Ambition can take you only so far
If there's one thing you can credit Resident Evil 6 for is its ambition. Whereas previously the action and story were relatively intimate with it focusing on one core ordeal and seeing characters through it; Resident Evil 6 is all over the map. Literally. With high production values, no less than 4 campaigns with an interwoven storyline that's quite impressive, every part of RE6 should impress you to its core. Except it doesn't, at least most of the time as the game seems to be in a weird state of limbo as you never can praise it until something shows its ugly face. You can't be entertained long enough without a bout of frustration hitting. Unlike horrible games that spending money for feels like a bad idea, this is a game that's really hard to tell whether to recommend it or not. It's not god-awful but it's not diamond in the rough either.
The game for all its globe-trotting ways, is really all about Ada Wong, funnily enough. The ever elusive and oh-so-sexy woman with dealings with whoever comes her way, she's an interesting one and it's great to see a more focused storyline on a key character. But through it all, you'll control not only her but Leon Kennedy, Jake Muller and Chris Redfield, each one having its own separate campaign, tone and co-op partner. Connecting them all is Simmons, the National Security Advisor, a new strain of virus called the "C-Virus" and even intersecting with them and helping each other out at key points in the story.
Hoping to be everything to everyone, each campaign has its own separate feel. Leon Kennedy, partnering up with Helena Harper, a Secret Service agent, go through a viral outbreak in an American town with a tone similar to RE4 with a more atmospheric bent. You'll go through the city and fight off the infected and make your way through a creepy and abandoned cathedral while chasing the one responsible for the outbreak. Jake Muller, a mercenary-for-hire, meets up with Sherry Birken, the girl Leon and Claire saved in Resident Evil 2, as they trek around Europe while being hunted by a creature known as the Ustanak (this game's version of Nemesis). And Chris Redfield partners up with fellow BSAA agent Piers Nevins as they travel through China with a personal vendetta against a familiar face in a more action horror setting.
What makes Resident Evil 6 impressive yet simultaneously frustrating is that there's so much great ideas and promise and I can't tell whether the game is actually "finished" or there was too many cooks in the kitchen (over 600 as it were). Looking at the campaigns, having one devoted to a certain "type" of RE campaign, especially one with so many interwoven moments and story threads, stepping back and admiring it from afar is easy. But digging in is tough since each campaign is connected yet feels too disparate and makes the game feel more like 4 pieces rather than one whole.
One idea though that I found really cool is that at certain moments in the campaign, the game will find other players playing the part you are and actually bring in up to 3 other players to co-op with you for a short time. In one scenario, Leon and Helena are on the ground fighting a big ass boss while Ada is in a helicopter providing air support. Or in another where Chris/Piers and Jake/Sherry take on 2 gargantuan bosses in an Eastern European town, essentially making a 4-player co-op mission. It sounds like an intriguing idea and one I'd like to see in other games as well yet maybe due to PC community, servers or just bad luck but it was hard to tell whether anyone actually joined my game. On consoles I bet it was easy but when you don't have a Halo or Gears sized audience and with a game as mixed response as this, seems like a promising if bumpy start.
As far as gameplay is concerned, it too is also feeling a bit too schizophrenic in that mobility is much more welcome here and makes replaying RE4 and 5 to be almost chore-like as you can now crawl along the ground, dodge out of the way or roll to your sides. Your AI partner isn't as useless as Sheva's AI was and they happen to be really great shots and are virtually indestructible yet you can't really order them around and they don't pick up items like before. Scattered among levels and after some enemies are what's called "skill points" and these can be used to unlock skills for your character. Things such as better defense, faster reload or more critical hit chances makes it a weird yet neat RPG mechanic yet most seem too niche to be useful.
To make the campaign feel more epic is the increased presence of quick-time events and they're abundant. But unfortunately while the 2 prior games made the scenes more dynamic and flowing, the time allowed to input the prompt is way too fast and the "jiggle the analog" breakout scenes (or in my case, rapidly mash the WASD keys) requires a faster motion than seems necessary and highlighting the biggest issue: cheap deaths. Too many times there's deaths from blink-and-you'll-miss-it quicktime prompts or random events in the level (a certain ambulance in Leon's campaign for one) or the parts where you're chased and have to run towards the camera. While they're more cinematic in idea, too often the paths swerve and curve and any deceleration can prompt a death screen and if you weren't hauling ass at least 98% of the time, you'll just straight up die. There is some cool variety however such as a motorcycle getaway, a car chase, a part where you fly a jet (seriously) or yet another mine-cart sequence but when the game strays from the simple "walk and kill dudes" is when it usually stumbles.
Probably one of the best additions to "later day" Resident Evil is the Mercenaries mode. Controlling your favorite characters with personalized loadouts, you're to try and kill every enemy you see within an allotted time with time extenders, combo meters and environmental hazards to help for crowd control. These modes have always been just fun and addicting and obtaining high scores to unlock more characters and stages becomes a strange oft-occurring play session. Well, that is if you can find anyone since I'm not sure if it's server related or a less-than-populated PC community but attempting to find any match whatsoever can result in no greater than 2 matches or none at all. These modes have always been great co-op and teaming up with friends is probably more ideal since attempting to find just random people seems impossible. I know the game didn't get the warmest of receptions but I find it hard to believe a brand new PC game in a popular franchise can only show the same 5 people in lobbies.
As for the port itself, it's actually quite good. Things ran at a steady clip, graphics were crisp and setpieces and environments (especially China) were impressive and the detail on the new enemies, the J'avo, are well done. But this all depends on how you feel towards the game as a whole. With the server issues and the back and forth emotions the game will put you through, whether to put the extra money down is up to you. As incentive, Capcom teamed up with Valve for a Left 4 Dead crossover with the four L4D2 survivors and enemies types like the Witch all played out to Midnight Rider tunes. With the mode offering a higher enemy count and the option to play as Ellis, Nick et al., it's maybe not the most enticing offer but it's a welcome one nonetheless.
You can look at Resident Evil 6 as one of 2 things: as a game in the franchise and as a game on its own. As another numbered successor in the popular series, it tries to do so much yet fails almost as much as it succeeds. Campaign and story is well-done, graphically can be stunning and filled with so much ambition you got to at least commend it for that. As a game on its own, it's competent and can entertain yet it also frustrates in equal measure. It excites and attracts yet you never get a good sense of what it actually wants or why they're the way they are. Just like Ada...