By: Kyle Grubb
Well, this has certainly been a long time coming, but here we are: the current finale to our Resident Evil Retrospective. At least, until the HD version of Zero comes out. Until then… this is it. It’s been over a year coming. And, in some ways, I’m almost afraid that this review’ll disappoint. I know it disappointed me.
Resident Evil 6 is, in many people’s eyes, a culmination of everything that’s wrong with the Resident Evil franchise. It’s a heinous betrayal of what this franchise represented, of what its fans still wanted the franchise to be. It was action-heavy. It was ridiculously over-the-top. It was over-simplified. When I played it, I found all of this to be true. Every last part of it.
It’s also sorta fun.
When I played Resident Evil 6, back when it originally came out, I remembered my sense of disappointment. I was a huge fan of RE4, but was let down by the fifth game. In everything I had seen for the 6th entry in the series before release, I remember thinking that it would possibly be the melding of the action-heavy style of 5 with the better-paced and atmospheric 4. The best of both worlds, if you will. Instead, I played a game that followed heavily after the 5th game, while masquerading itself to look like the 4th. It was bombastic and loud and over-the-top in all of the worst ways, and I never ended up finishing it.
Now, with time separated from that disappointment, and a new-found respect for the Resident Evil series, I took up the controller again. What I found was a game that truly was the next logical step after Resident Evil 5. Three-fourths of Resident Evil 6 are a complete betrayal of the soul of the franchise from its earliest games, and yet, as I played it alongside my friend Andrew, we both began to realize something. Resident Evil 6 is a horrible Resident Evil game, but as a video game all on its own, it’s actually not that bad.
Resident Evil 6 takes place a few years after the event of 5. Split into three major campaigns (along with a fourth, secret campaign), players are thrown into a story that takes the Resident Evil adventure to a globe-trotting, grand scale unlike the franchise had ever flirted with before. The characters had all cemented themselves as action-movie heroes, accomplishing death-defying stunts every thirty seconds and taking on waves and waves of enemies. Each of its heroes step up and work together to save the world from an stoppable epidemic. And, as much as it pains me to say this, it’s all kinda cool.
Players, at the start, are free to choose from three different stories to follow. Starring in each of these campaigns are Leon Kennedy, Chris Redfield, and newcomer Jake Muller. Their three stories intertwine and flesh out a global catastrophe, and shows how each of their actions affect not only the paths of one another, but also the greater story as a whole. In addition, each of these campaigns takes tonal inspiration from a different section of the Resident Evil franchise. Chris’s campaign is heavily inspired by, unsurprisingly, Resident Evil 5. It’s the story with the most gun-fights, insane monsters, and action-based moments. It’s also, in my opinion, probably the most consistent campaign. Jake’s campaign is clearly inspired by Resident Evil 3; throughout the entirety of the campaign, Jake and Sherry (yes, fans, that Sherry) are being hunted relentlessly by the Ustonak, a creature clearly inspired by Nemesis. Jake’s campaign is by the far the most experimental campaign. Each chapter seems to try something new, and while some fail, other definitely succeed. Last of the main stories is Leon’s, which tries to hearken back to the good ole days of Resident Evil 4, and even the original two games. Leon’s campaign is both my favorite and least favorite, for various reasons. It’s quality is definitely the least consistent of the three campaigns. Lastly, the fourth campaign is just a disappointment. After beating the other three, you’d think this is the one that’ll tie everything together and provide all the answers. You’d be right. Just be ready to read a lot. And die a lot.
The big problem with Resident Evil 6 is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be, and thus refuses to fully commit to being anything. Is it a horror game? A third person shooter? A survival game? Is it anything? Each of the three campaigns have such various different motivations and inspirations that the game doesn’t feel like a coherent unit. Leon’s campaign starts out trying to be atmospheric, but by the end finds itself constrained by the gameplay systems and abandons that approach entirely. Jake’s story has so many different ideas that it tries to pull off, like it’s clumsily done chapter 2, that it never feels like the player is able to get into a rhythm before something new is introduced. Chris’s campaign, at least, knows exactly what it wants to be: a shooter. You have your gun, your buddy has his gun, and it’s your job to shoot stuff until it dies. This is also the campaign that is the least reliant on QTE’s, which is a definite plus, as those begin to bog down various events during Leon and Jake’s adventures.
When the game just lets itself become a cover-based third person shooter, it’s at its best. That’s a shame, but it’s also a fact. The systems of the game are designed to support that kind of gameplay, and so when it does what it was built to do, it does things fairly well. What the game is not built to do is support the survival horror vibe generated in the beginning of Leon’s storyline. While this section is a great send-off to fans, it feels awkward and wrong to play through it. The enemies absorb more bullets than feels appropriate, and don’t react the way you expect them to. The game also tries to deliberately slow you down to generate tension, but it doesn’t really work because of how empowered you feel because of the gameplay designs. Unlike the older games in the franchise, I was never worried about a giant monster coming to attack me or a horde of enemies showing up. If they did, I could shoot and kick my way through them with little worry. As such, Chris’s campaign is the best built for what the game actually is, and not what it feels it still needs to be. It’s Gears of War-lite, fighting against zombie-like enemies instead of aliens. And it’s fun, especially with a buddy at your side.
Just like Resident Evil 5, RE6 can be played entirely with a friend alongside you. Also like RE5, that’s when it’s at its best. Unlike 5, though, the game isn’t a slog without them. The AI characters manage themselves much better, and they no longer eat through your ammunition. It just works out a bit better. They also decided it was best to streamline the healing system, and as such, all healing is relegated to a shoulder button. You turn your herbs into little herb-pills, and pop them with a button press to heal yourself one life bar at a time. The system actually works pretty well, allowing you to heal yourself mid-combat without having to navigate a menu. Lastly, the game takes away the gun customization from the previous game and replaces them with skills that you buy between chapters. I prefer the old system, but the skills can allow you to tweak how you approach situations, by allowing you to melee more or increase damage against certain enemy types. It still allows a small amount of customization, which is never a bad thing.
Presentation-wise, Resident Evil 6 is probably the best in the franchise. It features some of the most consistent and well-delivered voice acting in the franchise, and the graphics are impressive for when they were released. The sounds effects and music are greatly implemented, and the series still has just the right touch when it comes to using your hearing as well as your sight to create fully-realized environments. In terms of actual story, though, the game is decidedly less successful. With Wesker dealt with, the main villain of the game is instead a spotlight seemingly shared by new character Simmons (who was such an unmemorable character I needed to look his name up) and fan-favorite Ada. Though there are some twists and turns behind Ada’s motivation for what she’s doing, all in all the less said about the game’s actual plot, the better. The series has gotten to the point in it’s overarching plot where a true, full understanding of everything going on is becoming increasingly difficult. Essentially, you just jump around from place to place shooting up interesting-looking enemies with fairly okay gunplay, and progress from setpiece to setpiece until you beat a boss. while this is never a very inspired design, neither is it inherently awful.
Basically, I’m disappointed. I expected to hate Resident Evil 6 while playing through it again, but instead I’m just bummed out. It wasn’t much better than I remembered, but it’s flaws just seemed so much less significant with time to heal these wounds. Resident Evil 6 may represent everything wrong with what the franchise ended up becoming, but if you take away all of the baggage and get yourself a buddy to play it with, you’ll find that the game is far from the worst way to spend an afternoon. Is it the worst game in the franchise? No. I’d say Resident Evil 5 gets my own personal vote for that. The gunplay of 6 is a marked step-up over its predecessor, which at least means that the moment-to-moment gameplay is still much better. All in all, Resident Evil 6 is an mediocre-to-alright game flying under a banner that makes it look worse than it is. Is it the worst game ever made? Far from it. But for series faithful, it’s hard to recommend that they look twice at it. For friends looking for an interesting and varied shooter to play through together that’ll get them a good twenty hours of content or so? Yeah, why not.
Now let’s just all hope they reboot this franchise properly and stop with this bro-shooter mess. I want the old-school stuff again. Thank goodness for that remake of 2 that’s coming.
Resident Evil 6
Also, this is an old joke, but still…