Few franchises can boast the diversity in play style that the Resident Evil IP has displayed since its release in 1996. What started as a fixed camera survival horror on pre-rendered backgrounds has evolved (much like the T-Virus itself) into something quite different. When Resident Evil 4 blasted its way onto the Gamecube back in January 2005 we all knew that it wasn’t just the franchise that was changed forever, the entire genre would never be the same again.
Some 4 years later the criticisms aimed at the next main cannon title in the franchise were not without a sense of irony. Where RE4 had been way ahead of its time, Resident Evil 5 was seen not to have moved forward enough in its game play and system. So after these recent highs and lows will Capcom’s latest offering in this beloved line of games make 2012 the year that the third-person shooter evolves again? By the looks of things…not quite.
So first things first, this game is visually stunning. Somehow Capcom have managed to improve on the incredible visual standards set by Resident Evil 5, making this one of the best looking titles on both PS3 and 360. A lot of this is due to great motion blur and an incredible use of lighting. Unlike RE5 brighter art style, RE6 makes a return to the franchise’s aesthetic routes with many areas being set in dark or nighttime based locations. For the most part this is a great way to build mood and tension making some parts of the game genuinely unnerving, if not outright scary. The only minus point here is occasionally areas can be too dark, making them detrimental to the game’s pace and the player’s progression. There is also the occasional cameral issue that can frustrate. On the whole however, there is very little to complain about when it comes to how this game looks.
Once you have got past the incredible visuals, possibly the first thing you notice about Resident Evil 6 is the new controls. Although there are positives to take from this slight re-work, the control system is unfortunately still lacking in many areas. The biggest noticeable change right off the bat is the ability to move and shoot simultaneously (something that has taken a strangely long time to implement for this series). Despite the fact that this is a welcome addition, the rest of the control system fails to impress, feeling at times like a budget third-person title rather than a Triple A flagship sequel.
No matter which of the many playable characters you choose they all seem to move and turn with a grace befitting of a title from 10+ years ago. Another addition is the new and somewhat half-baked cover system, which can be extremely erratic and fail you when you need it the most. This is further compounded by the fact that there are many sections in the game where you must defeat waves of enemies or survive for long enough to progress. These sections only work so well in games such as Gears of War 3 or Vanquish, because the controls are so fluid and effortless. Here, however, these sections often only serve to frustrate.
It’s not all doom and gloom for this sequel’s system though. Thankfully the companion AI has also had a much-needed overhaul, making it possible to rely on the computer controlled teammate when playing alone (A feature that was missing from RE5, making it almost impossible in places on your own).
Another more welcome change comes in the form of the re-worked inventory system. The new onscreen menus allow for much easier healing and use of items compared to having to pause the game and enter the inventory screen, as with other titles in the series. Capcom have also scrapped the shop and have instead replaced it with a new upgrade system.
Enemies now drop artefacts that hold a certain point’s value (depending on their difficulty). These points can then be spent between chapters to purchase upgrades for your characters and weapons. Although not drastically different the increased length of each chapter means that upgrades must be carefully considered before purchase, especially in the early hours of each campaign. This in turn keeps things interesting and really makes you think about the best route to take for your upgrades.
One thing that really does stand out here is the size and scope. The set pieces are extremely impressive, and with 4 campaigns and 7 main characters, there is certainly plenty here to get stuck in to. Many elements of the storytelling reach new heights for the series and Capcom should be commended for showing such ambition in their design.
The game’s pacing does however suffer from some issues. An over use of the ‘defend this point’ or ‘survive the attack’ dynamic does make the game feel unnecessarily drawn out in places, and there is also a few too many QTE (Quick Time Event) sections that can serve to disrupt the game’s flow. If you can live with these flaws there is at least 30+ hours of game play here for you.
Along with the multiple campaigns there is also a welcome return for Mercenaries mode as well as the new Agent Hunt mode. Mercenaries is as much fun as ever, and fans of the series will be happy with the service here. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Agent Hunt mode. This game type allows you to play as the zombies and hunt down the franchise’s heroes while they try and blow your head off. Although this is an interesting idea, it is clear that this was an afterthought and little time was put in to realising its full potential. The controls are poor and it is unbalanced leading to more of an exercise in frustration than a worthy addition.
Unfortunately Capcom have once again spent too much time fixing what didn’t need to be fixed and not enough time addressing the real issues of this series. The game is long because it’s drawn out or challenging because of a flawed control system rather than displaying these positive attributes through balanced game design. Resident Evil 6 is not a bad game, but it’s not a great game either and this is a real shame. Despite this however, it still has many amazing elements that should not be overlooked and at its core is a decent horror experience.