Resident Evil is suffering from something of an identity issue as of late. Originally starting out as a Survival Horror franchise, Capcom’s zombie behemoth has slowly transitioned into a bog-standard, third-person shooter for the past couple of iterations. This fundamental shift in concept has proved polarizing to say the least; some fans, such as myself, prefer the methodical, slower-paced efforts of old, while others embrace the adrenaline-fuelled action of latter offerings. Enter Resident Evil 6, which apart from advancing the mind-numbing plot, is ostensibly Capcom’s answer to appeasing fans of both camps by offering an amalgamation of several gameplay ideas. The question is can these disparate gameplay elements be successfully married to offer a cohesive, gripping sequel that can please everyone? So long as you’re not expecting anything innovative or original, then for the most part, yes.
We open up 15 years after Raccoon City’s destruction, as depicted in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Bio-terrorism has gone global, with the deadly C-Virus unleashed upon the unsuspecting public. All isn’t lost however, as old favourites Chris Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy return to put a stop to the mayhem alongside newcomer Jake Mullet –aka, Albert Wesker Jr. This means you have three separate campaigns to tuck into, each one offering a substantially different experience in terms of core gameplay, and can be played in any order you see fit. To put it succinctly, Leon’s is the horror-driven piece of the puzzle, Chris is your RE5-style actioner, and Jake’s is, well, a bit of everything. All campaigns are united, however, by several crossover appearances that weave together the narrative and give you a broader view of what’s going on. The action is a globe-trotting affair, taking you from a small town in the U.S., an Eastern European warzone to a sprawling metropolis in China.
This is familiar territory despite some tweaks here and there. If you’ve played RE4 or 5, you’ll still feel right at home. Over-the-shoulder aiming returns, you still have to press a button to sprint, while context-sensitive actions such as climbing over objects and performing melee attacks also play their part. However, mobility has been greatly enhanced. Now, you can leap forward, back, left or right to avoid attacks, and even fire your gun from a downed position. It’s great, and really alleviates that clunky control feel that the series has had trouble shedding. Also new is the chance to equip Skill Points to enhance various attributes including shot power, defence, recoil, melee attack strength and more, though I can’t say these offered any noticeable difference in performance. Nonetheless, they cater to a variety of play styles, allowing you to mix and match as you see fit.
The ability to move and shoot further makes your character feel less robotic, though the cover system is far from intuitive. This can lead to some problematic encounters, as RE6 really wants to be Gears of War or Mass Effect 3 during action-heavy moments, but the controls lack the elegance of those games. In fact, it’s downright fiddly at best, and getting into a rhythm of popping out, shooting off a few rounds and getting your head down again is an exercise in sheer frustration. These issues are most conspicuous in Chris and Jake’s campaigns, where gun-toting J’avo (the game’s new enemies, sort of a hybrid between Ganado and something a little new) force you to keep your head down. In the end, I simply resorted to diving and rolling about all over the place to confuse my opponents before letting off a few shots, as opposed to using cover to get the job done.
Elsewhere, melee attacks can also be performed at will by hitting R1, and while there’s absolutely zero skill involved here, other than mashing at the button, it’s a great way to save ammo. Jake’s primary weapon is to use his fists too, meaning you can string together some devastating blows – it’s messy, but still effective if you use it on lone enemies. And you’ll need to save bullets too, as RE6 can be surprisingly stingy when it comes to ammo and healing items, forcing you to make your headshots count and approach battles tactically rather than charging in. This recalls, albeit tenuously, the days of old where you really had to watch how much you fired your gun. As ever, you have a partner with you throughout, and the A.I. proves itself useful; I was saved many times from certain death in all three scenarios, and my partner did a solid job of helping me dispatch foes.
Both Chris and Jake’s missions are action-packed and heavy on blockbuster set-pieces. The pacing never lets up, and while it can get slightly repetitive unleashing a hailstorm of hot lead every few minutes, there’s more than enough variety to keep things fresh. Set-pieces and boss fights punctuate the bread-and-butter combat, and there’s a heap of enemies to vanquish, from standard grunts to mutating monstrosities that force you to adapt and overcome. It’s satisfying, even more so, when you are playing with a human partner. By contrast, Leon’s mission evokes the classic horror and atmospheric values of old-school Resi. Here, zombies make their long-overdue return, and can now leap, run and wield weapons to keep you on your toes.
Whereas Chris and Jake keep themselves busy vaulting over walls and dashing through war-torn buildings at full pelt, Leon’s scenario encourages you to take your time; this allows Capcom to build tension, and perpetuate a real sense of dread – and when you’re in a city overrun with undead or in a spooky subway, it really is quite palpable. Capcom’s evidently adopted a philosophy of ‘throw everything but the kitchen sink’ at gamers for RE6, but it doesn’t always work. Vehicle sections are underwhelming and control poorly, while ubiquitous QTEs feel needless and tacked on. As such, sometimes things feel overly contrived, almost as if Capcom is trying too hard and lacks a sense of direction. There’s a distinct lack of cohesion throughout in terms of gameplay, though that doesn’t deter from the fact the game is an absolute blast from start to finish.
Things don’t end once you’ve wrapped up the campaigns though — which total around 7 hours each. In addition to a fourth, unlockable scenario starring the sultry spy Ada Wong, you’ve also got The Mercenaries to devourer, along with the new Agent Hunt. The latter allows you to hop into another player’s game as one of the many creatures that populate RE6 in an effort to muscle in on their progress. The Mercenaries returns in fine form thankfully, and is tougher than ever as you race against the clock in an effort to dispatch as many foes as possible while raking in a high-score. Eventually, you’ll unlock fresh locations and characters, though you’ll need plenty of practice. Outside of these extra modes, you can unlock files and other goodies by shooting in-game emblems that appear in various locations.
Visually RE6 hasn’t really evolved that much from its predecessor, which is three-and-a-half years old. Characters are beautifully rendered, and there’s some top-notch lighting on offer; however, some of the game’s environments are marred by dull, lifeless textures, and many of the animations are stiff and unconvincing. Sound wise there’s the usual dose of bombastic anthems to get the blood pumping, though there’s some surprisingly subtle moments – particularly in Leon’s campaign – that work well to send a shiver down the spine. Voice acting is among the best of the series, and while the script is still hammy in places, the storyline itself is genuinely compelling and you’ll want to see everything through to find out the truth.
Is Resident Evil 6 a glorious return to form? No, and it’s pretty obvious that Capcom is keen on seeing a perpetuation of the series’ action-oriented focus, despite the fact it can still make a decent horror game if it wants to. That aside, as a game itself, RE6 is a fantastic package ripe with action-packed shoot-outs, heaps of content and massive set-pieces. The cover system isn’t perfect, gameplay is about as unoriginal as you can get, and some elements fall flatter than a pancake, but is it entertaining and fun to play? Absolutely. If you’re craving ostentatious, blockbuster horror like a zombie craves human flesh, then you can’t really go wrong with Resident Evil 6.