Resident Evil 6 Review: Why This May be the Beginning of the End for the Franchise
I remember playing Resident Evil 3 and genuinely feeling a sense of claustrophobia in its dark alleys. That, my friends, is true fear. In Resident Evil 4, there were environments I legitimately did not want to stay in for too long because they were too well designed. That, fellow gamers, is true fear. In other words, the previous stalwarts of the franchise were everything Resident Evil 6 is not; this, my friends, is not true fear.
The signs should have prepared fans for this. Resident Evil 5 and Operation Raccoon City already abandoned a crucial element of the survival horror formula by allowing teammates to help you. Also, as I mentioned in my previous preview, executive producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi actually described the latest entry as “horror entertainment” rather than the “survival horror” sub-genre the series helped create. Still, perhaps no one could have anticipated that there would come a day when a numbered entry into the Resident Evil franchise would earn a Metascore in the “mixed or average” category. Unfortunately, the day has arrived and fans, I am sorry to tell you that your Resident Evil went from being a tense, calculated scare-fest to a clumsy, noisy shooter.
The first difference that should be immediately noticeable is that the series no longer offers a single campaign. Instead, there are now four interconnected stories revolving around seven separate individuals and the game does well to make the players want to experience all four. Each campaign will offer certain key plot points and players are ultimately working towards unveiling the overarching narrative, although this results in some repetition because the player is forced to relive sequences from previous playthroughs. Here, the game makes a crucial mistake by constantly allowing the player a companion because it takes away from the element of horror considerably; every B-rated horror movie always has someone ending up alone before they get killed and Resident Evil, even though it is as B-rated as they get, ultimately fails to deliver on that crucial premise. Plus, it must be noted that it is difficult to feel scared in a game that allows you the ability to ride snowmobiles; that is just downright cheesy and more suitable for an installment of Amped or crap-fest movies such as Agent Cody Banks, not the series that became a household name by allowing you nowhere to run.
Of course, these awkward changes in style would have been acceptable had the new mechanics worked and were Resident Evil 6 a proper shooter. Unfortunately, the latest in Capcom’s franchise also fails at being an adept action title. The game now allows for the player to actually move while shooting (blasphemy in classic Resident Evil) and even take cover, a popular gameplay mechanic nowadays. However, a cover system is more suited for a proper action game and should not be a part of a genre that prides itself on the motto “nowhere to hide.” Still, the action-centric gameplay could have worked had the controls not lacked the fluidity of the industry giants the game is attempting to emulate. The shooting feels slow when compared to franchises such as Gears of War and firefights go on for way too long. Also, keeping in line with modern shooters, the enemies now have weapons such as machine guns, rocket launchers and helicopters, all of which are also burdened by clumsy implementation. All these uncoordinated elements only work to increase the game’s distance from its fantastic predecessors and the series loses its identity as both good action and good horror.
That having been said, Resident Evil 6 still nails the aesthetic aspect because the action scenes are truly well choreographed and it also helps that the enemies are unique, particularly when compared with the flood of zombie shooters on the market. However, the overall look does little to evoke fear when the game design itself has fundamentally changed. Resident Evil 6 is overly reliant on scripted sequences and players will often find themselves in a cutscene that looks amazing but is little more than pre-rendered action cinema, requiring just the occasional button press from the player. The reason these button-pressing sequences or “quick time events” worked in games like God of War is because they were often momentary, serving the role of a finisher after the player actually had to work in order to defeat an opponent. Here, the best sequences are largely out of your control and you will be relegated to pushing a thumbstick back and forth for some time. Also, once you are done with such a sequence, you will often encounter another one seconds later, prompting you to do the same thing for another relatively large period of time. Not only is it irritating but also distances you from the tension and once again makes the game less terrifying.
Much was also made of the online component — and it does offer the traditional modes we have come to expect — but even this function suffers from the same problem as the rest of the game; there is no element of horror and, when judged in comparison with other modern shooters, the online options are rather shallow. Besides, when the gameplay itself is so clumsy, no one really wants to play online so finding competition will be a concern as time goes on.
I wanted Resident Evil 6 to be the entry that revitalized the franchise; if a game can scare me, then I genuinely thank the developers. Of course, I also thank the developers if a game can provide genuine thrills and make me feel like the star of my own action movie. Resident Evil 6, unfortunately, fails in every department. As a horror game, it simply fails to terrify because the player is never alone and the overall experience is far too action-oriented. When looked at purely as an action game, however, the controls are clumsy and the best-coordinated sequences are out of the player’s hands. This is Resident Evil so it will likely see strong sales but Capcom should take note; franchises have fallen before because their quality deteriorated and they can very easily fall again.