Capcom’s Resident Evil 6 suffers from a case of Too Much. Classic characters are forced upon the player, different play styles are woven through three distinct campaigns, and you’re never sure if you should be pulling the trigger or saving ammo. The thing about Capcom’s sixth installment in the seminal survival horror series is that Too Much overwhelms in the best ways possible.
Resident Evil 6’s story would require charts, graphs, and someone even nerdier than I to explain in totality. It’s sufficient to say that at this point Team Evil has the B-movie chops to impress any schlock film director. The stilted dialogue even feels intentional in its awkwardness, which lends a giddiness to anyone who appreciates such things.
Split between three campaigns the game is both an evolution upon past installments and contemplation on what was so great about the series in years past. Capcom keeps us focused on modern Resident Evil play style, especially with the twin stick shooting controls. Leon and Helena’s campaign is the most balanced of the gameplay experiences. Reminiscent of Resident Evil 4 in combat style, there’s a ton of plodding around that old time fans will appreciate. It’s also here where Capcom came closest to making you work for ammo. The subtle adjustment to giving the player more ammo has castrated the series in some ways, all in the name of providing more generic fun.
Capcom gets away with making the Leon story more deliberate because the Chris Redfield campaign is pure action. With it’s horrific partner AI and shoot everything mentality it was difficult to find the Resident Evil in RE5. Chris’ campaign is more of that. There are brief moments where you feel a sense of ominous horror during the campaign, but what this section amounts to is a decent action game with a pedigree name.
The surprise is how well the Jake campaign plays and feels. It’s a constant sense of panic and terror as a monster chases you. You spend most of the time trying to run and survive, and Capcom has finally taken Resident Evil into a new style of gameplay that works. Guns aren’t the answer to making this series more modern and interesting. Heart pounding traversal of varied terrains is far more efficient at delivering a new experience for long time fans. The chase felt authentic to the series.
Partner AI, the main reason I gave up on finishing Resident Evil 5 is improved this time around. At least you don’t have to worry about missing out on ammo drops because the AI never takes stuff from the environment. Even better, you’ll find your computer-controlled friend saving your ass a number of times. While not perfect, you’ll feel like there’s someone alongside who supports your mission rather than being plot fodder or a nuisance.
Nothing beats a real person helping you out, and RE6 is designed not just to be coop friendly but coop necessary. This is a game that demands to be played with a partner. Unfortunately I was unable to log any significant time with a second person controlling my partner.
Subtle changes to the formula, plus a few radical updates makes RE6 a refreshing new take on the series. But it’s the item management and upgrade systems that are the most jarring alterations. You no longer use herbs; instead you do a little backyard pharmaceutical magic and produce pills. Smart and daring players will risk death to save until they can combine a red and green herb to produce far more pills than either plant alone. One green plant will give you one pill to put in a case where you can access it with a button press. But if you combine two green herbs, you’ll end up with three pills.
Resident Evil 6 is a three part episodic game released on one disc. It’s surprising in this age of downloadable games and extending franchises that Capcom has given this package to fans. It’s refreshing as well because you can get through a full campaign in a vastly shorter period of time than the typical Resident Evil game, allowing you to parse out the time needed to play.
It may be a disappointment for hard core RE fans that the controls have become modernized, and the pacing includes far too much running and gunning. But Resident Evil 6 is the most balanced of the recent RE games. Schlocky and silly though the story may be, it’s clear why this is the most widely loved series in the survival horror genre.
Platforms: PS3, PC, Xbox 360 (Reviewed)