Featured Game: Resident Evil 6
Oh how times have changed. A decade ago, the Resident Evil series meant something completely different to the common gamer. Capcom’s blockbuster franchise was both the pioneer and single-largest bastion of the survival horror genre. Resident Evil 6 strays as far as it conceivably could from what the Resident Evil games once stood for but it would be false to suggest that this in an entirely bad thing.
Any discussion on Resident Evil 6 usually revolves around the series’ departure from the survival horror mechanics that it helped pioneer. To the thirty-something hardcore gamer who spent their college days on the PS1, Resident Evil 6 represents a video game seemingly made from sales charts and men-in-suits. It’s the epitome of the actionized sequel and to many is symbolic of the decline of the survival horror genre. The truth is much simpler. The Resident Evil series hasn’t been the same ever since series creator Shinji Mikami left after the release of the magnificent Resident Evil 4.
Resident Evil was one of the earliest games in the survival horror genre. The gameplay took place from fixed camera angles and the player’s resources were incredibly limited. The game emphasized careful decision-making, which meant that avoiding enemies entirely was preferable to taking them out. Resident Evil was a hit and saw two sequels on the Playstation and a game on the Dreamcast that was later ported to the Playstation 2.
The series took a dramatically different turn in 2005 with the release of Resident Evil 4. The series was reinvented as a third-person shooter with the survival horror elements somewhat intact. Players were given much more ammo to work with but also had to face large hordes of enemies. Players were still required to put thought into their actions as their resources weren’t infinite but the game was much more forgiving than it’s predecessors. Resident Evil 4 was a smash hit and even today it’s influence can be felt in games such as Dead Space and The Last of Us.
After the generally lukewarm reception of 2009’s Resident Evil 5, which introduced cooperative play into the series, later that year concept development on Resident Evil 6 began. Hiroyuki Kobayashi, producer of Resident Evil 4 and the Resident Evil Remake, led a development ream of over 600 people, which makes Resident Evil 6 Capcom’s biggest production ever.
Resident Evil 6 melds together several aspects of the Resident Evil series such as a campaign with multiple protagonists, similar to the first two games in the series and the co-op gameplay of Resident Evil 5. The game features the return of several characters such as Sherry Birkin, Chris Redfield, Leon Kennedy and Ada Wong. Newcomers Jake Muller, Piers Nevan and Helena Harper were also introduced to appeal to newer players.
The first trailer for Resident Evil 6 was shown in January with the gameplay debuting at E3 later that year. After much anticipation, Resident Evil 6 released worldwide on Oct. 2 for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.
Resident Evil 6 features four separate campaigns, each featuring a unique pair of characters. The campaigns are led by Leon Kennedy, Chris Redfield, Jake Muller and Ada Wong. Each pair of characters experience the events of the narrative from a completely unique perspective. While the characters occasionally stumble across one another, for the most part each campaign is isolated from the others.
The plot is an epic globetrotting tale that strings several set-pieces together in the hopes of achieving the merits of a summer blockbuster. The world is being threatened by a new strain of zombie-making disease called the C-Virus and it’s up to our cast of heroes to prevent the end of the world. There are some twists and turns but it’s a rather straightforward and generic story. For the most part, Resident Evil 6 earns the action movie pedigree that it strives for. The narrative is completely undercooked but to be perfectly honest, the Resident Evil games have never relied on a good story for success. That being said, if you’re looking for a good story here, keep looking.
The campaigns dramatically vary in quality. Leon’s campaign is the best-paced and it comes the closest to recapturing the success of Resident Evil 4. Ada’s campaign is comparable to the Separate Ways expansion from the same game. As for Jake, his campaign doesn’t serve much purpose outside of filling in the narrative gaps left by the other campaigns but it’s structured similarly to Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Chris’ campaign is by far the least interesting. It’s a militarized romp that captures the worst aspects of Resident Evil 5.
Resident Evil 6 is not a survival horror game. It’s about as far from survival horror as you can get. It’s closer to a third-person shooter but unlike the gritty, grey war-torn whack-a-mole shooting galleries that come to mind upon hearing the word “shooter,” Resident Evil 6 manages to find a variety and intensity to the gameplay that it’s competitors lack. For example, shooting an enemy in the head will briefly stun them, allowing you to close in and hit them with a special move, but at the same time you bring yourself within grabbing distance of other enemies.
To a certain degree, there’s a level of resource management that at times, can feel like a survival experience. While managing ammo isn’t nearly as difficult as your AI controlled partner doesn’t waste away ammo, keeping your health at a decent level can be challenging. It’s unfortunate that the game fully revives you after dying, as it removes most of the tension during the gameplay.
Resident Evil 6 boasts some of the best AI out of all the games in its genre. Zombies and the other monsters will hunt you down with a matter of practicality. It’s just as good and engaging as the AI in Resident Evil 4 however the environments aren’t as cleverly designed. Just like in Resident Evil 4 enemies grow back blown off limbs in the form of mutated appendages. The enemies in Resident Evil 6 are much harder to predict and therefore keep the player on their toes.
It can take a lot of effort to keep yourself alive and during those moments, Resident Evil 6 manages to capture some of the magic that made Resident Evil 4 so special. I remember many of the set-piece moments and that’s already more than I can say about the entirety of Resident Evil 5, which aside from Wesker’s hammy performance, is a mostly forgettable experience. At the same time however, it’s a rather dull and generic affair that doesn’t do anything unique or different and the story is pretty weak. There are better shooters out there as well as better action-horror games.
Perhaps if I should say anything about Resident Evil 6 it’s that it isn’t nearly as bad as a game as certain gaming websites would have you believe (I’m looking at you GameSpot). If you are looking for the incredibly tense survival horror of previous games then you better keep looking. However, for what it is, Resident Evil 6 is a great improvement over Resident Evil 5. It is hardly the shot in the arm that series’ veterans are expecting but maybe it’s for the best. The Resident Evil series has tried to evolve with the shifting games industry but perhaps it’s best if this zombie stays dead.