Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Review: Resident Evil 6

With Resident Evil 4, Capcom (or Capcpom as they are sometimes known) revitalised the survival horror genre and paved the way for a million and one third-person shooter games to follow. Resident Evil 5 continued on that path, disregarding the “survival” aspect and letting you punch zombies and boulders over and over until they explode. On the surface, Resident Evil 6 seems to stretch both ways; its multiple campaigns appear to cater to traditional survival horror and military shooter fans alike.

Once you crack the surface, however, things aren’t that simple.

The game is split into three separate story campaigns, detailing how Leon S. Kennedy, Chris Redfield, and newcomer Jake Muller each cope with a global bioterrorist attack. Leon’s is first on the menu, and is probably the first you’ll play. It begins in medias res with Leon shooting a zombified president of the United States in the head, and doesn’t stop for a second to explain what’s going on. All of the campaigns are limited in their breadth of storytelling, so that you won’t know the full story behind the game until you’re cleared it with everyone. The multiple stories cross over every now and then, but the game doesn’t toy with it too much. You do get a little feeling of “oh, so that’s why those guys were there”, but those moments are few and far between. And even then, many plot details and bits of backstory are given away as reward for finding hidden treasures along the way – so you’ll either have to be seriously dedicated to uncover the whole truth, or treat the game as a popcorn thriller without too much thought.

The first chapter of Leon’s campaign plays it very survival-horror. The atmosphere is dark and gloomy, ammunition is limited, and zombies shamble towards you with their arms outstretched. Having completed the entire game, however, I can tell you that it is nothing but a ruse. The game tries to convince you that it’s both a survival horror game and a third-person cover shooter, but it’s actually neither of those things. The game is best played as an all-out action game, and it’s only with hindsight after completion that you’ll likely figure that out.

For one, the game is very shy about teaching you how to play it. There’s no full tutorial, and a great many of your manoeuvres are either never taught to you, or touched on so briefly that you won’t understand how and when you should use them. This creates a huge gap in your enjoyment of the game: you’ll either hate it as a mediocre horror shooter game, or love it as a curb-stompin’ action one. Leon’s campaign forces you along at a snail’s pace through spooky corridors and catacombs, so that you think you’re supposed to play it like the Resident Evil games of old. Chris’ and Jake’s campaigns are presented like military shooters, so you’ll be thinking of the likes of Gears of War when you play. It isn’t until you realise the “proper” way to play that you finally start to have fun – but it takes hours and hours to get there and the game kicks and screams against it. You can go through the entire game without knowing that Leon can dual-wield his pistols, or that you can quickly dodge-roll out of enemy fire, or that you can specifically choose which baddies your AI co-op partner will attack if you’re playing it solo. Those might seem like pretty important details for the game to skip over, but that’s only because they are.

Leon and Chris, together at last... for about three minutes.

That’s where the Mercenaries Mode shines. Mercenaries Mode does away with the spooky corridors and enemy soldiers and just drops you in the middle of a zombie-infested battlefield. Wasting the undead increases your score and the time you can keep playing, making it a time trial to see how many baddies you can kill before time runs out. Scoring particularly high unlocks even more characters to use in the mode, and the only way to get a half-decent score is to be fast and brutal with your kills, weakening zombies with headshots before rushing in for a melee instant-kill. The environments are fairly wide open, allowing you to show off and experiment with the game’s mechanics in ways that the main story mode doesn’t encourage – or even explain. There’s a pretty damned fun game somewhere inside Resident Evil 6, but you really have to work to find it.

And what fun it can be, sliding along the ground and firing away at enemies like something out of Vanquish. It’s probably no surprise that Vanquish was directed by Shinji Mikami, who created the Resident Evil series and left Capcom after making the fourth one – not that I wish to imply that Capcom stole the sliding mechanic from Mikami and stuffed it into their game without boring to fully explain how it works to the player.

But, for every moment of brain-smashing fun to be had in Mercenaries Mode, there’s an hour or two of frustration in the main story mode. Ridiculous ammo shortages, unfair Quick Time Events and unsatisfying boss fights constantly damper your enjoyment. The story doesn’t even have that trademark Resident Evil cheese to keep you smirking while you shiver. The game takes itself way too seriously, and it’s much worse off for it. Resident Evil 4 is memorable for the unintentional hilarity of its dialogue, and Resi 5 had a fantastically goofy villain in Albert Wesker, but Resident Evil 6 has nothing.

Zombies with guns! That's not the worst idea ever, right?

But story-mode wackiness isn’t the only thing from the previous games missing in Resident Evil 6. Also gone are the unlockable, purchasable and upgradable weapons – replaced with a general “skill” system that lacks depth. It’s strange, because Resident Evil 6 would seriously benefit from customisation; being able to choose which weapons to take with you, which ones to upgrade and what equipment might come in handy would work wonders to improve the game. I’m a pistols sort of guy, but the only choice you get for handguns is “dinky little pee shooter you start the game with” and “massive Magnum revolver you get when the story says you’re allowed it”. Gone, too, are both the Tetris-style inventory management from #4 and the extremely limited storage capacity of #5, replaced with a basic inventory that can just about store everything you need – even if you have to dump a few cases of Sniper Rifle ammo to fit that extra grenade.

So, instead of upgradable guns, there are upgradable skills. Instead of money, you grab Skill Points from fallen enemies, but the prices for upgrades are so great that you’ll have to save up for ages to get what you want. In previous games, you could increase the firing capacity or damage output or reload speed or whatever of your guns at every checkpoint/merchant, but in Resident Evil 6 you’ll be sitting on “Firearm damage increase level 2” for hours at a time.

For every good idea that Resident Evil 6 has, it has five bad ideas – and takes away a good idea or two as well. It certainly has its moments, and the combat can be enjoyable once you figure it all out – but the game just puts you through too much aggravation for it to be worthwhile.

Phil thought this game was... 

No comments:

Post a Comment