E3 2012: Resident Evil 6 [Preview]
I’ve been kinda looking forward to Resident Evil 6. I have a soft spot for the series in general: I like the cheesy B-movie vibe of the earlier entries, I like Resi 4‘s well-paced and well-executed action, I like the (genuinely scary) Gamecube remake of the first title. While it frequently suffers from not executing its ideas as well as you might hope, it’s a series I suspect I actually enjoy for its flaws, rather than in spite of them.
Resi 5‘s co-op focus worked okay if you actually had a co-op partner, but having a blithering idiot for an AI companion didn’t help, and neither did the fact that the game was essentially a rehash of Resi 4. And Operation Raccoon City… well, the less said about that the better. But Resi 6 looks good! The trailers were generally rather impressive, and it looked like it was ticking plenty of the right boxes in terms of cheesy dialogue, apocalyptic scenarios, and zombies.
So here’s the long and short of it: Resident Evil 6 aims to combine the best elements of the past Resident Evil games, all in one. There are three main characters, each of whom has their own campaign, and you can play those interweaving campaigns in an order of your choosing.
Leon Kennedy is back, and his campaign focuses on old-school Resi horror, with tension and jump scares and, presumably, limited ammunition – although if you watched the presentation at Microsoft’s E3 press conference, you might have a hard time believing that. Rather than calling bullshit just yet, I think we’ll just chalk that one up to the old “people still think explosions and action make for better presentations than scares or drama” thing, which happens see so often at E3.
Chris Redfield is also back, and his campaign emulates the more recent Resi titles, with action aplenty. He, no doubt, will be making use of the new cover system, along with the sliding and rolling, not least because the zombies featuring in this Resi are capable of using weapons of their own.
Also present is Jake Muller (apparently the son of Wesker, which is possibly an even better soap opera twist than the news that his partner will be Resi 2‘s Sherry Birkin) whose campaign aims to remind us of Resi 3. He’s been chased by a huge lumbering monstrosity called Ustanak which echoes that game’s infamous Nemesis, and he’ll have to do some running and jumping to get away from it. He also seems to be the hand-to-hand expert of the bunch, and anyone lunatic enough to try punching zombies and gargantuan mutant monstrosities is just the sort of chap you’d like on your side a bar fight. Which probably started because you used the word “chap.”
And yes, it’s all still very co-op. Each campaign is playable with a chum, online or offline, and – in the sections where characters meet up – there’s an option for the game to then become four player, matching you up with another pair of players who’ve just reached that point. An excellent idea, but one that can thankfully be turned off if, like me, you fear and distrust randoms.
So, all told, it sounds like a decent Resi. Multiple characters, each reminiscent of whatever iteration of Resident Evil you’d like to play, combined with a ludicrous plot and more soap opera stylings than an industrial pack of Dove bars performing Pagliacci.
Sadly, it may not actually shape up that way. Each of the three characters are playable on the show floor, and none have been received particularly well. Leon’s playable section, despite looking lovely and being rather atmospheric, is poorly paced and overflowing with traditional gameplay barriers, ranging from fallen chairs acting like force fields, and immobile obstacles becoming strangely mobile when you’ve done something entirely unrelated. Chris’ action section is marred by a severe lack of peripheral vision, a slightly bizarre cover system, and some clunky movement. And Jake’s section starts off with a run-towards-the-camera-and-react-quickly segment before turning into a boss fight in which you shoot at explosive barrels.
This may be an old build, or these may be elements that’ll feel a lot better in the wider context of the game. After all, “traditional” boss fights are nothing new for Resi, Leon’s section will doubtless be slow as it’s at the beginning of his campaign, and if Chris’ section is from a bit later on then unfamiliarity with the controls will make it a lot more difficult to play than reaching that point naturally. And, as mentioned above, this is E3 – the most effective segments may not be the ones on show.
So right now Resi 6‘s ideas are looking nice, but the gameplay remains (if we give it the benefit of the doubt) unconvincing. Not too long to wait for a full verdict, though: the game is due to ship on 2 October.