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Resident Evil 6 (PlayStation 3) artwork

Resident Evil 6 (PlayStation 3) review

"Somewhere amidst the zombies, the parasites, the secret organizations, Resident Evil has lost itself. You can tell that Capcom wanted Resident Evil 6 to be big; an homage to sixteen years of fandom. The problem is, they donít know who they are appealing to any more."

Somewhere amidst the zombies, the parasites, the secret organizations, Resident Evil has lost itself. You can tell that Capcom wanted Resident Evil 6 to be big; an homage to sixteen years of fandom. The problem is, they donít know who they are appealing to any more. Fans of the old games? Fans of the new games? Fans of the--god help us--film franchise? Is Resident Evil a survival horror title? Is it an action title? Is it a third-person shooter? Is it a stealth puzzler? Disparate as all of these definitions might sound, Resident Evil 6 tries its damnedest to fit all of them in. Seven characters are featured in four different campaigns, each one trying so hard to be different from the other that even the menu systems change between campaigns.

The result? Depending on your love for the series (and whether you have a friend to play with), Resident Evil 6 is either a complete mess of a game or one good game amidst three bad ones.

First, the good. You can move while aiming (I can hear the cheering across three continents). Also, cooperation has been worked more into the design since Resident Evil 5. Many situations now call for branching paths where one player is providing cover fire for the other or activating switches and events to clear the path. You can also better distract enemies, leading to nice bait-and-switch tactics where one player leads a horde straight into the gunfire of a second player. And while you canít take advantage of these thrills so much with an AI partner, at least the computer has thankfully been improved. In fact, itís almost been improved too much--the computer partner has great aim, canít be killed, always pulls off insta-kills with its melee strikes, and has infinite ammo. I prefer a human ally, but at least the game is playable on single player, any difficulty.

Now some of the bad. The quick weapon select has been replaced with a weapon scroll, which will often leave you accidentally selecting the wrong weapon in the heat of battle (itís how I wasted all my Magnum shots in Chrisí campaign). The weapons upgrade system has also been completely removed. This upsets me to no end, as one of the best things about Resident Evil 4 and 5 was unlocking new guns and boosting them to be ridiculous. Here, it has been replaced by an idiotic skill system, in which you choose three skills to equip for each mission. Itís idiotic because there simply arenít that many good skills. I found the best skill set early on: increased firepower, increased defense, increased ammo drop. Iím not the only one: a quick tour around the FAQ boards shows that about 90% of the players use this. So thatís a wasted illusion of strategic choice.

The biggest bad is a little more complicated and gets to the issue I was talking about up front. There is no consistency between the four campaigns, so what youíll like about one wonít carry on to the others. For instance, if youíre looking for action, youíll want to pick newcomer Jake Muller (who youíll quickly discover is the son of Wesker and apparently Capcomís bid for the main character of Resident Evil 7). Jake teams up with the long-absent Sherry Birkin and uses a flurry of martial arts moves and combos to punch enemies to death; whenever heís not being chased by tanks, helicopters, and a Nemesis-style villain who is nigh unstoppable.

Chris has been relegated to the shooter route. He is teamed up with new character Piers and together they get involved in a lot of shoot-outs against Jíavo, which are almost exactly like the Majini and the Ganados--except they have even MORE of a tendency to use guns. Think of Chrisí campaign as a poorly executed Gears of War rip-off and youíll get the basic idea.

Fans of survival horror are going to feel most comfortable with Leonís story. Stuck in the Raccoon-esque city of Tall Oaks with yet another new character--Helena--Leon deals with the classic Resident Evil enemy: zombies. His campaign also throws in the most references to the old series, with nods to the G-Virus and Resident Evil 2 in particular. It was my favorite of the campaigns, not least for its use of dynamic lighting to create some intelligent scares: like a series of terrifying shadows in an abandoned subway station announcing the eminent, frenetic, arrival of a hoard of flesh eaters.

Even Ada Wong makes a playable appearance. In an odd departure from the other campaigns, her mode is single player only and features what I think of as ďthe leftovers.Ē Anything that wasnít used in the other campaigns is haphazardly shoved in hers, from puzzles to a helicopter flight simulator.

Iíve already said I have a favorite campaign; yet it doesnít mean that I think it is a perfect campaign. I donít know that there is such a thing in Resident Evil 6. For instance, while I enjoyed the design of Leonís campaign the most, I found his story to be beyond emotionally unsatisfying. It was barely coherent. And Chrisí campaign had a surprisingly moving and well-written story, but was painfully dull to play through. On the other hand, Jake and Sherry controlled best and were the most fun to play (and most interesting characters), but had stupid boss fights and utterly boring enemies. And Adaís campaign had the best mood and use of graphics but was, like I said, a mess of leftover ideas.

That takes us back to the main point: Resident Evil doesnít know what it wants to be. I think it wants to be an action shooter game, and I even believe that one day it will achieve this goal. Whatís confusing, though, is that it hasnít achieved it already. We all thought Resident Evil 4 was a transition title away from survival horror into action. Some of us complained, some of us celebrated, but no one denied that it was a fantastic action game. So why the step back? Why is it taking so long for this series to reestablish itself?

If anything, Capcom should have had the easiest time making this one a good action title. There are many good action games in the horror genre to draw upon now. Resident Evil 6 isnít breaking enough ground to not take a few pointers from titles like Dead Space 2 and Left 4 Dead. Yet itís almost like the Capcom developers gave themselves amnesia before locking themselves in their cubicles. I first had this thought while playing the online ďAgent HuntĒ mode. In this mode, you join a playerís game as a monster and try to kill them. Again, weíve seen this in both of the previously named titles; thereís no reason it shouldnít be good here. But itís not. It sucks.

Playing as a monster in Agent Hunt is about as intuitive as speaking R'lyehian. Every monster controls completely differently and you switch between the types randomly, with little chance to get used to the new controls. Depending on the level, you may start the stage right next to the players (in which case they can kill you as you spawn) or miles away--in which case youíll end up spending most of your time getting to them. And remember, they have long range weaponary. Your chances of actually getting close enough to attack are slim. A couple stages work alright; mostly in Chrisí levels, which are set up with plenty of cover to hide behind and tight spaces to trap players. But the zombie stages in Leonís campaign are ridiculous. Try maneuvering a slow, shambling, zombie across a long stretch of open terrain while Leon snipes at you with a rifle. Itís like getting to play the targets in a shooting gallery. Fun.

The main Resident Evil franchise has yet to produce a truly terrible game. There are enough moments of fun in Resident Evil 6 to make it a passable experience, but not enough cohesion to make it a satisfying, well-rounded, experience.

The executive producer, Hiroyuki Kobayashi, has defended Resident Evil 6, saying, "we do listen to the fans but we canít be beholden to them at every turn or I donít think weíll ever make progress in terms of the seriesí development.Ē But is this really a defense? After all, what progress has been made here? In many ways, such as in Agent Hunt, Resident Evil 6 is three steps back--but in most ways, itís not even that. Itís three steps in different directions. No progress has been made here because there isnít a clear destination.

And thatís a big problem; one that needs to be fixed if the series is really going to move forward. Itís not the fans ruining this franchise. Capcom, you have control over where this goes, now you just need to take it somewhere.

zippdementia's avatar
Community review by zippdementia (December 04, 2012)

Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.

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