By opting to throw every third-person shooter cliché into the mix across its four diverse campaigns – each the length of a retail game in its own right and inspired by returning heroes – Capcom has seemingly finally embraced its Frankenstein leanings by itself creating a monster.
Boss fights will go on (and on) until your fingers cramp, enemies will shoot back (yep, that’s right, even the zombiefied ones) and your motley crew of good guys will find themselves in mortal peril so many times that you cease to care before a quarter of the game is through.
No doubt Capcom were thinking they’d covered all their bases (and then some) by including gameplay elements from just about every action game you’d care to mention, but the truth is they might have been better in seeking a return to the survival horror foundations that made the series’ name, rather than pursue the franchise’s latter day move into close-quarters fighting, incessant quick-time events and constant pyrotechnics.
Indeed Resident Evil 6 is almost schizophrenic in the way it blends cutting-edge visuals, which certainly impress, with gameplay which in all honesty hasn’t evolved far beyond what we experienced in the seven-years-old Resident Evil 4. Of course, there’s no doubting RE4’s qualities, but to still be singing from that same hymn sheet now not only smacks of a lack of ambition but feels ultimately lazy.
Take the best parts of Leon’s campaign – which without spoiling anything make for the best parts of the entire venture – that trap our hero as his insipid cohort in ambushes where are never ending tide of zombies must be repelled for a set time period.
Each of these moments, of which there are plenty, are tantamount to the church scene at the beginnings of RE4, and while still full of tension and hold-on-to-your-pants survival there’s just something off about playing through a scenario which you’ve not only seen before, but seen better implemented in a game published in 2005.
It’s the same throughout the other campaigns with Chris Redfield’s adventure copying the third-person cover mechanics of Gears of War, Jake Muller’s (that’s Wesker’s son don’t you know) playing similarly but with a spot of wrestling moves thrown in for good measure, and Ada Wong’s… well, actually, at least Ada’s campaign features a slight return to more the more eerie gameplay of Resident Evil’s past, not least because her episode isn’t cooperative.
I’ll state now that cooperative play isn’t a facet I need to see in a Resident Evil game and an aspect that only detracts from the experience in my eyes. For one, if there’s a partner who can revive you once you’re down then taking damage no longer holds the same cache it did.
Secondly, dialogue between character is so badly scripted that whether that’s purposely done or not there’s just no way for any atmosphere to build up before its torn down. Finally, when taken online, there’s scant chance your experience is going to go well with players our for themselves and a lack of the nudges of a truly co-op game like Left 4 Dead implemented to work against such negative play.
No doubt Capcom would point out that Resident Evil has now moved beyond the survival horror and into the action genre, so why criticise based on the series’ original blueprint? It’s a worthy point, but the issue is that Capcom still call their game Resident Evil, and so invite such comparisons.
If they’d rebranded the franchise then fine, do what you want, but by keeping the name in order to pull in fans of the series’ early entries you unavoidably invite comparison. Clearly the action genre is also one of gaming’s most crowded so, again, why bother to tackle it all when you had the survival horror genre all tied up?
At its best RE6 still works, if as an action titles rather than a horror one, and indeed being set upon by tens of zombies at a time in an urban environment in some way takes you back to Resident Evil 2 and makes you think how good that would have been given today’s technology.
Because it’s an action game upon which many hours and much money has been spent it will keep you entertained – indeed the shiny graphics alone will ensure it passes muster for a great many – but with 40+ hours of gameplay split across its four campaigns there’s just too much dross to ever let the title blossom to any more than OK.
An average Resident Evil then, and one which surely leaves the franchise in need of a return to its old ways, or else an entirely new direction.