Resident Evil 6: The Kotaku Review

The old dread isn't coming back. You remember it, don't you? The shock of terror when you stumbled in on a zombie chomping on a corpse in the first Resident Evil. Or when the undead dogs jumped through the window? Those are signature moments — along with the compulsive hoarding of typewriter ribbon — that anyone who's played the classic survival horror game will remember.

The question Resident Evil 6 faces, then, is whether it can create new shivers or replace that terror with something else as memorable. Despite delivering a game with three campaigns and a load of online features, the answer is clear that this new Resident Evil lacks the wherewithal to either scare you or impress you.

My love for the old Resident Evil titles came from those games feeling like self-contained incidents of horror. Somewhere along the line, the series' custodians got more concerned with connecting the games' plots in a labyrinthine continuity than in growing new gameplay ideas.

Resident Evil 6 reverses that trend. This outing feels like it's trying to please several different sorts of gamer and draws from the series' own glory days and titles created in the West to do so.

Resident Evil 6

The interesting changes in this Resident Evil can't save it from feeling bloated and boring.

Developer: Capcom Platforms: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 (version played)/PC Released: October 2

Type of game: Dramatic horror — that's what Capcom's calling it, anyway — third-person action game.

What I played: Finished three main campaigns and an unlockable one over the course of about 30 hours. Sampled the offline Mercenaries Mode, co-op campaign and Agent Hunt.

Two Things I Liked

  • Resident Evil 6 sports clever enemy design that always forced me to switch up tactics.
  • I wasn't scared very much, but I was grossed out a lot by the wretched looks and squelchy sounds of the rotten-flesh antagonists.

Two Things I Hated

  • Checkpoints that don't save, throwing me back at least an hour. This happened to me twice.
  • Doing the whole "kill the boss, he comes back… again and again" thing once is bad enough. Two times? Three times? Unacceptable.

Made-to-Order Back-of-Box Quotes

  • "YOU ARE DEAD… to me, Resident Evil 6" — Evan Narcisse, Kotaku
  • "Resident Evil 6: proof that a video game can be morbidly obese." — Evan Narcisse, Kotaku

The weight of the exertion put into Resident Evil 6 is palpable. It holds three storylines that each follow a pair of characters as a bioterrorism plague unleashes monstrosities of all sizes throughout the United States and China. (There's also an unlockable fourth campaign.) Each thread has crossover junctions where people can jump into other folks' games. RE6 also has the most robust multiplayer options in series history. The adventures of Chris Redfield and Piers Navins, Sherry Birkin and Jake Mueller or Leon Kennedy and Helena Hunter all carry slightly different flavours, each one seemingly designed to speak to different tastes.

But that's where many of the problems lie. The all-out effort to throw as many new enemy types, plot twists and set-piece wow-moments into the game comes across as desperate and undisciplined. This instalment of Resident Evil feels bloated and every interesting idea that pops up drowns in either its own repetition or in the metric ton of drudgery surrounding it.

When I first started encountering RE6's new tweaks , I thought they'd make the awkward tone-deafness of the plot and dialogue bearable. I liked the Combat Gauge, a stamina meter that depletes as you use hand-to-hand combat. Use it too much and you'll eventually be forced to draw your weapons to kill enemies. That balancing act throws players back into the resource management that is a hallmark of Resident Evil.

Quick Shot is another step forward that addresses complaints about the lugubrious nature of Resident Evil games' controls. It's a stronger, faster attack that spins you around to blast immediate threats, but it also drains a section off your Combat Gauge.

Some enemies will change shape depending on where you shoot them. Blast an arm on a J'avo soldier and it'll transmogrify into a swollen, whip-like bludgeon. Or maybe a shield. Weird human-animal hybrids — like man-spiders and upside-down moth-thugs — sprout from human skin after taking damage in RE6. Each type requires a change in strategy to best deal with them.

Playing as the sidekicks offers even more variation to the experience. Their attacks differ from the main heroes in complimentary ways. Jake's chaperone Sherry, for example, wields a stun baton that lets her smack up enemies with any drain on her combat gauge stamina. The electrified truncheon also kills off enemies without the need for an additional — and time-consuming — finishing stomp. Piers' sniper proficiency lets you handle ranged threats while Chris eliminates enemies up close.

The enemy design branches along several different trains of thought, too. Zombies in Leon's campaign are closest to traditional undead shamblers. Chris and Piers fight J'avo who are just as nimble and combat-skilled as they are. Jake and Sherry run through extended chase scenes with a Nemesis-like beast on their trail. Variations on just about every sort of enemy that's been in an RE game show up here.

You'll encounter zombies that run, throw projectiles or spit acid. They also shoot machine guns at you, dodge and pounce, too. Some mutate when wounded, others shamble towards you with explosives making it necessary to shoot them from afar. The C-Virus at the root of the game's bioterrorism spits out many mutations of enemy and part of the scant amount of fun in RE6 is in seeing what happens when you shoot a bad guy.

Resident Evil 6 comes across as a conscious effort to grow the palette — and hopefully, the appeal — of Capcom's long-running series. Different UI skins, different musical motifs, different weapons and different clichéd attitudes all show up in the game. RE6 isn't quite a set of triplets, though. It's more like one lifeform with three heads. And the problems some have had with RE over the last few games persist with this instalment. The palette that the dev team is trying to expand feels stubbornly inbred and obsessive, filled with boilerplate conspiracies uncovered by characters who are walking clichés. So, no, this instalment isn't a giant leap in storytelling acumen.

All the campaigns criss-cross over each other and it's neat getting three, sometimes four points-of-view of a critical moment in the game. Leon's campaign feels purposefully throwback; it's more moody horror-focused, at first. Chris's missions are more gung-ho action affairs — with vehicular combat — that feel like military squad-based brofests like Gears of War. Jake runs through one, long cat-&-mouse chase as he tries to escape a near unkillable enemy. His levels offer up some martial-arts hand-to-hand brawls amongst all the shooting action, too. The extra unlockable campaign goes the stealth route, in what's probably the biggest departure from the other story options.

The intersection gimmick is a great narrative trick wasted on a terrible story. The interwoven nature of the campaigns also serves to highlight how similar everything feels. In Leon's campaign, it feels at first that each body you stumble over is a corpse that could re-animate and attack you. Chris' angst over soldiers dying under his command and Jake's wise-cracking acrobatics start off feeling like they hold different possibilities but all of the campaigns devolve into a dull room-clearing, door-opening, boss-fighting cycle of boredom.

There is an unforgivable amount of quick-time events in Resident Evil 6. Those prompt-driven button presses and other context-sensitive actions make it hard to ever feel a sense of flow in the game. The constant pop-ups to press a button to open a door or vault up to a ledge broke any kind of immersion I might have felt while playing. Even worse, the awful cover system here is awful and made me resort to a run-and-gun style more than I would have liked.

Moment to moment, you can lose yourself in the mindlessness of Resident Evil 6. But you'll need to hurdle some poor feedback and dumb design decisions to do so. There's no denying that the party-crashing Agent Hunt is fun and that online co-op makes things a bit less bland when you're playing with a friend. But overall, it's bloated and a mish-mash of cribbed ideas. None of it musters any passion.

Mutation gets a bad rap. It's a necessary part of evolving into a newer, more capable lifeform. Without mutation , human beings wouldn't have opposable thumbs, for example. But mutation can also twist organisms into horribly gross or not terribly useful shapes. Unfortunately, It's clear that what's happened with the Resident Evil franchise. Every intriguing design possibility in the game — the way it shifts to stealth, hand-to-hand combat or environmental puzzles — is something cribbed off of a better implementation elsewhere. Resident Evil 6 feels like a ton of gene-splicing has been happening in Capcom's dev studios and the result isn't a miracle cure for what ails the franchise. Instead, it's a misshapen hunchback filled with bad DNA. You could try killing it with fire, but it will probably come back.


Comments

    As someone who greatly enjoyed RE5, I never would have believed that RE6 was a bad game unless I had played it. I spent nine hours with it this weekend and really wrestled with whether I liked it or not - it has great moments - but the overall experience left me cold and I have brought it back to the store. It really isn't a good game and may in fact be a positively bad game. They have dropped the ball big time.

    Anything further I could say about this has already been said better by Jim Sterling: http://www.destructoid.com/review-resident-evil-6-235326.phtml

    But this is not a bad game for the reasons people claimed RE5 was a bad game. It's not a bad game because it's "not the same as Resident Evil 1". It's a bad game because it's uninteresting, there's no exploration, there's no item management, it lacks polish and it's a directionless bloated experience.

      Going from Jim Sterling's review, it basically a bad third-person shooter. Not bad for an RE game, just bad period.

      Perfectly stated on all accounts.

    I like the new agent hunt mode

    not to actually play in that mode but more to allow it in my campaign.
    It adds a little more of a challenge on professional, it make the zombies a bit less predictable (still pretty easy though)

    "LEONNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!"

    it was definitely not good enough for a triple a game. i haven't played coop yet, hopefully that makes it a bit better, but as mcgarnical said, it just lacks direction, and it has no idea what it wants to be. I think the 3 campaign thing was a bit too ambitious, and maybe they should have just stuck with leon's campaign and made that the full game....

      If this was a shooter from an inexperienced developer launching a new IP I'd be pretty impressed.

      But this is Resident Evil. As cheesy as it is, it's a great IP and it deserves better than this.

      Apparently the coop is the definition to tacked on. There are extended quick time events where the second player just sits there.

    I loved RE5 in co-op, but man, the reviews for this are turning me right off.

      I played Leons story in split screen and it was pretty fun.

      a lot of games are more entertaining in co-op

    I got it on Friday and have been working my way through Chris's campaign. I am enjoying it a lot. I love Resident Evil and all all it entails (bar the films, books etc.), these games have always being silly and I guess the hype train has just struck again, as I ignored all videos etc, in the lead up to playing safe in the knowledge that I love shooting zombies and silly cutscenes. YMMV though.

      I could just about stand the game and was having moments of fun, until I got to a bit in Chapter 5 of Leon's campaign.

      I was literally stuck inside a quick-time event for 35 minutes. Some of that time was me online looking for help (not finding any since Australia got the game early), but I spent a lot of time simply stuck in the same scene.

      I believe this was symptomatic of the carelessness with which this game was made. Was this section not playtested? Was my QTE broken, or was I doing something wrong? Someone on Whirlpool suggested to me a new way of pressing the buttons that I hadn't tried but the game gave no indication I was doing anything wrong. I wasn't dying, I was just stuck in a repeated five-second scene like some sort of purgatory.

        Wasnt that terrible climbing part was it?

          Yes it was!

        Haven't had a go at Leon's section yet, I have heard its the best/worst of the whole thing...Will report back after the weekend when I get a chance to have another go at the game. I can generally stomach QTE's but 30+mins sounds like it will be pushing it. That sounds like a glitch maybe, the loop you were stuck in, maybe its one of those games you play after the patch Bayonetta PS3 style?

    The only game where the logo looks better than the game, lucky giraffe ;)

    It's really a shame, what's happened to the Resident Evil franchise. I'm not overly surprised to hear that Resi 6 is a bit of a let-down, from whatever perspective you're coming from - a burned fan, or a bored non-fan. I've not played Revelations (although I'm keen to), but I just don't have any trust in Capcom's ability to to do the name justice. It seems like the indie scene is the only place to get really inspired horror games, most likely because they don't have to please a marketing committee.
    And I also don't trust games with three campaigns. Divided focus in gameplay aside, I know I'd find it difficult to care about six separate characters given Capcom's complete inability to write a workable script.

    Last edited 03/10/12 11:19 am

    Playing through Leons campaign. After the prologue, it gets pretty good - but still not worth the $88. I'm dreading the other campaigns though.
    It's weird. The game is pretty, but loads of graphical and gameplay glitches.
    I think the nice atmosphere and voice acting is blinding me from seeing how incredialby average this game is.
    Love RE4, hated 5.
    6 - still unsure.

    I enjoyed Leon's part in the demo.

    Wish the whole game could have been that. Chris' part is...yikes, and I didn't play the third one.

    From a 1st time player of RE's point of view, I think this is a pretty good game. I mean the graphics of the game is stunning, the details are superb and I've had a lot of fun playing this game. I also think what Capcom is trying to do here is to satisfy the gamers' 'wants', from the original's eerie survival horror atmosphere to the all action no horror gameplay. That's why RE 6 is comprised of 3/4 scenarios in order to bring the 'old' and 'new' aspects of the franchise.

      Give Resident Evil 4 a go. Its honestly one of the best games in the last 10 years. I've probably completed it about 10 times. I think the game is available on the PS Network... otherwise get a cheap GameCube and play it. Fantastic!

        I would definitely give it a try dude :)

          Seconded. It's one of the best games I've ever played.

            Thirded. I played RE4 through for the first time this year and immediately started and completed a new game. It's brilliant and stands up extremely well.

            In my view (a view not shared by some), RE5 is an extremely similar game to RE4. It's a lesser game but is a fine attempt to re-do the charm of RE4 for a modern system.

    I really didn't enjoy the demo at all, except for maybe Chris's section. The worst bit was the invincible floor zombies you saw in Leon's campaign. You'd see them, think "right, better make sure they're not zombies" and shoot them. Nothing. It's like they're not even there. Then of course you do something and they're triggered, causing a seemingly unneccesary fight.

    Oh god this game. This game man. This.... THIS FUCKING GAME.

    What a disappointment. I played the BETA once online with a friend and haven't bothered going back for even a second go. Definitely a step back from the joy that was RE:4 and RE:5. Wasn't there a record number of staff working on RE6? Too many cooks in the kitchen?

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