Yeah, I know guys, Resident Evil 6. If you use the internet at all, listen to the Bombcast, or check out the forums you probably already know the general pulse of what people are feeling when it comes to the continuing series of viruses, B.O.W.s and dead, mutating things. From what I can tell, it seems divisive at the very least.
So I had to see it for myself. I probably won't say anything new here, so if you're already tired with Resident Evil talk, feel free to punch out. One of the reasons I felt compelled to write this blog is because I realized I've been with this series for some time. I wasn't there when OG Resident Evil on the playstation came out, but over the years I've done some catching up. Case in point below:
I dug all those out of my game collection for this line up. The plain white box is a PS1 copy of Resident Evil 2 (in outstanding condition) I bought from a Hollywood Video store for 5 dollars. Now, I'm not a Resident Evil superfan or whatever the kids call it these days. I've always admired this series for the mix up of zombies, precious guns, and the healthy cast of animal abominations and physics defying bioweapons. Resident Evil has a lot of very cool monster designs. Some are more annoying than others. So I couldn't miss the latest installment even with the risk of quality involved. I had to see where it was all going.
Besides, I beat the two Souls games. There's nothing Resident Evil 6 can do to me. I've built up an immunity to unfriendly game design. It can't touch me.
There are probably spoilers. Or enough information to be considered spoilers if the trailers haven't already done it for you.
Resident Evil 6 (Too Much Mutation: The Game)
I don't think this is the worst game ever made. I don't hate it as much as Brad Shoemaker and Patrick Klepek seem to, but I can see where that rage stems from after beating all the campaigns myself. I certainly didn't have as much trouble as they did, but there is a lot of frustrating bullshit going on here, even for a Resident Evil game. But what does that even mean anymore? This series has always been changing. The trick is knowing where to stop, and in my opinion this series has pulled a full William Birkin- transforming and mutating after every encounter. And now it has finally become a bloated mess of flesh and teeth stuck on a train hardly capable of anything except Michael Bay-esque explosions and chase sequences until the self-destruct goes off.
Which is a real shame because I still like the characters in 6, and most of the story bits are done alright with some pretty good voice acting. The story makes Resident Evil sense at the very least. It just doesn't have very good pacing or play as well as 4 and 5. A lot of subtle things I liked about the series have been left behind for a faster, more frantic experience. And I think 6 suffers a lot for that. Some of the QTEs in this game are poorly timed. Some of them are so tight you really have to mash the button prompt or spin that stick hard or you instantly die. And strangely enough, I didn't have much trouble with the notorious rope climbing sequence I heard about. Not to say it's easy or anything, it's definitely a pain in the ass.
Killing All the Little Things
I miss looking at maps, guys. I know that sounds petty, but I missed getting presented with an area and spreading out to find keys, shortcuts, and guns. It's about the exploration. RE4 was split into three areas in the form of the Village, the Castle, and the Island. That was still pretty linear, but there were enough loops and backtracking that gave me enough of that "trapped in a mansion-laboratory-police station" feeling. And you had a map. The co-op and multiplayer demands probably trashed that quickly, as there are hardly any quiet moments in 6. You're always moving, always getting attacked by something, always fighting monsters and the QTE-Virus. Compared to the rest of the games in the series, this is breakneck speed. And as dumb as the puzzles were and how little sense they made in the other games, they were still a form of personality for Resident Evil. I'm talking about emblems and chess pieces that doubled as door plugs. Sometimes a video game just has to be a video game, logic be damned.
Also, the finding of new weapons is a trivial thing. And you can't upgrade any of them. One of the biggest things that brought me back to Resident Evil 4 (and 5 to an extent) was getting enough money to upgrade my favorite guns and buy cool new stuff. I suppose they tried to keep the upgrade system in place in the form of buying skills (like extra damage for specific enemies, faster reloads, more defense, etc) but they never had the same impact as increased damage on a sniper rifle or a magnum. I don't feel like I get the same kind of payoffs from this system. I still want to make a cool ass assault rifle or shotgun and blast some not-zombies and B.O.W.s. Not to mention ammunition is an endangered species in this game. I have never run out of ammo and healing items so often and so fast than I have in RE6.
On another level, I feel like they've overdone the "this enemy seems impossible to kill" mentality coined by Birkin and Mr. X from 2, that was fine tuned later with Nemesis from 3. Now every single boss does this. They come back again and again to the point where it feels pointless to shoot at them. They're all doing the Nemesis thing, and this really hurts Jake's campaign with the Ustanak. His shtick is old hat if you play the campaigns in order, so it's never really surprising when you keep seeing a particular enemy again and again. It's less of "he keeps coming!" and more of "yeah, him again..." I would have preferred a larger variety of boss monsters.
The Many Faces of Resident Evil 6
Since Resident Evil 6 went the action route, it's really easy to be mean and apply silly subtitles to the campaigns of what they (accidentally or intentionally) end up evoking. So I couldn't help myself here. Anyways, I'm not going to cover everything, just some of the feelings I had when playing it.
- Leon's Campaign (Left 4 Max Payne) -
I find it hilarious that the secondary function on Leon's pistol is to whip out another pistol and dual wield them Max Payne style. You can tear through your pistol bullets in seconds flat, but Leon does have a fucking awesome reload animation where he spins his guns to eject his used magazines. Other than that... this is about as close as you're going to get to Resident Evil of the olden days. There are zombies, zombie dogs, and zombie presidents. There are also types of zombies that really remind me of Left 4 Dead, the Whopper especially. And you'll also go where no Resident Evil game has ever gone before- a passenger airplane! The bad part is that Leon's campaign has everything. Even an escort mission.
Lastly, Leon crashes like every single vehicle he steps foot in, without exception. I found that endlessly funny for some reason. He's like a virus for transportation. I guess that's why that ambulance death in the first chapter feels so cheap. I bet more than half of everyone who played Leon's campaign got killed by that ambulance.
- Chris' Campaign (Call of Evil: Resident Battlefield) -
Man, one thing I like is how beat Chris seems in this campaign. He has a lot of great thousand yard stares and glances with Jake. One thing that's almost impossible to ignore is how much his story has the dressings of modern military shooters. You have a useless squad, ho-hum vehicle sections, lots of radio conversations with HQ, airstrikes, and get up to no good with a harrier jet. To be fair, I found the harrier jet part kind of fun playing as Chris. It gave me shades of AC-130/Chopper Gunner fun, which is always welcome. But... this is a Resident Evil game, so I would be lying if I said it didn't feel out of place. And I know, Chris flew a harrier jet in Code Veronica- but that was a cutscene.
This campaign does have one of the better boss battles in the whole game where you fight something that's a cross between the Predator and Yawn from RE1. Playing cat and mouse with that thing was pretty well done and definitely one of the high moments of RE6.
- Jake's Campaign (Stuck in the Middle with Ustanak) -
If I had to choose, I think this is my favorite campaign of the bunch. I really like Jake Muller, probably because he's voiced by Troy Baker and does a really good job. The whole son of Wesker thing is 'eh', but I felt like it was handled as well as it could. Sherry Birkin is also pretty cool considering she was a somewhat annoying helpless child in RE2 and has a few good tricks up her sleeves. Her history plays well with Jake's background, so her appearance doesn't feel completely random. The whole call back to Nemesis with the Ustanak is whatever, considering he only shows up when the plot demands it instead of stalking you room to room. There are a few bad stealth sequences to be found here and there, and one part with a stupid tank... but overall I liked it.
Fun fact, I played Jake's campaign first. So I accidentally played it in chronological order. It was eye opening to play the others and get the full story considering these guys are left mostly in the dark of the main plot. Also, the first weapon pick up is the long barrel magnum called the Elephant Killer. I bet the merchant guy would be proud.
- Ada's Campagn (I Spy Frustration) -
Ada's campaign has most of the stupid bullshit and is my least favorite of the bunch, but it does clear up lots of the questions you get from the other three. Mainly, I didn't like her main weapons in the form of a peashooter SMG and a lame crossbow. She has this dumb sequence where you have to stand on a platform waiting for button prompts while enemies with LMGs and guns swarm the area. And another part where you fall through the floor and land so close to blades that it kills you instantly unless you have split second timing with the crawl button. And there's a really touchy chase sequence where the game has a hard time deciding if you avoided a wall trap or not. Just about the only fun I had with Ada was a long part where you fly a helicopter and blast things with machine guns.
Naturally, the end of her story only leaves you with more questions. And a really underwhelming cut scene after the credits.
It's Not the End of the World (Yet)
My time with Resident Evil 6 ran pretty hot and cold. I think the whole dodge/roll system is really annoying where you have to aim your gun first before you can evade. That adds a start up time which makes avoiding boss attacks way harder than it should be. I do have to give RE6 credit for putting together a cast without a blatantly terrible character in the mix. There's no Irving or Ramon Salazar wasting screen time. Everyone, even the villains, feel pretty solid with good voices too. Also, I love games where you can play as more than one character and see different sides of the same event. It's one of the reasons I love Suikoden III so much, so I'm glad they made that such a big part of 6. That was one of my favorite parts of RE2. The changing HUD graphics were pretty cool, even if they were a bit jarring at first.
I will say that Resident Evil 6 definitely feels rough. But I don't think it's the worst thing in the world. Probably more schizophrenic than anything else. I do think this series would benefit from taking a break, or stepping away from the mountain of continuity they keep breaking and reforming to fit the next adventure. Most importantly, HUNK needs his own game.