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Resident Evil 6 (PC) artwork

Resident Evil 6 (PC) review

"All the effort, none of the direction."

The work they ploughed into this boring game is heartbreaking.

Weíve all seen AAA titles choke on their own hype and suffer spectacular self-destruction, but Iím not entirely sure Iíve ever seen a game stuffed with so much effort crash and burn so readily. Resident Evil 6 wanted to be a reinvention, to intertwine the horror roots of the earlier titles with the action-focused gunplay of the newer ones. Thereís an almost tangible sense of manic desperation from the development team, which seems to have decided that the best way to advance its goals was to throw every idea the series ever had into one package, then bloat it up some more with as many new features as the team could fathom.

Howís this for a genuinely brilliant idea: you can unlock a mode wherein you sneak into other peopleís games as one of the unruly undead and do your level best to eat them. None of that shuffle relentless into a kill zone nonsense. Use those dark corridors to your advantage and set up an ambush. Be the furious gnashing of teeth youíve always indifferently put down with a few handgun bullets to the head.

Youíre spoilt for choice in this mode, because here there be monsters. There are dozens of them, actually, all spread between four intertwining campaigns. Each one is headed by a different one of the long-running franchise's numerous protagonists. And every option offers slightly different play styles and enemy encounters that focus on one experience that at one point made a past title great. And hey, co-opís very much the vogue right now, and it made Resident Evil 5 playable, so letís chuck in a massive dollop of that, too!

Three of the four multi-chaptered missions pair your protagonist with someone you can either leave as respectable AI, or invite a chum to control. Grindís never out of fashion, so here: have a massive pool of skill points you can invest, purchasing quirks such as enhanced reload speed or buffs to your new melee system.

The best of the four campaigns by some margin is easily Leon S. Kennedyís third outing. Leon has long represented a stamp of quality, starring first in one of those rarest things: a sequel that dares improve upon the original (seen when he debuted as a rookie cop in Resident Evil 2). Capcom reinvented him when they brought him back as a grizzled government agent in the universally-adored Resident Evil 4, but itís his debut that they want you to remember here. Gone are the infected villagers of that landmark fourth game, and (ha) resurrected from distant memory come legions of honest, humble zombies.

ďLook!Ē, says Capcom, all pleased with itself. ďIsnít this the best of both worlds?Ē

For long periods, Leon might as well be back in Raccoon City. There are dark stretches of corridor filled with massive, ominous windows, the likes of which zombies dogs might just burst through. Thereís a real early sense of foreboding that does remind long-time players of the first hesitant steps into the Spencer Mansion, all those years ago. There are even times when youíre legitimately in danger of eating through your ammunition, pulling you right back into the long obsolete "every bullet counts" mindset.

Of course, the melee systemís much improved, so itís not like taking on zombies unarmed is a big deal anymore. The clumsy knife mechanics of the old games that all but guaranteed youíd take some damage have long since been shown the door. Now you can perform a set number of one-hit kills that eat a tab from a slowly refilling stamina bar. Itís a smoothly implemented and enjoyable way to squish zombie heads, but it makes a mockery of the gameís noble attempt to render ammo conservation relevant again.

Itís also one of many things that start to chip away at a returning playerís nostalgia. Soon it becomes clear that Leonís journey doesnít have the huge openness of the rustic villages of Resident Evil 4, or even the enviable spaces of Resident Evil 2ís police station. Itís all a collection of linear corridors, shuttling him from undead encounter A to undead encounter B. The experience grow very repetitive very quickly, and yet itís the best that Resident Evil 6 has to offer.

Chris' chapter is an even less macabre continuation of his action-trope adventures in the fifth game, filled with corny action movie jargon and goofy set pieces such as a boss battle against that most hideous of horror fiends: a helicopter. The chapter featuring newcomer Jake Muller (Shh, itís Wesker Jr.) tries to recapture a bit of Resident Evil 3's magic by having him constantly pursued by an unstoppable monstrosity known as NEMESIS an Ustanak. That does have the desired impact at points, as you flee for your life from the ball of rotting fury hot on your heels. But even that soon becomes a laborious pattern of overly-long chase sequences, chained together by ludicrously short and stagnantly linear quasi-exploration.

Itís weird that Resident Evil 6 often tries so hard to remind you of the good old days. For instance, Mullerís partner in tow is Sherry Berkin. Capcom seems desperate to remind you of this, all but mugging at the camera and yelling ďYou remember her, right? From Res 2? That little girl we saved together? We care so much about our roots!Ē The design then does away with many of the little things that built tension in the previous games, however. Saving ammo in never the slightest concern, outside of Leonís adventure, and youíre left to stockpile it endlessly as the series adopts the magical bottomless pockets approach to carrying stuff. The herbs, once a careful balancing act of what you can carry and what you might be able to combine to increase their potency, are now all lobbed in a pill maker and gobbled down with the press of a button. And your health bar is divided into segments where, if one empties, youíre knocked on your back and forced to slither out of harm's ways while shooting at whatever thumped you down. It works in small doses, but it also ties into your would-be deaths. Extinguish your health bar and youíre left to scoot around on your back until either: A) your partner saves you; B) thirty seconds pass and you sheepishly get back up, or, rarely; C) something finishes you off. If you manage something as cerebral as pulling yourself under a desk, monsters that were eating your face mere seconds ago will suddenly forget you even exist.

The punchline is that if you suffer through these experiences, you unlock a fourth campaign starring series antagonist and long-time Leon tease, Ada Wong. Who instantly does away with the try-hard Die Hard nonsense, doesnít bother with all that "buddy up with a partner" drivel and substitutes all the brooding action lingo with gallows humour and sarcasm much more fitting to the dire situation with which sheís faced. Armed with a hookshot, sheís less about taking on the undead world and more about sneaking through it, solving the puzzles that used to be a franchise mainstay back in the day. Itís an honest and refreshing retrofit of a lot of the things long abandoned. Many people will never see it.

Thereís the odd isolated moment that feels real for fleeting moments, but quickly fades away to reveal a very beautiful, very bloated, big-money pretender. Stunningly, Resident Evil 6 doesnít really know how to do Resident Evil, which is all the more damning when you factor in that thereís two very different variants of the formula. It has a stab at both, and succeeds at neither. For all the buzzwords it throws around like "streamlining" and "modernising," for all the clear toil and effort that been poured into it, it ultimately feels like a game that's lost its way and has tried to compensate by doing a little bit of everything. The developers tried so hard. You can see their effort oozing out of Resident Evil 6. The work they ploughed into this boring game is heartbreaking.

Project Horror 2016
Project Horror saw one (1) horror review submitted every day through the month of October. This review was part of that effort.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (October 16, 2016)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Masters posted October 18, 2016:

Fantastic stuff, old man. And you're quite right: I only bothered with the Leon campaign and little bit of the Chris one, and that's all I could take.
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EmP posted October 18, 2016:

Thanks, Marc. Truth be told, that was more or less my first run at the game; limp though Leon, eyeroll through an hour or two of Chris, leave the game for dead. But this review needed doing, so I had to go back. Life's unfair like that/it's still better than Downpour.
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wolfqueen001 posted October 30, 2016:

Stellar writing here. Shame Res 6 just couldn't pull together what it intended to do. I'd always heard that the way the four campaigns were handled made it seem like a cobbled mess with no real direction, and now I know it's not only that but boring and rehashed as well with mechanics that either defeat the purpose or fail altogether. It may be a good thing I'm not as crazy about horror games as I used to be; hopefully I'll never feel obligated to check this out just to see how awful it really is.

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