Resident Evil 6 (Photo Courtesy: USA Today)
The long-running horror franchise Resident Evil is not afraid to throw all kinds of gnarly, infected creatures in players' paths, from standard, brain-consuming zombies to mutated brutes with a powerful metal claw for an arm.
Yet none of these represent the most frightening element of Resident Evil 6, the latest chapter in the survival horror tale. The scariest part is the poor attempt at turning this franchise into a full-fledged action game.
Resident Evil 6 has players once again stamping out another viral outbreak threatening to turn humans into infected zombies. This time, it's the C-virus, and players follow the efforts of six characters across three campaigns as they try to vanquish the plague.
There's government agents Leon Kennedy and Helena working for the U.S. government, bioterrorism security group members Chris Redfield and Piers conducting military operations to root out new infected creatures called J'avo. The last pair is Jake Muller -- son of regular villain Albert Wesker -- and Sherry, potentially holding a key to ending the virus all while trying to outrun a claw-wielding beast, the Ustanak.
Each campaign features offline and online cooperative play, as well as crossover sections during which campaigns intersect, allowing four players to work together simultaneously.
Storylines vary on the gameplay front, with Leon's journey serving as the closest resemblance to traditional Resident Evil. The other two feature faster J'avo foes, so there's a lot more action, especially playing as Chris.
At the end of every chapter, players take skill points and use them to bolster their abilities, such as decreasing recoil on weapons or beefing up their defense. Once campaigns wrap up, players unlock the intriguing Agent Hunt mode. The option allows players to find another person's game online and invade as a zombie. If a player is killed, they respawn as another enemy. If they kill the opposing player, they advance to another player's session.
Overall, Resident Evil 6 is the video game equivalent of inserting the square peg into the round hole. It's clear developers want to transform the franchise into an action-heavy adventure. The problem is the game's current structure and mechanics don't mesh.
This game is built for survival horror, between an emphasis on carefully managing resources and a methodical pace that creates tension. Every slain enemy means another chance at grabbing more bullets or herbs for health.
However, when confronted with straightforward action sequences, Resident Evil 6 stumbles. Monitoring ammunition counts is understandable during any action title, but the scarcity of items makes these moments more frustrating. I prefer taking out enemies to spending half my time running around a map for ammo. Also, these zombies aren't meant to wield firearms. When they reach a position, there's a 3-5 second gap before they start shooting. They also pull strange moves such as running right past you, preferring to save their attacks for when they reach cover. How exactly are zombies mentally competent enough to use a rocket launcher yet clueless on everything else?
Developers also seem to deflate many of the game's explosive moments. There are a lot of quick-time events, sequences where players must tap a button or move the thumbstick within a short timeframe to execute actions. Prepare to spin the thumbstick around often (pro tip: the game doesn't point out players can use both thumbsticks for these moves instead of just one).
Several sequences also lack a clear payoff for the player. Jake's battle with the Ustanak is a prime example (Spoiler Time). Jake and Sherry are on a helicopter and must fend off an Ustanak trying to take down the aircraft. Instead of the satisfaction of lodging enough bullets into its thick hide to ward him off, players eventually run out of ammo, then run back and forth on the chopper until the section ends. Setting up this huge battle with the Ustanak over multiple chapters is fine, but can't I least get the final shot that sends the Ustanak fleeing? When the moment matters most, a player's control over the scenario is limited.
The control scheme is largely similar to its predecessor, 2009's Resident Evil 5, with the added help of moving and shooting at the same time. It's still clunky at times, such as when players navigate menus or attempt advanced melee hits. And although you can't command co-op partners controlled by the computer, they still perform well in combat and will save your life on many occasions.
If Capcom chooses to shift Resident Evil from a survival horror game to more traditional action, that's their prerogative. But as Resident Evil 6 proves, it's going to require fundamental changes to its technical foundation to make the game enjoyable.
Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Rating: M for Mature
Release Date: Oct. 2