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"A Road to Nowhere"

March 15, 2013

If I had to give Resident Evil 6 an arbitrary score, I'd give it a 65 out of 100 (and this will probably change in the years to come). As of now, it's barely above bad, somewhere in the range of mediocrity. It has some good ideas, but its execution is flawed and the myriad of gameplay styles and the issues that accompany them ruin its focus and lead to continued bouts of frustrations.
The worst of RE6, for me as a dedicated series fan, is how it deviates so much from the RE identity in spite of its status as a main series title. RE4 and RE5 were also very different titles, but they still contained design elements that were unmistakably RE. RE6 is barely RE; it borrows very little from what made the previous RE games memorable and tries to branch off in multiple directions without regard for how everything comes together. From the extremely frustrating QTEs and cheap deaths to the uninspired and out-of-place vehicle sequences, RE6 tried too hard to please fans of bombastic action games while completely neglecting series roots.

The best I can say about RE6 is that it's somewhat entertaining and never really boring, and has moments that are more frightening and disturbing than RE4 and RE5. Underneath the lack of gameplay polish and unbalanced campaign length is a decently fun adventure that hopefully can hold a player's attention through at least one campaign. The audio and visuals are extremely well done and the best for the series yet. Regardless of these strengths, RE6 clearly falls far to the bottom of my ever-changing hierarchy list for main series RE games, even though this list contained nothing but games I absolutely adore for different reasons. And unless RE7 is hilariously awful, RE6 will probably remain at the bottom forever.
Below is a critique that is just far too long for most people to read through. Still, for those who are curious about what I think of RE6, here it all is, broken down into specific explanations on gameplay choices and their pros and cons. There's a bit of history thrown in wherever appropriate, for those who are into that kind of thing.
I must note that this critique is highly subjective in many areas, and people will having differing opinions. If you feel you may like RE6 specifically because of something I didn't like about it (for example, you enjoy vehicle gameplay or QTEs), then that alone would be worth trying the game for. And I encourage everyone to at least play RE6 before reading the rest of this critique, since most of this critique depends on having played the game and having a good understanding of how it works.

The Long Critique

So, where do I begin?

It's difficult to get a clear reading on a game like Resident Evil 6. The reason for this is that there is so much going on in the game that it's easy to like parts of it while completely despising other segments. It's entirely possible to have a number of different emotions equal to the number of gameplay styles and sequences contained in the game.
What can be said is this: RE6 suffers from a severe lack of focus. It's a mishmash of at least half a dozen gameplay ideas that don't come together to provide the Resident Evil polish that's been with gamers for over 16 years. It's a title that has begun to make me feel foolish for being so dedicated to the franchise when the Biohazard team at Capcom is willing to set aside whatever has made the series lovable in the past.

Still, overall, RE6 is entertaining to a degree, and does some things right. Yet, it's also an extremely frustrating experience. Let's have a look at where RE6 succeeds and where it doesn't.

March 15, 2013

Unspeakable Volumes: Multiple Campaigns

One of RE6's few strengths comes in the form of volume. The game is reasonably long, with four separate and largely distinct campaigns that clock in at around six to nine hours each (unless you die a lot, which is certainly possible).
There are initial three campaigns available, which you can play in any order. One features Leon S. Kennedy (RE2, RE4, Darkside Chronicles, Degeneration, Damnation, Operation Raccoon City) teamed with U.S. Secret Service Agent Helena Harper. Then there's Chris Redfield (RE, CODE: Veronica, Umbrella Chronicles, Darkside Chronicles, Revelations, RE5) working with BSAA agent Piers Nivans (from the RE: Marhawa Desire manga series). Rounding things out is work-for-hire mercenary Jake Muller, a newcomer and related to a past RE character teaming up with a grown up Sherry Birkin (RE2, Darkside Chronicles, Operation Raccoon City). Rounding things out is a campaign dedicated to Ada Wong (RE2, RE4, Darkside Chronicles, Umbrella Chronicles,Damnation, Operation Raccoon City).

They all contain five chapters each, bringing the total to 20. RE6 is easily the meatiest RE game yet, surpassing the previous record holder, RE4. It's difficult to say how much longer RE6 is thanRE4, but I estimate that it isn't by too much; just a few (five to eight) hours at most when you take into account RE4's Assignment Ada and Separate Ways chapters.

Being that all four campaigns form one overarching narrative and cross over on various occasions and that all four must be played to understand the entire plot, there is of course overlap between scenarios, such as defeating a boss or clearing a specific mission objective. But this is, thankfully, kept to a minimum and there are enough differences in a specific sequence between two different campaigns (like when characters are split up) that it actually never bothered me to have to do the same thing twice.
One shortcoming of the multiple campaigns is the inconsistent lengths between each chapter within one campaign. I actually believe that for all four campaigns, the earlier chapters ended up being longer than the later chapters. Another design I preferred was having clear splits in the chapters like RE5 did (such as Chapter 1-1-, 1-2, 1-3 and so forth) versus the straight runs thatRE6 presents because a few of the chapters, such as Chris Chapter 3, are extremely long, in contrast to Ada Chapter 3, which is extremely short.

There is also a clear design distinction between all scenarios. Leon's contains the eeriest portions of the game, harkening back to RE2 and RE3 by taking place in an American suburban city. Chris and Jake's campaigns are more of a direct continuation the design seen in RE5, focusing on action and shooting. Ada's campaign, the only one without a partner character by default, reminds me of her Separate Ways campaign in the post-GameCube versions of RE4, with her working in the shadows to uncover what's going on. I have few qualms about the distinct designs, just asOutbreak had scenarios that were very distinct from each other in theme, so does RE6, underscoring the variety it offers.

Erratic and Random Combat Mechanics

RE6 is easily the most action-packed entry in the main series yet, and Capcom has largely changed the over-the-shoulder shooting formula from RE4 and RE5 to be supplemented by a large number of different melee attacks. Neither shooting nor melee fighting are polished to the degree one expects from a RE game.

Let's begin with shooting. The game provides an array of weapons, from Handguns, Grenade Launchers, and Shotguns to Magnums, Sniper Rifles, Submachine Guns, and Combat Knives. This is standard Resident Evil fare. They each behave differently for the most part, and REveterans will know how to allocate each different weapon for different needs. While I personally felt that I missed enemies far more often than in RE5, the enemies in this game are considerably faster at the same time.

The game also includes a quick-shoot mechanic, which can be called upon to stun an enemy or perform a quick kill on an enemy close to death. This takes up part of a character's stamina gauge, which drains as the character performs melee attacks, which refer to the characters physically attacking enemies by swinging weapons at them or using punches, kicks, neck-snapping, body slams and other creative means to finish enemies off.

Where this breaks down is the lack of polish and control the player has over determining the outcome of a heated battle. As I mentioned, aiming at enemies and taking them out the way one would in RE5 does not work in RE6. Enemies are faster and evade bullets more often, and enemies have guns and projectiles that make distance a near non-factor in terms of safety zone for the playable characters. Characters must make use of their melee attacks as ammo is also very limited in the game, even more so than RE5. But in a heated showdown, what you want your character to do with a combination of bullets and melee may not necessarily be what plays out after you press those buttons. Sometimes melee attacks may finish an enemy off right away; other times the attack may do absolutely nothing. One moment, your character may melee attack an enemy and send it flying, while moments later, the same enemy type will be impervious to the very same attack that worked moments ago. This is partially explained by the limited stamina gauge, but the issue is how much the player leaves to the game to determine how a battle is going to end. The characters also have a tendency to miss even with the quick shot function, wasting ammo and opening up the character to danger.

This contrasts with RE4 and RE5 immensely. You as a player were always in control of the action. If you are surrounded by four ganados or majinis, you can measure distance, speed, and order to attack and execute your strategy as intended. Enemies were consistent in terms of movement and pattern. So, it made sense to (among countless other strategies) shoot an enemy farther away in the leg to bring it down before attempting to perform a context-based melee after issuing a headshot on a closer enemy.

As mentioned above, enemies in most of RE6, particularly the J'avo, have guns, some with rocket launchers. This means that even as you attempt to take control of a situation, you may be out of luck, as you will be shot down from the distance, completely breaking the gameplay flow. Enemies also mutate on occasion into larger creatures.

This erratic combat is compounded by the fact that the game contains a dodge system, which players must learn to utilize against certain enemies. Dodging allows characters to avoid being hit by fatal attacks, and one neat feature is being able to slide back and shoot enemies while on the ground, similar to the shooting-while-on-the-ground mechanic introduced in Revelations (it didn't have the slide itself). Sadly, this also sometimes doesn't work as expected, especially during heated battles. It's too easy to dive in the wrong direction toward an attacking enemy (which will hurt your character). Sometimes you will end up diving when you clearly intended to dive forward, and vice versa. This is because the move can be triggered by pressing three buttons and moving the analog stick in the desired direction. Eventually, players will become accustomed to this, but it would be worth it for Capcom investigate an easier means of dodging and sliding.

Overall, RE6 just doesn't give the player much of an opportunity to be as calculating and deliberate, instead pushing you to be more random and erratic in your combat. You will spend much of this 20-hour game hoping that you pull off that attack combination your survival hinges on, and that you dodge enemies without mistakenly getting closer to them.
To be fair, the combat mechanics become easier to deal with as you get more and more used to how it works, which means players may come to enjoy RE6's combat for what it is. Personally, I prefer a tighter relationship between gameplay and player and do not take much of a liking to semi-random button mashes and unpredictability, especially in a RE game.

Upgrading Characters: Skills

RE6 is a departure from RE4 and RE5's currency-based weapons-upgrade economy in favor of a skill points system. Killing enemies will often drop points of varying amounts to be collected, similar to the gold/peseta system. Between chapters, you can use the points to purchase and then upgrade a set of three skills. These skills do not specifically upgrade the power, reload speed, and bullet capacity of a weapon. Instead, they are more similar to an RPG by making a character's melee attacks stronger in general (as well as against specific enemy types) or defense more resilient, or allow a character to be saved and healed at the same time. There are various combinations that can be had, all up to player preference.

Now, for me, this isn't worse nor better than the system seen in RE4 and RE5. It's a different system, and actually a refreshing change of pace, so I appreciate the style it brings to the table. The only unfortunate thing is that on your first playthough, you can only upgrade between chapters, which is relatively infrequent compared to RE5, where you could upgrade if you so much as died, so unless you dabble in The Mercenaries as you do the campaign to earn points (which you can certainly do, but I play RE for the campaign), you will see little progression in character skills on your first runthrough, which can possibly disappoint.

Enemies and Boss Battles

The game prominently features zombies and J'avo among a very diverse cast of creatures. Zombies look similar to what we saw in the series before RE4, except they're faster, more aggressive, and sometimes use weapons such as axes. J'avo are more similar to the ganado and majini, but are even more aggressive and more often than not carry weapons. There are other humanoids in the game, such as creatures that resemble the Ooze from Revelations and the Regenerators from RE4, as well as these human-alien-insect-like crossbreeds. Most enemies are some kind of form insect or arachnid. I'm not too impressed with anything other than the J'avo, as the large emphasis on insects and arachnids puts the series even further down the scale of Sci-Fi that it had not previously been such a big a part of (with exceptions such as the classic Giant Spiders or the ants from RECV).
Without getting into too many spoilers, I found the boss fights in RE6 to be a continuation down the path set by RE4 and RE5 in that they are easily defeated by a specific method other than the conventional means of shooting them until they die. This ranges from utilizing some object in the environment that can damage the boss or timing a particular attack just right. RE6's bosses are often fun to battle, but a number of them also take awhile to defeat. Certain bosses go through multiple mutations that must be fought consecutively. In these instances, I was often already tired of the boss itself and would be rolling my eyes at that one last mutation. The game also has a penchant for enormously-sized bosses. If you thought El Gigante or Ndesu were huge, wait until you see half of the bosses in this game.

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