There’s a trend with the Die Hard films. Anyone who has followed the series can tell you that the isolated, guerrilla tactics utilized by John McClane in the first film were expanded with each new installment. He went from office building to airport to the city of New York to the entire United States. And now, for those who’ve seen the newest trailer, it appears Mr. McClane is taking the battle across the seas. It’s all very exciting, but adding more explosions and more elements to tussle with does not result in greater tension or stronger story. If anything, thinning out the thread of what was once something confined and powerful damages it. More becomes less.
The Resident Evil franchise is no stranger to traveling to foreign lands and adding more boom-boom (as proven with Resident Evil 5), but never before has the scope been as grand as it is in Resident Evil 6. Like Die Hard, the franchise has stretched its legs and arms as far as it can, adding more characters and more plot lines. More becomes less.
Series seniors Leon Kennedy and Chris Redfield return along with newcomer Jake Muller, who is the son of longtime RE villain Albert Wesker. All three are paired with partners that allow for local and cooperative play. There’s enough variety among the stories that none seem superfluous. The only issue is that without playing all three, RE6 is incoherent. Seeing the entire picture involving the newly dispatched C-Virus and the shadowy conspirator organization, Neo-Umbrella, is only possible by completing all three main quests. And even then, there’s still more to be found. It becomes rickety at some moments, but there’s a pace that keeps things tangible, even if it bears repeating some moments where several characters meet.
Story isn’t the only thing scaled up with the game. Resident Evil 6 has made the plunge into full-blown action territory. The franchise that once frightened a generation of gamers has neutered itself for a more action-heavy, third-person shooter vibe. This would be fine if the game didn’t try to convince me that it’s still scary. I’m sorry Resident Evil, but if your infected, mutant thugs are toting guns and rocket launchers, you’re no longer a horror game, no matter how many eerie hallways you make me travel down.
Striking a balance between action and horror proves difficult for this veteran franchise. Unlike Dead Space 2, which I felt wedged itself into a disturbing-yet-thrilling nook, RE6 struggles to find stable ground. The series has never been about fluidity or quick action, so when it tries to force it, I ended up spamming melee attacks to finish the fight.
There’s no fear anymore. There’s no sense of threat or danger, and this feeling of invincibility is only magnified with a partner. I played the majority of the game by myself (no local or network co-op), but just knowing I had an AI partner diffused any sense of danger. With Resident Evil 4, I’d play late at night with the lights on, terrified. When Leon was wounded, hunched over and breathing heavy, it was like watching an animal slowly be hunted down by predators. When I’d eventually die, it was unsettling. Here, I used it as a strategy.
Dying would regenerate my life bar to full. And since it’d only set me back a few moments of gameplay, it became a crutch to save herbs rather than a visceral collapse. I rarely had to do this, though, since the game gave a generous amount of items to keep me moving. If I was ever running low, I’d just roundhouse kick some zombies to the face and collect my prizes. Then I’d keep running, beat the boss, get status upgrades post-mission from points I collected (also dropped by zombies), and keep on moving.
Fatigue started setting in around hour 18. Each of the three campaigns in Resident Evil 6 has five missions, which take one to two hours each. The motivation to finish this Goliath was learning another piece of the overall puzzling story with each campaign. Certain moments overlapped with each story, and it was a genuine delight watching it all come together. Motivations and actions were fully realized, and it made for some gripping cutscenes. The animation quality is nothing short of dazzling. Even when every storyline includes a chase scene with
Carmen Sandiego Ada Wong (which initially seems like her only purpose in the game), it led to some notable beats.
The problem remains in the game’s fickleness. Rather than committing to one style of play versus another, Resident Evil 6 is an action game wearing a survival-horror hat. It’s doesn’t convince, it just pretends. Every enemy, no matter how large, powerful or hideous, can be trounced with a few kicks. Being able to move and shoot has been introduced, but I didn’t often utilize it. To conserve ammo, to be more efficient, and to get the most enjoyment out of my time, I’d run up to a group of monsters, deliver a series of disarming hits and watch their heads explode.
In most third-person shooters, I need strategy to succeed. I need to plan out positioning, aiming, and which gun to use during a firefight. I need to utilize cover and dodges. Resident Evil 6 is too stiff to allow this and too easy to necessitate it. I can just barrel into situations, unload my ammo, lose most of my health and walk away on top. There is no real survival anymore.
What is left is a game that kept me interested through its 20+ hours of play despite its lukewarm tone. There’s a game that knows how to write convincing character moments and indulgent spectacle. There’s a game that, while not harrowing or threatening, is still enjoyable.
Review based on PlayStation 3 release.