This year, the big centre piece at Capcom "Summer" Jam was a giant booth dedicated to Resident Evil 6 with a demo allowing players to spend time as either Leon, Chris, or series newcomer, Jake.
In my first time in the booth, I chose to play as Chris — who seems to have decided to lay off the steroids in the time since RE5. Chris' demo played like a scene taken directly out of Resident Evil 5. Taking place across the rooftops of a fictionalised Hong Kong, my partner and I fought through scores of enemies as we tried to meet up with the rest of our team. The enemies as well could have been ripped right out of Resident Evil 5, as they either charged in for a melee strike or used a gun from a distance. In other words, it was all action and no horror.
It was playing as Chris that I noticed most of the changes and additions to the game. Right off the bat the biggest change is the ability to move while firing. While the stationary shooting mechanic is generally more realistic (as it's nearly impossible to hit a target while moving), being unable to move while aiming your gun has long been one of the series' weakest points. However, though you can now shoot while moving, it is generally a bad idea as your laser sight drifts randomly within your cross hairs while moving. Therefore, it is great to have this feature while being mobbed, but to make a shot with any precision, you will need to be standing still — just like in real life.
Being able to attack while moving also drastically changes the melee possibilities to the point where meleeing the enemies is not only more powerful but also conserves ammo.
In addition to the shooting system, the item system has also been streamlined. Cycling through weapons or items now only takes a tap of the D-pad.
The worst thing about crossing the rooftops with Chris was the camera. In general, it's already so close that Chris' body blocks a large chunk of the screen. But in the narrow, cramped areas of the rooftops, the camera was constantly being forced even closer in, blocking the majority of the screen with Chris' back.
My next time through the booth I played Jake's story. It started as a run-toward-the-camera chase sequence before turning into a cat-and-mouse hunt through a warehouse — with a giant man-creature with machine arms doing the hunting. My time with the demo ended in the middle of a boss fight against said creature that felt exactly like the first chainsaw man boss fight in RE5. I lured the monster from exploding barrel to exploding barrel as infinite numbers of random enemies spawned to die and give me ammo. Yet despite a very RE5 boss fight, thematically Jake's portion of the demo felt much more like Resident Evil 3, with the machine-man-creature taking the place of Nemesis.
My final time through the demo I tried out Leon's story — and it couldn't have been more different from the other two. Trapped in a hotel/convention centre at a campaign rally during a zombie outbreak, this portion of RE6 was trying hard to channel the original Resident Evil. I went through a series of dark rooms featuring several fake-out scares, but little in the way of zombies. In fact, during my short time as Leon, I didn't encounter a single zombie — not one — though I did run across several survivors... and a lot of dead bodies.
The biggest problem with Leon's section was that it was so concerned with the atmosphere that it negatively affected the gameplay. Seemingly at random the game would disable my run button and half my movement speed to enforce a slower pace. Even then I had to wait for other survivors to unlock doors — and despite my having the only gun, they always insisted on going first. They were lucky we didn't run into any zombies as they would have been squarely in my line of fire.
And despite all Capcom's attempts to make the atmosphere creepy, the inclusion of other survivors — in addition to my partner character — really took the fear out. And with 30 bullets and unlimited devastating melee attacks, I wasn't the least bit afraid. To quote Ashly Burch, "You can't be terrified when you're a f**king walking death machine."
All in all, I am looking forward to Resident Evil 6 after the time I spent with the demo. I think its improvements far outweigh its short comings. Though I can't help but wonder, after making three different narratives targeted at three different types of Resident Evil fans, will any group be happy with the overall final product?
Resident Evil 6 will be released worldwide on October 2, 2012, for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.