Fare thee well, sweet prince.
Oh boy. Where to even begin? I've been a fan of this franchise since the very beginning back in 1996; Resident Evil was my childhood, and the very original just so happened to be one of the first games that I played. I adored this stuff during the 90s and early oughts. However, once came Resident Evil 4, things changed. Now I'm not going to lambaste Resident Evil 4 as some evil mark of damnation--it's a great game by all means--but it's not why I personally came to this series; it's not why I was so stuck in from the moment I entered the Spencer Mansion.
Yet still I persevered! Then Resident Evil 5 came along and all that I hold dear within the series continued to slip away even further. I was losing more and more of what I enjoyed about Resident Evil, and still did I stand by its side. Like some abused housewife who couldn't bear to let go out of loyalty or something... And now we have Resident Evil 6. And now, I feel that I may have just reached my limit.
Resident Evil 6 is a shooter. There's no getting around it. The adventure elements of what was once an action/adventure series have now been squeezed out of the equation almost completely. There's a cover system, there's a down but not out system, there's set-pieces galore, and more than half of the game consists of you fighting against enemies who can shoot you back. But the hilarious and most depressing thing is Resident Evil 6 isn't even a very good shooter; after squandering so much in favour of a broader market, this is what I've been given in return? Now I'm not going to slam down on Resident Evil 6 at every turn, as there are certain elements that I thought were at least... creative. Like the story structure for starters.
Featuring not one, not two, and not even three but four campaigns, Resident Evil 6's story mode is vast. As is the cast of protagonists that make up the story as well: including the likes of Leon S. Kennedy and Chris Redfield canonically starring together in a Resident Evil game for the first time (though not as partners, I regret to say) along with ultra-mysterious femme fatale Ada Wong, and even the likes of Sherry Birkin returns since her last appearance all the way back in Resident Evil 2. It's not just old faces, however, as we have Secret Service agent and drop-kicking aficionado Helena Harper, B.S.A.A. sniper Piers Nivans, and buzzcut sporting badass mercenary Jake Muller. Oh, who is by the way the legitimate son of one Albert Wesker.
The multitude of characters and their respective campaigns were supposed to allow Resident Evil 6 to have a little 'something' for everybody, though they really don't diverge quite as much as CAPCOM would have you believe. What separates them the most is what enemies you'll be facing; Leon's campaign sees the return of zombies, Chris' and Jake's has you doing battle against the J'avo--a B.O.W. shock trooper who sorta function as RE6's replacement for the Ganado/Majini--and Ada's will have you doing battle against both (not simultaneously, however) as her story progresses. Each of the campaign's are usually happening concurrently with another at that, and each cast of characters will inevitably meet up with the other. It's pretty cool to be playing through Leon's & Helena's campaign only to run into Chris & Piers, and then play through Chris' campaign and see that same scenario from the other side.
However, what all four campaigns suffer from is the over-abundance of terribly scripted set-pieces and an exhausting amount of quick time events. Even though the general combat isn't very satisfying on its own, the game really begins to drag once you're forced to just run towards the screen while the camera awkwardly transitions around you, or to play through some tame vehicular segments like riding a bike or a snowmobile - all of which are incredibly strict in what you can and cannot do, and mixed in with a lot of surprise QTE's will invariably force you to try most of them multiple times. They're not exciting nor thrilling in any way and it's just another swing and a miss for CAPCOM trying to turn Resident Evil into something so completely out of the realm of what the series used to be. There's even the occasional stealth segment in here that's like right out of something from the mid 90s. Oh, and underwater segments... Seriously. You couple that with the general design of levels having a slew of conveniently placed red barrels everywhere and Resident Evil 6 starts to look the kind of bad action game pulled right out of 90s twisted with some of the worst trends of the current generation. Almost like how Duke Nukem Forever is an amalgamation of everything that sucked about 90s first-person shooters but also with a modern day shooter weapon limit.
OK, so for a bit of positivity just to balance this out a bit more, Leon's campaign is... OK in spots. Intended to evoke 'nostalgia' for the Resident Evil 4 era, Leon's isn't quite as action-packed as his compatriots. In fact there's some pretty decent pacing during certain early portions of his campaign, and traversing through the lightning-covered skies of a graveyard, or attempting to survive along side a small group of survivors inside a gun store, made for some fitting scenarios. The majority of Leon's chapters situated within Tall Oaks overall have some great atmosphere, and the moment when you hit the zombie-infested streets and are greeted with fiery chaos made for an excellent thrill. Playing straight from Veteran mode, the zombies were surprisingly durable and actually left me panicking in some spots, and there were even some situations that ask of you to choose flight rather than fight.
However, issues such as how you can't shoot the 'corpses' on the floor that you just know are going to eventually wake up and attack (which they do) persist throughout. In fact there's a lot of really hokey attempts at 'scares', like how so often when you near a corpse laying up against a wall it will slump down on to the ground, or a section where you're trying to find the keys to start a car; it'd be pretty tense if there was some kind of fail-state to it, but no, you can literally just leave it there and it'll continue on in a loop. Leon's campaign also features the odd puzzle here and there, though they're laughably basic and don't really require much thought. Once Leon's travels takes him to China, it takes a complete nosedive with a significant increase in QTE-fueled set-pieces, eliminating the tone and style of the Tall Oaks sections.
The boss battles--most notably the final few nearing the end--are also horrendous, and not just in Leon's campaign but across the entire game, with very little feedback as to whether what you're doing is even working - punctuated by many who also have attacks that can come out of nowhere and completely empty your entire health bar. The camera is just far too close to the character mode as well, and as such can make trying to traverse through some of the more enclosed environments an absolute nightmare
Chris' and Jake's campaign is where it all really starts to fall apart, however. Posing as some sort of Gears clone, Chris' has you going against the J'avo, who basically function like brain-dead Lambent Drones. To start things off, the shooting isn't especially satisfying, and in fact with the added ability of melee attacks that you can now utilise whenever you like, you can often just run up to most enemies and start wailing on them. But the melee itself isn't incredibly intuitive either, and can be awfully sluggish sometimes leaving you kicking thin air as a J'avo walks past. You do have a stamina gauge that wears down with every melee attack so you can't be roundhouse kicking forever, but then you only need to fall back on your guns and tear right through everything. The J'avo have terrible AI, and even though much like the Ganado and Majini will go through some pretty disgusting transformations, for most of the mutations your tactics don't diverge too much and you need only just keep shooting. Or you could even just run past most of them.
There's also cover system in play, but it's cumbersome to perform; basically you just press L1 (which is also how you aim your weapon) and you'll automatically line up in cover if a wall's close enough... but you have to hold on to L1 while you're doing it. In some of the enclosed spaces during Chris' campaign there were many moments where I was fighting the terrible camera as much as the J'avo, as I accidentally kept taking cover when I just wanted to aim my gun. The cover system isn't even all that helpful, either. Because you basically shrug off bullets (up to a point, until you awkwardly fall to the ground) you can sometimes just charge in while the J'avo kinda flutter about looking all confused. There's also a dive you can do by pressing the cross button and a direction, but only while you're aiming first. Should you keep a hold of the aiming button after the dive, you can stay laying on your back and fire from there. It takes some getting used to, but it actually works well enough.
Jake's is more or less the same as Chris', though his features a tad more lame set-piece moments and isn't quite as plentiful in ammunition as Chris', promoting the idea for you to rely a little more heavily on melee attacks. Once you've completed the main three, you then unlock Ada's campaign, which mixes in a bit of everything; every shade of shit is on display for Ada's. Nah, that's a bit harsh. Ada easily takes 2nd place, and while by virtue of it being more Resident Evil 6, it isn't great, but there are some memorable moments here and there, and Chapter 4's boss battle in particular is legitimately kinda decent
The story is incredibly bombastic as it spans multiple countries and ratchets up the amount of explosions tenfold. And while I can understand that many don't exactly hold much regard for any of the Resident Evil game's story, I have inevitably grown an attachment to the fiction and its cast. Unfortunately, a lot of it doesn't really pay off; despite portraying itself as a much more melancholic and serious tale in the marketing, there's just about as many corny one-liners and now a whole lot of slo-mo to rival a Michael Bay flick. Chris' story and his deteriorating mental state doesn't quite go as far as I'd have liked, either. I wanted more from these characters; I wanted Chris in particular to perhaps grow beyond being the typical 80s action hero Mary Sue. And there are certainly times where Chris is clearly thrown to the edge, but it's largely of no consequence. The voice acting is at least pretty decent, with Roger Craig Smith carrying on as Chris and Troy Baker nicely fitting in to the role of Jake perfectly.
While the overall story begins to make some sort of coherence once all of the four campaigns are behind you, there is a startling amount of history and backstory to the events that, instead of being given centre stage within the main game, are delegated to out-of-the-way files you can read in the ''Special Features'' section. Once you piece it all together, it's infinitely more fascinating (though it's still not that great mind you) and it's a crying shame that so much of the narrative is cordoned as text that can't even be found as memos or something across the main game.
Unlike Resident Evil 4 and 5, you're no longer buying weapons, and you'll instead find weapons as dictated by the campaign. And instead of upgrading them, now you purchase Skills (read: perks) which you can equip three at a time. They all have predictable buffs like increased firearm damage, increased defence, more ammunition drops and so forth. You can also set eight different combinations and then choose between mid-game to help you adapt. Though because the gameplay is so shallow anyway, I never found much incentive to experiment with different combinations nor do I have a drive to grind out chapters to afford better Skills.
Resident Evil 6 at least makes for a more accessible single player game than Resident Evil 5, however. Now your AI squad-mate is primarily there as a tag along for the story; there's no inventory management between characters, and your partner is invincible with infinite ammo. It's also surprisingly capable and can take down enemies efficiently enough while is also always there to help you up
should when you fall into the 'dying' state.
Cooperative play is of course still available, though Ada's campaign is surprisingly enough a solo affair. Ordinarily, though, it's just two players - until the stories coincide with one another that is. Now once two characters from one story meet up with another, you can then head into matchmaking and pair yourself with another two players to usually fight a boss battle or something. Which is at least a rather interesting twist for cooperative play, even if adding another two players to the mix doesn't make the shooting nor boss battles any less unsatisfying. There's also a lot more splitting up between partners this time around and more situations where each player takes on a different role; such as one character playing guardian angel to another ect. Though they don't always necessarily work. Nearing the end of Leon's, there's a boss battle where Leon is down below on a bridge whereas Helena is up top. Problem is there's not a whole lot of ammo there, and while the game is... 'generous' enough to continually respawn enemies to drop ammo whence killed for you, playing as Helena for that part was incredibly boring.
Frankly that's pretty much a decent way to sum up a lot of Resident Evil 6's gameplay - it's really boring. Generally mediocre at best and absolutely frustrating at its worst, playing Resident Evil 6 quickly became nothing but a chore. And while I wouldn't consider it an absolute mess, there was a point where I was piloting a fucking Jet and I asked myself: Is this really what Resident Evil has become? This is what it's all lead to?
As I stare at the screen after finally completing the entirety of Resident Evil 6, I'm given pause; it occurs to me that I actually feel really rather depressed about this outcome. Maybe it's because I know this is the end? Resident Evil 6 could very well be the finality of the series, and frankly it deserves better - much better. After 16 years of following and obsessing over this series, even when the reasons why I loved this series to begin with started to slowly dissipate, I must now face the possibility that Resident Evil ends not as any kind of survival horror game nor even as a fun action horror game, but as a boring and clumsy set-piece driven shooter.