How do you review a game without a genre? That’s the predicament I faced while playing Resident Evil 6, a game with no clear direction or firm understanding of the genre it’s supposed to represent. This is a game that suffers from an identity crisis of epic proportions, because it doesn’t know whether it wants to be an action game, a survival game, or a movie. Yes, a movie: Resident Evil 6 is hampered rather methodically by over-long cutscenes, boring quicktime and scripted events, which make you feel less in control of the characters. Is RE6 bad? No, but it’s not especially good, either. Funnily enough, the game’s tagline perfectly outlines the future of Resident Evil: no hope left.
Resident Evil 6 is a game I’ve really, really tried to enjoy. With four 5-6 hour campaigns, each with their own interesting story, big set pieces and, admittedly, enjoyable cutscenes, there’s plenty to like about this game, because, for what it’s worth, it looks fantastic.
Unfortunately, the experience can be frustrating, disjointed and restrictive. When you’re blasting away at zombies…mutants…whatever, the gameplay is a moderately enjoyable blast of solid shooting and satisfying combat, but it almost feels like a rarity. Resident Evil 6 just tries too hard to be a movie, and while that’s not particularly bad — if you can at least offer an engaging gameplay experience, then by all means, break the gameplay up with cutscene after cutscene after cutscene — the failure here is offering an experience that is flowing, consistent and coherent. This game just doesn’t offer those things.
The biggest problem with Resident Evil 6 is how frustratingly interruptive it is. Cutscenes aren’t a bad thing, and in the case of RE6 they do a good job of explaining the entertaining plot, but when they constantly interrupt the flow of gameplay, especially after you’ve just spent the past few minutes roaming through alley-ways and corridors without engaging anyone, then suddenly the experience loses a bit of its spunk.
The game’s disjointedness spreads across all four campaign. Leon and newcomer Helena Harper team up for an experience closely reminiscent of eerie locations in Resident Evil 4. Shooting mechanics are a little looser and refined this time round, but for the most part, Leon’s experience seems like an (attempted) ode to the series’ better days. Unfortunately, it’s plagued by quicktime events and button prompts.
Chris Redfield’s and Piers Nivens’ campaign is basically a military shooter, although the tight environments and closed alleys make for some truly awful camera work. Just like Leon’s campaign, this experience is dampened by the most ridiculous button prompts and quicktime events, including one where you have to continuously smash the X/Square button to climb across a wooden plank. No analog stick, no balancing, no combat; just button pressing. It’s a moment that actually, literally made me, as a gamer, feel like an idiot. I couldn’t help but wonder, if you’re going to implement such a trivial, pointless mechanic, why not just have the character move across the plank by themselves? Either have some sort of engagement with the movement, or don’t have anything.
Jake Muller and Sherry Birkin’s campaign takes the cake as the most scripted. Aside from some truly breathtaking set pieces, this campaign is arguably the least enjoyable, as you’ll spend most of your time jumping across gaps, running towards the camera away from large enemies (and boy does that send the camera into hysterics), and a countless array of trivial button prompts that, just like with the Chris campaign, would have been better served not to have been included at all. It just feels like lazy game design.
Ada Wong’s puzzle-driven campaign, which is unlocked once you push through the first three campaigns mentioned above, is co-op free. It has a number of interesting and challenging puzzles, which should please classic Resident Evil fans. But it’s still hampered by quicktime events and button prompts.
There is plenty to like about Resident Evil 6, though. For one, the story is good enough to persuade you past the overused quicktime events. And even though those events are frequent and interruptive, they can make for some truly tense and memorable moments. It’s just that they’re all too frequent, and sometimes implemented in such a way that is indicative of lazy, casual development.
The B-Grade horror plot is fascinatingly woven through all four campaigns, and in that regard it does a good job of remaining coherent while the gameplay remains anything but. Certain moments, like an epic fall from a building, or a virus being spewed out all over unsuspecting citizens, make for memorable points. For the most part, Resident Evil 6’s story is entertaining and explosive, and goes hand-in-hand with the game’s action-focused gameplay experience.
The cooperative experience is solid, although the AI controlled squadmates can be as frustratingly inept as what was served up in Resident Evil 5. Certain prompts often go unnoticed while you wait for the AI to respond, while other times you’ll be left waiting while your squadmate slowly makes his way towards you. The drop-in, drop-out online co-op system works well, and RE6 is certainly a great experience with friends. Quicktime events and scripted events still disjoin the experience, but gameplay execution is more effective when playing with a human counterpart.
The combat itself I feel is the game’s most promising aspect. Sure, Resident Evil 6 sometimes exceeds what any of us might have expected from the game (like controlling a vehicle, for example), but for the most part, many of RE6’s biggest boss battles and most tense moments are ones that will stick with you for a while. They are disappointingly dampened by the game’s overbearing reliance on certain trivialities, but the game doesn’t control poorly: it just plays out poorly. Is that because the developer wanted the game to appeal to a mass audience? I’m not sure a disjointed and interruptive game equates to a larger, mass audience.
Resident Evil 6’s issues are indicative of a company trying perhaps a little too much to get back on its feet. For what it’s worth, Resident Evil 6 is a solid, high production value action game with enjoyable, engaging combat, great set pieces and an intricately told B-grade horror plot. However, it’s a mercilessly disjointed experience, hurt by incoherent pacing, an overbearing number of quicktime events and trivial button prompts that slow the experience considerably.