RESIDENT EVIL 6 Review
It seems more and more gamers these days seek to emulate their favorite titles. Cosplay and homages are no longer confined to conventions, but can now be found in the day-to-day. In the case of the Resident Evil franchise, the chorus of “Ughh”s from series fans echo those of the teeming zombie masses found in each release. Ever since RESIDENT EVIL 4 introduced the franchise, nay, the world, to over-the-shoulder aiming and quicktime events, the name “Resident Evil” has gradually shifted its perceived inspirations from Romero to the likes of Snyder and Bay. RESIDENT EVIL 6 is easily the most grandiose departure from the series’ comparatively reserved roots. Yet if Romero can go from making the seminal and subdued NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD to dystopic, uzi-toting sk8r bois getting champed on by clowns, then surely Capcom is entitled to do the same for their landmark zombie shooter?
In case you missed it, RE6 came out at the tail end of both 2012 and the life cycle of most 7th generation consoles. With RESIDENT EVIL’s 20th Anniversary having just passed, Capcom is re-releasing some of their later titles on PS4 and Xbox One, starting with RE6. Content wise, there isn’t a whole lot differentiating this new RE6 from the old one. It looks pretty at 1080p and 60 FPS and it includes all of the post-patch content from the PC version of the game (sans L4D2 cameos). In every other sense, this is a direct port with an appropriate budget-value price tag. The bosses are still as goofy, the pacing still as frustrating, and the logo just as reminiscent of a giraffe getting head as you may (or may not) remember.
RE6 is the grand papa of ridiculousness of the Resident Evil franchise, the closest the games get to approaching the absurdity and banality of the Paul W.S. Anderson films. It’s also quite possibly the most ambitious of any of the titles, before or since, with a whopping seven playable characters across four cooperative campaigns. Sure, the aggregate length of the combined stories end up only being a little longer than RE4, but aside from the occasional plot intersection, they allow for a much greater variety of scenarios. That being said, many of these episodes feel out of place, drawn out, or otherwise tacky in one way or another. In fact, for any point made for or against RE6, there is an equally valid counterpoint, causing the game to mostly feel confused, a mishmash of conflicting ideas that prevent it from reaching any true greatness.
RE6’s single player content can only be objectively evaluated on a case-to-case basis. The campaigns for Chris and Jake are exercises in iconoclasm. Rather than traditional zombies, these heroes are stuck fighting mutated mercenaries, complete with tanks and helicopters, in blockbuster war zones. It’s not so much the jarring aesthetic that drags these scenarios down, but rather the way they’re paced. With few exceptions, these mercenaries shoot and take cover just like any generic war FPS, deploy in waves just like any generic war FPS, and leave behind crates of ammo just like any generic war FPS. The plethora of supplies to restock on, combined with shared weapons and cloned ammo pickups between each player, means that resource management and character specialization, key mechanics in RESIDENT EVIL 5, are all but gone. If Resident Evil’s survival horror aspects were already considered dead in spirit, they are effectively dead in practice here as well.
SLEEPING DOGS zombie spinoff or the progenitor of modern survival horror?
Leon and Ada’s campaigns, meanwhile, are relatively subtle and reserved (I say relatively, since Leon’s finale still involves kebabing zombies with ten foot tall spikes and feeding them to Mothra). Sure, compelling narrative and characters are thrown to the dogs, but the game starts to feel like an actual survival horror title. Zombies act like zombies in these installments, dumb but aggressive and numerous. Weapon selection is much more modest for the majority of these experiences, and while the pacing is more akin to 28 WEEKS LATER than, say, THE WALKING DEAD, it can still be easily labeled as “horror” as opposed to “action.” Whichever campaign you end up playing, the experience is always improved with a human partner, as the cooperative camaraderie can make even the most groan-inducing segments tolerable in a kitschy, C-movie kind of way. Areas are usually designed to allow players to split up at will, and bigger enemies are easier slain when attacked from multiple angles. Though the opportunities for teamwork never hit the peaks reached in RE5, RE6 provides a stellar couch co-op experience comparable to ARMY OF TWO and GEARS OF WAR nonetheless.
Like many other Japanese titles, RE6’s multiplayer offerings are intriguing and inventive on paper, yet sloppily implemented in their execution. The more asymmetrical gametypes have promise, but are hamstrung by the client-hosted matches as opposed to a proper matchmaking system. Agent Hunt is a DARK SOULS-esque mode that allows you to invade other player’s story mode campaigns as a variety of infected foes. Though the chance to finally play as a zombie is tantalizing, finding a match is a chore, as the campaign host must have the option enabled on their end. Pure competitive modes suffer from the same reliance on host competence, and a lack of setup timers or a requirement to fill queues means you’ll rarely play a match as it was fully intended to be experienced.
Sometimes bringing a gun to a knife fight just won’t cut it
Fortunately, that’s all that is wrong with RE6. Mechanically speaking, the game plays perfectly for the new direction the series has been plodding along in. Where RESIDENT EVIL ZERO’s more action-oriented structure suffered under the survival horror framework, RE6 thrives within it. Tank controls have been completely abandoned, with the player being granted full control over camera and movement for the first time in the series. Flexible traversal and dodging systems, deceptively robust melee combat, and reactive monsters blur the lines between shooter and hack’n’slash in a delectable manner that can only be found in RE6. The Mercenaries mode returns, now available from the start of the game, and is the perfect sandbox for experimenting with RE6’s deep kineticism. Enemies can be targeted in different regions for a variety of effects, allowing for coup de grȃces and combo attacks.
Resident Evil has always been a good looking series, and RE6 is no exception. Though the predominantly urban locales pale in comparison to the cruise ships, savannahs, and woodlands of Resident Evil’s past, RE6 is still a stylish game. While the environment design drops the ball, the character concepts are the peak of the franchise. Each agent feels cool and slick in action, offering their own unique quirks and abilities. Monsters come in all shapes and sizes beyond the basic shamblers. Removing a limb no longer guarantees victory, as most foes can mutate into new forms to replace the damage, requiring the player to constantly shift strategies.
RE6 is perhaps the most conditional recommendation I’ve had to give for a game. It stumbles and falls in critical areas. Swathes of the single player experience outstay their welcome, with weak narratives and gruffly underutilized characters. Its online functions are nearly unplayable and some segments are straight-up poorly and archaically designed. While such condemnation would be a death sentence for any other AAA title, RE6 has the advantage of being a port with an affordable price tag. In addition, its captivating controls and action will ensure that you’ll keep coming back to the game long after you’ve completed the story content, and the cooperative experience is one of the best on the market. Like RE5 before it, RE6 can be an incredible game, provided that you play it for the right reasons. If you haven’t yet discovered the flawed beauty that is RE6, now is the best time to get started. Just remember to bring a friend.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4, also available on Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC.