Monday, November 26, 2012

Resident Evil 6 Game Review

(Originally written October 20, 2012)
Resident Evil was the game that defined the survival horror genre of gaming and became well known as one of the big titles for zombies in the video game world. However, over the years, Capcom’s horror title has had very little to do with actual scares and with the latest installment to the franchise, a title that Capcom said would return RE back to its survival horror roots, lacks any real scares. Unless you have MichaelBayphobia (that’s where you are afraid of explosions) then you probably won’t find anything about this game scary. But scares are the least of our worries. This game was blasted by critics when it was released earlier this month. Destructoid called it "not just a step back for the series, it's a step back for commonplace, unassuming action-shooters."  GameSpot said "this long, poor sequel is the ultimate test of patience for even the most dedicated." And another site said that it ‘Killed the franchise.’ So I really had to find out myself if it was really that bad and after playing through it, I can honestly say it is not that bad but it is a game that definitely has its flaws. Now I have to say, when I first started playing this game, I was about to agree with the critics and I really did not like how this game started but it does get better. So let’s jump into this zombie mess and start the review.

STORY (Spoiler Free): The story takes place throughout the year of 2013 and spans across Europe, the United States, and China as the outbreak of the C-Virus is becoming a worldwide epidemic aided by the mysterious and powerful terrorist group know as Neo-Umbrella (How this group function is very poorly explained.) The game spans across 4 campaigns that intersect with themselves here and there. You have Leon Kennedy’s campaign where he and new comer Helena Harper must escape from the American city of Tall Oaks which has been infected by the C-Virus (the only campaign where you face actual zombies) and then make their way to China. Leon’s campaign has been regarded as the best as it feels the most like the old Resident Evil games….. For the first quarter of his campaign that is. Then you have Chris Redfield’s campaign with his partner Piers Nivans and other soldiers from the BSAA trying to put a stop to the outbreak and Neo-Umbrella activities in China. This campaign is generally regarded as the worst and I can agree for the most part because it really feels like a third person Call of Duty game more than an RE game. It’s filled with every cliché line from every military movie and game in the book.  It doesn’t help that there are some voice actors from Call of Duty games in this campaign. While 85% of this campaign is the weakest, last part makes it worth it as there is an epic last boss fight and a very sad but moving ending. You will cry man tears. The third campaign you play as new character Jake Muller and returning, all grown up from RE2, Sherry Birkin. This is probably my favorite campaign as it has the most variation and, for me anyway, the most likeable characters. Jake is a very brash, smartass who is quite amusing in his sarcastic and cynical sense of humor and I love me some cynicism. Sherry is cute but a strong female character and I enjoyed the chemistry between the two. That isn’t to say there isn’t chemistry between the other characters but they are not nearly as developed. After completing the three main campaigns, you unlock Ada Wong’s campaign which focuses much more on stealth and her role in all the craziness that is happening.

This game has a long, complex, and confusing story. There is a timeline under the cut scenes menu where you can watch all the cut scenes in order with their dates to make more sense of the story but still… It gets really confusing, especially with how the game starts out. It throws you into the last quarter of Leon’s campaign where it acts as a very weak tutorial and then abruptly ends giving you the choice of playing Leon’s, Chris’s, or Jake’s campaign. More or most likely, you’ll be wondering what the hell was going on so you’ll play Leon’s campaign first which throws you into an even more confusing scene set several weeks before what you just played. It takes awhile for things to get flushed out and for anything to start making sense but after the first hour it does start getting better especially as you get some nostalgic feels from the old RE games but that doesn’t last too long. There are lots of throw backs to old RE games and other zombie related media such as the reoccurring boss from Jake’s campaign that feels a lot like the Nemesis from RE3 and the meaty grave zombies in Leon’s campaign that look like the zombies from The Return of the Living Dead.

I will say that this game is long and there is a lot of content so this game stays away from the problem of being too short like many games these days but each campaign feels kind of like a similar but different game from the other. In fact, there are credits at the end of campaign which means they had different people working on each. It feels like Capcom was trying to please everyone with the settings and game play which probably hurt their chances of having an overall great game. This becomes reflected in the game play.      

GAMEPLAY: This is where many of RE6’s problems are. The general game play feels a lot like Gears of War and many other third person shooters. The game engine is built off RE5’s engine and I feel it is generally an improvement in terms of action. Shooting is easy and the hand to hand combat is improved and even fun. Your HUD is easy to read and looks different for each character. Your health is divided into 6 segments that can regenerate individually but once one is gone you will have to use a healing item to fully recover. I like this more than the usual stay in cover and all your health will come back style that you see in most games. Speaking of cover, the cover system is not the best but you rarely truly need to use it unless playing on the hardest difficulties.

Like I said before, the game starts out with a poor tutorial that really doesn’t do the best to explain certain mechanics such as pulling up your inventory screen. I had to ask a friend how to do it once I couldn’t pick up ammo anymore. Also you can store over flow items into a ‘case’ for later but I have no idea how to access this case. The worst inventory screen for an RE game I’ve seen. The ways skill upgrades are handled in this game are slightly better than in RE5. For example instead of upgrading the damage increase for each individual weapon in RE5, you can upgrade your weapon damage increase for all weapons with just one upgrade now. However, it still runs into the problem of not getting enough points to upgrade with which you get by picking up chess pieces that get dropped by enemies throughout the game. You will have to play through the game multiple times to unlock everything. You can customize a set of skills to equip but I main just picked three and stuck with them throughout the game.

The running and shooting game play does get repetitive after awhile and you feel it the most in Chris’s campaign. Yeah, it’s fun to run around shooting your way through mutant terrorists at first but it gets old fast. His campaign has the least variation when compared to the others but that isn’t exactly a good thing. If you hate Quick Time Events, then you will hate this game as it is filled with them. RE4 is the game that made QTEs popular and that has continued with RE6. Some uses of the QTEs are creative but most often are just frustrating and sometimes confusing. The scene where you have to crash land a plane via QTEs was a pain in the ass for me. Leon’s campaign seemed to have the most and that are partly why I didn’t like his campaign all that much. Also, Leon’s campaign has the absolute WORST swimming controls I’ve ever experienced in a video game. I hated that part. Another QTE mechanic that was difficult to use was the climbing mechanic used in a few parts of the game in which you must hit the L and R bumpers in a certain pattern. It is easier to mess this pattern up if you are not giving it your full attention. They also have vehicle segments that get thrown on you with little direction but most of them are simple enough, especially the ones in Chris’s campaign. The snowmobile and bike segments in Jake’s campaign are a less forgiving and will result in some trial and error and some instant deaths before completing them.

This is also kind of where the co-op comes in as during these segments one character will be driving or flying while one shoots. The game’s AI for your partners is generally good enough to not be an issue. NPC AI not so much. Other members of Chris’s team getting in my way were an issue that I ran into a lot in his campaign. There are parts where you and your partner must split up to accomplish a task and this was never much an issue for the AI though I would recommend playing with another person. Capcom did a good job handling the co-op this time around by allowing split screen, offline co-op instead of co-op being online only like they did with RE5. This was a step in the right direction.

Outside the campaigns, you have Mercenary mode where you play as one of the characters and run around shooting up zombies. It’s pretty no brainer and good if you want just straight up action. You also have Agent Hunt mode which is online only where you play as a mutant and try to kill agents before they kill you. There are also unlockables such as files and figures though I have yet to unlock any figures. You can also unlock alternate costumes but I’m not sure if that is DLC or not. The game play, much like the story is a mixed bag most will find. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t and it’s the stuff that doesn’t that will stick in your mind the most.

GRAPHICS: It’s hard to say if there is any improvement here visually from RE5 which isn’t a bad thing. It’s definitely darker than RE5 and not in a scary way, in an ‘I wish I could see what is around me’ kinda way. I’d say this game is 80% darker than the previous title but when you are in a well lit area, the environments do look good and I especially liked how the Chinese city looked. The character and creature designs are what stand out most in the game. The character models look realistic and great. The facial expressions are what stood out most to me and really helped add emotion to the cut scenes. This continued well over from RE5. The horrific monstrosities you face throughout the game are disgusting and some of the best so far in the series. The BOWs make for some good boss fights, game play and graphics wise. Definitely a good looking game.

SOUND: The game’s sound design is good for the most part. The music works, the sound effects and monster sounds work and I love the sound of zombie’s heads getting crushed. I really liked the sound when you pressed start on the title screen but why isn’t there a disembodied voice saying ‘RESIDENT EVIL … SIX!’ in this game? That disappointed me a bit. The voice acting is good, especially in the emotionally strong scenes however, the script they are working with is nothing special and it’s pretty bad at some points but they do the best with what they have to work with. One thing that bugs me is that Leon’s, Chris’s, and Jake’s voices sound almost the same 90% of the time. Maybe it’s just me but their voices sounded way too similar.

Overall, RE6 is not as bad as some of the critics have made it out to be but I honestly have a hard time recommending this game to anyone that isn’t a Resident Evil fan and even if you are, you will probably have a hard time trying to love the entire game. It feels like 4 different but very similar games thrown into one. Like I said, I think Capcom was trying to please everyone with this game and it hurt their chances of making one great title, instead it’s just an okay game.  Capcom needs to think long and hard with where they want this franchise to go from here and wait till they come up with that good idea. They’ll need another masterpiece like Resident Evil 4 to make RE7 anything special. In the mean time, I’d like to see Capcom try and revive some of their other survival horror titles like Dino Crisis. The RE6 style of game play would work great for a reboot of that series. That said, RE6 is a good way to close up this chapter of the franchise and is still better than any of those crappy Resident Evil movies that keep getting made.

Overall: 6.5/10

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