Game: Resident Evil 6
Available On: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows PC
Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Resident Evil has a ludicrous, yet storied history. Remakes, remasters, it’s had the works. However, if you asked most fans of the series which their favourite entry into the series was, it’s a safe bet that most would say “Resident Evil 4″, and with good reason too. The fourth entry brought back the incredible tension and fear of every corner turned that made the series so special, all the while giving a graphical bump and bringing the controls forward, but not all the way into the modern era.
This sixth Resident Evil attempts to do all of that again, while bringing the series fully up to date in more ways than one, even innovating along the way with the way it handles the online mechanics, as well as a generation-defining high when it comes to value for money. The question on every Resident Evil fan’s lips must surely be: Does it succeed?
STORY: When you start Resident Evil 6, you’ll first have to play through a prologue as Leon and Helena, which serves mostly as a tutorial. After this, you’ll get to choose which path you take with the game. There are three campaigns initially, all taking place separately, yet concurrently, in different locations. Leon and Helena are trying to uncover evidence that will uncover the truth behind the C-Virus outbreak, while Chris’ story starts with him drunk, down and out in a bar. Piers re-recruits Chris back into the BSAA as they battle the J’avo in Lanshiang. Jake Muller is a wanted man, who appears to have some special blood-type which can help the world with the C-Virus, so Sherry Birkin is on-hand to get him on board, and to safety.
If it all sounds sprawling and a bit crazy, that’s because it is. The war on bioterrorism is being fought on all fronts, with different play styles being accounted for. Leon’s campaign is more similar to Resident Evil 4, with proper, old-fashioned zombies returning from the very beginning. They don’t just shuffle around now either, some will run, or even leap at you.
That isn’t to say Resi 6 is exclusively zombies, as there are horrific, repeating boss-characters too, as well as larger zombies that require some tactical nous to defeat (think Left 4 Dead 2, with spitters and boomers). In comparison to Leon’s story, Chris’ campaign is straight from the Resi 5 playbook, with J’avo being the new enemy, whom are able to mutate when attacked. Jake’s story (set in China) falls somewhere between the two distinct Resident Evil styles, but feels most similar to Nemesis.
It’s as insane as ever, but the three (and later four) stories intersect nicely, even if (at times) the characters coming together feels a little odd. Just how they happen to meet up so quickly and conveniently is beyond me, but it works for the story, which is ultimately the most important thing. Each individual campaign has its own version of closure, with the fourth unlockable campaign filling in the blanks.
GRAPHICS: Without question, Resident Evil 6 is a gorgeous looking title. You’ll find no simple pallet-swaps when it comes to zombies, despite the fact that there are four playable campaigns, the environments are varied and interesting. From open battlefields to underground caverns and just about everywhere in-between, you’ll enjoy exploring every nook and cranny to find treasure. Numerous interactive objects litter the world too, be it a simple quest-object puzzle, or a box containing treasure.
Some of the facial expressions of characters are absolutely wonderful too. It’s hard not to fall a little in love with Helena when she emotes so wonderfully. You can see the anger on Jake’s face and the worry in Leon’s eyes; it’s fantastic. The voices are well lip-synced and you’ll root for the characters on-screen.
The screen-tearing that was so prevalent in early Xbox 360 builds has been completely cleared up and you can tell Capcom have put a lot of effort into making the frame-rate as stable as possible, whilst retaining the incredible visuals that litter every cut-scene or corridor in Resident Evil 6. And there are a lot of cut-scenes too. The story is progressed mostly through the cut-scenes, but there are some fun interactive moments that involve quick-time events too.
SOUND: At some point in the Resident Evil legacy, I forgot whether the voice acting is great because it doesn’t realise how daft it all is, or if it’s great because the script writing is self aware at the lunacy playing out on-screen. Either way, there’s a lot of dialogue in Resi 6. Expect partners to chatter away when the moment feels right (they don’t start talking about Football during a tense, scary moment, of course), creating an atmosphere of kinship, as they come together through happenstance, but it’s wonderful to hear Leon talk to Helena and, along with the blockbuster graphics that are on offer, the dialogue is well-directed and performed with aplomb.
Of course, the zombies sound ace (this is Resident Evil!) too, as do the larger monsters, and there’s plenty of sickeningly, blood curdling sound effects to-boot. Squelching, fleshy noises, that will make you squirm when listening through a good headset, shuffling zombies moaning as they encroach on you; it’s horrible, yet amazing.
Lastly, the audio cues are standard fare for Resident Evil. Strings and tense driving music litter the playground of Resi 6, with chiming sounds confirming you’ve hit the correct buttons in a QTE. Given the scope of this title, the soundtrack overall is ambitious, but the execution is grand.
GAMEPLAY: You can finally move and shoot! All the people clamouring for it to be included in a Resi title, it’s there, you can move now. Thankfully this ability doesn’t diminish the tension of most of the game, instead offering more tactical options. Most of the time in Resi 6 you’ll be shooting zombies, J’avo and other abominations, but there are also the aforementioned quick-time events. Some of these QTEs are there to play out certain boss fights, which would be otherwise very awkward to design and have play out. There’s still plenty of boss battles to test you though, so don’t be put off by the QTE sections, though they are plentiful.
The J’avo enemies are an interesting new addition to the series, similar to the Majini from Resi 5, if you shoot their heads there is a chance they will mutate into stronger beasts. The J’avo can also mutate in other ways, with their arms growing too. These new enemies are smart, able to co-ordinate attacks on you. They’ll flank you, run at you; the works. Resident Evil 6 is littered with different enemy types, but I’m not going to spoil them here, especially not the Ustanak; that bastard is someone you’ll just have to meet for yourself, Resi fans.
Traditional Resident Evil puzzles have returned too, hoorah! The fidelity offered by this generation of consoles means that there are some lovely puzzles, including an early one involving a sniper rifle. Others, such as collecting statues and placing them onto switches hark back to the very first titles in the series. Very few of the puzzles are too taxing, but they make a welcome return, regardless.
The UI is brand new for this title, with each character having a different visual style, too. The action never stops, meaning that unless you are playing in a completely offline environment – having decided your game lobby settings – you can never pause the action; not even with a press of the guide button. Even if you want to combine herbs, you’ll have to either be extremely quick about it, or wait until you’ve found a safe area. It’s clearly a design choice that has been made to ensure the player can never rest, but it’ll definitely annoy some people. I’m all for immersion in video games, but you can’t help someone knocking on the door, or the phone ringing. The solution to the problem is to play offline, of course.
Additionally, as you progress through each chapter, the enemies on your route will drop ammo, but also treasure. Borrowed from Resi 4, the treasure pieces have a numerical value to them. After each chapter, you can use this currency to redeem against persistent upgrades, giving you the edge in battle, but mostly for future playthroughs. Some of the upgrades require so many points that it’s clear the system has been designed with replayability in mind, which is no bad thing.
Given how large Resi 6 is, there are bound to be a few low moments, as well as the high ones. Most of these low moments come from a mechanic that is over-used early on in most of the character’s campaigns. There are too many moments that require you to just hold out, until help arrives, or something happens. A few of them have sharp difficulty spikes, which is where the melee combat requires a mention. Ammo isn’t plentiful, as you’d expect, so the melee system comes into play. There are times when it’s not just advisable, but a requirement to just beat a zombie back and run to live another day. You can’t kill everyone, there’s simply too many of them at times. The melee system varies from character to character (Jake actually has melee as a selectable weapon, as he’s hard as nails) and as with previous titles, enough damage will mean you can do a finisher.
Using melee takes up some of your action meter, as does the “quick shot” action (LT then immediately hit RT), which fires immediately at a nearby target, allowing you some room to breath. The gameplay is excellent, with refined systems and new additions working in tandem to create a hugely enjoyable experience, overall.
MULTIPLAYER: The entire title (like Resi 5 before it) has been designed for co-op play, but with a twist. When you create a lobby at the start of each play session, the matchmaking silently pairs you up with another two players, because at points in the story they will cross paths, usually for a massive boss encounter, and the two player co-op becomes four player co-op. It’s a fantastic idea, and one that I’ve not seen executed before. This does, in itself, bring forth other issues though. It means that some sections of the game, despite being a different campaign entirely, will be exactly the same, but playing as different characters. It’s a trade-off that most will be willing to accept, but solo players may find this frustrating. Thankfully, the friendly AI is excellent for Resi 6, and you’ll rarely have to run back and pick up your partner, they can more than handle their own. In fact, more often than not, you’ll end up in your last-stand position, trying to fight off zombies with your handgun, as you lay slain on your back, waiting for the AI to revive you.
Split-screen makes a return, allowing two players to play on the same console, on the same screen. There’s little to report in terms of changes, because as per Resident Evil 5, you’ll get two smaller boxes on screen, it’s not just a horizontal or diagonal split. Personal preference comes into play here, but I still find this method of split-screen hard to play, especially given the frenetic nature of some sections of this particular game. For the more up-market player, you can also do system link play, so if you really want the same room experience with a friend, that’s there too.
Agent Hunt is the multiplayer addition to Resi 6, allowing you to jump into another player’s experience as the undead, and offers a welcome twist to the idea of online play. It may not keep you occupied forever, but it’s a nice addition nonetheless. The co-op is definitely the meat of the game though, and in that respect, Resi 6 offers the definitive co-op experience of the year. Every type of mode has been considered and the four player moments are innovative and unique.
LONGEVITY: Resident Evil titles have previously been a reasonable length, even encouraging players to speed run them to unlock bonuses. However, to get everything, to see everything Resi 6 has to offer, you’re talking a good 50+ hours. Each campaign is playable as either partner (Chris or Piers, Leon or Helena, etc) and even if you play through each story once, you’ll be looking at a good 10 hours per campaign. Once you’ve finished all three campaigns you’ll unlock a fourth, Ada’s story, which is just as long and actually offers a more traditional (read: old) Resi experience, as it is single player only and reveals the answers to yet more questions from the previous three campaigns.
So, after you’ve finished the (minimum) of 35-40 hour story, there’s mercenaries mode, which may or may not be a time-sink depending on the player. Then there’s the online multiplayer mode, Agent Hunt which offers yet more ways to play Resi 6. Further replayability comes through the fact the game is co-op based, allowing you to replay missions with friends, unlock yet more abilities that you can use in the game and find the last few collectibles. Further to that, ResidentEvil.net allows you compare with your friends’ chapter scores, and see who is the best player.
VERDICT: Ambition in video games is rarely as evident as it is in Resident Evil 6. From the moment you start playing, it’s clear that you are in for a tour-de-force of Resident Evil. Encompassing everything that has ever made the series great, there’s something for everyone in this package. Seriously impressive in its delivery, it’s hard to not be impressed by what Capcom have given us here, this is the the ultimate Resident Evil package, lovingly wrapped up and let loose on the world.
The marketing slogan has been “No Hope Left”, but Resident Evil 6 shows that there’s plenty of life in the old dog yet, with plenty of hope left for the future. Resident Evil 6 is wonderful, sprawling and epic; they’ve listened to the fans and given them something special, and that’s something that should happen more often. Don’t let this one pass you by.