Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Review: Resident Evil 6 (360)

The glacial pace that the Resident Evil franchise is moving away from its roots in survival horror to "action game with zombies" is happening too slowly. Resident Evil 4 was a marked departure from the fixed camera of the first trio of games (quadro if you count RE: Ø) but it still suffered from tank-like controls, even if the game was heaped with praise during it's glory days.

Resident Evil 5 started the melt toward Gears of War's 3rd person action; Resident Evil 6 nudges it a little further. But what the franchise needs is a rapid warming to move one direction because it feels like the developers are trying to straddle too many horses at once with Resident Evil 6.

At its most basic, Resident Evil needs to decide if it's going to go all-out action like Max Payne or step back into the realm of low bullet counts and dark, moody hallways where every window offers macabre potential as a delivery system end-point for skinless dogs.

Maybe a designer can find a way, but those two ends of the spectrum are quite separate and because both sides are paid lip service -- Hey, here are some herbs! And doors that open slowly! And doors that open after an unlikely unlock sequence! in contrast to Hey, here's a swarm of enemies! Good luck! -- it's difficult to believe that fans of either will be satisfied.

This is the part of the review where a recommendation is made: Play the game on Amateur. Ammo is more plentiful and enemies seem to drop faster than the other difficulty settings. (Plus, you'll see far fewer quicktime event escapes as zombies can be gunned down before they can grab you.) It makes up for the fact that the aiming is still slow and deliberate -- painfully slow in some areas -- even if all the characters can walk and shoot at the same time, sometimes while lying flat on his or her back.

Amateur difficulty also blunts the pain of the controls, which aren't exactly haphazard but they don't feel very good. While on a singular pathway it's easy to see enemies coming, target them then turn them into goo. The moment that pathway branches or is obscured by blowing snow or transitions to an enclosed area where enemies can attack from the sides and behind it brings out the worst in the controls because you may just as often wind up shooting things looking up from the ground and sliding into something that isn't second base. And the cover system is so bad it's like that one guy that shows up at a party to be seen, has too much to drink then passes out in the gutter a couple blocks away. Shouldn't have been invited!

The story is a good kind of nonsense. Neo Umbrella, a naked Ada Wong, Albert Wesker's son, naked spider-lady, vapour delivery of zombie virus, and campaigns that somehow combine to make something even more nonsensical. It's really too bad that each story is played out separately. Take the Leon/Helena branch and the player is pushed down that path until the conclusion. The story lines start to bleed together toward the end but it was a missed opportunity to really play with the story by bouncing from viewpoint to viewpoint since some of the story happens concurrently, in the vein of "Meanwhile, Chris and Piers were hitting the pub for some R&R..." Then do a quick nod to Alan Wake when the game continues. "Previously, on Resident Evil 6..."

So, while it's a good kind of nonsense, it could have been so much more nonsense.

If you want to play with another human being, the game provides co-op support for both split-screen and over Xbox Live, with a variety of options that can make the game harder or easier depending on how players want to proceed. To date, this writer has successfully steered clear of playing online because it would be so easy to screw over your partner. There are many areas where characters split up to overcome some obstacle or open a door and so far I've never had the AI mess up the objective. With a random human, I anticipate I'd hear something like, "Hey, I'm just going to use melee attacks because guns are for [blanks] who just [blank],[blank],[blank], right?" The next sound would be me ripping off my headset and turning off my 360.

Given the issues with the game as a whole, I'm not convinced Mercenaries mode -- four players against waves of undead -- or Agent Mode, where players jump into random enemies to control in the games of other people, will do much to extend my own time with Resident Evil 6's multiplayer only because games like Killing Floor and Left 4 Dead 2 appeal to me much more, especially given the control differences.

I've had fun with Resident Evil 6 but that could be attributed to playing on Amateur. As written previously in this review, Amateur blunts ammo scarcity and control issues, makes things easier to kill, and sidesteps a lot of quicktime events, but it also allows forgiveness of some of the really obvious backtracking the game puts the player through.

That's not a "You're playing it wrong!" answer to some of the online commentary citing the game for these very faults. Rather the exact opposite.

It's also an admission that something is decidedly wrong with Resident Evil 6 and by extension the current position of the franchise. Instead of focusing on what makes a good action game and tightening and tuning those aspects, the developers included an "easy" mode so players hopefully wouldn't notice how badly they're riding their horses.

- Aaron Simmer

The Good:
- Looks great
- Fantastic level of Resident Evil nonsense
- Some whacked-out settings
- It's like a "Best of..." combo of Resident Evil characters
- Quick access to health
- Limited number of upgrade/power-up slots offer a little strategy

The Bad:
- Clunky controls for an action game
- Backtracking feels like padding
- Rather than making a better-playing game there's an "Easy" mode

Score: 6.0 / 10