The Only Biohazard Here is the Gameplay: Resident Evil 6 Demo Impressions


 

In anticipation of its release on October 2nd, the Resident Evil 6 demo has at long last been released to the public.  I’ve played all three campaigns, both single player and co-op, and I have to say is…

I’m really disappointed.

Allow me to preface by saying that RE6 is in no way going to be a bad game. It is a lot of fun and like its predecessor, has a great cooperative gameplay experience. But having only sampled a fraction of the sequel, I can say with certainty that Resident Evil 6 is a complete letdown. And here's why.

Resident Evil 6 action game. It isn't like Dead Space 2—it doesn't make any attempt to blend survival horror seamlessly into the third-person shooter genre.  It is a balls-to-the-wall, big tough badass action game that isn’t even remotely scary. The environments may be all dark and foreboding, but I never genuine fear for my own safety – not once – not even when playing by myself. This is partially to blame on (surprise, surprise ) the constant AI partner: ruiner of all things tension.  So exploring a zombie-infested university campus isn't very scary when you’ve got a friend glued to your hip at all times. And that is only the beginning of RE6's survival horror shortcomings.

The controls don’t exactly lend themselves to terror in the slightest. While it is possible to walk at a slow pace by pressing ever so lightly on the analog stick, adding even a modicum more pressure sends your character racing off in a full-on jog. Fear is about the furthest thing from one's mind when you are practically sprinting everywhere, all the time. It also doesn't help that essentially every playable character is a martial arts master who can kick, punch (it's all in the mind!…sorry), and tackle their way through hordes of enemies.

As many enemies now carry weaponry, RE6's new cover system means the game often comes off playing like a Gears of War clone. In Chris Redfield's segment, I recalled the sunniest, most blasé action moments from RE5, set in a grimy European environment that reminded me of the dilapidated and derelict cities of Gears of War’s Serra. It’s broad daylight, enemies firing at you from all sides with G36s and even the bigg boss – a poor man’s version of RE4’s El Gigante, – felt like treading familiar ground, and ultimately not-so scary in the least.

It is clear that Capcom intended to create a game that appealed to all audiences; in fact, I wonder how much of the game’s design was influenced by the success of the Resident Evil films, themselves big, dumb action movies that apparently have no end in sight. The thing is, it is almost impossible to make any form of entertainment appeal to all possible demographics. So unless you’re a master storyteller like Steven Spielberg, you’re probably going to fail. And Resident Evil 6 fails miserably. Let's take a look at the story segments themselves:

Chris Redfield: Chris' portion is designed to appeal to fans of RE5 and other popular cover shooters like the aforementioned Gears of War and the Uncharted series. Like RE5, it is a white-knuckle action experience with constant firefights interspersed with an occasional monster battle.

Leon Kennedy: I imagined that in some mind of an RE6 developer, Leon's chunk of the game was intended to appeal to old school Resident Evil fans, like yours truly. Set in a university at night with enemies more reminiscent of the slow-moving zombies of old (though they do occasionally carry weapons like bottles and axes and bats), this section was my favorite of the three. But  due to the poor camera angle, the constant running and acrobatic melee moves and evade abilities, the enemies lost all all their creep-factor, and the dim lighting failed to elicit any real response from me. And even though the final mad dash to the police cruiser and the subsequent quicktime event-filled cutscene was tense, it felt a little haphazard, as if Capcom just wanted to get you back into the action as quickly as possible.

Jake Muller: And then there is Wesker's son (thanks, Capcom, not like that's something I wouldn't have wanted to be told right out the gate) Muller's chapter feels like a blend between Chris and Leon’s segments. It too is set in a dark city lit by roaring fires and broken streetlights…but also features trigger-happy goons shooting at you with assault rifles. Though this campaign featured the scariest critters – powerful lizard-like baddies that fire powerful spikes from their jaws – Jake appears to have inherited some of his father’s abilities, showing off the wonders of his virus-ridden DNA as the game’s most proficient melee combatant. And while his partner, Sherry Birkin, is a bit weaker, there isn't much to be concerned with when the main character is a walking tank.

Controls have been cleaned up since RE5, with a neater in-game menu interface and lots of quick button abilities that make it less clunky. That being said, I abhorred the cover system and found myself barely using it because it was so poorly constructed. Characters are able to do some cool dodge and sliding moves, but unlike Gears of War, which allows you to do a roll in any direction with the press of a button, RE6 makes you aim before rolling or dodging. In addition, if you hold down on the Aim button while making the roll, your character will just hit the dirt and lie there until you release the aim trigger. Overall, there’s some cool ideas in the way the movement controls are laid out, but it seems poorly executed and confusing.

Resident Evil 6, like its predecessor, is one of those co-op games that is absolutely no fun to play by yourself. Though the intelligence of your AI companion has been improved since the previous game, they will still follow you wherever you go like an obedient puppy. This can become frustrating because, as in Chris' campaign, there are moments where the level design was clearly laid out so that the two players would split up. But when your companion follows you everywhere you go, it makes the game exponentially harder. When I played Chris’ segment by myself it took me several tries to defeat the aforementioned big bad monster; when I played with a friend it took all of thirty seconds. Unlike the upcoming Dead Space 3, which essentially has two campaigns, one for single player and one for co-op, RE6 is all co-op, so if you don’t have a friend dedicated to playing it with you, be ready for a very stunted experience.

This is not the game Resident Evil fans wanted, but as much as it pains me to say it, this is probably the game that would sell the most. If Capcom released a sort of reboot title that harkened back to the good ‘ol days, it would be a cult success but would not rake in the sort of revenue they desire. Many gamers were probably introduced to the Resident Evil franchise through RE5 and the films, and would be confused if the follow-up was some kind of slow-burn horror nightmare. Capcom could have tried to emulate the style of Dead Space, which beautifully merges action and horror elements (you think I like Dead Space enough?), but decided to instead push the Resident Evil franchise all the way to the end of the action spectrum. The only reason I can fathom as to why this is, is because Capcom is in to make as much money as possible.

I'll say it again: RE6 is an action game, pure and simple. So if you want a survival horror game, look elsewhere.  It is  incredibly sad, but it’s the truth. Now that videogames are approaching the profit levels of blockbuster films, the same sort of stagnant conformity is befalling the industry. Everything’s the same. Everything’s got to have the depth of a Michael Bay film.  And I suppose, old fogies like myself just have to deal with it.

Post contributed by Alex Hilhorst. Questions for the author? Send an email to monco60@earthlink.net. Follow him on Twitter: @thehilblog.

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