A real nightmare for Resident Evil fans
The newest entry in the Resident Evil franchise will undoubtedly divide opinion, and rightfully so. What the developers started in Resident Evil 5 is most definitely continued here with the most action oriented and ambitious title so far in the series. The most important thing however is does it pay off? Does this game take the best of what makes current-gen games great and use them effectively or does it become a bad mash up that tries to run before it can walk? Somewhere in the middle but leaning towards the latter seems about right but lets see what makes this game so popularizing.
Note. This review is very long and thorough. It contains very minor spoilers regarding locations and set pieces but nothing you wouldn't know from seeing one trailer. This isn't based on a demo or anything else but from actually playing all of the campaigns and other modes for over 30 hours.
First of all, the computer AI of the partners have been dramatically improved since the last game. Where Sheva would love standing in a corner and completely ignoring enemies and Chris' cries for help in RE5, the partners in this game kick some serious ass. The amount of times they saved me from a zombie capture even early in the game was really surprising and felt like I was playing with someone that did help me for a change, as opposed to just dragging me down. This does however mean the game is easier when playing by yourself instead of co-op which the game wants you to do but I think this is a unavoidable problem really.
The graphics in this game are truly a sight to behold. Arguably one of the best looking titles on the Xbox 360, even when darkness floods most of the screen, the characters can really show emotion for the first time through how realistic they look. Since Resident Evil 4 the games have looked good and not out of place with everything else on the market but this game really sets the standard for visuals in the franchise so far.
The melee moves which I found awkward in previous games are pretty good but does have its downsides. Even though it's completely over the top and one of the things that shouldn't really be in a Resident Evil game, they are just so damn fun I can't help but really enjoy the inclusion in this game. In particular my favorite is when you grab a weapon off the zombie you are attacking and hit them with it. Decapitating a zombie with his own fire axe is just plain awesome. Some of them are a bit too crazy though. When is a running bulldog ever a good idea? The downside with melee is that they are way too overpowered. In a game that limits your ammo already, I found myself many a times running around and punching enemies to the point this game may as well have been a beat em up.
What can I say about quick time events that hasn't already been said? They suck. There isn't anything else really to say. They pop up way too much. Add absolutely nothing to the experience. My biggest problem with them wasn't so much the execution, which is terrible and inconsistent, but the fact that because they pop up so frequently you can never just enjoy the cut-scenes. I couldn't relax and pay attention to the dialogue because I was on edge that a QTE would pop up and if I failed it would mean instant death. In summary, they are as bad as people say they are and really can ruin any good game.
The new inventory system is interesting and works somewhat well. The equipping of weapons and reloading on the fly is adequate but the health system is completely useless. On paper the idea is fine whereby if you pick up a herb it goes to your inventory. To use it you then turn it into a pill that can be used at anytime with the press of a button. This would work well in situations where you have time to plan ahead but due to the crazy break neck speed and action of this game, trying to heal yourself quickly becomes an unnecessary chore and the method seems overly complicated for no reason at all.
The game lets you choose which of the 3 campaigns you would like to play first which is a nice touch and gives some sort of control of the story over to the player. Being a huge fan of Resident Evil 4 I decided to go with Leon's campaign first hoping to experience something similar. Let's see if that's what I got.
Leon's campaign starts off well with some great creepy sequences such as walking through a train tunnel and trying to fight zombies whilst also avoiding being splattered by oncoming trains. The use of light and sound is fantastic in this part and probably my favorite part of the campaign, even though it lasts roughly 15 minutes and if you miss a QTE involving dodging trains you'll have to start from scratch. This pretty much sums up this game, whenever something cool happens you know there's something lame around the corner ready to ruin the experience again.
I enjoyed the puzzles in the cathedral and liked the slower pace of Chapter 2 overall. It's a shame the whole of Leon's campaign isn't like this which is what I was expecting as from this chapter to the finish everything is straight up action and not even remotely tense or scary. A terrible underwater sequence lies in the middle of this campaign which serves nothing except to cross off another game mechanic from the long list which this game seems to be trying to fit in during it's almost ridiculous length.
I hated the final chapter and the final boss is one of the most frustrating and boring sequences I've ever played in my entire life. It completely overstays its welcome as the game constantly lies to you in saying that you've have defeated it only for it to pop up once again to the point that I was literally wishing for the game to end. Filled with terrible QTE's and completely absorbing any ammo the game is kind enough to give you, the boss isn't hard, just time consuming and boring. I didn't die as I just leisurely jogged around the area waiting for when I could next hurt the boss and when any ammo would spawn.
Leon's campaign was overall extremely average. What started as cool and fun in the first hour or so, by the near 8 hour mark became increasingly frustrating and the awful ending really soured the experience. Also having to repeat the prelude during this campaign felt so contrived and yet another time filler in a game that is already way too big. A mixed bag so far but maybe Chris's campaign will be better.
The first chapter is pretty terrible really with every story hook and set piece ripped straight from a Call of Duty game. Seriously, when I was breaching rooms in slow motion and taking out enemies to save hostages I really had to remind myself this was a Resident Evil game I was playing. Chapter 2 was actually quite fun by this game's standards. I enjoyed what was going on but because this campaign heavily relies on the cover mechanics which are completely abysmal and broken it really detracts from what could have been a really fun experience.
Further into the campaign sees a horrendous car chase sequence which actually produced one of the funniest parts of my experience with this game. My controller died and the game doesn't pause itself so you can get new batteries, it just keeps on playing. As I was looking for new ones I realized the game was still going on and I wasn't taking any damage. Once my controller was working again I decided just to leave it and see if the section would complete itself. It did. This really sums up how terribly scripted and uninteresting some of the set pieces in this game can be.
A jet sequence is squeezed in before you finish which tries to be like HAWX and yet again comes off as a terrible knock off like so many of this games ideas. The final boss, albeit not as annoying as Leon's is still pretty terrible and was so frustrating with the limited ammo once again and waiting for QTE's constantly.
Overall it's another mixed campaign. Towards the end I found myself really enjoying the story more than I expected to and was looking forward to the cut-scenes way more than actual gameplay. The set pieces and enemies are good overall but again the basic mechanics of the game let it down. Just when I was starting to have fun one of the many random irritations I have with this game would rear its ugly head just long enough to sour my experience. Next up, Jake and Sherry.
This campaign starts off OK with a pretty good first chapter. Replaying the same boss battle from a previous campaign but with different characters was really annoying and boring as it added nothing to an already average battle. Starting to see how the character's stories intertwine is really cool as long as its just seeing them in the background and not making you replaying certain areas again which I find to be a cheap tactic at prolonging the game's length. A cool but ridiculous fight in a plane ends the first chapter and we are left feeling like we are getting pretty much more of the same from the last two campaigns.
The 2nd chapter at least sees a completely new setting to anything with seen in the previous campaigns where we are dropped into snow covered mountains in the middle of a blizzard. The fact that the snow storm is so strong should make the game more tense, not knowing where enemies are like in the original Silent Hill, but because Jake can run really fast this wasn't particularly scary or tense at all. I basically just sprinted from one checkpoint to the next as there is no reason to stand and fight and quickly got bored of this new setting.
As we progress we then encounter a somewhat stealth section (and I use that term loosely) and yet another boss battle takes place, however this time you must avoid being seen or face certain death. This was actually kinda fun which I didn't expect and it's a shame they didn't do more with this part other than making you advance from room to room before yet another inevitable QTE sequence to finally beat the baddie.
A bike chase is included in the next chapter which is just outright terrible and shouldn't be in the game at all. The bike controls awful, the chase isn't remotely fun or exciting, and if you hit any obstacle in the road (which there are many) you die instantly. Just another section which involved many hours and money in development which could have been used on making the mechanics of the game that you control for 90% of your experience better which it desperately needs instead of wasting it on this.
The final boss is not as frustrating as the previous campaigns and probably my favorite of the bunch. The fact that it doesn't drag on for too long and is unnecessarily difficult like the previous ones is already a good thing. It does however rely too heavily on QTE's yet again which at this point you really have to just accept that they are a big part of this game (Wish I hate).
Overall I enjoyed the story more than I thought I would and it really ties it all together nicely. It would have been nice to have more back story on Jake but I did find the character rather interesting and the game purposely leaves a lot of questions unanswered for yet another potential sequel. After playing all 3 of the main campaigns I preferred Chris' the most, with Jake second and Leon last which is the opposite order I expected going in to this game.
Ada's campaign is unlocked once you have finished the main 3 campaigns and serves as a sort of round up to the other stories, tying up loose ends and making things a little bit more clearer. I enjoyed this campaign but it wasn't really necessary after playing the previous 3. Ada is a cool character and fun to play as and her weapon of choice, a crossbow, is the best of any of the characters specialties. The environments and enemies are pretty much all from the previous campaigns and leaves nothing as a surprise which is a shame.
The story again I found intriguing and it kept me interested throughout the duration but did leave many questions unanswered. The final's moments of the game I felt should have been used to completely resolve the story but instead it tries very hard to set up a sequel. I know this is how this business works but it is a shame when a publisher already has an eye on the next game before they have properly finished the current one.
The length of the campaigns time it took me to beat them definitely got progressively shorter and I'm not sure whether the campaigns actually are shorter or whether I just started to beat them quicker by learning the game and getting better at it. More than likely I just spent less time looking around the rooms and just rushed through each area the more I played due to the frustration of the games length.
I liked the interlinking stories but 2 campaigns like Resident Evil 2 would have worked so much better and got to the point quicker. Leon isn't needed at all in this game so perhaps Chris as one campaign and then Jake/Ada as the other would have worked better. There is so much content that isn't needed that if this game was shortened it would definitely be a better experience for everyone.
Outside of the 4 campaigns there is also yet more content in the form of the usual Mercenaries mode and a new Agent Hunt mode. Mercenaries is pretty much exactly the same as the previous game and everyone should know how this works by now. I've never been a fan of this mode and after playing it a few times I quickly got bored like I usually do and I doubt I'll be revisiting it.
If you don't enjoy the Resident Evil series then I would not recommend this game if you think this is the one to finally hook you in. There are games out there that function so much better than this one on the market and you're better off spending your time and money elsewhere.
If you are a fan of the previous games like myself I would say go ahead but with caution. If you really need to know the story and what happens to the characters you know and love then picking up this game when the price has dropped wouldn't be the worse idea. Better still just watch the cut-scenes on YouTube and avoid the annoying gameplay mechanics which constantly frustrate.
At this point I definitely don't want a Resident Evil 7 and hope this is the end for the current mythology. Leave the franchise alone for say 5 years until the next gen and do a reboot that has a similar tone to the first game. Strip it back to basics and create a whole new world and characters which an entirely new audience could fall in love with. Instead of trying to please both old and new fans with this entry and failing to impress either.
My overall impressions of this game are incredibly mixed. I did really enjoy some of my time playing it but my experience was constantly undermined by so many random irritations which I have mentioned. The gameplay when it's at it's best is average, some of the time it's pretty bad and the rest of the time is just doesn't work. I really enjoyed the story and setting but wish the game would have been finely tuned. There is an amazing game hidden here but it's surrounded by mediocrity and terribleness.
Playing this game actually made me sad. I couldn't help thinking that one of my favorite franchises, having overcome so many obstacles in the past to survive had come to this. A boring action clone that tries what successful games of recent years has done and fails. I really wish this franchise will see such great heights again, but I've got a suspicion that the worst is yet to come.