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‘Resident Evil 6’ Review: Putting The Action Back In Action Horror

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The wait is finally over. What has already been a stellar year for horror fans is about to get even better with the long awaited Resident Evil 6. Capcom’s “throw everything and see what sticks” approach has resulted in four different campaigns that practically feel like their own games, the return of the highly addictive Mercenaries mode, and a new competitive Agent Hunt mode. Either this strategy has paid off, giving fans of the series a variety of different ways to enjoy this ambitious game, or everything could buckle under the weight of its lofty goals. Let’s find out.

The Baby Factor: If every installment in the main Resident Evil series got together for a brutal, bloody orgy, Resident Evil 6 would be the terrifyingly awesome result.

This is hands down Capcom’s most ambitious project to date. They know the Resident Evil franchise is their flagship IP, and they’re treating it as such. This means they’ve invested a massive amount of resources into ensuring this is the best installment in the series so far. So does it accomplish everything it set out to?

Yes and no, but mostly yes.

I admire Capcom’s attempt to make this the ultimate Resident Evil experience. Fans of the old school zombie-infested Resident Evils of old will be delighted to see the glorious return of the undead in Leon’s story, while fans of the more action-driven Resident Evil 5 will want to jump into Chris’ scenario. Then there’s Jake’s campaign, and while it plays very much like a new-school Resident Evil story, it’s also the place where Capcom’s introduced several of their more ambitious ideas.

So let’s start with Jake and Sherry’s story, because it’s the one I was originally the most disappointed with. The first time I played Jake’s scenario, I didn’t like it. At all. Then, much like my experience with Demon’s Souls, which kicked my ass and brought out of me a nerd rage I didn’t know I had, I went back to play through the parts I wasn’t too fond of. It’s a good campaign, even if it does get a little, or rather, a lot, ridiculous at times. If you like variety, this story has it more so than the others, and it’s capped off by what is arguably the best boss fight.

The first half has you outrunning an avalanche, fighting your way through a white-out blizzard, battling massive El Gigante-esque B.O.W.s, outrunning a tank, outrunning a helicopter (there’s a lot of running in this game), and so much more. This is a damn busy game, but it’s at its most busy when you’re in control of Jake or Sherry.

Then there’s the Ustanak. Yeah, that guy’s a prick. He’s also quite possibly my new favorite enemy. He’s unstoppable, like Nemesis, but unlike his chaingun-toting companion, the Ustanak feels smarter. He’s obviously being controlled, but it almost feels as if he’s enjoying what he does. Like every time he eviscerates an unsuspecting victim with his impressive array of arm weapons, he actually gets some enjoyment out of it. Jake’s a badass and Sherry can hold her own, but that doesn’t make knowing he’s hunting you throughout the course of the game any less frightening.

Oh, and a fan-favorite enemy returns in this campaign — but I’ll let you guess who, or what, it is.

I’m not going to bury the lead here: I’m not a fan of Chris’ story. It isn’t bad by any means, and it ends strongly, but as a whole, it’s generic and lacking very many exciting moments outside of an intense battle with a giant invisible snake. While playing as Piers, because when I can’t play as a badass chick I always immediately go for the scrawniest guy, I discovered something about this game: some of these J’avo mutations are downright goofy.

It’s surprising, really, that some of these mutations were approved, because a few aren’t just lame, they’re actually comical. If I’m in the middle of an intense fight with a group of enemies, with a white-knuckled grip on my controller as I try and fight my way through hordes of enemies, all that intensity goes away once one of the guys I just shot sprouts bird legs. Look, I get it. The C-Virus is uncontrollable, so it can result in some wild mutations, but this is also supposed to be a horror game, and there’s nothing scary about a man wearing a colorful mask trying to kick me with his massive bird legs.

What makes this issue even more noticeable is that for every hilarious mutation you come across there’s a terrifyingly awesome one to go with it. Some guys turn into spiders, others burst into these massive, hulk-like monstrosities. Then there’s the guys whose arms extend so they can grab you from across the room, or a variant of that which produces a shield for them to hide behind. There is a ton of mutations that essentially guarantee each fight will be different no matter how many times you play the game.

I only wish Capcom would’ve hired someone to take a look at the monsters before they were implemented in-game and say “yes, that has the potential to inspire weeks of continuous nightmares,” or “no,” then everything after that is incoherent because it’s been garbled by the unstoppable laughter that overwhelms them as they’re introduced to the man with wasp shoulders. I know they’re capable of giving us creepy and terrifying creatures to fight, because pretty much every boss in this game is either incredibly fun or disgusting to look at. The overwhelming majority of the enemies you’ll encounter are well-designed, interesting monsters, but having so many great enemies only makes the bad ones stand out.

I don’t know if you know this, because I didn’t until I was a few hours into Leon’s story, but you can’t upgrade or even choose your own loadout. This means you’re stuck with whatever weapons Capcom thinks you need, and while I can sort of understand why this was done, since they want this to be more of a pick-up-and-play game, I still think it’s a fucking horrible move. By the end of the game I want to feel like I’m stronger, but since you can’t choose or upgrade your weapons, the only feeling of progression comes from the new weapons I collected along the way.

You can still get that warm feeling of being more badass than you were when you started, and that’s thanks to the skills you can unlock, upgrade, and equip to give your character up to three passive perks. Some steady your aim, others make you take less damage, then there are others that are a little more unusual, like the skill that effectively disables your A.I. companion, turning them into a mindless husk of a human being that cannot fight. These are fun, though in my opinion, I would’ve rather had them on top of the option of upgrading my arsenal.

I’ve saved the best for last, so let’s go ahead and dive into Leon’s story. For starters, let me just say that, even if everything I’ve already said sounds horrible to you, Leon’s scenario might still make this game worthwhile. The zombies are back, it’s darker (both visually and in its story), it’s far creepier, and the locations are infinitely more interesting. I’m especially fond of the segment that took place in a cemetery during a thunderstorm, as well as the creepy church after that, which could’ve been designed by the same architect who did the Spencer mansion.

It doesn’t take long to realize Capcom saved their more frightening creatures for this story. The Bloodshot looks like it’s been skinned alive, there’s a fat dude that makes the Boomer look like a Tommy Hilfiger model, the zombie dogs return, and so much more. I made the unwise decision of playing this scenario first — a decision that made the other two campaigns feel a little underwhelming, so I suggest using Jake and Chris as appetizers before you gorge yourself on this tasty campaign.

Had Resident Evil 6 shipped with only this campaign (and maybe Ada’s story and the Mercenaries/Agent Hunt mode, because I’m greedy) I would’ve been happy. The others are just filler — things to keep me busy when my friends are sick of playing Leon’s story — and trust me, I will make them play that scenario with me eighteen goddamned times, because that’s how good it is.

My only problem with it, and this extends beyond this particular campaign, but it’s at its worst here — is the boss near the end that returns seven times. Granted, he returns in a variety of flavors, and some of them are delicious, but at some point it goes from funny to frustrating. If I’ve beaten a boss down with a helicopter, hit them with a train, and struck them with lightning not once but twice, that thing should not keep getting up. At that point it should be ash blowing in the wind, but no, he keeps getting up. All three campaigns have this issue, but the others have bosses that return 2-3 times, and that’s acceptable. Seven times, however, is not.

Thought I was done? No way. I haven’t even mentioned Ada’s campaign, and while I didn’t love it as much as her Separate Ways story in Resident Evil 4, it’s still pretty good (plus, at one point you get to go through one of the more interesting bits of Leon’s campaign). Her crossbow rocks, and she still has some of the slickest fighting moves of the bunch, and if you’ve seen the moves these characters are packing, you know that’s saying something. You have to complete the three main scenarios to unlock her’s, but it’s worth it if only to get some answers for the bizarre things she does during the other three stories.

If you’ve played the Mercenaries mode in RE4 or RE5 then you know what to expect, because it hasn’t changed much. It really doesn’t need to, because it’s addicting and a great way to extend the life of the game beyond the 30 or so hours it takes to beat the four campaigns. The one major addition here comes in the form of hidden bosses. Watch out for those.

My favorite new mode is Agent Hunt, where you can join a game (or open your game to other players) as one of the enemies. It’s simple, but that’s the beauty of it. You join their game, try your best to ruin their day, and if you succeed you get a pat on the back, and if you fail you join another player’s game. It’s quick, since most matches won’t take more than 10-30 minutes, but it’s also crazy fun playing as some of the creepy creatures Capcom cooked up.

The problem with reviewing a game like Resident Evil 6 is if I tried to cover everything it has to offer I’d have enough content to fill half a dozen reviews. I havent’ even mentioned the short and sweet four-player co-op segments where your story briefly crosses another team’s. These moments are fun, even if I think they should’ve been dedicated exclusively to boss fights. Watching Leon, Helena, Sherry, and Jake team up to fight the Ustanak is incredibly fun, and unfortunately, the other crossovers pale in comparison. It’s still a great idea, and one I hope Capcom continues evolving with the inevitable Resident Evil 7.

Now I’d like to dedicate some time to a few minor issues that don’t really have a home anywhere else. First off, I’m sick of all the sickeningly sappy endings. Resident Evil 4, RE5, and now this game too, all have upbeat, happy endings. I won’t go into that any further, just prepare your eyes for more happy, gooey lovefests after you’re done curb-stomping zombies and J’avos for a few hours.

I’d also like to recommend a flashlight that I control, because Capcom has proven themselves incapable of doing it for me when I need them to. I’m also not a big fan of the blur that covers the screen behind your character when they take cover. It’s annoying, just remove it or make it less blurry. I’m pretty sure the BSAA requires vision tests when aspiring soldiers apply, so this shouldn’t be such an issue.

For every little problem I had with the game, there were many improvements that more than made up for them. Matchmaking has been simplified to make finding and joining games easier, you can switch to the classic aiming if you prefer to see your laser sight (I did this immediately), the locator makes finding your objective much easier (even if it is a little ugly), the improved combat is visceral and satisfying, and when you’re incapped, you aren’t necessarily forced to rely on your partner to save you. This might be my favorite tweak, because I like the “last stand” approach where you have a chance to fight your way back after you’ve been incapacitated. It’s incredibly satisfying when you get back up after something like that.

Resident Evil 6 might not revolutionize the genre, but it definitely reinvigorates the franchise in much like the fourth game did seven years ago. It can be a little goofy — okay, a lot goofy — but if you’re a fan of the RE fiction, this offers one of the more compelling stories so far. In short, this game does for the action horror genre what Skyrim did for RPGs. The bar has been set, and Capcom has once again proven they know exactly what they’re doing.

The Final Word: It has its flaws, but this is a damn fine horror game that will keep you entertained and afraid for a very long time.

This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Resident Evil 6, which was provided by the publisher.

Feel free to ever-so-gently toss Adam an email, or follow him on Twitter and Bloody Disgusting

  • wildgator25

    There are a lot of mixed reviews on this game, more ups and downs than any game I can remember of recent. I have the Archives edition pre-ordered and my only hope of saving grace if the game is bad is the fact that I get RE:CVX HD, RE4 HD, RE 5 with all DLC, and this game for $90, along with a few other notables. I do love me some Resident Evil though, so hopefully I can overlook the things that grate some people’s nerves.

    That being said, I was NOT a fan of Borderlands, and a lot of people made out like that game was the Holy Grail of Video Games. So here’s to RE6!

  • doomas10

    After reading this review I thought the game will have a 6-7 score. 2 underwhelming campaigns out of 4, not scary enough creatures – particularly the Javo, happy endings, ungly locator, no flashlight, problems with the seven time encounter boss and so on. However, I think you didn’t address the main point. Is it scary or like RE5?

    • Adam Dodd

      Chris’ campaign was the only one that didn’t sit well with me, and that’s mostly because it was largely the same as his last adventure. Jake’s, Leon’s, and Ada’s scenarios are all far more interesting. I’m usually all for happy endings (ZING!), but the fact that RE6 ends on a positive note doesn’t necessarily negatively affect my experience with it, I’d just like to see Capcom end on a dark note for once. Also, there is a flashlight, you just don’t control it, and a majority of the J’avo are very interesting, it’s just that a few mutations are a little ridiculous.

      As for your question — no, in my opinion, this is not a scary game. This is action horror that’s light on the former and heavy on the latter. It’s incredibly fun, and there are a few creepy moments during Leon’s campaign, but for the most part, this is only slightly scarier than RE5.

  • Taboo

    I’m not as excited for this as I thought I’d be. I guess I’ll be getting it mainly for Leon and Ada’s stories.

  • ThunderDragoon

    Awesome review, Adam. Now I’m even more excited to play the game.

  • Meshugganaut

    Adam, after reading this review, this is exactly what I was expecting. I’ve played the demo only, and the impression it gave me for the over-all game was pretty much what you’ve stated above.
    I’m an old school Resident Evil fan, but I’m all for progression too… I love Resident Evil 4. That game blew me away when I played it. It was something new, and more importantly I think personally, it had the atmosphere that reassured you that it was still, Resident Evil.
    But Resident Evil 5 done nothing for me! It looked fantastic, and played great as a game, but the absence of atmosphere killed it for me. I never got the impression that I was playing a Resident Evil game. Gone was the horror and in was the action. The co-op really put a downer on it for me also. I prefer the solitary role in a “horror” game. It never felt like it was adding to the game play as your partner was pretty much fucking useless and a bit distracting.
    It also had some really stupid scenes i.e Chris punching the gigantic boulder out of his way, and the end Boss battle felt like it was a left over idea that they ended up using.
    I like Leon and I’d like to play his campaign, but I don’t know if I would buy Resident Evil 6 just for that alone.!?

  • Dr.murder

    This game is horrible. There are no scares, no story, and nothing that even resembles what made these games great. Yes you can move and shoot. So that means that you’ll now be playing the flashy zombie version of Gears Of War. And whats up with Chris’s story. Please quit borrowing gameplay from COD. Enough bitching though. If you loved the first 5 games, that 1,2,3, Code Veronica, and 4, then you will hate this game. I love this series and I will not buy another game from them unless it wins game of the year and for the right reasons. Bought preordered version of 6 and Raccoon City and they both sucked. About 140 bucks worth of sucking. Score 6. Nice game. I wanted Resident Evil though.