Opinion: I need to say so much more on Resident Evil 6

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I already wrote a fairly considerable amount of hate text on Resident Evil 6, but I feel compelled to add a little more to that screed. Of all of the games I’ve played — especially in recent times — I have to say that RE6 is unquestionably among the most disappointing. I have rarely seen a long-standing franchise drop the ball the way Capcom did with this game. And I’d like to explore exactly how and why this installment is only Resident Evil in name only.

I think how I’d like to explore this is by campaign. I’ll do more than just shit on the game, though; I’ll also discuss the few positive elements I did have with the game, especially with Leon and Jake’s sections (which I think were pretty good). Chris’ I will skip going over again, since I already tore into it in my earlier piece. At the end, I’ll discuss the overall issues the game had that plagued all of its sections.

re6-leonLeon

PROS – Leon as a character is arguably my favorite in the franchise. I loved him in RE2 and RE4, so his was the storyline I looked forward to the most. And, thankfully, I was pretty okay with his portrayal here (save some backhanded comments about women, but that’s been his vice over the series, so it’s not unexpected). Matthew Mercer did a good job taking on the role following Paul Mercier’s lead — the two sound pretty similar, and Mercer kept the stoic, sarcastic personality alive and well. In short, he was pretty much what I had anticipated.

His section was closest perhaps to the old-school RE games — an increased emphasis on ammo conservation and knowing when to run versus fighting impossible battles. His is the only chapter where you battle zombies, and the overwhelming swarms of the undead made encounters very tense. The combat was pretty fun here for the most part.

Lastly, the level design was perhaps at its best in Leon’s campaign. The chaotic cityscapes were the right size for the number of enemies, and generally speaking, it was rare that Grace and I got lost in Leon’s missions. One of us found the right way to go quickly enough in most cases.

CONS – The final boss fight with Simmons was way too fucking long. Which is an unfortunate theme in this game, because ALL OF THEM ARE. Leon’s at the very least did throw a lot of new forms at you, so his is the least egregious of the lot, but seeing Simmons roar back time and time again grew tiring…setting a bad precedent for Chris and Jake’s subsequent rehashes of the same idea.

Helena was a decent partner, and Laura Bailey does an admirable job with her, but the whole sequence with Deborah was terribly overwrought with dragged-out ignorance and stupid denial. Deborah was very clearly not human anymore when she got cocooned; when she emerged with a bunch of tentacles, perhaps one should abandon pretenses that she may recognize you anymore, hm? Alas, the game’s scriptwriters kept on keeping on with Helena’s desperate pleas to her infected sister throughout the encounter, despite plenty of evidence that she no longer was coherent about her sister’s appearance, voice or distress. It brought Helena’s arc to an abrupt and uncomfortable place, one that I felt she never really recovered from. At least she was the least sexualized of the three playable women in the game, sexy cop unlocks aside.

Capcom wanted to differentiate RE6’s zombies from earlier iterations, making them a bit more like 28 Days Later (but not enough to actually rip them off, which would have probably been better) with their increased unpredictability and sporadic spurts of speed. This was fine, but the decision to arm them with weapons — particularly guns — was not executed very well. Despite being brain dead, they seem to have pretty impeccable aim, and I felt this was dissonant.

The church’s puzzle segment was not immediately clear, so it curtailed our progression for a while while we stumbled around trying to find our solution.

Leon and Helena survive an improbably high amount of crashes. Like, an obscene number: they crawl away from a car, a bus, a plane, a helicopter, and a train. I mean, I didn’t go into this expecting realism (we are fighting zombies, after all), but Leon’s luck stat must be off the fucking graph.

OVERALL – Leon’s campaign was flawed and riddled with some poor story elements, but the gameplay engine was perhaps best optimized for this style of gameplay. The survival element was appropriately tuned with the action, making the hordes of corpses a dangerous threat. Ammo wasn’t all over the place, and the new melee options were a godsend. Some of the issues with the game as a whole soured this experience (and I’ll be hitting those soon), but it was certainly tolerable here. Second best, behind…

re6-jakeJake

PROS – Narrative-wise, Jake and Sherry had the best arc. Their relationship is surprisingly well constructed and believable. Out of all four storylines, it was the one I was most interested in — I actually wanted to know what happened with them. And I generally wasn’t disappointed!

In a game with a problem with recycling bosses over and over again, Capcom managed to stick it pretty well with Jake’s path. It was a big part of their campaign to have a “Nemesis” constantly show up and cause chaos, and it worked really well! It got silly by the end of the game having the creature emerge from a fucking LAVA PIT to continue chasing us down, but before that it was pretty all right. And Jake’s showdown with it and the big fucking punch that he lands that sends it right into that lava? That was SO satisfying, even as a cutscene!

The vehicle sections here were actually okay? And despite the two of us dying a bit, it was acceptable and we didn’t mind? I know, I’m as surprised as you are.

The challenge level seemed to thread the right balance here for us. Leon’s was a little hectic, and Chris’ was just a slog, but Jake and Sherry’s quest threw in enough variety (despite a few recycled locales) and the right amount of enemies in areas that actually embraced the gameplay changes Capcom made to make it a pleasurable piece of a frankly mostly unpleasurable game.

CONS – The second chapter’s first section was a little too vast for its own good. Grace and I got separated early on and never reconnected. It took me a long time to make my way back to the cabin, which isn’t a good thing, really.

Sherry had no practical reason to be in a fetishized medical gown in Chapter 3. That was straight up pandering, and fuck that noise…although I do appreciate that Capcom didn’t make Jake ogle her when they linked back up. And I’m just gonna ignore that disgusting “nod” to RE2 in Mercenaries…

The motorcycle bit in Chapter 4 was a little too Turbo Tunnel at points…especially the helicopter part. Oy.

OVERALL – If only the whole game was more like this! Jake’s campaign was easily the best overall chunk of the game, and while it still had some serious gameplay flaws and design problems, it was marginally better than Leon’s, and far more tolerable than the other two. I probably wouldn’t even be writing this if the game was more like Jake’s section.

re6-adaADA

PROS – …hrm. Um. Well…I like her outfit…?

CONS – I got to be honest: Ada’s campaign was such a hot mess I can’t think of any positives. First off, it was not designed to be co-op in a game that emphasizes co-op. And that’s just stupid. Grace’s “Agent” was effectively useless in progression — she couldn’t interact with anything but the enemies, items and ledges. If Ada used her hookshot, she was whisked right next to Ada, losing any sense of independence. It grew tiring having an ineffectual partner for both of us, especially when a puzzle showed itself and I was the only one who could do anything with it. I have no intention to play this by myself, so we just stopped after Chapter 2.

Why did Ada have to be naked in that nautical suit at the intro of Chapter 1? Oy.

Puzzles were not super clear. So it took a obscenely long time to figure out a solution. It killed any momentum the game built up.

Stealth is not integrated well, and the game tries to push it on you hard in Chapter 1 — never a good idea.

OVERALL – A waste.

To wrap up, let’s review some of the gameplay issues I touched upon in my earlier piece. RE6 tried to have four separate “styles” of gameplay split into four campaigns, but only two managed to adequately achieve those ends: Leon’s “survival horror” and Jake’s “Run for your life!” scenarios. That’s not to say that these were perfect; by all definitions, Leon and Jake’s sections were merely passable (Jake’s more so) than exceptional. But Chris’ “Military Cover Ops” and Ada’s “Stealthy + Puzzles” campaigns are abysmal. Absolute train wrecks. And here’s why all four suffered:

  1. Quick Time Events. Capcom doubled down on the QTEs after their great implementation in RE4 and the somewhat annoying level of frequency in RE5. They are everywhere here, and are constantly disrupting the flow of the game. There’s QTEs to start a car. Why? That’s impractical and a waste of time. There’s QTEs to climb up train cars and mountainsides. These are exhausting and frustrating. And there’s QTEs for so many other unnecessary situations that Grace and I were able to pinpoint their use in advance and grumble about it. If they could have contained it to RE4 levels, maybe it would be tolerable, but it was fucking obnoxious here.
  2. New mechanics that aren’t optimized. You can sprint around, slide, crawl on your back with your gun ready to shoot, utilize cover freely, perform melee attacks almost at will, and heal at the tap of a button. All of these new concepts could have revolutionized Resident Evil with some more forethought and care, but Capcom simply threw in most of these new forms of control with nary a care about how the player should use them. They’re there for you to tinker with on your own, but not a single one is the invigoration it was proposed to be. Sprinting and melee attacks drain a stamina meter — this is god fucking awful. I realize that the melee was perhaps crippled this way to prevent it from being abused; it’s powerful, for sure. But having your character suddenly tire out and lose the ability to defend themselves is not the trade off Capcom should have chosen. It makes the surprisingly engaging option to maneuver and get up close and personal a potential liability, and while that may fit in with the “survival horror” ideas the franchise was born from, it does not fit this individual game. The new cover options conversely make things more clunky. Being able to fire lying on the ground is novel, I suppose, but it’s disorienting because of the sudden camera shift, and aiming isn’t as intuitive thanks to additional obstacles to your vision. Ducking around walls and boxes and then poking out to shoot is too snappy for its own good — there’s no delay between being “safe” and then “open”, it just happens. To me, the button layout for cover wasn’t natural. It was more advantageous to me to just run out in the open like an idiot than try to be a clever camper. Which I think Chris’ campaign really pushed, which probably exacerbated my problems with it.
  3. Breaking away from gameplay for unwanted narrative. RE6 may be the worst offender of a game trying too hard to be a playable movie. The game constantly stripped control away from the player to show them something. And dear god it was fucking annoying.
  4. On that note, forcing the player to lose control and waste time. I can’t count the number of times RE6 triggered some sort of reason to cause the player to stumble or lurch through an unavoidable situation, stripping away their agency to move. The game seemed to get its kicks out of it! God damn, if being shown objectives and story threads over and over was tiring, then having the game trip you up on the way to those places was inanely narcissistic.
  5. Inventory management is better than RE5…but not as smooth as I would like it to be. For one, herbs were tweaked to be something you can pop in your mouth at a press of a button. Good change, but to do that, you have to set it up to work, and that requires some menu taps too many to perform. Switching grenade types also is a couple of steps excessive. And while it was cute to make each character have a unique HUD, it made using them a little more complicated than necessary.
  6. No pause menu to change controls? That’s bullshit, and this game throws enough garbage at you when you start up a checkpoint or mission that Grace got pissed off just trying to flip her Y-axis around.
  7. Questionable button assignments. Capcom extended the player options to interact with the environment a little much here, and it’s way too easy to not do the particular task you want to do in favor of something else you don’t want to do. The snake fight in Chris’ campaign highlighted this issue, and it kept creeping back up in the others.

To summarize, Resident Evil 6 failed to reinvent the wheel it desperately wanted to spin. Instead, it broke it off the franchise machine, crippling its progress and stifling its legacy. It perhaps tried to do too much, or didn’t have the time to grow. I don’t really know. All I do know is I’m mailing this shit to Game Grumps.

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