25
Nov
12

Resident Evil 6

I very much want to enjoy Resident Evil 6.  While the series has moved towards a more cinematic and action-oriented format, I had a lot of fun with Resident Evil 5 based on its cooperative game play elements.  It may have dispensed with much of its survival horror flavor, but I find science fiction and action elements that have replaced it to be agreeable enough.  That’s not the problem with 6 though.  No.  Capcom and Resident Evil have found themselves in a world that’s less receptive to the series’ traditional format.  It’s not the triple-A series of years past and Resident Evil 6 looks at the road ahead and resolves not to go down without a fight.  And it’s motto going into the game is “if you can’t beat ’em, join all of them.”

Verbs

Taken individually, the verbs in RE6 are a lot of fun.  I can pop off a quick shot at the nearest target, then make a mad dash across the level, kick a zombie in the face and then take the sledge hammer out of their hands and finish the job.  I can fling myself backwards and unload a magazine while on the ground.  I get to fly airplanes, drive motorcycles, and fire mini guns into a host of mutants as the world comes crumbling down around me.  What’s the problem then?  RE6 is trying to be so many games at once that these verbs don’t come together in any meaningful way.  It’s Gears of War, it’s Call of Duty, it’s Resident Evil, it’s Dark Souls, and a bunch of other games on top of trying to be blockbuster action movie packed with explosions, cute girls, and one-liners.  The designers were clearly given free reign to reinvent the series, and they were definitely inspired by the biggest games from the past 5 years.  But unlike Resident Evil 4, RE6 doesn’t reboot the series in a coherent fashion.  It feels more like Capcom is throwing every idea it can think of at the audience in the hopes of finding something that sticks.

Spaces

The player is thrown into the action immediately for each of the game’s three campaigns.  There’s been a bio-terror attack with global repercussions and you must take control of several of Resident Evil’s well known characters.  The game is frustratingly limited on specifics about who, what, and why things are happening.  This would not be a problem if the game weren’t driven so much by its story and attempts to create a cinematic experience.  At every turn, when characters ask perfectly reasonable questions, they will inevitably be shut down with some variation of “there’s no time” or “you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”  After so long, any plausibility for this response evaporates and all you’re left with are cheap excuses for the dog ate Capcom’s homework.  So what if the game is fun to play though, right?

The trouble is that the game is exhausting to play.  You will never be given a chance to stand back and absorb the experience, reflect on what’s happening, and contemplate what lies ahead of you.  You are always running, and not five minutes are allowed to go by before something explodes or otherwise tries to cajole you into continue.  There is novelty in splitting the game up into three campaigns with three different styles of play, but where, say, a cover system makes sense for Chris’ campaign, it only serves to complicate the controls for Leon’s campaign.  Capcom understood this, and as a result, there is no foundation to build on the game play and present new challenges.  All levels in each of the campaigns are a blur of gunfire, explosions and QTEs that really little more investment from the player than time to complete, but with no reward.

Impressions

Being that the challenges of RE6 are so unsubstantial, the chances for the player to make an impression on the game are pretty limited.  Your actions are choreographed to the game’s script, and the decisions you can make have little bearing on the experience.  After completing each level, you will have the opportunity to exchange collected experience points for perks, which you can have three equipped to your character at any given time.  This includes quicker reloads, more frequent item drops, or steadier aiming.  In the end, these are all things that would be useful if the game required players to actively formulate a strategy.  Instead it’s as though you’re given access to a debug menu and are told to tune the game to be less of a chore.  And yes, much of the game’s levels do feel like a chore.  It’s a chore to learn how to use the game mechanics when there’s not much to gain from it.  It’s a chore to fight the same bosses repeatedly in the same campaign, only to have to fight them again when playing the other campaigns.  It’s a pain trying to figure out how to respond to the game’s QTEs.  And it’s a pain to play the game three times over to figure out what’s going on in the first place.  There just isn’t much of the reason to replay the game or to master its systems.

As far as I’ve been able to find out, it sounds like RE6 has been selling well enough in the US and Japan.  I’m not entirely surprised by this.  If I had to make a wager, gamers are as excited about trying out new ideas with as venerable of a series as this.  While the final game doesn’t measure up in the end, Capcom and fans all seem to quite like the idea of RE6.  It’s definitely a series that struggling to find an identity in the modern gaming landscape, and any gamer goodwill being shown at this point won’t last indefinitely.

Note: For more information on the context that I use the terms “verbs”, “spaces”, and “impressions”, please see the post titled I’m going to take the fun out of games.

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