It’s obvious from Capcom’s actions since its release, that they realise just what a mistake Resident Evil 6 was. It’s the best-selling game in the series, but the price of that success was to alienate both fans and critics with a game that swapped survival horror for generic action. Four years later and there’s still been no clue as to how the mainline series will continue; although we may find out after Capcom’s plans to re-release Resident Evil 4 through 6 on the current generation consoles are completed. But by releasing them in reverse order it’s very much a case of leaving the best till last.
On the face of it Resident Evil 6 does not represent any great departure for the series. It’s still following the template laid down by Resident Evil 4, which means very little puzzle-solving or exploration and a focus instead on action set pieces. Since Resident Evil 4 is still widely hailed as one of the best games ever made, not sticking to the template of the early era Resident Evils is clearly not the issue.
What was a problem though, was that the exit of series creator Shinji Mikami left Resident Evil 5 in the hands of less talented developers. Resident Evil 6 was headed by a different team again, and showed that Capcom’s previously stated desire to attract more Call Of Duty fans was meant very literally.
Resident Evil 6 features four separate story campaigns, each with a different pair of heroes and a slightly different style of gameplay. The final one, featuring Ada Wong, was originally single-player only and had to be unlocked, but since this re-release includes all the updates and DLC (the PS1 style costumes are particularly neat) all four campaigns now feature two-player co-op.
Leon S. Kennedy is the game’s nominal lead, starring in a brief introductory sequence in zombie-filled China – before you’re given the option to play whichever campaign you please. Paired up with Secret Service agent Helena Harper, Leon’s story is the closest the game gets to survival horror, although all this really means is that most of his levels are very dark and it’s harder to see monsters before they leap out at you.
It’s also hard to be scared when ammo is plentiful and you always have the back-up of a partner to hand. Even the famously cheesy dialogue has regressed to the point where it’s no longer funny. Everyone speaks in one-liners that make Leon and co. sound like your dad trying to make a joke while watching a bad action movie.
Partnered with new character Piers, Chris Redfield’s sections are heavily reminiscent of Gears Of War (which is ironic, given Epic Games cite Resident Evil 4 as a key inspiration) and regularly feature armed opponents and boss type characters that need to be taken down with a quick time event – which predictably are far less imaginatively staged than earlier games.
There’s a mindless pleasure in seeing what new grotesque opponent Capcom can throw at you next, but the combat lacks any kind of grace or nuance. The second your progress is impeded the frustration and tedium quickly sets in: the urge to see what’s round the next corner is strong, but the interest in what you’re currently doing is almost non-existent.
Some of the game’s lowest points come during the campaign with newcomer Jake, son of Albert Wesker, and the now grown-up Sherry Birkin from Resident Evil 2. With no prior template to follow for the characters Jake’s campaign becomes a bizarre grab bag of unconnected set pieces, some laughably amateurish and others, such as numerous escapes from a pursuing Nemesis-type monster, pleasingly effective.
Ada Wong’s campaign is the absolute worst of the four, with the attempts to add ridiculously contrived puzzles and remedial level stealth sections made almost unendurable by the higher difficulty level.
The one complaint you cannot level against Resident Evil 6 is a lack of content, as even beyond the four story campaigns there’s also the return of The Mercenaries time attack mode, four-player co-op sequences, and more. But the game would’ve been vastly more successful if it’d had cut the number of features and campaigns by three-quarters and concentrated on getting the basics right first; rather than trying to add in every stray feature that passed through the developers’ mind.
But although Capcom must’ve known the game would be pilloried on its return a reasonable amount of effort has gone into this remaster. It now runs at 1080p and 60 frames per second, and many of the character models have been updated. Some of the environmental textures have as well, but there seems no rhyme or reason to which have been improved and the mismatch in quality is more distracting than if they’d just left everything as it was.
Resident Evil 6 was always the perfect example of a junk food video game. It has all the depth and profundity of a Big Brother contestant and like any good reality TV it can be surprisingly entertaining for those that are happy to switch off their brain and be carried along by the stream of nonsense.
It’s obvious from the opening minutes that Resident Evil 6’s real ambition is to be the video game equivalent of a Michael Bay film, removing any hint of intelligence or artistry in favour of empty spectacle. The game’s greatest failure has always been that it succeeds in that goal all too well.