Resident Evil 6 (XBOX 360)
In every long running game franchise there are moments that we can look back on as not meeting the quality required. For Resident Evil the game was very much in need of a reboot and it got that a few years ago by moving to a more action related gameplay style and away from survival horror. Clearly such a shift wouldn't please the hardcore fans of the game but it is fair to say that Capcom did succeed in making the jump and "4" was one of the better games in the series, and one of the best titles ever released on Gamecube.
Despite being the sixth main Resident Evil game, 4 was actually well into double figures for total RE games and since then the trend for releases not following the same storyline has continued with around 7 other titles released between 4, 5 and today. Operation Racoon City was the most recent and took the game to true squad based gameplay as seen in titles such as SOCOM.
Operation Raccoon City had one of the hardest tasks of the entire series, again making that genre leap while having to try and match some well established games in the squad marketplace and it wasn't entirely successful. While the core gameplay was ok in a turn our brain off sort of way, some of the missions (especially the first) were dire and it could well have benefitted from more time in development to polish of some glitches and enhance AI.
Bringing the franchise back to its main storyline Capcom are ready to release Resident Evil 6, another third person action/horror based game. With multiple campaigns, co-op and challenge modes there is plenty on offer here, but is the quality there?
In previous Resident Evil games, and in fact in the vast majority of games of this type, we tend to play through a set campaign. Sometimes our character might be joined by a NPC, other times we could jump from confrontation to confrontation maybe switching soldier as we go. Resident Evil 6 however immediately sets out to separate itself from that.
Following a short prologue based around the characters of Leon S. Kennedy and Helena Harper we are given the chance to continue on as them or take the choice of two additional campaigns (with more unlocked later). Each of the campaigns follows a similar timeframe and they are designed to complement each other however all play differently from the next... and this even goes down to the HUD provided on each.
Controls tend to be the same however enemies are varied from campaign to campaign and the style of play changes too with Chris Redfield (campaign 2) much more of the standard super soldier and Jake Muller (of the 3rd Campaign) is a more nimble, faster character who could well have been a gymnast in a previous life. Complete all three and Ada Wong unlocks, single player only, to enhance the story further and fill in some of the plot points which may not have been immediately obvious in the other campaigns.
Ada's campaign is the only single player only portion of the game with the others able to play online/offline. With the crossover story this becomes important as we can play through key points in the game with other players around the world.
In addition to the usual set of achievements we can also play through modes such as Mercenaries which see's us take on hordes of monsters against the clock attempting to complete the level and achieve goals such as hit streaks, total kills and the like.
As if that wasn't enough Agent Hunt mode allows the player to take on the role of an enemy after completing the campaign. We can then try to kill other players agent after some online matchmaking with the game balanced to make things a little more interesting. We can for example respawn numerous times however the agent has more health and gameplay is as fluid as possible. Should we win, the game "ends" as normal for the agent player, should we exit the game their play is unaffected and continues with AI opponents until the next challenge.
Capcom have also enhanced the gameplay with some more advanced health options such as the ability to turn herbs into tablets (sprays remain too) and we have skill points to purchase additional power ups with. Some are available from the outset and others through completing tasks like killing 800 enemies with grenades.
Finally there is ResidentEvil.net an online service which will allow us to view our game stats as well as those of other players. Community events will also take place allowing us to win in-game prizes.
Graphics and Audio
When designing Resident Evil 6 it is clear that Capcom wanted a dark game, this is zombies after all. Leon's campaign is the darkest of the three with some areas almost impossible to see in which does raise the tension a little. Jake and Chris on the other hand have brighter environments to deal with in eastern Europe and at the bright lights of a Hong Kong styled city.
Offering low light gameplay allows Capcom to throw in loads of lighting effects and for the most part they look great... also having the benefit of hiding lower res textures which would have otherwise been noticeable.
The scope of the environments is also very evident with the game played out over large areas with the two main cities offering particularly impressive scope, especially when up at rooftop level.
Capcom also manage to throw in a number of scripted cutscenes which add a cinematic feel to the game and for the most part they are well delivered visually and by the cast. That said, some of the in-gameplay dialogue is beyond cheesy and plays very much on action stereotypes.
In Europe a second disc is supplied with the game allowing consumers to install alternate language packs such as Spanish, French, Italian and German.
As we noted earlier in the review Resident Evil 6 looks to set itself apart from many other games in the action genre... and in fact it often looks to set itself apart from, well... itself. Each of the campaigns plays differently, and each feels different too. Leon's for example has a more personal, small feel to it while Chris offers a larger scale gameplay style which initially starts with some real squad based combat. We also liked the large variation in enemies between each mode. By simply moving from mission one in each campaign to the next we get hugely different monsters to fight, all with differing speed, skills and personalities. And that is before we even consider modes such as Agent Hunt and Mercenaries with the former completely changing the way we have to approach situations and the later pushing us to all out attack, rather than a measured approach.
At their core the three modes do have a similar control method as a base though and added to the more RE4 like gameplay we can now move and shoot with ease, dive around and melee attack. Melee is one of the more interesting aspects as it opens up some head stomping deaths as well as the ability to break into crates for ammo, skill points, etc. Added to this are key action points which tie the standard gameplay and cutscenes together. Generally being based on timed button presses these see us being able to move into vehicle use and tests of skill which we must pass to continue the story.
With such a massive scope and many gameplay mechanic tweaks since the last Resident Evil it comes as no surprise that there are a few rough edges in here. We would for example have loved Capcom to build in a much more flexible save system for example as should we exit one campaign mid level/mission and move to another our progress is lost for the level we just exited... it doesn't seem hard to have 3-4 different parts to a save file which allows more detailed game progress info. In areas the game is also too dark, often meaning environments can get confusing (and not in a way that is meant) with the left shoulder button to point us in the right direction very much feeling like it is a gameplay mechanic put in paper over a problem. Additionally there are some dialogue issues where characters tend to contradict the cutscenes or scores not quite matching the gameplay. Leon's campaign score works well, Chris's not so much and the music for the Mercenaries mode is just completely out of place.
Other than the game suffering a little from being clunky in terms of having to press A/B to execute actions like jump when we are mid run, or some rather annoying sections where it isn't quite apparent how to avoid some enemies Resident Evil flows well though. This game in the franchise plays more like an action game than ever before and it is clear that the developers have picked little aspects of games they like, dropping them in where it might enhance this one which makes for a satisfying experience.
One of its biggest successes though is that it doesn't really force anything on the player... don't want to play online, fine. All the relevant modes work offline too. Want to play with unlimited ammo, no problems, its in the options. This is a wise choice considering everything Capcom have tried to include; clearly they were concerned that not every aspect would be to everyones taste.
Capcom are keen to point out that Resident Evil 6 should offer well over 40 hours of content for gamers, well in excess of the current standard for action games. But which campaign did we prefer? Overall it would have to be Leon's campaign, it fell the most balanced of the three with the Chris levels being too action oriented for our tastes (with the most average enemies)and Jake... well his were fun but also quite a bit OTT and in some areas very much for fans of pain. Those who love extreme difficulty will find a nice home here, filled by massive, tough NPCs.
There is no doubt that Resident Evil 6 with its attempt to throw just about every gameplay aspect possible into the mix won't appeal to everyone. To many it will be a little too wide reaching, others a little too full of timed button presses rather than finger on the trigger action (or vice versa) but the key aspect here is a good story which ties together the majority of the gameplay well, making us play on through the three enjoyable, action packed campaigns (and then some).
Overall, one of the best Resident Evil games to date.