It’s time for a confession; I didn’t actually get the chance to play Resident Evil 6 when Capcom gave the game its first bite at the PlayStation apple back in 2012. In the intervening four years between the original release and this new remastered version of the game, it seemed as if I hadn’t missed out, with many critics and fans alike united in the belief that Capcom had made an egregious misstep with Resident Evil’s sixth core outing. Recently however, a dissenting set of voices have begun extolling the other virtues of the game; bringing attention to the entertaining co-operative modes and underrated combat system.
As is so often the case with just about everything else, the truth behind Resident Evil 6 ostensibly lays somewhere in between, yet something else is also true; folks who did not enjoy Resident Evil 6 on PS3 four years ago, will find little to engage them in its shinier, more feature-stuffed current-gen form. Completing the shift from the series classic survival horror beats to the effervescent Hollywood style spectacle that began with Resident Evil 5, it’s fair to say Resident Evil 6 is not the series best entry. Not by a long shot.
Infamous as one of Capcom’s largest and most bloated development efforts that saw multiple teams toil on the game, Resident Evil 6’s desperately uneven caliber is arguably the result of its scattershot design. Nowhere are the consequences of this felt more keenly than in the story mode, where Capcom decided to fashion a quartet of story modes in lieu of a single one. Allowing players to take control of franchise favourites Chris Redfield, Leon Kennedy, newcomer Jake and then finally Ada Wong, each campaign centres around a different character with events that take place concurrently throughout the chapters encompassed by each of the four scenarios. A mixed bag to say the least, the campaigns aren’t just qualitatively uneven but the chapters within them are of inconsistent quality too.
Leon’s campaign for example, enthrals early with a protracted battles taking place through the streets of a sleepy American town that includes copious amounts of zombie slaughter across rooftops, inside a university and more before culminating inside a spooky looking church. Of course this being a Resident Evil game, said church just so happens to conceal a bunch of monstrous nastiness and it’s here that things take a real running jump off of a cliff quality-wise as the player is forced to navigate poorly designed dungeons and caverns where the same enemies are recycled over and over again. The boss fights too are also largely forgettable affairs. Neither as mechanically challenging nor anywhere near as iconic as the likes of the Tyrant or Nemesis from games past, they stand as just one more example of how Resident Evil 6 is a step back from its predecessors.
Another drawback of Capcom’s multi-faceted approach to campaign structure in Resident Evil 6 is that the storytelling lacks any chronological coherence, simply because you can tackle three of them in any order before Ada Wong’s final campaign is unlocked. The kicker though, is that while Ada’s campaign tries to properly resolve the frayed narrative strands of the three non-Ada scenarios, the end result is a game which is arguably the weakest of any in the franchise from a story perspective, one which trades in survival horror goodness for Michael Bay inspired bombast; Resident Evil 4 this ain’t.
Looking beyond the numerous flaws of the campaign scenarios of Resident Evil 6 and the generally subpar storytelling, the combat system that simmers beneath turns out to be a welcome surprise, meaningfully augmenting the existing third-person shooter gameplay with a variety of new moves and tricks to spice things up. In truth, it isn’t long at all before you’re running about the place, laying down explosives, suplexing fools and sliding along on your rear end dishing out buckshot justice to anything that looks even remotely hostile.
In addition Quick Time Events also feature much more prominently in combat situations now, with these sequences used for defending yourself from enemy grappling attacks through to timed button presses being employed to counter incoming attacks with instantly devastating results. When viewed as whole, the combat system of Resident Evil 6 feels much more akin to a 2D or 3D fighter where once all the moves have been learned and practiced enough, muscle memory starts to kick in and before you know it you’re pulling off all this coolness without thinking. It’s satisfying stuff for sure and while it doesn’t make up for the misses elsewhere, the combat is definitely one aspect of Resident Evil 6 that Capcom has nailed in what is otherwise a hugely inconsistent offering.
Without a doubt however, the best way to experience the combat system is in the Mercenaries and Mercenaries No Mercy modes, which find their way into the PS4 version of the game. Stuffed in alongside all the other post release DLC that Resident Evil 6 enjoyed on its original release, these modes really work in helping the player improve their quality of attack; the higher ranks only available to those who have fully mastered every facet of the game’s combative craft.
As accomplished as the combat feels after sessions of extended play, there are still a number of somewhat archaic game design elements which threaten to drag down the whole game yet further. One of these relates to the story mode and how it deals with progression through certain areas. You see, you can only perform certain actions to move the story onward when the game wants you to. For example a free flowing petrol geyser has to be shot to trigger a cutscene to continue, yet, you can only do this when the game says you can despite the geyser already being in full flow beforehand.
Sadly, this sort of negative design ideology also bleeds into the combat itself, with collision detection being a problem to the point that you can’t actually damage some enemies until they have reset into their standard ‘idle’ animation state. It can be immensely frustrating to start wailing on a face muncher who is slowly standing up from his prone posture only for nothing to register until he actually stands properly upright. This is old, old stuff that we just don’t need to see in 2016.
Still, in spite of embracing surface over substance, Resident Evil 6 still manages to reliably entertain when played with a friend. A stupendously content stuffed offering, just about all the modes in the game support local and online multiplayer with the many flaws of the game fading, at least for a time, when a partner is present to get stuck in alongside you. Put simply, Resident Evil 6 is much better when played with friends.
In its transition to the much more capable PS4 hardware, Resident Evil 6 actually ends up being something of a looker, even some four years on. Boasting a pin-sharp 1080p presentation underpinned by a liquid smooth sixty frames per second screen update, the benefits of these upgraded visuals are felt beyond its attractive veneer; the doubling of the framerate resulting in much more responsive shooter experience which in turn makes the combat that much more enjoyable. More astounding is perhaps the fact that the super smooth framerate is maintained even when played split-screen, an especially notable feat given how busy the screen becomes in certain sections of Leon and Jake’s campaign. In the end, some low detail textures tarnish the overall visual effort a tad, but it’s nowhere near enough to detract from the fact that while Resident Evil 6 might be a mess, it is a very handsomely made mess all the same.
More divisive than the Korean border, Resident Evil 6 on PS4 will only really appeal to a small, but passionate group of Resident Evil aficionados. For those individuals and even just folks who are interested in seeing what all the fuss is about, there is arguably no better way to experience it than in this newly remastered release.