6 represents a step further away from the direction die-hard fans want it to go. Anyone still wishing the title would return to the roots set down by the PS1 originals will find plenty to be disappointed in. It's only the fans of the recent games that should sign up, it's clear this is the route that Capcom wants to go, and personally, I'm one of the people that would rather see where this formula goes.

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Change has still been made to the new way of business, and fundamentals a plenty have been tossed out. Gone is the tank maneuvering and replaced by the standard movement in third-person action titles. A new melee system replaces the old context sensitive one, allowing characters to smack zombies in the face whenever they please. The downside to being a kung-fu master is that it can be exhausting and a stamina bar is in place to keep players from abusing the powerful attacks. Mash out too much and the player is left extremely vulnerable. The system works the best of all the changes. The risk-reward system pays off and gives a certain edge to Resident Evil over other horror games with something that really adheres to the absurdity the series has been notorious for.

As far as these changes lend themselves to the overall package, well, that's a problem. The way I see it, it's impossible to grade the game without breaking it into three pieces. It really feels like 3 micro-games were sewn together into the mess that is Resident Evil 6. You really have to break it down to show where the game worked and where it fell short.

Leon's Campaign: This is the most focused and should've been the benchmark for the entire game. The new features that were implemented work the best here, especially the new melee system. There's a lot of nostalgia in the surroundings, mirroring Raccoon City one moment, then the sprawling catacombs and labyrinths of RE4 the next. The game’s pacing works more here than in any of the other campaigns. It has the most variety, using everything from the siege style shoot-outs from Resident Evil 4 & 5 and slowing down for puzzles straight out of the earlier RE's. It's sad because if the entire game had this structure, it would've been a much better game.

Chris's Campaign: This is where Resident Evil 6 fails and fails miserably. Chris is all about action, modeling the gameplay around something akin to Gears of War. The new changes to the gameplay fall so short of matching games in the genre. Melee doesn't work when bad guys can shoot back. Ammo shortages happen frequently when combined with the higher number of enemies than in the other campaigns. The core gameplay should've been changed to reflect that these were the chapters that would be focused on gunplay and since such concessions weren't made, it's easily the worst part of the game. The only notable segment involves an invisible giant snake and that's it. Everything outside of the crazy boss-fight you’ll forget about by the next week. Plus, I just hate Piers and whiney Chris.

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Jake's Campaign: The hardest one to gauge because at its core it's really just a giant series of chase sequences. Most of them are too simple to be enjoyable, just running at the screen until a cut-scene happens. The reason why I am reluctant to declare it a failure similar to Chris's campaign is because the scenes that don't involve running play like a better version of what the Chris chapters strived to be. It also helps that, story-wise, this is the most interesting of the tales. Sherry Birkin, all grown up, is actually enduring and makes me hope she's even more prominent in the next title (like there's doubt on there being a 7?). Jake is also surprisingly charismatic and a great addition to the cast, another character that grew on me. I wasn't expecting to be enthralled in their tale as much as I was. Next time, however, less terrible vehicle sections, please.

Rounding out the game is the beloved Mercenaries mode, back in the way it's been since it started. Same drills here: survive for as long as possible and kill as many zombies as you can. The online play works great here, and keeping split-screen was a smart choice. I can't believe that the formula works this well after so many years. It's as addicting as it ever was.

There's also the new Agent Hunt mode. Stealing a page from Dark Souls, Agent Hunt lets players pop into a single player game and assume the role of a mutated bad guy. It's mainly just here for fluff, but there's a surprising amount of fun to be had in the suffering of others. I felt cruel for it afterwards, but I won't deny that I had a smirk on my face as I caused a probably very frustrated player to cut his campaign short with my nuisance.

Onto the visuals, which like the game, are inconsistent. The triumph is the character models that are just so visually detailed. Seeing Leon's shirt actually ruffle when an explosion goes off nearby or the sweat and dirt covering every hero shows a lot of attention put into the details. The same should be said for the zombies. The greatest parts are the little things, like the chunks that go flying off whenever a section on the body is hit. Damage modeling is a huge plus here, giving an aspect of fear to an unstoppable foe that few zombies games have ever done.

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The best bits are whenever a zombie goes through a mutation. What really makes it pop is the pairing with some fantastic and gruesome sound design. Enemies burst forth from slime encrusted chrysalis and bring with it sickening squishes that just make you want to take a bath afterwards. Some of the most creative bad guys in a horror game for a while, they get under your skin and just make you feel gross to be around them.

The low point tends to be the environments. Don't get me wrong, there's a great level of detail in them, it's just that they never come to life. They still feel stuck in this state like they were back in the PS1 days. Limited interaction and constantly feeling crowded. There's many occasions where you'll get stuck trying to figure out what is what due to the kitchen sink mentality that gets certain areas overly populated. It's a minor gripe, I know, but one that does stand out consistently.

Controls certainly don't do the game any favors. Resident Evil 6 is another game wanting to do too much with too little. Many of the buttons play too many roles, most of which force hand gymnastics that are just awkward. To simply roll out of way, a player has to hold the aim button, then press the evade button whilst pointing in a direction and then has to let go of aim to make sure they don't sit on the ground vulnerable to another attack. It never feels natural. The inclusion of a terrible cover system doesn't add any points. Players won't use it much because it just never works the way the game thinks it should.

I also want to take note that this game lacks the ability to pause the action. I have a certain level of hatred for a game that won't let me take a break simply because I don't know if I'm dooming myself while I want to use the bathroom. That also means that accessing the inventory is a pain in the butt. Need to dump some gear to make room? Better think fast before you get eaten alive. There's never a point behind the lack of a pause option and that's what makes it even more annoying that it broke this sacred rule.

Resident Evil 6 is such a tough cookie because it straddles the middle bar of quality. At times, there are moments of brilliant game design (such as the aforementioned snake fight) but then it gets bogged down in lengthy boring segments that leave no impression at all. With the exception of Leon's chapters, the pacing is so off and feels inflated to tack more hours onto a game rather than use it to make a better experience. It's the definition of quality over quantity. Hours should've been shaved from this mess to allow for the better ideas to stand alone and not be bogged down. I recommend this to the people who have stuck by the series since 4 and want a step forward in design and not back. There are moments when the promise of this game shines and in it is where players will find the most pleasure. It's a shame that the developers went with the approach of putting everything in. They missed the mark and players are left with a game that feels over stuffed and under cooked. 

 

"Resident Evil 6" is on sale October 2, 2012 and is rated M. Action, Shooter. Developed and published by Capcom.

Oct
16
2012

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