GAME NAME: Resident Evil 6
PLATFORM(S): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
GENRE(S): Survival horror / Action
RELEASE DATE(S): October 2nd 2012
There will always be a place for zombies in videogames.
Be it comics, books, movies or TV, the undead are more popular today than ever before, and when it comes to videogames, there’s only one series that’s arguably universally synonymous with the rising dead.
Since its humble beginnings in 1996, Resident Evil has long been the king of survival horror. But, with the release of its sixth installment, can the series still retain its crown, especially when competing against new contenders such as Dead Space? Also, can a series that relies on atmosphere and the slow build-up of tension still appeal to a shambling horde of casual online gamers?
Yes, and no. Here’s why.
During its early years, Resident Evil placed an emphasis on survival. The premise of the original game was simple; you’re a group of special agents trapped in a big spooky mansion. Oh and it’s full of zombies. You must solve the mystery and escape. The software was not intended for casual gaming, it was intended to be played in the dark and alone. Running away from a single zombie was often encouraged when ammo was low, rather than blasting anything that moved, a school of thought not often witnessed in the modern day game’s industry.
Resident Evil 2 was just as creepy, but was on a much larger scale, replacing the cramped corridors of the original’s mansion with the sprawling metropolis that was Raccoon City.
Next came Resident Evil 3 (which expanded upon the themes established in 2) and then, after a long hiatus, the revamped, action heavy Resident Evil 4 was released, which won numerous Game of the Year awards and arguably revolutionised the third person shooter genre altogether.
However, despite Resident Evil 4′s positive reviews, the series was about to become a victim of its own success…
The release of Resident Evil 5 proved to be a controversial one. Not only had the game nearly abandoned its horror roots by transforming itself into an online based third person shooter, it hadn’t mutated into a particularly good one.
With Gears of War and Uncharted now setting the standard for third person shooters, Resident Evil 5 seemed clunky and irrelevant in comparison. The game was shamelessly ripped apart by critics and fans a like, primarily for not making a big enough jump, innovation wise, when compared to its predecessor.
Loyalists argued Resident Evil was never about simply ‘running and gunning’, but instead about the tension and fear that accompanied the aforementioned shooting element. The problem with Resident Evil 5 was, there was no horror. Not even a little bit.
Why the zombie history lesson? Well, it’s important to understand Resident Evil’s history in order for it to be accurately judged. Since Resi 5, the simple tasks of maintaining an identity, adapting and retaining a place in the horror/action world has plagued the series more than the T-virus ever could.
Like its predecessors before it, Resident Evil 6 is not without its imperfections but makes a commendable effort to appeal to every gaming taste. As with Resi 4 and 5, the sixth entry to the survival horror series is still very much an action game, albeit laced with a healthy does of b-movie horror.
Capcom have taken stock of what made Resi 4 so great and listened to the mixed feedback 5 generated both online and off in order to create a more refined experience accessible to all.
The game allows you to choose from one of three different characters/scenarios (a fourth is unlocked by completing the first three) each offering a unique gameplay style. Horror and action fans are both catered for in equal measure thanks to this new format, and it’s fair to say that if scores were based on effort to please everyone alone, Resident Evil 6 would get a 10 out of 10. With this in mind, I have assessed each scenario individually in the following breakdown:
The first scenario features returning protagonist Leon S. Kennedy of Resident Evil 2 & 4 fame. Leon’s scenario is as close to traditional survival horror as the game gets, trading in 5′s wide open spaces for dingy, dark corridors in a zombie infested town. Long time fans will lap this section up, as it resembles the original games far more than I was expecting.
Classic zombies also make a return in this scenario, replacing the infected that featured so prominently in the previous two installments of the series. Slow moving Romero-esque zombies are back by popular demand and it’s a welcome return that helps Leon’s campaign pay tribute to its horror roots.
The second character is newcomer Jake Muller, whose campaign is the most ambitious and innovative of the three. Jake’s mission is a blend of horror and action as you are constantly running from an enormous monster who relentlessly hounds you until the closing credits. This creature (known as Ustanak) is eerily reminiscent of the Nemesis creature that stalked players throughout Resident Evil 3. Appearing at random intervals by smashing down walls or falling directly onto your head, Ustanak gives fans of the third game a nostalgic treat, whilst terrifying a new generation of gamers the same way Nemesis did before him.
For the first time in the series melee action is encouraged throughout this scenario. Without giving too much away, Jake is superhuman due to his exposure to the T-virus. This means that running out of ammo is not such a big deal for him. By selecting an unarmed stance, Jake is able to punch, kick and pile drive his way out of danger. Shooting and fleeing is still an option for long-time fans who feel uncomfortable by this change, but it’s a fun idea that’s certainly worth a try. It also helps Jake’s scenario feel unique and fresh, which is no bad thing.
The final scenario belongs to Resident Evil veteran Chris Redfield, star of Resi 1 & 5 in what’s admittedly the weakest of the three sections. Chris’s campaign is aimed at the Gears of War generation, and it shows.
The ‘run n gunners’ among you can rejoice however, as the action primarily consists of shooting anything that moves. The gameplay is broken up far too frequently by quick time events during cut scenes and several on the rail shooting/driving sections. These are fun at first, but soon become tiresome.
This scenario is not all doom and gloom however. The shooting sections are broken up further by a new breed of enemy; the Javo. These creatures are similar to the Manjini of Resident Evil 5, but with a sinister twist. Shooting certain parts of their bodies causes them to mutate further. Forget quick head shots with these guys, a head shot can cause them to grow a large blade out of their necks that can cause instant death. Shooting their arms off may cause them to drop their weapon, but they may grow a large claw which is far more deadly.
This idea makes the gameplay unpredictable and may just be the campaign’s saving grace. Without this, it would be in danger of being nothing more than a Resident Evil 5 clone, and that’s not a good thing.
Lastly there is a secret chapter which is very special. Its emphasis is on horror and action along with stealth sections. Luckily , as with the close quarter combat, the stealth isn’t forced upon the player. This is a good thing (because, you know, this is Resident Evil) but Capcom still gets points for trying something new. Unlike Leon, Jake and Chris there is no multiplayer option with this secret chapter. Just like classic Resi…. You’re on your own.
All in all, Resident Evil 6 feels like it’s suffering from an identity crisis, but it still manages to be an enjoyable experience with plenty of scares regardless. The game is solid enough, and even though it can be frustratingly repetitive at times, it still has plenty of innovations to keep the player engaged until the credits roll.
Its desperate attempts to appeal to fans of multiple genres may arguably be its downfall to those expecting a more classic Resident Evil experience, but it’s a still a step in the right direction after the disaster that was Resident Evil 5.
It’s safe to say however, that it can no longer be considered the survival horror game it once was. Resident Evil has mutated, and it seems like we’re all just going to have to accept this as fact.