Image owned by Capcom and from Gocdkeys
Resident Evil 2’s excellent and addicting remake as well as 2017’s Resident Evil 7: biohazard has put my perspective on the survival horror series in a new light. The success of these newest entries to reintroduce the franchise’s horror roots and strategic gameplay through puzzles, item management and exploration inspired me to visit for the first time the classic entries including the three PlayStation One originals and the remake of the first game. I haven’t gotten around to 2000’s Code Veronica or 2003’s Zero but I have a real understanding of why the fanbase became so gradually bitter as the series went from scaring you to trying to wow you with monsters and explosive action.
Resident Evil 4 began the trend towards wanting you to fight your way rather than circumvent the various viral and parasitically created terrors. 4 balanced the best between the old and new styles and remains, deservedly still, a beloved title that is unfairly criticized for inspiring the next two to be more bombastic. Why wouldn’t Capcom capitalize on what worked then and for that entry, still works now? For my tastes, Resident Evil 5 is the weakest main entry that i’ve played as it is not entertaining enough in its mechanics and partnered with an obnoxious co-op companion, that since I never played the game co-operatively, made the experience feel much more hollow than before. Resident Evil 6 also has co-op and the game’s design is clearly indicative of that facet. Yet, for a non-traditional Resident Evil game that has basically lost its intent to truly frighten you despite still having some creepy crawlies, RE6 is in the right mind and play set, a gloriously stupid yet fun adventure.
In terms of just its story, this was the moment where the Resident Evil games caught up or perhaps, were caught by the absolute nonsense that was Paul WS. Anderson’s hated film adaptations. I would still call “adaptation” a loose term as the the six-film series adapted not much of the games at all, except for the second. Still, Resident Evil as a game series was not plot or dialogue wise, the sharpest tool in the shed. The whole franchise, even at its most serious, save for maybe 7, is a horror B-movie with A grade production and game design. A fun mix of the smart mechanically and the dumb narratively. It is so damn charming.
Resident Evil 6 manages to exceed the ludicrousness of any game past and future, including the one prior where the main hero manages to push and punch a boulder out of his path inside an active volcano. There are deep underground crypts full of zombies and a mutated super shark.There is an assault on an aircraft carrier containing a giant monster while piloting a harrier jet. There is a jet ski chase through a series of crashing and careening glaciers as well as a motorcycle chase through a fictional Chinese city involving absurdly high jumps, crashing gas tankers and an Apache helicopter. One character’s campaign involves a nearly never-ending cascade of transformations of a main antagonist from a bizarre hybrid of lion and centaur to T-rex to a kaiju-sized fly creature. As much as RE6 does seem to actually care about its protagonists, however filled with decent dosing of ham and cheese, the game doesn’t give a flying fuck about realism in any sense. Even the cause of the huge viral outbreak that brings our heroes together is predicated on the main villain’s envy of a super attractive Asian secret agent and another antagonist’s crush on the that villain masquerading as that same Asian agent. It’s both a case of too many ideas and perhaps not enough of them.
The game is split into four campaigns, all with highs and lows. Leon, a protagonist of the 2nd and 4th games, is the closest to feeling like an old fashioned title in the series, though it is most certainly a balls to the wall action fest all the same. Chris, a protagonist of the 1st, Code Veronica and 5, is a strange hydra of Call of Duty and Gears of War and is the least Resident Evil in a sense. Newcomer Jake, son of deceased series villain, Albert Wesker, is partnered with RE2 character Sherry, in a combination of the other two with a more adventurous tone aping Uncharted’s death defying antics and being the most encouraging of hand to hand combat, even though all the campaigns offer great value in that system. Finally, there is Ada Wong, the same secret agent that is the object of desire for the two main villains, who offers a somewhat stealth-like approach with more puzzles involved than the other three.
All of the campaigns can be fun for three main pillars: the melee system, which is among the most enjoyably versatile I can think of in any game. The gunplay, which makes you really value the ammo pickups you make along the way, that in turn makes each successful kill more rewarding because of the relative lack of supplies you’re offered. And three, the completely serious tone of the characters in relation to their insane situations.
The pitfalls which are still very much present based on the negative reputation the game has garnered does get in the way of these redeeming qualities. First of all, there are sections where the game slows down to an annoying degree. The first section of Leon’s campaign has him cautiously walking alongside partner Helena through an assumedly spooky University building in search of a way out during a new Zombie outbreak. Rather than going at your own zany pace, which the rest of the game generally offers, this slow crawl through a mostly featureless and item-less area can tax your patience.
Another serious problem is that when the campaigns intersect with another like when Chris and Jake’s campaigns cross path the first time, you have to do a boss battle all over again. Sure, you’re doing it with a different character with different skills and weapons but it creates a sense of staleness. It doesn’t help that most of the boss fights drag on. Even though Resident Evil games keep the boss’ health bar invisible so you don’t know how far away you are from victory, it gets frustrating that even though you are pouring on the punishment, the game doesn’t really suggest a sense of progress well enough and some fights are way too long as it is. It’s probably to accommodate the possibility of more than one real life human playing that can enter and exit a game at will, but there should’ve been a way to mitigate this repetition by making the boss’ tells more obvious and by making the necessary damage needed to win in a singleplayer run less.
One big incentive to experience Resident Evil 6’s stories more than once is the incredible amount of bonus content offered, something the series has rarely ever faltered in. There are blue “emblems”, which when broken will unlock files and character figures to look at in a special “collection menu.” Every chapter is ranked based on your weapon accuracy, number of deaths, time taken to complete and enemies slain. If you get an “A” ranking on all four categories, you earn a chapter’s S ranking. I’m not entirely sure what reward there is for getting S ranks, aside from your profile’s “dog tag” and bragging rights, but the game, as sloppy as it has been called, does want you to master the pillars it has on offer, so there is a push to really understand RE6. The developers cared enough for that to be the case.
Then there is the side content which thanks to the current generation re-release copy I have, that for the PS4, offers a lot of ways to enjoy RE6’s melee and gunplay in its purest sense, without any of the squibbles of the campaign. Even many of the harshest critics have begrudgingly acknowledged the high replay value of the Mercenaries’ mode, an on and off staple since 1999’s RE3. Choosing a character with a set loadout, you have to kill as many enemies as possible before the timer runs out. You can break orange hourglasses to get more time and shoot green ones to have a small burst of extra points upon making a combo. This is where you can best learn to understand the game’s intoxicating combination of guns, fists and feet. It can be legitimately hard to get to 150 kills before time runs out but doing so not only rewards skill points to become even better, but to unlock new outfits and loadouts for the characters.
The skill system, whether in campaign or side content, is a mixed bag. Many options to buy, such as field medic, where your NPC companion can heal you as well as revive you, when you’re down, to making your gun damage and melee strength stronger, are worthwhile additions to save up for. However, there are too few slots you can fill for each set, up to three only. This can seem overly limiting, but I suppose it is to allow some challenge as well as playstyle.
Now, in spite of this being a defense of the least defended main series Resident Evil entry, I do have some problems that still effect me and wish could’ve been addressed. I wish there was a bit more interactivity with the environment, not just in puzzles but just in the characters making optional observation in their environment like in past games, some areas are just begging for more character and level interaction than just smashing crates for items and opening doors either quietly and carefully or quickly and bombastically.
At the same time, moments that are often ridiculed for either being too unnecessarily cumbersome in control or laughable in nature I had an OK time with. The camera can be a bit strange at times often shifting to some apparently important shot that the game wants to show you or not being able to keep up when the player has to quickly run from danger such as from the giant monster that pursues Jake and Sherry called the Ustanak or when Chris and Piers have to navigate a narrow series of boats while being hunted by attack chopper. I imagine moments like these are more annoying even outright frustrating when playing with a friend or stranger on the couch or online.
Then the crazy stupid moments like sliding backwards on your back while shooting a mutated shark with arms or the aforementioned aircraft carrier assault by harrier. When the controls work, and you have that right mindset or understanding that this really isn’t traditional RE whatsoever, it can still be thrilling and fun, especially if you’re working for the best possible run.
It is true to say that Resident Evil 6 is mechanically not Resident Evil, not even to the loose extent that 4 and 5 were. It is also true that narratively and in that adorably melodramatic sense, Resident Evil 6 is Resident Evil to a T. Sure, 7 and the remake of 2 have dialed down that part, and it still works, but there is something admirable, even for a mess like 6, that so wants you to enjoy what it has to offer. It doesn’t skimp on content, it doesn’t want you not to master its mechanics and perhaps it wants you to laugh at the absurdity of what it is trying to tell as a story.
Resident Evil 6 is not a masterpiece, it is a mastermess and that it is not necessarily something bad, it is something wonderful. It doesn’t always maintain that wonderful power and at times it can feel as worthy of scorn but then those moments subside and you have a entry that it is all about style with more substance than you heard or thought it had. Play with a friend, play by yourself, think for yourself. And take heart, if this style is still not good for you, then Resident Evil has already returned to being the horror master it was meant to be and this is now no more than an incredibly enjoyable guilty pleasure where even the guilt factor is not as strong as I imagined it would be upon returning.