Since the previous iteration of the Resident Evil, the series has been seeking a breath of fresh air. While Resident Evil 5 certainly brought a different take on a decade old series with better visuals, solid storyline and a bit more expansion on what could always be considered a linear line of gameplay, it also brought a bit more action than people wanted.
Resident Evil has never been a pure action series, rather it's been a genre of its own, survival horror.
So the question begs, will Resident Evil 6 bring more of the same that RE5 brought? Or could Capcom mix it up a bit and revive the series a little, like it did with RE4? Come find out.
Runnin', gunnin' and storytellin'
While there is still action very much intact here with Resident Evil 6, the story is the trump card in this one. You will find a lot of instances where you're going to be whipping out the guns and going 'blaze of glory' on poor infected fellows and lasses. As with RE4 and RE5, you're going to find far more ammunition than the series is usually known for, which will lead you to 'fire first and ask questions later' situations. To answer the initial question in this review, yes, you will find just as much action in RE6 as you did in RE5.
Having said that, the action doesn't dominate the game. The big bite with RE6 (no pun intended) is how the story in the game plays out. The initial campaigns (yes, I typed 'campaigns') in the game reflect one larger story broken up into three very different paths that eventually cross. At the beginning of the campaign, you are given the choice to play as Leon, Chris or Jake (the new comer). Each story plays out completely independent of the others. So, when you play as Leon, you will find different enemies, meet different people and go on a wholly different adventure into different cities and environments. Again, somewhere towards the middle you will cross paths with the others, but only when the story calls for it. Unlike previous games in the series, you will not simply get to play out a different character in the same scenario as a bonus, rather you get a different scenario for each character. I liked that a lot about RE6, and the stories were so compelling that you won't help yourself in immediately starting the next once the first is finished.
When I finished Leon's quest I started Chris' about an hour later. That wasn't because I was trying to review the hell out of the game in a short amount of time (well, that is some of the reason, but not the drive); rather, it's because the story is damn addictive. I wanted to see more of Chris and his story. I wanted to see how he got to that point in Leon's story, which is probably one of the coolest of the trio. I haven't started Jake's storyline yet, but as soon as I finish Chris' then I will dig into the new guy's. Once you see Jake in the stories you'll want to find out more about him, though recent Capcom footage pretty much spells it out. You'll love him, though. That's how much fun the campaigns get in Resident Evil 6. They aren't just simple means to ends, which come in the form of dog tags, unlockables and extra content. They are solid stories told from each character's perspective that is carefully intertwined with the others to produce a frightening tale. I won't be explaining the intricate details of it, as you'll want to unravel all of this out yourself.
Something I liked a lot, in concept, is the ability to go through the campaigns with someone else local or on the interwebs. I say 'in concept' because apparently no one else was online to hook-up for my adventures with Leon or Chris. Dear viewers please note that I did my best to find folks, but no dice! The game kept going, so no worries when it comes to flying solo with the campaigns. When some of the more difficult fights were about to erupt in the game, RE6 tries to find you someone to help you out. I suspect it will be a blast on October 2nd when this title finally arrives.
Along with new stories, prepare yourself to see some grotesque creatures formed from the C-Virus. Coming from the Bio Organic Weapon (B.O.W.) family, you'll find creatures like the Lepotitsa, the Ogroman, and the J'avo. There are far more than this, but I don't want to give away too much. Let's go through these, though, so you know what RE6 has in store for you.
The Lepotitsa is one of the most alarming, disturbing and disgusting creatures you're going to run into during gameplay. See the word 'tit' in there? Yeah, it's not done without reason. The Lepotitsa is a creature that is composed of porous teats, which expel a gaseous chemical that turns humans into mindless zombies. When you go up against one, you don't really expose yourself to easily turning into a zombie, as much as getting grabbed and having 'something' shoved down your throat (from its mouth), which turns you into a creature. The whole idea of this creature is demented, and it certainly makes you want to keep your guns loaded at all times. You'll especially have fun with this one when certain characters are on their way to China. Enjoy that scene, it's going to get your blood moving.
The Ogroman is a gigantic beast (I'm talking two or more stories). You'll run into multiple ones within Chris' story, and they're no fun to try to kill. They're huge, ugly and they remind me of a ginormous version of El Gigante from RE4. Watch out for their fists, feet and terrible tempers. They will absolutely unnerve you during Chris' tale, so it's best to keep your character in shape to run.
The final creature I want to discuss is the J'avo. They're humans that have been infected with the C-Virus, but they didn't turn into zombies. They usually sport masks in the game, but once those are broken you get the pleasure of seeing their hideous face full of eyes. They are crafty, smart and they show up in different varieties and flavors. Much like the Lepotitsa and the Ogroman, enjoy bringing them down. Especially enjoy the 'grasshopper' version, as it's potentially the most nightmarish.
You will find far more creatures than these, but these specifically scared the bejesus out of me during the campaigns.
Can I get a little help here?
Now, with all that said, let's talk AI. The AI in Resident Evil 6 is split into good/bad. The good part is that your fellow soldiers pay more attention to your 'needs' when you're in trouble. When you're on your last bit of health and you've fallen to the ground near your death, if a teammate is close by they will come to your aid and revive you with a jab of adrenaline to the chest. On a side note, there was a time where I kept falling to enemies and my cohort kept running up and jabbing me in the chest with a needle. I couldn't imagine how many bruises showed up on poor Chris' chest. Now, if you're playing a two-player game in RE6 then you're depending on an actual player to help out. Hopefully, they will come to your aid, but you never know. You might have a douchebag for a friend.
Outside of popping needles in your chest, your CPU friends also help you to defeat enemies pretty well. There was only one time where I had to keep running around for about 20 minutes before even getting a hint of help with three really big creatures. After dying about three times I finally found that there was a room containing a fun weapon to help my cause out. I was actually holding up the process, which is a reoccurring issue when it comes to linear gameplay. If you miss something then it can easily trap you until you figure it out. That's nothing new to the Resident Evil series, but it is still a pain in the ass. Outside of that one incident, I didn't have another like it and the AI from the CPU was pretty spot on when it came to help.
On the flip side to that coin, the AI from the creatures ranged from predictable to okay during the campaigns. The usual patterns of destruction were firmly intact for the minor evil creatures (I.E., zombies). You understood what zombies did and when they did it. Even the more insignificant J'avo had predictable patterns you could figure out. The most you'll get out of the zombies in terms of intelligence is when your'e trying to aim at their heads and they randomly swerve out of your crosshairs. Other than that, you'll enjoy watching them die in various nasty ways.
Now, when the creatures started getting a bit more complicated (and uglier) then you would be thrown a loop or two. For example, when you run up on the Ogroman, you better just run and not try to figure their patterns out. Their viciousness will deceive you into thinking you know how they'll react during the fight. They swing the most easiest routes of victory and come down on you without warning. The same can be said for the Lepotitsa, who you just want to run away from and not get near. They're unpredictable and will do anything (and go through any amount of bullets) to get to you.
Overall, the AI isn't that bad, but it could use some tweaking on minor issues.
Controlling the situation
The controls in RE6 have improved and become more balanced. At the same time, they still have a touch of hindrance with them.
Starting with the positives, I found myself doing more hand-to-hand combat in RE6 than in any other previous Resident Evil title. It was fun to kick and punch until someone's head exploded. What was neat was that you could even do melee with stronger bosses in the game. While it wouldn't be as entertaining, or effective, as much as the lower level creatures, it was still nice to see this as an option. That being said, it definitely doesn't feel like a last resort. It didn't feel like the 'knife' option when you run out of ammo. It feels like another weapon, which is great! Of course, the down side to melee is that you can tire your character out quickly. You have to be careful with how many heads you crack in the game, otherwise you will exhaust your character and leave them open for attack. Pace yourself in the game.
Speaking of weapons, you get a nice arsenal that is fun to use. The weapons are effective from various distances, and they're properly tailored for those distances. For example, the one a-hole thing that I have griped about in Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty (pick the title) is the misuse of the shotgun from afar. BF3 and CoD are notorious for over-ranging their shotguns. Killing people from across a level with a shotgun simply isn't practical, nor realistic. Thankfully, RE6 doesn't allow you to misuse the shotgun from a large distance, rather it's more powerful close range. All the weapons in RE6 have been carefully crafted for appropriate usage. I like that very much, even though at times it really sucks.
Getting back on track, the usage of the weapons can be fun, but also frustrating. Resident Evil 6 introduces a very accurate, very cool quick shot option to the melee mix. If you're getting up and you've got zombies starting to surround you, you can clear a path with a quick shot (a combination of two buttons). This allows you some space and it makes absolute sense when you're trying to work your way out of a nasty situation.
Let's shift a bit and talk about the actual art of aiming in Resident Evil 6. Sometimes you have issues with your aiming. While I know from first-hand experience how terribly frustrating RE can be when it comes to conserving your shots and trying to aim, there were times where I felt like I was back in the first Resident Evil with aiming. The frustration mostly occurred when I jumped inside of a contained area (like an actual container) and was covering myself from gunfire. When Chris started to aim, for some odd reason his aim would shift to directly north and I found my gun staring at the ceiling. This didn't happen just once, it happened quite a bit for me. I checked my controller just to make sure I hadn't broken it during my FIFA 13 frustrating moments, and it worked fine. For the most part I just avoided containers or any restrictive spaces and did my best out in the open to avoid these frustrating moments.
This brings me to another point that wasn't too bad, but there were some questionable moments with camera angles. While I will never truly complain about the camera angles in games beyond RE3, there are still moments where your character positioning will get lost in wonky camera angles. This especially happens when you're trying to get up after an attack. Sometimes you're facing the wrong direction completely and it's tough to get yourself re-situated in time before another attack. For example, there is a bridge stage in Chris' story where you are getting attacked by multiple enemies with rocket launchers. As soon as you get up, you are liable to get knocked down again. This continues until you're dead, and you can never properly shift away from the active fire areas. It can get frustrating, but not to the point where you want to turn off the game. It definitely isn't as bad as the video camera on the wall point of view.
One note before we move on to presentation, there is a cool option to lay on your back and fire your weapons once you're knocked down. Much like like the quick shot option, this one is best used when you've got a bunch of enemies right on top of you. You can also roll away from fire in this position, which alleviates some of the above frustration. Just wanted to mention that as a way out of getting your ass handed to you constantly while you're trying to get up from the ground.
Bloody good graphics!
While RE5 certainly set the standards for new visuals in the Resident Evil series, RE6 does a complete one-up on it. You get far better lighting that creates such a creepy environment that you'll swear you're watching a horror film. To compound the lighting, you also get out of this world shadows that will make your heart race at particular times. For example, in Chris' mission, my heart jumped when one of the BSAA soldiers ran beside me down a set of stairs in the game casting a shadow on the wall. I thought a creature had jumped out, but it was just proper shadow casting on the wall from the angular lighting source. I loved it, and hated it at the same time. I'm old, my heart can't take that much scare.
One huge addition was the closer integration of the cutscenes and the gameplay. The cutscenes are fabulously done, as you get some very high-quality material that outperforms the actual real-life action RE movies on a visual and acting scale. What's neat is that the cutscenes seamlessly crossover into the actual gameplay. You don't feel like you miss a beat or the quality jumps or lowers between the two. It keeps the visual appeal of the game at a very high level, while at the same time keeping the story on track without any distractions. It's as seamless as the God of War III cutscenes and gameplay, which is saying quite a bit. It's too bad the loading times weren't as seamless as GoW.
In Resident Evil 6, Capcom has improved the quality of the environments. The environments are as expansive as RE5, but this time they feature a lot of small details in them. From bloody doors, to rust randomly growing in patterns on beaten metal, there's a lot to love about the areas you visit in the game. For example, the Chinese meat market is a visually terrifying place to visit, as you have piles of dead, skinned animals everywhere. It adds ambiance to the story and terrifying visuals to keep your sense of fear heightened. While a lot gamers may not love this, the areas are still very restricted and less sandbox. I'm happy RE isn't going the sandbox route, as it certainly doesn't need that much openness.
Finally, elements in the presentation that probably won't get much love in other reviews is how the soundtrack is good, and the sound effects are even better. The soundtrack in the game is dramatic, heart-pounding and perfect for Resident Evil 6. It climbs when it needs to climb, and slows when the scene calls for it. This is the first game that makes me want to download the album (legally) and add it to my iTunes. I can't say that for many games. The sound effects in the game are another layer of scary. They play with your mind and add to the visuals. For those of you with a 5.1 setup or better, enjoy the small amount of (bleep) you're going to let out at times.
The presentation value of Resident Evil 6 is a cut above the previous games in the series. You're going to enjoy what Capcom brings to the table in that category.
Hunting agents and going Mercenary
So what else is fun about Resident Evil 6? Well, you get some extra content in Agent Hunt and The Mercenaries modes (initially). These modes keep the game going long after your campaigns are done. What's great is that they compliment the campaigns and offer a nice break from them when you need it. Honestly, as with finding someone to co-op online with me, I wasn't able to try out the Agent Hunt mode. It requires someone's cooperation online, which as stated above I didn't get. I'm sure it's going to be a blast, but I'll let you develop your own opinions of it.
As for The Mercenaries, I found it 'blah' at the beginning, but once I got it going, it was quite a bit of fun. The purpose of the mode is to kill as many creatures as you can continually in a combo (you get more points that way) to try to rack up an enormous score that is posted somewhere on the interwebs. It's addictive, tough (especially if you get into the later rounds of killing) and challenging. The game throws different types of enemies at you at an upward scaling rate. For example, you start out with typical zombies and as your round continues you get worse things showing up, like cops with machine guns, firemen and dogs. Along the way, you run into giant hourglasses that give you more time. A word of caution, though, if you die then you lose all your points and have to start again. The Mercenaries is simple, yet complicated. Regardless, it's a blast if you give it a minute or so. It's also good practice for the campaigns.
Other 'extras' in the game come in the form of customizing dog tags that you earn and watching full cutscenes that you go through. While it's already been announced, I'm anxious to see what DLC is released for RE6 to make this package even bigger (stop snickering).
So what about the difficulty and length of this game? While I don't like counting the 'extra content' because that really is dictated by your interest, the campaigns take about 6-10 hours a piece. Three campaigns (and maybe an unlockable that I'm not mentioning) equals out to quite an adventure. Of course, this all depends on how difficult you want to make this game. If you make it easy then you're going to hit the 6-10 hour mark without a hitch. If you increase the difficulty then you'll get more resistance that will require more strategy on your part, which means more hours overall. For me, I felt like the amount of time Resident Evil 6 takes to complete is appropriate. Like a good BBC show that knows when to end, the story lasts as long as it needs to last. It doesn't feel stretched out in any way, despite the final boss fight in Leon's mission, which felt like it took forever (but it was fun anyway).