Review by UncleWesker
"A game that implements many interesting ideas, but unfortunately fails in execution too often to be considered a success"
Resident Evil 6 at first glance looks to be nothing more than a very typical and cookie cutter third person shooter billing off its name brand and with a few unique touches of its own. And the game does very little to try and rid the player of this notion, providing no proper tutorial for some of its more esoteric mechanics. In truth the game has some of the most unique and satisfying TPS gameplay since 2010's Vanquish with a wealth of movement and combat options available to the player, and a design that feels more like a hybrid between a third person shooter and a beat 'em up than just a straight TPS. Players who try to play through RE6 in the same way they did the previous two numbered installments will most certainly find themselves disappointed. But when explored to its full the game has a wide array of interesting combat mechanics that are a joy to experience. Judging by this one might think the game deserves very high marks, but the reception of RE6 owes to more than just some obscure mechanics, it's better to go over these matters in detail than try to discuss them briefly though. It should be known to players of the old series before continuing that RE6 in no way resembles a horror game except in some of its aesthetics, and they should look elsewhere for scares, as they will find none. As such I will be judging it purely as an action game.
Combat - A Unique Style of Gun Kata
RE6 brings a few elements that have been standard in third person shooters for years to the series such as the ability to move and shoot, a 3D control scheme and a more fleshed out cover system. However to say that this is all it does would be a gross understatement, it also sports a number of unique features that those familiar to the genre may have trouble grasping. In addition to standard movement options players have a wide variety of ways to get around, avoid damage and attack enemies purely through motion. Players can dive out of the way of attacks, duck, roll and slide past enemies to stun them or get into cover quickly. Mastering these techniques makes avoiding damage much easier and more fun than simply trying to run through or focusing on sticking behind cover without moving about. It encourages players to take an active roll in the combat. The melee system from 4 and 5 has been fleshed out to allow players to attack any time, however simply bashing the melee button will tire the character out quickly without accomplishing much damage. Instead it's paramount to stun an enemy, either through shooting them in a weak point or clever use of the environment or melee to open them up for a more damaging attack. In addition nearly any attack in the game can be countered by pressing the melee button just before it connects, adding an element of timing that's quite similar to parry mechanics seen in many action games. The number of melee animations in the game for each individual enemy is truly impressive, ensuring that the game doesn't grow visually stale if the player mixes up their style. And the character Jake has a unique style of melee all his own which allows him to dash across the screen, ducking and weaving between enemy attacks and gunfire to close the distance and deliver close range punishment. In addition to this there are a number of small touches to the combat such as the player's ability to cancel out of shotgun recoil for quicker firing, or to lay down an explosive mine by sliding across the ground that makes things feel incredibly fluid for someone who masters the art of attack.
The gunplay itself is no slouch either, a new quickshot ability allowing players to expend stamina to fire off a quick attack on enemies. This is an excellent way to quickly stun an opponent or to stop an attack before it happens if the player doesn't have time to aim, and can't be abused thanks to the limited stamina system. There are also a few quickshots with interesting combat applications such as Ada's crossbow which reloads much faster when used with a quickshot or Helena's shotgun which allows her to jump between foes, avoiding strikes and dishing out close range fire up to three times. Enemies for the most part are quite fair about telling their attacks, giving the player a chance to dodge or get to safety before they can incur damage. One annoyance though is that when the player does incur damage they're knocked down flat in a very slow animation which really breaks the flow of combat and for some can be difficult to deal with as it leaves them in a very vulnerable situation. However this can be mitigated with good timing allowing the player to get up more quickly and get out of harms way.
Enemy Design - Interesting Concepts Lend to Gameplay
RE6's enemies are among the most unique part of the game visually and in terms of how they interact with the gameplay. At first many of them appear to be standard mooks (or zombies in Leon's case) however their ability to mutate dynamically truly sets them apart. When shot in a specific limb such as the head, arms or legs many enemies will mutate that particular part of their body, perhaps growing a centipede tentacle arm that can grab the player from afar, or a roach body in place of legs that lets them skitter about and crawl on the ceiling, or a silkworm head that will spit string that confines the player. There are many more as well. Each of these is unique and turns the foe into a completely new enemy that requires it's own strategy to defeat efficiently, and sometimes foes can take on multiple mutations at once, adding further to the variety. The animations for these on top of that are incredibly detailed and grisly to view. Any fan of horror movie gore will find themselves delighted to see them. In addition to this there are more dangerous foes such as the agile bloodshots who must be avoided or countered carefully, and large hulking enemies who are covered in armor that needs to be removed before they can be damaged. If there was a low point in the enemy design it would probably be in the bosses. Some of them are good and most of them are visually interesting, but there are not many of them and some of the fights feel too dragged out or just plain uninteresting.
Story - A Failed Attempt to Distance Itself from Old Ideas
At first RE6 seems like it's trying to abandon the baggage of the old series, which would be a good way to help new players ease into it. It even succeeds with this in several places, but ultimately ends up failing as drama from past games manages to seep its way into each of the stories. This is not necessarily so bad, but it would have been nice to see the series try and move past this and focus on telling a good, singular story. The protagonists are a mixed bag, some of them likeable and fleshed out, with others very boring and plain. Jake for example goes through a fairly convincing character arc, while Piers never amounts to much of anything. Perhaps the biggest problem with RE6's plot though is the lack of a satisfying villain, the game presents several and only one of them manages to come across as an actual threat both in game and the story, and he has no speaking roles, meaning he's not exactly good for dishing out exposition. The plot is enjoyable in a dumb action movie kind of way, but players are going to have a hard time caring about many of the characters really. Even returning veterans Leon and Chris don't really seem to be themselves (and Chris was never particularly interesting to begin with).
Level Design - It All Falls Apart
Based on what I said above RE6 probably seems like a very good game with a story that isn't much to worry about (not that story matters much anyway in a game like this). But the thing that really hurts the game irredeemably is the pacing of its campaign. Instead of coming up with interesting levels for the player to explore its new mechanics RE6 is content to funnel them into set piece after set piece, vehicle section and QTE, never really letting the systems shine on their own. There are a few levels that subvert this, such as a mission in Jake's campaign in which the player explores a large mansion full of enemies and items to find, which manages to be one of the most enjoyable parts of the entire game. If the levels had been a bit more open and the designers had focused more into making them fun to explore and fight in RE6 could have been one of this generations best games. It probably would have been better to simply make one focused campaign instead of pouring resources into four middling ones. However there is a silver lining. The game's mercenary mode, a staple of the series, allows the player to experience combat in a wide open arena environment, free of the shackles of story and set pieces. This is where the combat can truly shine on its own and players can experience it with nothing to hold it back. This is very nice, but for players like me who like fun levels along with the context a story mode provides it's a bit of a let down.
In the end RE6 turns out to be a very flawed, but still fun game that's worth trying if only to see if it's for you. I encourage anyone who plays it to give it a fair chance and also to ensure they adjust the settings to their liking (the game has a wide variety of camera options, and even the ability to turn most of the game's QTEs off). It will be up to you if you're willing to enjoy RE6's flawed but unique flavor.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/24/12, Updated 03/21/14
Game Release: Resident Evil 6 (US, 10/02/12)
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