Rarely do I anticipate a sequel anymore. The world and business of video games has changed drastically along with my maturing as a human being. The act of spending money for a game is no longer an impulse; it is a calculated decision, something that will take sixty of your hard-earned American dollars and had damn sure better give you a great return on the investment.
Resident Evil 6 is justified in its price tag, something that very few AAA, big budget mainstream video games are able to claim anymore. You will spend at least twenty five hours exploring the entire story spread across four campaigns, the fourth being unlocked after the first three as well as the most informative and overall fun experience in the game. Exactly how you define “Resident Evil” is going to determine how you feel about the sixth core entry in the series, and you would be best suited to get with the times.
Resident Evil 6
Systems: Playstation 3 [Reviewed], Xbox 360
Release: October 2, 2012
If you are looking for a history of what Resident Evil has been up to this point, we at NSFW Gamer have covered it extensively with our own retrospective earlier this year. While it was a fond look back at what used to be survival horror, there is one simple fact you need to understand: Resident Evil, much like the viruses that make up a massive part of the narrative, continues to change and evolve. The more you accept this idea, the more you will enjoy the game and stop groaning for the days of mansions and item boxes. Those who prefer to be dragged kicking and screaming into this generation of gaming, a generation at the end of its life, are in for a rude awakening.
The prologue of RE6 sets us up for the theme of the game: the idea that a new virus cannot be contained, that everything our known protagonists Chris Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy have worked for has been for naught. Leon and his new partner Helena are in bad shape, and you must guide them for a few minutes through an introductory passage that shows you a brand new control scheme that finally introduces the idea of moving and shooting at the same time to Resident Evil. You, as Leon, navigate your way through a swarm of…wait a minute. Those are zombies? My God, Capcom finally listened! It’s going to be just like the old ones!
Not so fast, hipster.
Once you complete the introduction, you have your choice of Chris, Leon and newcomer Jake Muller. My suggestion to everyone who reads this review is to start with Chris, especially if you are coming into this game directly from Resident Evil 5. The gunplay and co-op from the last core Resident Evil game have made the transition with some improvements as well as setbacks. Weapons are no longer upgradeable; once you find a gun, the only way to make it more powerful is to upgrade your own abilities with skill points, the currency you will find when breaking boxes open in lieu of piles of gold and ancient treasures. You are free to upgrade anything from melee attacks to firearm power and defense, but you can only equip three of these abilities at a time. It is an interesting new survival element in a franchise that has left behind the idea of only being able to carry so many pieces of equipment with you at once.
Chris and Jake, along with their respective partners Piers Nivans and Sherry Birkin, the latter having grown up quite a bit since she was first getting sucked into sewer drains in Resident Evil 2, need these abilities to contend with the foes they will be facing known as J’avo. Reminiscent of the Plagas and Majini from the last two entries, these enemies will strategically group together and hunt you and your partner down. Infected J’avo can wield anything from blades to fully automatic guns, and that’s before you begin to exchange fire with them. Taking off a limb will only encourage them to sprout new limbs, and with reinforced razor-sharp claws on these new appendages, you will have to seek out a new weak spot.
You had best find that weak spot, because unlike the last two games, ammo is not in plentiful supply. In fact, many times you are better off wailing on a J’avo with a melee attack, something that would not look out of place in a Dead Space game…which is fitting, considering Visceral Games took much of their inspiration for Dead Space from Resident Evil 4. Smashing the heads of the infected gives you the same satisfaction that is has for years, but spamming the button will wear down your character’s stamina and leave you calling for help from your partner, be they human or artificial. Should you find yourself low on health, all it takes is one button to heal yourself with herbs already deposited in a dedicated spot. No more pausing, combining and pausing again.
Chris, Jake and crew will spend a lot of their time fighting skirmishes in wide open areas with military chatter and the like. It suits their characters well, and although Chris and Piers’ story borders a little too much on the “bro” side of things, Jake and Sherry’s campaign makes for an interesting narrative regarding what people will do in a quest for one man’s DNA. The latter two spend a giant part of the game running from an enormous creature reminiscent of Nemesis, which keeps the tension and frustration (more on that later) consistent.
As I mentioned at the opening, I started with Chris and chose Jake immediately after. I spent a good twelve or thirteen hours firing a lot of bullets, bashing a lot of heads in and being careful to watch my supply number. At multiple points, their stories intersect and Chris reveals to Jake, the bastard son of Albert Wesker (when did he ever have time to spawn a child?), that Chris was the one who killed Jake’s father. This kind of melodramatic man-off set the tone for just about every line of dialogue in Resident Evil 5, and because the gameplay up to this point had been so satisfying, I was willing to let it slide thanks to more than enough references to past Resident Evil lore.
Then I started Leon’s campaign and was in for the surprise of my life.
The reason I implore everyone to choose to play as Chris and Jake before starting Leon’s story will become apparent the second you take control of Leon. Chris and Jake can immediately switch weapons on the fly and tackle any number of enemies that come swarming their way.
As Leon, I didn’t fire a single bullet for what felt like half an hour.
The locale switched from brightly lit outdoor streets and snowy mountaintops to the abandoned interior of a university. Leon has just made the regrettable decision to put a bullet in the head of the United States president, a colleague and close friend who turned into a zombie in front of Leon’s eyes. When you get the chance to move Leon, everything is so radically different from what you go through as Chris and Jake that it doesn’t just feel like a new scenario – it comes across as a completely different game running on the same engine. Leon and his partner Helena don’t even open doors with the same bravado as the others, opting to slowly push open wooden doors that creak and send echoes throughout the silent hallways, corridors and classrooms. Brilliantly orchestrated music that constantly played in the background is gone.
For the first time in about a decade, I was genuinely scared playing a Resident Evil game.
When I finally encountered a member of the undead, I almost forgot I had a gun in my hands. Killing zombies is at once nostalgic and refreshing; there are no limbs that sprout out from various parts on their bodies. Aim for the head and shoot, but don’t waste bullets when you have the ability to run. This sense of dread mounts and culminates in a Left 4 Dead-like standoff where Leon, Helena and a band of survivors wait for a bus to come and evacuate them from the infected streets. That’s just the first chapter.
Without a doubt, I saved the best for last by finishing with Leon and subsequently unlocking the final story, the one that ties everything together and serves as the only truly single player mode in the game, starring the woman Jack Krauser affectionately referred to as “the bitch in the red dress” in RE4.
Miss Ada Wong will make appearances in all three of the main campaigns, and if you think you know what she is up to, I promise that you don’t have a damned clue until you see her side of the story. I am confident in saying that Ada deserves to be up there with Samus Aran, Chun Li and The Boss as one of the best female characters in video games. I will take it a step further and say that the mystery surrounding her backstory is handled so well, writers in all forms of entertainment should take note as to how her story is played out. Without giving too much away, we don’t need to have every facet of a character’s personality and origins explained to us. This ruined characters like Hannibal Lecter and, oddly enough, Samus. Trust me, once you finish everything Resident Evil 6’s initial story has to offer, you will be begging Capcom to give us a spin-off devoted to what Ada does next.
Okay…so what’s wrong with the game? Let’s talk.
Quick time events have become a crutch for action games ever since they were prominently used in…oh, look at that…Resident Evil 4. Yes, they had existed before RE4 sold a truckload of copies, but there are a hell of a lot of games out there that saw what Leon could do with quick button prompts during cut scenes and had developers going “Yeah, that will work.” While they can heighten the tension, they can also completely take you out of the experience by suddenly throwing a prompt at you and before you realize the game is turning interactive on you, you’re dead.
This happened on more than one occasion during sequences involving driving, swimming, climbing, crawling and other dramatic events. I understand the need to script events, but not knowing a van was going to pull out from my left, dying and hitting “yes” to continue to do it all over again is unnecessary, especially with such a generous amount of checkpoints littered throughout each chapter. Speaking of dying, I did that a lot during boss fights both because they got cheap on occasions and because I knew that my health was going to be rejuvenated when I continued, so it defeated the purpose of employing a strategy the first time.
In the end, that’s the worst thing I can say about this game. QTE’s and cheap boss battles have been around for much longer than since Capcom made the first significant change in Resident Evil, and they don’t look to be going anywhere. The amount of flaming hatred that has been spewed on RE6 from players and journalists alike is baffling. I don’t understand what it is they want when playing a Resident Evil game anymore, and it is clear to me that Capcom did their very best to try and please a hell of a lot of different kinds of players at once in the production of Resident Evil 6.
The people who continuously whine about the fact that Resident Evil isn’t as good as it used to be are beginning to sound like the people who say the same thing about the 8-bit NES days, the SNES vs. Genesis days or the glory days of the Japanese RPG on the Playstation. There are a hell of a lot of great things still to come in the twilight years of this generation of systems, and Resident Evil 6 has been one of them.
Since we at NSFW Gamer specialize in a certain aspect of games, let’s talk about the sex factor.
When I mentioned earlier that Sherry Birkin has grown up, I wasn’t kidding. Stopping just short of actual nudity, a locker room scene with her and Jake will demonstrate exactly what kind of genetic benefit’s the G-virus infection she caught as a 12-year-old can have on a growing female body. On a related note, Ada Wong seems to have used some of that secret agent money to get breast enhancement surgery – probably something Capcom felt the need to do if they were planning on selling seven million copies of RE6.
You will not be seeing any actual sex in this game, so necrophiliacs can spend their money elsewhere for fear of disappointment. A specific boss that Leon, Helena and Ada will face can best be described as a naked spider monster who likes to rub her breasts to taunt you right before launching an attack, but that’s about as far as that one goes.
All told, sex has never really played much of a role in any Resident Evil game, and the same goes this time. Too bad Ashley Graham isn’t around anymore for a “ballistics” reference by Leon for old time’s sake.