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Resident Evil 6: Is It Really That Bad? | BACKLOG.TXT

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Is Resident Evil 6 Really THAT BAD?

Resident Evil 2 was one of my most cherished games from my childhood, full-stop. This was back before zombies became mainstream on TV, and before a film series kind of shit all over the Resident Evil name. 

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(You could say I was beyond excited when Capcom announced the remake in 2015.)

As a kid, I loved the messy combat, the B-movie camera angles, the haunting environments and atmospheric sound – even the jumpscares were pretty enjoyable. The stories told within Resident Evil 2 were filled with conspiracies, mad science, betrayals, and government cover-ups. I loved how playing each character revealed a little piece of the big picture, and the way RE2 allowed you to experience the same events from a different perspective was pretty revolutionary for the period.

Each time I played through, it seemed that there was something new. I would discover something I had overlooked before, or a challenge I had yet to complete. It was like re-reading a favorite book – new details would jump out at me each time the game was experienced.

Looking Backwards

The remake’s release date was announced back in June of 2018, so to get myself in the mood, I decided to jump into some of the prior entries in the series. Taking inventory of my library (yikes), I noticed I had never even booted up Resident Evil 6. So I asked myself: Is Resident Evil 6 really that bad?

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As of this writing, the game has a Metacritic score of 69 which is on the high side of average, but critic and user reviews were all over the place.

Reporting Port Issues

The PC version of Resident Evil 6 is an obvious console port.

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The game starts up with this calibration screen: “Adjust until the 6 is barely visible.” Well, even with brightness all the way down, I can see the 6 – clear as day.

The on-screen instructions don’t seem to be telling enough about what effect my actions will make, and require a bit of trial and error.  This screen is sort of a metaphor for Resident Evil 6 on the whole: a fairly fun game, with problems that require some guesswork. On the control side, gamers comfy with a mouse and keyboard are going to be pretty bummed about how clunky the keyboard/mouse support feels. Fortunately, my Xbox One controller worked just fine. 

On the graphics side, the port actually holds up. There’s a lot of settings to play with (including field of view), and that’s something you don’t see often in console ports from this era. From the beginning, players are treated to some impressive set pieces, and the urban areas in particular looked excellent. I was surprised to even see working mirrors in the school bathroom. The game runs well, and on the whole, the visuals capture the grimy Resident Evil style that fans have come to know and love. Still, some sections side a bit too much on the dark end of things, which can make it difficult to see what’s going on.

Sounds Spooky

The soundtrack, while not super memorable, is a mix of some fairly effective orchestral tracks and synth stuff. It serves its purpose of setting the action-movie tone. The sound design overall works well here – weapons are impactful, monsters are sufficiently scary sounding, and the voice acting performances were top notch. The writing seemed a little awkward and cliched at times, but this cheesy B-movie dialog style is a common thread throughout the whole franchise. If you were expecting Shakespeare, you won’t find it here, and if you hate the exposition style in the past games, Resident Evil 6 won’t change your mind.

The Meat of the Game

Resident Evil 6 opens with a Michael Bay wet dream: A vehicle explodes, and a city street full of zombies blazes with flames – all to the rhythm of a helicopter engine as firepower churns overhead. A prompt tells you to pick up the nearby beautiful unconscious woman and drag her to safety. Then, we get the big reveal of our dashing hero.

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Leon S. Kennedy returns for more punishment in another Resident Evil installment here, and his story serves as the main plot of Resident Evil 6.

While the game has four separate campaigns, the other stories all seem to sort of take a back seat to Leon’s tale. All four playable storylines overlap and crisscross each other, and playing each one through provides a little more insight into the overall plot.

Most of these campaigns can be played with a coop partner, which further spices things up, and I was pretty surprised to see people playing even today. You can also turn coop on or off at the beginning of each chapter, which is real nice if someone is lagging your game… or refuses to use push-to-talk.

After finishing a campaign, New Game Plus becomes available. There’s also some multiplayer modes, but RE6 is a seven year old game. Most of those are now deserted, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a feel for any of the other multiplayer modes besides coop.

Hunting for Agents, Nowhere to be Found

Agent Hunt also becomes available when you finish a campaign. This mode allows you to play as one of the monsters and try to find and kill the protagonists, which sounds awesome. I know the mode still works because my games got invaded by players a ton of times, but when I tried to get into Agent Hunt to play as a monster myself? No dice.

Even if you don’t have a friend to coop with, the companion AI is improved from what we saw in Resident Evil 5. You don’t need to babysit the AI player or mess around with their inventory, and they’re pretty good at pulling you back up if you hit zero health. You can even issue some simple commands to your partner, if you wish.

Bugs were a little more prevalent in the enemy AI – one particular boss would get stuck on walls and stairs. It also often feels like the bad guys take turns attacking you, as if the player’s in a Bruce Lee movie rather than surviving a Night of the Living Dead. The Bio-Organic Weapons you encounter can also take a lot of punishment, including multiple head shots, and the heroes are comparatively fragile.

That’s not to say that players are helpless. Far from it. Controlling Leon and the other leads in Resident Evil 6 feels much more tuned than the last few games. Each character plays a little bit differently. Arsenals, close combat moves, and even the user interface changes between campaigns – a nice little touch.

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What do you call this move?

There’s now some decent hand to hand moves that you can use to stagger and knockdown enemies, and even some environmental finishers. These range from brutal to ridiculous, but I kind of love that Leon can throw the meanest suplex this side of Monday Night Raw.

Hand to hand works fine for the most part, but since there’s no sort of lock-on system, it’s possible to miss what you’re flailing around at. The finisher prompts can also be a little picky, since they seem to require that you stand at a certain range. Still, these are both just minor annoyances – not major issues.

Running and Gunning

Gunplay also feels better – characters can move while firing, dive, slide, and sprint. Weapons all handle differently, and even the lowly handgun is pretty efficient at bashing the B.O.Ws. Switching between weapons and special items is done with a touch of the directional pad – easy, and effective.

The unrefined cover system feels out of place. When standing close to a wall. trying to aim can pop you into cover when you need to be shooting. Why does there even need to be a cover mechanic? This is supposed to be Resident Evil, not Gears of War!

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Solid Chris feels sort of out-of-place in RE6.

Well, it’s because half of the game has you fighting the J’avo: basically, mutated mercs with guns. The J’avo sections are pretty numerous, and during each one, Resident Evil 6 feels like a pretty average cover shooter.

Quick time events are everywhere – and I mean EVERYWHERE – in Resident Evil 6. This seemed to be a core complaint when the game was released. Normally QTEs don’t bother me too much, but I will admit that some that appear in RE6 are a bitch. I got handed more than one cheap death due to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it QTE that came out of nowhere. On the other hand, checkpoints are really liberal, and when playing on the lowest difficulty RE6 simply solves QTEs automatically, so I don’t see this as a game breaker.

The larger offenders were the boss battle QTEs. The game’s reliance on these in certain boss fights make it feel like you’re just along for the ride and not really defeating the boss yourself. It’s somewhat unsatisfying and removes the sense of player agency.

Tell Me a Tale

In general, everything in Resident Evil 6 seems to move at a faster pace – combat, exploration, quicktime events, and even the plot. There’s a big cast of characters: some good, some bad, some from previous games in the series, some newcomers. A lot happens in a short amount of time, and each campaign only gives you a hint to the overall plot. The game even tries to address this by having a spot in the main menu where you can watch all the unlocked cutscenes on a timeline. If you’re worried about the story making the most sense, the four campaigns are best experienced if you play them in order. Unfortunately, the best campaigns are at the beginning and the end, making the middle two campaigns seem like the center of a sloppy sandwich.

Leon S. Kennedy: The Return of the King

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Leon’s campaign was probably the most polished and enjoyable of the four, and felt like a continuation from his previous saga in the excellent Resident Evil 4.

The opening chapters have Leon S. Kennedy and series newcomer Helena Harper fighting their way out of a zombie infested city. Accused of killing the president, Leon and Helena uncover a plot involving viral experiments headed by a powerful National Security adviser, Derek Simmons, who works for the shadowy Neo-Umbrella organization.

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The face of evil in, uh, Resident Evil… 6.

Of course, the virus gets out of hand, so Leon and Helena chase Simmons to China and reveal his plan to spread the virus worldwide. With the intervention of super-spy Ada Wong, the agents confront a now-infected Simmons at the top of Quad Tower – the place where all his experiments began – in an attempt to save the human race and clear their names.

The story in Resident Evil 6 is convoluted, to put it lightly. There’s a lot to unpack in Leon’s campaign alone. The cutscenes and long dialogs are wrapped around some pretty cool gameplay sections, though.

Leon also drops some blazin’ verses.

Compared to most of the other Resident Evil games, exploration is limited, and the puzzles are juvenile – mostly “find the switch or key” kind of stuff. Sections like the Cathedral boss fight help make up for these shortcomings. During this battle, civilians run around while firing wildly and panicking before getting transformed into zombies by a weird gassy fat-berg. Those newly-minted zombies then continue to spray weapons fire into the crowd. It’s chaos, it’s fun, and if you manage to save some of the survivors… well, you can hear them grieve over the loved ones they just lost. 

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Yikes.

I was also a big fan of the plane section. The QTE at the end of this part is simply priceless. While the first few chapters of the game erase a lot of Leon’s previously established wit and charm, this is the point where his personality starts to show through once more. We do get a little insight into his feelings towards his haircut twin, Ada Wong, in a super off-key moment (ins footage from elevator), before Leon rides off into the sunset with his new friend, Helena.

Chris Redfield: The Ballad of Muscleman and Scarf Lad

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If the Leon campaign is the best Resident Evil 6 has to offer, the Chris campaign is probably the worst.

Get ready to pop on the combat boots of Chris Redfield, longtime series veteran and captain of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (that’s a mouthful). He’s 200 lbs of pure testosterone with biceps the size of Christmas hams. Together with his BSAA scarf model buddy Piers, he aims to stop a lethal virus attack from hitting the Chinese mainland.

Players can expect to grind through a fairly bland and humorless six hour cover-shooter campaign. Instead of zombies, Chris gets to fight the J’avo – virus junkie mercenaries with facefuls of eyeballs. For the most part, it feels like these enemies are just dudes with guns, but some of the J’avo can further transform into weird insectoid horrors.

Problems pop up early on, with the rest of your AI teammates getting in the way of doors – and firefights. The fussy cover mechanic rears its ugly head often, and there’s some sections where enemies can hit you out of a cutscene before you have any chance to retaliate. It’s not entirely bad: There’s some high points that occur in the Chinese tenements. One sequence, reminiscent of Predator, even brings back a new spin on an old enemy from Resident Evil 1. 

Still, Chris’s campaign has a lot that drags it down, including a lackluster turret sequence and a dumb as hell hostage scenario that has you shooting at hostages. The final boss is completely stupid looking. I won’t spoil it here, but imagine like… a couple of those sticky slap hands taped to a Halloween decoration.

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Here, we have an accurate representation of the final boss from the end of Chris’s campaign.

The final fight drags out to the point of being excruciating, and the ending leaves a lot to be desired. Overall, Chris’s campaign feels rushed, and it takes a backseat to the more interesting Leon story.

Jake Muller: Reluctant Edgelord Hero

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Jake Muller is a new face in the Resident Evil franchise, and on the quality scale, his campaign lies somewhere between Leon’s and Chris’s.Jake is a rather unlikable hard-boiled mercenary whose unit serves as a guinea pig for the C-Virus. He finds out by accident that his blood contains vital antibodies, so he teams up with an all-grown-up Sherry Birkin (from RE2) in order to stop the spread of J’avo and claim a healthy paycheck.

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Jake is written as an obnoxious edgelord, and adding Sherry’s squeaky girl-child voice to the mix makes the dialog fairly cringe-worthy. While a lot of the gameplay for Jake’s storyline was enjoyable, the action-spam cutscenes and flat conversations didn’t feel like much of a reward.

Jake’s campaign has a lot of the same cover-shooter feeling as Chris’s did, and even includes some of the same encounters, but there are some worthy attempts to change it up. Jake’s move set includes some advanced hand-to-hand take-downs, and he packs a revolver that would make the Joker envious. There’s a jailbreak section that forces you to rely on your fists, and even a rudimentary stealth sequence.

The highlight of Jake’s story is Ustanak: an invincible behemoth with a plug-and-play arm. The boss fights and chase sequences involving Ustanak are pretty fun, even if they rely a bit much on QTEs. Running from an unstoppable foe gives this campaign some hints of Claire Redfield’s battles with the Tyrant from Resident Evil 2.

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Plus, just look at this guy. Ustanak’s awesome.

Ada Wong: Globetrotting In Leather Pants

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Ada Wong’s campaign is the final of the four.

Ada, an elite super-spy for hire, is baited into investigating a mysterious assignment that has her name all over it. Only problem is, she never took the job. Ada’s campaign crisscrosses the other three stories as she pursues her impostor around the world, stepping in at key moments to help the other half-dozen protagonists. As far as quality and fun factor, I’d say Ada’s tale squeaks in right above Jake’s campaign and just below Leon’s. 

There’s a good balance of simple puzzle and action sequences in this campaign. The inclusion of all the other B.O.W.s from the rest of the game, and some new ones, provides better enemy variety. Making use of Ada’s spy toys feels pretty darn cool.

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There’s also a goodly amount of vent crawling, which I’m guessing can be attributed to some of the developer’s long lonely nights.

It’s kind of unfortunate that Ada’s campaign is the shortest of them all, clocking in at about 4 hours. Some of the boss fights are just repeats from Leon’s campaign, which gives a lot of sections a feeling of deja-vu. Still, Ada’s story does a pretty decent job of tying up loose ends while still keeping her air of mystery intact. Plus, there’s a level where you get to fight obese cellar dwellers as a tiny Asian girl – what could be better?

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Waifu! Husbando wants a hug.

Resident Evil 6: Undeserving of its Reputation?

Upon its completion, I found far less faults with Resident Evil 6 than I was expecting. On its own, this is still a somewhat-flawed-yet-fun action game, and I believe I can explain the backlash from fans and critics.

Since the release of Resident Evil 4, the series has gradually stepped away from its survival-horror and adventure roots. Level design in RE4, 5 and 6 was more of a straight path rather than the intricately-built puzzle boxes of the first games. Puzzles are nearly nonexistent, and the ones that appear are elementary. Ammunition is plentiful, making the games reward fight instead of flight. What we’re left with in RE6 is a (mostly) competent action romp that still  contains a ton of value. There’s a lot of game here, and action horror fans would still do well to pick this one up on sale.

Resident Evil 6’s design is the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak: it’s completely linear and leaned too hard into spectacle, taking much of what made up the soul of the series out of the formula. Fans finally had enough of the style over substance approach, forcing Capcom back to the drawing board for the next entry.

Fortunately, Capcom was wise enough to listen to fans with Resident Evil 7: a masterpiece that reclaimed the survival-horror throne.

Time will tell if Resident Evil 2’s promising remake holds up as well as the 1998 classic, and you can count me among the gamers that are itching to take the remake through its paces.


 

 

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