Review: Resident Evil 6

Many gamers cite Super Mario Bros. and other such 2D Nintendo classics as being their first taste of gaming. Many gamers look at the NES as the system that turned them into the core gamers they are today. Not me.

I didn’t really get sucked into the world of video games until the original PlayStation came around. The game that turned me into a gamer, my Super Mario Bros., was Resident Evil 2. Since then this survival horror classic has not only been my favorite game in the series and genre, but also of all time. Not anymore.

Taken by itself, Resident Evil 6‘s Leon scenario is now my new favorite Resident Evil experience. My new favorite video game experience of all time. I can’t say the same for Resident Evil 6 as a whole, but Leon’s scenario is truly special. Those 8 hours provided the most memorable gaming experience i’ve had all year, and it resulted in a scenario that has dethroned Resident Evil 2 for me. The best thing is, there’s three other full campaigns in the game to tackle. But Capcom could’ve really left it at just Leon’s and I would’ve been perfectly fine. But no, they decided to cater to both audiences that adore the series: the action lovers and the old-school fans. In the end, Resident Evil 6 is why I play video games.

The game’s plot, with its four full campaigns, can be best described as Tim Kring’s– unfortunately now dead– TV drama Heroes set in the Resident Evil universe. You won’t see any crazy super powers on display here, aside from Jake and Sherry’s abilities, but the entire narrative really feels like said TV show, with the main characters at different parts of the world all connected with one similar mission. And not unlike Heroes, that goal is to save the world. The C-Virus has been unleashed, and it seems like there really is No Hope Left. What’s more, the game’s prelude, starring Leon, is like one of the Heroes episodes where we get a glimpse at what’s to come in the not so distant future, albeit a little misleading.

The President of the United States is dead, the C-Virus is ready to be unleashed all over the world, and the key to stopping this virus is in the blood of Wesker’s son. Yup, things are going to get crazy. Leon’s game starts you off in Tall Oaks, where he has just put a bullet in the head of a zombified President. He and his partner, Agent Helena Harper, set off to a cathedral in Tall Oaks where Helena promises Leon he’ll get answers to what’s going on. Chris starts off in a bar somewhere in Eastern Europe where he’s seen drinking away his depression caused by losing his entire team to a bioterror attack six months prior. His B.S.A.A. partner, Piers Nivans, is able to talk some sense into him, making Chris return to being the hero he used to be. He sets off to China, where the C-Virus’s deadly creation the J’avo are wreaking havoc in the streets. Lastly, the son of Albert Wesker, Jake Muller, starts off in the Eastern European Republic of Edonia, where his fellow La Vita Nuova mercs have injected themselves with the C-Virus, which was promised by a mysterious woman to grant them enhancements. Jake doesn’t feel a thing, he’s immune to viruses like his father was. So in comes Sherry Birkin telling Jake that he’s the key to saving the world. And they set off to escape Edonia.

Each main character’s story is filled to the brim with memorable moments, with many stand-out scenes that will definitely get old-school fans cheering on. I shed many tears of joy during the game, especially when Chris and Leon’s paths finally cross. Since I was a little kid, I’ve always dreamt of a Resident Evil game which stars both Chris and Leon, and now that wish has been granted. It’s amazing seeing the two of them interact with one another, and it’s also equally as epic to see the “Raccoon City Reunion” between Leon and Sherry. Going back to the Heroes comparison, each of the four campaigns end up intertwining and bringing everyone together in China. It may be confusing at times, but Resident Evil 6’s plot is definitely a huge step up from the series’ past installments, and it lives true to Capcom’s promise of “dramatic horror.” And for those left with questions after viewing each of the initial three campaigns’ endings and epilogues, you’ll have Ada’s scenario unlocked, which serves to tie everything together.

With the release of Resident Evil 4, the series’ gameplay mechanics were completely changed, bringing forth an evolution for the series that inspired and let to the emergence of many third person shooters we have today (namely Gears of War). Now, with Resident Evil 6, it’s time to change things once again. Though it’s not really as drastic this time. Capcom could’ve just opted to stick with the controls already established in Resident Evils 4 and 5, but they instead decided to add mechanics many gamers demanded from the series moving forth. Yes, of course I’m referring to moving and shooting simultaneously. There are other mechanics new to the series as well, but they do they all work? Well, aside from the useless cover mechanic, yes, yes they do.

Moving and shooting at the same time feels very good, and after telling myself that I would still choose to stop and fire my shots, I always found myself using this new mechanic, thanks in large part to the game’s enemies which are relentless and ensure that you won’t be standing around in one spot for too long. This is then complemented by other such additions like being able to roll to evade attacks and the super fun act of Mega Man sliding (this is how I now break all the boxes in the game!). Besides being able to play footsies with your co-op partner (good times), rolling and moving on your back adds another layer to the game’s sense of tension. It gets quite hectic when you’re on the ground and still have a horde of zombies or J’avo to take care of, this gets amplified when you’re nearing death and you’re still able to shoot on your back.

Melee plays a huge role in Resident Evil 6, and trust me, you will have to use it even if you’re not too fond of its role in the series. You will, thankfully, find yourself running out of ammunition and health supplies throughout all four campaigns. Using melee efficiently is key to survival, especially as you bump up the difficulty. And it’s quite satisfying to pull off each character’s melee attacks to begin with. I always loved Leon’s brutal suplex from Resident Evil 4, but now that move has been topped by his ability to perform a running bulldog wrestling move on zombies. Beautiful. Countering also works extremely well and feels very satisfying to pull off. At many points during combat situations I would just wait for a zombie (or J’avo) to perform the first attack, then I would quickly counter with the press of the right trigger (on the Xbox 360). It’s a beautiful sight, especially when attacking enemies have melee weapons like axes in their hands. And like stated previously, the game’s cover mechanics are quite useless and I really didn’t utilize it whatsoever, even in Chris’s action-heavy campaign. You’re also able to purchase new skills and abilities by way of skill points that are dropped by enemies or found in boxes. These update anything from firearm damage to melee attacks and defensive enhancements. Honestly, I’m playing the game without any of these skills equipped, but it’s nice to know they’re there.

There has been much discussion amongst those who played the game’s demo(s) in regards to the camera system. Many feel it’s too close, even after being fixed a bit with the free public demo. Some rather it be pulled back more to make it more akin to Resident Evils 4 and 5’s perspectives. Me? I never had any issue whatsoever with the camera in the game. But I acknowledge that many people do and have been quite vocal about their issues with it. I don’t really feel the characters, when in the over-the-shoulder aiming view, take up too much space on-screen. I find it to be just fine, but again, that’s just how I feel about it. You can also freely move the camera around your character to get a better look at your surroundings while exploring.

Other issues many have been vocal about have to do with the game’s objective marker. I, too ,wasn’t too fond of this when it was first shown off. However, when it was revealed that you would be able to turn this feature off, I was happy. There really is a good amount of customization here, and while you can’t really change the camera, you could change what’s actually on-screen. By default, you start off with an aiming reticule similar to Operation Raccoon City’s. Not a fan of this? Well, you can switch back to Resident Evil 4 and 5’s already beloved laser sight aiming. You can even change the color of said laser. Each character has their own unique ammo/health counter on their HUD, which is really neat, and this too can be changed to either side of the screen or removed completely. I wouldn’t recommend removing it, though, since there will be times you’ll be near death and you won’t know it since you can’t see your health counter. One thing you can’t change is the ability to press a button (the left bumper on Xbox) to bring up an arrow indicating where you have to go, which is similar to Dead Space but not as precise. But you can just avoid pressing that button altogether.

I just have to talk about the game’s new aiming system and how it feels different from previous games in the series. Again, this is something players have had issues with, due to not being able to pull off precise shots. But that’s just it. I absolutely love how aiming in the game feels more realistic and unstable, making it harder to pull off those perfect shots 100% of the time. You actually have to put in more effort when aiming to get those head shots, which are as gory and satisfying as ever. The game also has a stamina system in place, which ensures that you won’t be spamming melee attacks left and right without pause. Healing also works a bit differently. You still have first aid sprays, but now green and red herbs combine to form tablets which can then be used with the tap of a button to heal you. It’s simple, after getting accustomed to the game’s new menu layout, which was a bit confusing to me at first. Switching weapons is just as easy as healing, and pressing the d-pad will allow you to quickly cycle through your firearms and explosives. To sum up the game’s updated gameplay system, it’s going to be hard for me to go back to Resident Evil 4 and 5 at this point.

With four full scenarios, I would be a fool to not spend a little time going over each and the different gameplay styles they offer. So let’s start off with the shining jewel in the game that would make the Merchant explode with pleasure: Leon’s scenario. Capcom has listened to the fans, and with Leon’s scenario they’ve given us a trip down memory lane, resulting in the return of horror, to a certain extent. You won’t be terrified throughout the entirety of Leon’s scenario, but there are a good amount of moments where you will be faced with pop out scares. Not only that, but things do get pretty creepy as you’re venturing through Tall Oaks’ Ivy University and underground areas. And you really feel like you’re in a zombie outbreak once you make it out to the streets of Tall Oaks and ultimately China. The team behind Leon’s scenario must really be commended for that, you really do feel like there is no hope left.

Leon’s partner Helena also proves to be a solid addition to the series’ cast of heroes. I initially thought I wouldn’t like her, but it turned out to be the complete opposite. What’s more, she ends up donning an outfit that somewhat resembles the one Claire wears during Resident Evil 2 once she and Leon get to China. Leon also wears his classic RE2 colors during this part of the game, making for a superb aesthetic throwback to that survival horror classic. But the throwbacks don’t end there. Leon’s scenario truly feels like a perfect combination of Resident Evils 2, 3 and 4. Tall Oaks is basically the new Raccoon City here, and you’ll explore its zombie-filled streets and a good selection of locales in the city. Extremely atmospheric and very eerie, you’ll definitely feel the tension rapidly increasing as you make your way through town, trying to find out what exactly is going on and what’s behind it. Puzzles are also included, but they’re kept at a minimum and are fairly basic. Still, it’s nice to see these old school elements come back in the series’ modern form. QTE’s are also present here, as they heavily are throughout the entire game, but they’re used in appropriate moments that are already quite intense to begin with.

The main enemies you’ll be fighting with Leon are zombies. Yes, zombies have finally returned to a main entry in the series. They’re not exactly how you remember them, though. Now they can jump at you and actually wield melee weapons like axes. There’s also a variety of zombie types like a standing-Licker/ Crimson Head hybrid that is extremely dangerous and quite creepy to confront. Another notable zombie type is the shrieker. These zombies…shriek to call for reinforcements so to speak. You don’t want to be in aural range of their screams either, because it will stun you for a moment. I also love how there are B.S.A.A. zombies roaming around, with them having no control over their guns aim. The bosses here are also truly memorable, especially the epic final boss battle. Leon’s final boss definitely has to be the most epic in the series to date, and to me, it was quite creepy since I’m not a fan of the certain creature involved in its final form. In the end, Leon’s scenario is the most traditional out of the four, and it’s also the best and warrants a perfect score had it been the only scenario in the game. For me, this scenario has dethroned Leon’s from Resident Evil 2.

Now we have Chris’s scenario. I must say, I wasn’t too thrilled with it during its first couple of chapters. His flashback segment in Edonia is noteworthy for having a superb boss battle and an area that will definitely bring back memories of the mansion from the original game. However, the way his scenario actually begins is quite bland and didn’t really engage me like Leon’s scenario did. The story here is what kept me going, I really wanted to see what would happen to the Arklay Mansion survivor and if he could return to being the man, the hero, he used to be. His partner, Piers Nivans, also has a huge role in trying to get Chris back to how he used to be. And in the process Piers ends up being a very solid character. Sadly, the gameplay that went along with the beginning of  this scenario just wasn’t all that special. But boy oh boy did it pick up in its last half.

Things get crazy, and the action totally ramps up as Chris’s scenario progresses to its jaw-dropping final moments. Yes, the word we all love, “action.” This boost in action is brought about thanks to the game’s new B.O.W.s known as the J’avo. These enemies are able to regenerate mutilated limbs, resulting in some pretty grotesque and awesome mutations. One enemy’s lower body can explode,revealing a moth-like body with the human body hanging upside down. Other enemies can re-grow their arms and appear like the Bandersnatches from CODE: Veronica. The mutations are awesome and fighting the J’avo always kept me attentive to my whole surrounding. But still, I didn’t find any use for the cover mechanics, even in Chris’s action-heavy combat situations.

If there’s one thing I’ll remember from Chris’s scenario it’s definitely its final half and the overall story. The final moments leading up to the final boss battle are extraordinarily intense and Capcom ends Chris’s story in a way that leaves quite an impact. I’ll leave it at that! Chris does have a good amount of standout moments peppered throughout his scenario, with a fight against Yawn’s longlost brother being amongst them. This boss battle will have you at the edge of your seat as you’re trying to track down and kill the invisible snake. Chris also has a pretty creepy segment, too, which is a brilliant callback to Revelations. And even thought the action is at a high, you’ll still have to watch your ammo and wisely utilize melee moves. It’s also in Chris’s scenario where all the new gameplay mechanics are put to good use since the J’avo are quite relentless and require you to quickly evade their attacks at times, especially when you’re faced with a horde of them. And as you can imagine, we also have vehicle segments here. There’s one where you’re actually piloting an aircraft in quite a setpiece moment. I know what you’re thinking, but taking Chris’s time in the US Air Force into consideration, this was quite an epic segment to play. In the end, Chris’s scenario here was definitely a better experience than Resident Evil 5 for me. And its ending is one of the best and most impactful in the series’ history.

The third scenario belongs to none other than Albert Wesker’s son, Jake Muller. He’s joined by the return of Sherry Birkin, who’s now a US government agent. FINALLY, SHERRY’S BACK! Jake’s story was also well told, and I loved seeing his relationship with Sherry grow from the beginning until the credits rolled. This scenario also serves as the most experimental out of all the scenarios, with Capcom mixing both the horror aspects from Leon’s scenario with action-packed set-piece moments like those found in Chris’s. The horror here comes in the form of the Ustanak.

The Ustanak is definitely a memorable B.O.W. and serves as a Nemesis successor of sorts. Just like Nemmy in Resident Evil 3, the Ustanak is hot on your tail throughout Jake’s scenario, with an epic chase sequence in the beginning followed by some truly memorable encounters with the monster throughout the scenario. I still say Nemmy is the better monster, but the Ustanak will definitely be remembered for the threat he poses to Jake and Sherry. The guy just doesn’t give up! There’s also a neat crossover segment where Jake’s scenario *wait for it* crosses over with Leon’s, resulting in one of the best boss fights in the game against the Ustanak. As far as regular enemies go, Jake goes up against the J’avo and their crazy mutations. But it’s how he handles them in combat which makes him and his scenario stand out from the others.

Jake is just like his daddy in that he’s immune to viruses, so being infected only results in enhancements of his psychical abilities. Basically, Jake is one hell of a skilled hand-to-hand fighter, he would definitely make his daddy proud if he was still around. Using his close-quarters combat moves proves to be extremely fun and satisfying. I wouldn’t recommend using hand-to-hand combat in a room full of gun-wielding J’avos, but against a group of melee-weapon wielding ones, the results are a sight to behold. It’s not as stylish as Dante’s flashy moves in Devil May Cry, but Jake’s moves are still a joy to pull off and watch. Aside form this new layer of gameplay (don’t worry, he can use guns, too), Jake’s scenario also has vehicle segments which prove to be very action-packed, which isn’t exactly something RE fans love. But it’s fun and the standout vehicle segment definitely has to be the  motorcycle portion in China. While leaning more towards action, despite its Resident Evil 3 vibe with the Ustanak, Jake’s scenario is still another great experience and one that ends with one of my favorite boss battles in the series’ history.

Lastly we have Ada’s scenario. This is the campaign that will answer any questions still lingering in players’ minds after clearing the initial three scenarios. Does it do a good job in doing that? Yes, yes it does. Just like the way she works, Ada’s scenario is a behind-the-scenes look at what’s going on during the other three scenarios. It’s awesome seeing Ada trying to uncover the conspiracy going on in the main story as she works along and at the same time even affecting other characters’ scenarios. Yup, Ada is all one her lonesome here, save for a couple of cross over segments. But does that make for a scarier experience here? Well, not exactly.

I must say, this scenario’s gameplay videos and screens were a tad bit misleading. They made it seem like Ada’s game would be chock full of puzzles and other more classic Resident Evil elements. That didn’t end up being the case. Yes, there are some puzzles to solve, but not as many as I would have liked to see. Not to say that’s a bad thing, though. Ada’s scenario is still enjoyable throughout its whole duration, and even has some new areas to explore. I even found myself being stuck in one portion, involving environmental puzzles. Yeah, stuck in a modern Resident Evil game! The solution wasn’t even all that hard, I just had trouble with it for some reason. But it was nice to be stumped in a Resident Evil game again.

Ada’s scenario also plays host to a good amount of action-packed moments, with one of the most memorable ones having you escape a submarine as it’s being flooded. Another standout moment is right in the beginning, where you’re encouraged to use stealth to take out gun-wielding enemies. It felt a bit like playing as Catwoman in Arkham City, which I absolutely loved. In this scenario you’ll also face off against both of the game’s enemy types: zombies and the J’avo. You also go up against quite a menacing B.O.W. which is also fought in another scenario. She also has vehicle segments, and I found myself enjoying them quite a lot, especially one late in her game. Her bowgun is also a blast to use and you can even switch to explosive bows. So while I was expecting the entirety of her scenario to be a homage to classic Resident Evil, I still enjoyed the hell out of this unlockable. You basically think of it as Separate Ways 2.

All of Resident Evil 6’s four campaigns are wrapped with an outstanding presentation, graphically and aurally. Sure it’s not really that big of a leap from Resident Evil 5 in terms of visuals, but it still looks extremely good. Every area you explore is fully realized and there wasn’t anything dull at all about the environments in every campaign. There are a handful of standout levels, like Ivy University and areas I won’t talk about because they come late in each scenario, but you truly will remember all the places you’ll visit in the game. The creature design is also outstanding, with enemies looking extremely grotesque and downright disturbing at times. The zombies are all nicely designed and I didn’t really feel like I kept fighting the same ones over and over, which is a very good thing (B.S.A.A. zombies FTW!). And I’ve already said enough about how much I love the J’avo and their different mutations. Disgustingly beautiful stuff right there.

The music is equally as impressive. And I believe this game may have the best soundtrack in the series to date. It definitely is the biggest, with each scenario offering its own distinct musical style. Leon’s game, being more dark and atmospheric, has the music to suit that, with suspenseful tunes that at times reminded me of the old Resident Evil games. Hell, there’s even a classic tune from Resident Evil 2 towards the end of his scenario, which comes at the perfect time, but I won’t say anymore regarding that! And hearing zombies in the distance is always quite creepy. Chris’s scenario has more action-movie type music, as is to be expected. It’s not bad whatsoever, and it suits his action-packed scenario perfectly. Jake’s scenario has more upbeat tracks, and I instantly fell in love with the song that plays during his credits as the lyrics aptly tie in with his scenario’s ending. Lastly, Ada’s music has that slight jazzy feel we’ve come to expect, and she also has upbeat spy-movie type tracks throughout her scenario.

Yeah, the visuals could’ve been vastly superior to Resident Evil 5 , but they’re just fine to me. It’s true that with every big main numbered Resident Evil game that releases on home consoles, the series’ visuals are pushed to the next level. That’s not really the case with Resident Evil 6, but I don’t think that’s a problem at all. Character models look great, the creatures look awesome and as aforementioned, all the environments feel like they were once filled with life, now only filled with death. And I really appreciate the ability to remove the HUD altogether. Doing so definitely enhances the overall atmosphere, immersing players even more.

When all was said and done, I clocked in about 24 hours into the whole game. Each scenario will take you around 5-8 hours depending on how many times you die or how much time you devote to exploring everything (which mostly applies to Leon’s scenario). Leon’s scenario is actually the longest, coming in at almost 8 hours. Rightfully so, too, since his scenario is the absolute highlight of the game. Co-op is once again a strong focus, and you can choose to play with a buddy either online or offline in split screen. There’s even 4 player co-op, but that’s restricted to crossover segments throughout each campaign, where one character’s game intersects with another. With one example being an epic boss battle with Leon, Helena, Jake and Sherry going up against the Ustanak. But it’s not over once you clear every scenario by yourself or with a buddy and see all the endings and epilogues…Not over at all

Resident Evil 6 sees the return of the series’ now staple Mercenaries mode. And it’s as addicting as ever. I wasn’t able to spend too much time playing co-op, since I received an early review copy, but I still found myself sinking a good amount of time into this mode on my lonesome. With the bigger emphasis on melee moves, that’s pretty much what I found myself doing most of the time here. Shoot an enemy a couple of times and then finish them off with a melee attack. Or better yet, countering! Countering enemies swinging axes, or other such weapons, never gets old. Resident Evil 6 also introduces a new mode to the series: Agent Hunt. This new mode allows players to join other plays games and take on the role of on the enemies. So let’s you’re playing through Leon’s scenario, going up against hordes of zombies. Another player can join during certain segments of the scenario and take on the role of one of the zombies. Controlling an enemy, like a zombie or dog, feels a bit weird at first, but this mode is quite fun once you get a hang of it. Hell, who doesn’t want to mess with other people trying to beat the game! To unlock this mode you will have to clear one of the scenarios though.

The game also has a great amount of replay value with its scenarios alone. I’m definitely going to replay the hell out of Leon’s campaign, and I already cleared it for the second time (in Veteran mode) as of this writing. You can go for better rankings for each of the scenario’s five chapters, go for each of the Serpent Emblems scattered around (the blue emblems from Resident Evil 4) trying to unlock every last file, and, of course, you can set your sights on beating the entire game one very difficulty mode. This is definitely a highly replayable experience, and one I see myself coming back to time and time again, specifically Leon’s scenario. The game’s new free online service, Resident Evil.Net, also servers to elongate the game’s life. With this site you’ll be able to keep track of events and overall stats from your own game to compare with others around the world. Capcom promises there will be many events, with a championship belt being granted to the winner, who will then have to compete in future events to retain the gold. It’s a neat addition that definitely adds more value to the overall package.

Resident Evil 6 was quite tricky for me to score. I wanted to give it a perfect score just because of Leon’s scenario alone, but I don’t think doing so would’ve been wise. Yes, Leon’s scenario is now my all-time favorite Resident Evil experience, but it’s just one part of the whole game. A game which is comprised of four full campaigns. Had all the other campaigns been as good as Leon’s then it would’ve been a different story. However, don’t get me wrong: Chris, Jake and Ada’s scenarios are each superb components of the game, but they could’ve been better.

While as a whole it’s not perfect, Resident Evil 6 is still an amazing game and one of the best entries in the series, with moments that truly are some of the finest in the series to date. It pushes the series forward in terms of storytelling and gameplay mechanics and offers a whole lot of game time for your money with four full campaigns and a multiplayer suite that will grow with future DLC modes. I would love to see a return to true survival horror in the future, I really would. But I truly believe Capcom should go with the template they already have with Leon’s scenario in this game and go from there. It still has action, but it also manages to retain elements from the series’ past, resulting in the perfect marriage between the series’ old and new style.

I always say this, but it bears repeating:  Anything Leon stars in is pure gold. This is no exception.

9/ 10

               
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