I really wanted to like Resident Evil 6. So much hype had been generated about Capcom’s sixth entry that it was impossible not to get excited. After loving Leon’s adventures in Europe and having a blast with Chris Redfield in Africa (the PS1 originals passed me by as a kid), I assumed that RE6’s globetrotting adventure would also leave a lasting impression. Instead though, it left a taste worse than a mouldy Jill sandwich. I’ve tried to defend the game in the past, suggest that its good moments outweigh the bad, but when I was considering what game I wanted to do for RABGD, this one was the one that fell from grace furthest. This one showed how far a flagship series could fall.
Problems begin with that globe hopping that I mentioned, which served to show how convoluted the series had become as a whole. RE6 features three ‘campaigns’ where players could play as a pair of agents; Secret fashionista Leon Kennedy (of RE2 and 4 fame) and his new partner, Muscleman Chris Redfield with his new pal or Jake Muller and Sherry Berkin, who’s not so little anymore. There's also a surprisingly decent solo campaign with Ada Wong, Leon's sorta kinda girlfriend/mild stalking victim. Each of these campaigns go through different countries including the US, a fictional war torn nation in Europe and an Asian city that’s definitely not Hong Kong. Remember when everything took place in just one city? At least RE5 had the decency to stay on one continent. God forbid 6 is your first Resident Evil game, with constant call-backs to Umbrella, Albert Wesker and characters repeatedly informing us that ‘This is like Racoon City all over again!’ you’ll be completely lost.
It doesn’t help that this game’s plot is so overblown, with presidential assassinations, multiple organisations, viruses, clones and more, it all gets very baffling. The campaigns have a habit of jumping different timelines and locations too, just to add to the confusion. Presumably, the idea was to allow players to enjoy key events from the perspective of multiple characters, but it ends up creating a lot of repetition in a game that was already struggling to hold the attention of its audience. Yeah you just fought a cheap copy of Nemesis from RE3, but how about doing it from Leon's point of view? Are you still awake?
Gameplay varies between the campaigns as well. Leon’s campaign is the closest to a traditional RE game. There’s the standard RE zombies, albeit with the inexplicable ability to leap great distances. There’s the traditional ‘operate a rotating switch while zombies attack’ sequence. Unfortunately though, it just feels like a relic that was at its best in RE4 and doesn’t fit in well with the focus on co-op. Chris has an all-out action adventure, which feels more like a poor man’s Call of Duty than Resident Evil. Standard enemies are replaced with ‘J’avo’, which basically guys with weird animal mutations. Some have moth wings, some are like dogs and there are a few spider enemies that look ridiculous. One stage has the player trying to rescue hostages that the spider men have grabbed, scuttling along the floor with them. Any creeping tension the series usually excels in is lost in this game. Jake’s campaign is very similar, except his involves a lot of karate. Playing as Leon will at least provide a few hints at traditional Resident Evil in its early stages, but Chris and Jake both go for over the top action, which doesn’t feel right at all.
General gameplay flaws exist for all the campaigns, such as the bizarre focus on QuickTime events. RE4 was an early pioneer of the QTE, but RE6 was a reminder of how not to do it. QTE’s are done far too many times and often led to cheap, unfair deaths that punish the player for not destroying their thumbs. One section which sees Leon pushed into a mincer had me stuck for two days, just because I couldn’t mash x as fast as they wanted. A few glitches help to ramp up the cheap death count even further. Even flaws from previous RE games make it in, like the dodgy AI of co-op partners. Nothing worse than an onslaught of enemies in a small space, you will have to rescue your partner from death multiple times. That's before you go through the tedious process of trying to get items from them too.
Presentation wise the game doesn’t look too bad. The levels set in the US do give off vibes of the original games, which is nice. Still, I feel that RE5 managed to look more unique, with its bright African vistas and tribal villages. In that respect, 6 does feel like a bit of a step backwards. Perhaps carefully designed levels might have been more useful than constant ‘Action!’
RE6 was ultimately the game that showed the series to be stuck in a rut. Resident Evil: Revelations, the 3DS game released around the same time, managed to show how action and tension could be balanced well. Yeah there were action sequences, but the game would also show off empty rooms and corridors, just waiting for the next enemy to sneak around the corner… only for them to come from behind. Resident Evil 6 simply lacked any subtle moves, hoping that choppers, rockets and bombs would make an impact amongst the various action titles that were popular at the time.
Beyond rumours, we’ve yet to hear about Resident Evil 7. Perhaps that’s a sign that Capcom have reconsidered the direction that the world of survival horror needs to go in. Let’s hope that a return to form is on the cards. If so, Resident Evil 6 might just be able to stay dead.