If there’s one single thing that’s wrong with Resident Evil 6, it’s that it’s too bloody ambitious. You can say what you like about the series’ brisk journey into all-out action territory, but what’s offered here is truly epic: four campaigns, each one between five and eight hours long, three of which offer online co-operative play. If its creators had pulled this off we’d be looking at the inarguable Game of the Year, and whilst it’s unfair to say that Capcom have nailed it, it’s equally unfair to say that they haven’t. There are quite a few things fundamentally wrong with Resident Evil 6, but if you’re patient enough, you’re in for an entertaining ride.
The core gameplay never changes, but each campaign is surprisingly distinctive. Leon and Ada’s campaigns bear the closest resemblance to Resident Evil 4. Chris Redfield’s is the most akin to Resi 5, although it’s actually the best of the four; the action set-pieces aren’t needlessly protracted like they were in Resi 5, and there’s a very moreish emphasis on looting. Finally, Jake Muller’s chapter is easily the weakest, if only because it frequently demands that you rely solely on the none-more-clunky melee combat. The plots entwine relentlessly, but if you thought that Capcom couldn’t tell a story when they were working with a linear narrative, you don’t even want to contemplate how little sense this particular opus makes. There are great, marquee moments in each campaign. Sadly, there are murderously frustrating flaws in each of them too.
Speculatively, these issues appear to exist because of a lack of communication. There are massive action sequences that ask you to take bosses down without any ammunition. There are prolonged moments of riveting tension – moments which genuinely call the classic early games to mind – which end up descending into interminable rounds of zombie Horde. There are tiny things that were clearly designed merely to enhance the odd shock (such as the canned stumble animation that’s triggered when you step over a corpse) that for some reason have ended up being used repeatedly, and never for any good reason.
The gunplay is alarming at first too; regardless of which weapon you’re using, every single shot shifts the sights of your weapon slightly. This certainly makes the action a bit more realistic, but if you want realistic gunplay – or realistic anything – in a Resident Evil game, you clearly aren’t of sound mind. Thankfully though, this problem can be rectified via the game’s brand new upgrade system; a simplistic catch-all enterprise that works across all four campaigns. Most irritatingly, Resident Evil 6 is also a co-op game in single player, constantly forcing you to wait for your AI-controlled partner to join you at checkpoints every few minutes. The AI here is light years ahead of what it was on offer in Resident Evil 5, but Capcom’s desire to implement co-op elements in single player continues to baffle.
For all of its irritating flaws though, Resident Evil 6 is rollicking entertainment for most of its duration; a shooter maybe, but a good shooter. There’s some truly nightmarish imagery in it too, such as when the mask-wearing thugs who appear at the beginning of Chris Redfield’s campaign re-appear, with no forewarning, on the ceiling of one room with their lower halves replaced by spider’s legs. It constantly poaches visual conceits from classic horror cinema and the results are almost always effective; one especially unsettling moment lifts an iconic shot from Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later wholesale. And despite its tendency towards relentless action – this still isn’t the Resident Evil of old – both Leon and Ada’s campaigns are good for a couple of mild shivers.
When Resident Evil 6 works, it really works. Some of the bigger set-pieces painstakingly ape Uncharted whilst others mimic Gears of War, and these sequences work more often than not. This is one big-budget project – and the most lavish-looking game that Capcom has ever produced, to be sure – and the amount of actual content that you get is highly commendable. It’s just hard to shake the feeling that its creators have willingly shot themselves in the foot by prioritising size over quality, and vision over focus. It would have been better if it weren’t so damned sprawling. In summary: Flawed, but fun. And far superior when tackled with a friend.
Resident Evil 6 is out now on PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.
Watch the launch trailer for Resident Evil 6 below: