Resident Evil 6 Review
Although unexpected, Resident Evil 6 has turned out to be an extraordinarily difficult game to evaluate. I have noticed that I only run into this problem when I face very particular productions; specifically, those that don’t know what they want to be. To say Capcom’s hotly anticipated horror title suffers from an identity crisis is an understatement because it tries so hard to be conflicted. It goes out if its way to be three or four things at once and in the midst of it all is a throbbing, pulsating core of intense action. Oh, what to do…?
Well, let’s start with the easiest aspect of this analysis; the graphics. I suppose it’s easy to call out Capcom for not scaling new heights in regards to photorealism and perfect clarity, but the fantastic design of the monsters and environments is undeniable. The enemies are downright terrifying and absolutely vicious, the bosses are beautifully created (and therefore accomplish the exact opposite of “beauty”), and the atmosphere really is second to none, despite a few annoying mechanical implements. There’s great variety in the locales, the effects are top-notch, and the lighting is superb. And yet, I wouldn’t classify these visuals as “elite.”
Some solid voiceover performances and a soundtrack that can really assault a decent stereo system make the audio shine. There’s some less-than-believable acting, however, and the balance isn’t always perfect, which makes for a somewhat uneven sound presentation throughout. The effects are enough to make you cringe/leap out of your seat (which is, of course, part of this game’s purpose), and along with that supremely cool enemy design, the game succeeds in nailing at least one goal. It lacks an extra coat of polish but the visceral nature of the adventure supersedes that drawback.
Okay… ‘sigh’ I…I just don’t know what Capcom wanted to do. Well, no, that isn’t accurate; I do know what they wanted to do, but they should’ve realized it was impossible. Great games are more focused; they excel in a specific set of gameplay styles and mechanics, but more importantly, they understand the subtle elements of an interactive production. They pay close attention to balancing, steadiness, pacing, and in the case of a story-driven thriller like RE6, narrative. And while one has to applaud some of the risk-taking here, you can’t ignore one fact— Sometimes, less is more.
And RE6 just doesn’t ascribe to that philosophy.
But before I really dive into the meat of the gameplay, let’s tackle that somewhat innovative method of storytelling: There are four separate campaigns and seven major characters, and you must experience the overarching story by seeing it through different sets of eyes. On the one hand, it almost reminded me of Suikoden III and it’s three branching pathways and three protagonists. But this is obviously more cinematic and features more in the way of edge-of-your seat entertainment; again, seen from very different – and often interesting – perspectives.
It’s great to catch just a glimpse of something important when playing as Leon, for example, and then see the full-on reveal when playing as Chris. Such examples are by far the most compelling part of this adventure, because you’re often asking yourself, “Hey…what was that all about? I need to see that with someone else before finding out, don’t I?” But there’s a downside to this presentation, because Capcom doesn’t realize that with such a format, you’re not necessarily supposed to play through the same segments when going through different branches. In short, the plot progression suffers from a lack of scripting expertise.
That being said, choice is still a big part of the experience, which gives you much more freedom than you’ve ever had before in any Resident Evil. Speaking of stuff you haven’t seen in this franchise before, there’s the obvious; the standard third-person shooting system, which has replaced the admittedly old-fashioned tank controls of yesteryear. Now, this is a little weird because in some instances, the control works fine, but in others…it’s a little tough to describe, but it just doesn’t feel as smooth as other third-person shooters (like Uncharted) that came from masters of the genre.
The other technical problem involves the camera, which can be very much all over the place, especially during frantic sequences. The camera view will also inexplicably shift and change about after cut-scenes, which is not only disconcerting but also frustrating. Lastly, while I’m the subject of irritating things, let’s talk about the QTEs (Quick Time Events for the uninitiated). For the most part, I don’t have a problem with QTEs and let’s also not forget that RE4 was one of the first games ever to implement this mechanic. But they’re simply overdone in RE6. There’s no better descriptive term; they work fine, but they’re just way overdone.
This all being said, one has to praise the sheer spectacle of this whole production. It’s true that more doesn’t necessarily equate to better quality, but in their no-holds-barred, admittedly unfocused flair, they’ve produced a game that just keeps punching. This game is like a desperate boxer who knows he’s down in the points and has to land a KO to win. He only has the patience to jab a few times, and then starts throwing massive haymakers. Sadly, his opponent usually knows when they’re coming and easily sidesteps them, leaving this increasingly anxious heavy-hitter to swing wildly until the bout is finally over. And guess who wins?
That may be a poor analogy, though, as I’m absolutely convinced that at least one of those haymakers will catch some gamers squarely on the chin. If this game drags you in and you’re willing to make some concessions, you might just have a blast. However, it’s exceedingly difficult to guarantee a good time because your entertainment will depend a great deal on several factors, including your expectations and what your gaming pet peeves are. For instance, if you really can’t stand QTEs, you’re in trouble. On the flip side, if you love fast-paced, highly combustible, relatively well designed adventures, you might get sucked in.
I just wish it wasn’t so…I dunno…all over the place. One minute you’re involved in some tedious, repetitive firefight (complete with often questionable controls and a wonky camera) and the next, you’re breathing heavy as your whitened knuckles clench around a creaking controller. Something extremely large and extremely vile is in the same room with you, and you’re desperately trying to take it down. Such encounters leave you breathless, impressed, and ultimately fulfilled. And thankfully, there are plenty of them; there’s certainly no shortage of kick-ass moments, and I have to emphasize that such sequences do indeed kick much ass.
Plus, you have to appreciate the improvements in the ally AI. While I really liked Sheva as a partner in RE5, she wasn’t all that effective and had a bad habit of assisting me when I didn’t want her to. In RE6, your buddies are pretty smart and helpful, and I was never yelling at the screen in a vain attempt to get ‘em to do what I wanted. Playing with a friend is great fun, too, and absolutely shouldn’t be missed if you picked up the game. However, I still maintain that any horror game (even if this isn’t exactly “survival/horror”) should be a solo experience; when you’ve got people helping you, the fear quotient drops significantly.
Finally, the online stuff seems to work fine, but I don’t think it’s anything special. They try to spice things up with Agent Hunt Mode, where you become an enemy and jump into a random person’s game, but to be perfectly honest, that just isn’t much fun. The enemy controls aren’t all that great and you probably won’t last long, anyway. Mercenaries Mode is better ‘cuz you get cool upgrades via earned skill points, and the action is both tight and competitive. The bottom line is that the multiplayer won’t improve your opinion of the game on the whole, but it won’t hurt it, either. I guess that’s all that can be expected, and I’m fine with that.
Resident Evil 6 is a crazy amalgam. It’s a mixture of great and mediocre elements that are so glaringly obvious that the observant veteran gamer can tick off each point within an hour of playing. The scripted events have some problems, sudden deaths can get really taxing, the branching story could’ve been better presented, and the control isn’t fluid enough. Then you’ve got the flashy, in-your-face, and – dare I say it – memorable moments that almost don’t seem to fit. It’s just an insane rollercoaster ride chock full of ecstatic highs and depressing lows. The highs win, but only because it’s fun to watch that desperate boxer go nuts in the ring.
The Good: Fantastic monster design and engaging environments. Some great voices and wicked sound effects. Branching storylines work well to some extent. Co-op AI is good. Atmosphere is second-to-none. Totally over-the-top moments will get the blood pumping.
The Bad: Lack of technical polish. Scripted scenes are flawed. Overabundance of QTEs. Control and camera are questionable. Pacing is all over the place.
The Ugly: “Not sure what you want to be, RE6, but RE7 better pick a side and stick with it.”
10/2/2012 Ben Dutka