The Resident Evil franchise has been phenomenally successful worldwide, spawning a number of spin-off titles as well as movies and novels. The first Resident Evil game brought the survival horror genre to a mass audience but ever since RE4 the series has focused less on limited supplies and puzzle-solving and instead adopted a more action-orientated approach to gameplay.
Resident Evil 6 does nothing to buck this trend by serving up another action-packed experience that is even more thrilling than any Resident Evil game before it. While RE6 features vastly different gameplay from the first three Resident Evil titles, Capcom shows plenty of respect to longtime fans of the series by including elements such as predominantly dark environments, acid and flame rounds for the grenade launcher, and being able to combine herbs.
Resident Evil 6’s storyline, campaign structure and length are some of the factors that elevate it above 99% of action games. RE6 is set over a period of months spanning 2012 and 2013, and features four intersecting campaigns that see the return of familiar characters such as Chris Redfield, Leon Kennedy and Ada Wong. A new virus known as the C-Virus has been unleashed in parts of America, Eastern Europe and China, and the four main protagonists witness the outbreak from different perspectives apart from when their paths cross at a number of key moments during the narrative.
Each campaign is broken up into five chapters and Leon, Chris and new protagonist Jake Muller all have partners that you can play through the entire campaign as, while Ada works alone. This lends a lot of variety to gameplay as each character starts off with a different selection of weapons and performs unique melee attacks. There are also times when the characters split up so you’ll need to play through that campaign twice in order to experience both characters’ perspectives. All this diversity leads to an impressively lengthy completion time.
Playing through each campaign from a single character’s perspective will take you roughly twenty hours in total since chapters take about an hour to complete on average. Interestingly, the game has frequent checkpoints but save-points only pop up two to three times per chapter. There is no way to save manually so you’re essentially forced to play for at least twenty minutes per session before being able to quit knowing that your data is saved. This is a clever move on Capcom’s part as RE6’s gameplay and story are so compelling that you’ll probably be completely absorbed in the action after twenty minutes and won’t want to quit even though you’ve passed a save-point.
At the end of each chapter you’re given the opportunity to spend accumulated Skill Points that are dropped by certain enemies. Some of the skills available include ones that boost various attack parameters or give your weapon’s scope an extra level of magnification. You can assign up to three skills to the eight available slots and these slots can be selected on the fly during gameplay. Choosing the right combination of skills for a given situation can be the difference between life and death when playing on the game’s more challenging difficulties.
Each of RE6’s four campaigns has a different flavour to it and is linked to the others in a different way. For instance, Leon’s campaign contains shades of Resident Evil 2 with its focus on zombies and its moonlit town setting. Chris and Jake’s campaigns are closely interwoven while Leon and Ada’s paths cross at predictably frequent intervals. The story does a wonderful job of building a cohesive narrative around the four intersecting campaigns and it’s highly enjoyable being able to experience the same events from another perspective. There are a few boss battles where up to four characters team up to take down one of the game’s hulking behemoths, and these moments represent some of the most memorable and thrilling parts of RE6.
Apart from the game’s ingenious handling of interconnected campaigns, RE6 also has an inspired control scheme that allows you to pull off some truly impressive stunts. You can automatically lock on to the nearest enemy and fire a single round by pressing ‘L1’ and ‘R1’ together, with each shot consuming a portion of your stamina bar. Other useful actions include being able to sprint by holding down the ‘Cross’ button and performing a slide by pressing ‘L1’ while dashing.
The game has a few Uncharted-inspired platforming set-pieces based around your character’s ability to slide under obstacles, and these are certainly thrilling if not original. You can also roll out of harm’s way by simultaneously pressing ‘L1,’ ‘Cross’ and a direction on the left analog stick, and you can even roll around while lying on your back which is particularly useful if you’re trying to avoid turret-fire. There are not many action games that give the player such direct influence over a character using a standard controller, and RE6’s control scheme should therefore be commended for giving players so many actions to work with.
While being able to move while shooting is a first for the Resident Evil series, RE6 goes a lot further than merely introducing this feature. For instance, you can crawl away from enemies while aiming and shooting at them, which is something I personally have never seen in a game before.
The melee attack system in Resident Evil 6 is also handled remarkably well, with certain context-sensitive actions available depending on your timing and position in relation to an enemy. A great example of how effective this system is can be seen when Leon and Helena are exploring the zombie-infested town of Tall Oaks. Some of the zombies carry axes and if you press the melee button (R1) at the right moment when one of them swings it at you, you can grab it out of their hands and perform a rather violent coup de grace on them. A few of the enemies in RE6 are particularly vulnerable to melee attacks and it also comes in useful when you’re trying to adopt a stealthy approach and kill enemies silently from behind.
Apart from an excellent control scheme, RE6 has some of the biggest production values yet seen in our industry. Capcom has spared no expense in bringing fans the videogame equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster by creating a title that features epic set-pieces, breathtaking cut-scenes and an excellent script voiced by highly capable actors. If you put ten of your favourite action movies together and imagine yourself as an active participant in them then you have a decent idea of what playing through RE6 feels like.
Resident Evil games have always had impressive graphics and RE6 is no exception. While textures are not always as sharp and as detailed as you’d like them to be, the game runs at a fairly smooth framerate and features excellent animation and lighting. The environments are all suitably atmospheric and boast impressive attention to detail, while bloom lighting lends a great deal of realism to certain night-time scenes such as an outdoor market in China.
The world, character and monster (i.e. Bio Organic Weapon) designs of Resident Evil 6 are up to Capcom’s usual high standards, with the variety and quality of the B.O.W.s constituting the most impressive part of the visual package. Each of the four campaigns introduces new enemies and boss B.O.W.s, and there’s never a dull moment facing off against these well-designed foes.
Many enemies mutate after a certain amount of damage so don’t be surprised if a seemingly unassuming B.O.W. becomes a force to be reckoned with after growing a long, clawed limb! In typical Resident Evil fashion, boss B.O.W.s don’t stay ‘dead’ for long so be prepared to face off against them at a later stage. One of my favourite B.O.W.s in RE6 is a giant creature that attaches a new instrument of torture to his arm every time you face him. If you thought a drill was bad, wait until you see what he brings along to your final showdown!
RE6’s audio package is just as brilliant as its visuals. The music complements the atmosphere of each scene and invokes the intended emotion when required. The game’s sound effects are also an impressive achievement when you consider how many weapons and hours of cut-scenes there are in RE6. The game contains a handful of vehicle-based set-pieces where you pilot a helicopter and motorbike (to name just a few) and these sequences sound just as good as they would in a Hollywood action movie. The voice acting is also top-notch, with Matthew Mercer replacing Paul Mercier as the voice of Leon Kennedy and Troy Baker sounding very Nolan North-y as the intriguing mercenary Jake Muller.
Resident Evil 6 builds upon the excellent action-orientated gameplay established in RE4 and the co-op elements introduced in RE5. Capcom has really expanded the boundaries of videogame narratives with RE6 as the game’s intersecting campaigns are impressively cohesive yet diverse enough to make playing through each one a thrilling event.
RE6’s sky-high production values make for a great looking and sounding game, while its lengthy narrative offers far more hours of entertainment than your typical action title. Resident Evil 6 may have been developed for ageing console hardware but it features enough groundbreaking elements to make it feel like the next generation of videogames has finally arrived!