Capcom always knew it had a lot to prove, and with Resident Evil 6 it’s thrown just about everything at putting the longstanding horror series back on top.
It’s a bit unkind to label Resident Evil 5 a dud – for all the flabby plotting and Sheva’s rotten AI it still had sections of brilliance – but you won’t find many people who would put it up there with the likes of Resident Evil 4, and there’s a real sense that EA’s Dead Space duo has defined the horror game for this generation (even if it borrowed a lot from Resident Evil 4). At times, the new Resident Evil offering feels like an apology, and at times it feels like a statement of intent: sure, other developers can make survival horror games, but can they make them as big and as bonkers as us?
Resident Evil 6 Storyline
Size and scale are the watchwords. Resident Evil 6 incorporates not one but three lengthy campaigns, each fully-playable in single-player or co-op modes, and all three binding together in one massive over-arching storyline. On the one hand, Resident Evil 6 acts like a straight sequel to Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil: Revelations, tracking Chris Redfield and his squad as they’re sent into action against hyper-charged terrorist mutants – the J’Avo – in a fictional Chinese city.
On the other hand, it’s also a sequel to Resident Evil 4, continuing the adventures of Leon Kennedy as he tackles zombies and other bio-monstrosities in, around and under an American university town. Finally, in the fictional Eastern European state of Edonia, a mercenary – Jake Muller – teams up with Resident Evil 2’s Sherry Birkin as the BSAA (the good guys) battle more J’Avo in a remote mountain city. It turns out that Jake is the son of notorious Resi villain Albert Wesker, and that his blood might just hold the key to stopping the latest virus before it destroys the world.
Three different campaigns, then, and three surprisingly different experiences. Chris’s adventure harks back to the urban chaos of Resident Evil 2, but it’s also the closest the series has ever come to being a straight third-person action game. Though there’s limited use of cover and the J’Avo have a nasty habit of suddenly sprouting giant clawed arms or bat wings, it can feel a bit like Gears of War 3 or Army of Two – or even Capcom’s own Lost Planet 2. Jake’s tale is also pretty action heavy, though altered by Jake’s brutal melee skills, awesome acrobatics and impressive resistance to machine-gun fire. Though the platforming bits are basic and only semi-interactive, you still can’t help but suspect that someone at Capcom has been playing the Uncharted series.
It’s Leon’s chapters that feel closest to the Resident Evil of old, and if you liked Resident Evil 4 – and most of us did – then you’ll find Leon’s campaign a little slow to start, but great once it gets going. It’s still a bit linear, and still very action heavy, but there’s a bit more exploration and a little more puzzle solving, and with zombies everywhere you look there’s a bit of the classic Resi feel.
Resident Evil 6 Controls
There’s an awful lot to like here. Capcom has finally modified the controls so that you can aim and shoot at the same time, which makes dealing with fast-moving enemies a whole lot less frustrating. There’s now plenty of room in the inventory, and you spend less time working out what to keep and what has to be thrown out. And while Resident Evil 6 still employs AI-controlled partners when you’re playing alone, Helena in Leon’s campaign, Sherry in Jake’s campaign and hotshot sniper Piers in Chris’s campaign are all pretty useful with a gun. We’ve played Resident Evil 6 alone, with a friend and with drop-in, drop-out online players, and while it’s still better with a friend or even with a stranger, it’s perfectly enjoyable on your tod. You’re no longer left swearing while Sheva wastes grenades on the grunts, fires a pistol at the bosses and hoovers up the herbs before you grab them.
However, the problem here is consistency. Of the three campaigns, Leon’s is the best, Jake’s improves with time, while Chris’s is decidedly patchy. We saw Capcom struggle with the third-person shooter in Lost Planet 2, and the work here shows the same lack of experience, and the same problem delivering convincing and exciting encounters.