Resident Evil 6 opens with a dazed Leon rescuing Helena, his partner character, through a series of quick time events. Press A to drag her, press B to pick her up, and tap X at the right time to open the door. I thought Capcom added all of these QTEs as filler because the prelude is essentially a tutorial chapter, but actually Capcom was setting the tone for Resident Evil 6. The game then splits into three storylines: it’s Raccoon City all over again for Leon with a zombie infestation in Tall Oaks, Chris goes guns blazing in China, and Jake (Wesker’s son) runs for his life from a massive B.O.W. called Ustanak. All of them have plenty of explosions, which makes Resident Evil 6 feel more like the Resident Evil flicks than the game series.
I started with Chris Redfield’s arc, which plays more like a third person shooter with monsters than a Resident Evil game. Chris begins his story sitting at a bar sullen about a past mission and his partner Piers Nivans coaxes him into rejoining the B.S.A.A. Their first mission is to go to Lanshiang in China to rescue United Nations works held hostage by mutants called J’avo. Chris, after pushing a reporter’s camera out of the way, storms into an apartment building with a 909 pistol and a machine gun. He’s ready for a war on multi-eyed monsters, but there’s one problem… ammo is scarce in Resident Evil 6. Well, scarce for the player. There’s a clear contradiction here because J’avo have magical machine guns that never run out of bullets and most areas require players to kill all of the monsters before moving on. I suppose you can wait for your computer controlled teammates to do this, but I took a more aggressive approach and snuck around corners using melee attacks. Resident Evil 6 has a stamina meter and it usually takes three bars to finish off one enemy. So after stomping on two J’avo you have to take cover and wait for the meter to recover. Lanshiang’s markets have narrow hallways that naturally split the J’avo up. The tight corridors introduce another problem, though, due to the control scheme you automatically go into cover mode if you draw your gun next to a wall. I blasted and kicked my way through room after room of J’avo and found the hostages in the hands of spider-like J’avo.
After shooting those enemies down Chris and Piers had to escape from the collapsing building, but if you don’t run fast enough you automatically die. The catch is you can’t walk fast while using the navigator and it where you need to go isn’t obvious the first. While Piers or whoever your partner is can save you from being zombie chow, Resident Evil 6 has too many cheap deaths where you have a second to trigger a QTE to dodge a train or where things suddenly crush your character. If you’re planning to play Resident Evil 6 don’t start with Chris’ campaign. Skills unlocked by playing through other campaigns carryover and you will want buffs like extra item drops and beefed up firearm power before being thrown into World War Z.
Meanwhile, a relentless B.O.W. with an interchangeable arm is chasing Jake. Jake’s story begins a few months before the Lanshiang incident in Eastern Europe. Jake is working as a mercenary and injects himself with a syringe that turns other people into mutants. One of them transforms right in front of Jake who retaliates by pulling out his knife, all of which is shown as a cutscene. Sherry Birkin is assigned to bring Jake back since something in his blood gives him natural resistance to the new virus. Jake, being a soldier of fortune, demands a hefty sum, which Sherry agrees to, but first they have to get out of Edonia alive. When I finally got control of Jake he was in a chaotic warzone. With limited ammo I used Jake’s hand to hand combat attacks to sneak up on enemies. Most enemies don’t put up a fight, but Ustanak is another story. He chases Jake and Sherry through their arc and the first running for your life scene switches the camera so you’re running towards the screen.
Ustanak corners Jake and Sherry, luckily in an area with plenty of explosive barrels. He’s a bullet sponge so you might find yourself low on ammo if you don’t trap Ustanak with the barrels. The big boss battles are crossover events where another player can jump into your game to help. Chris and Jake intersect early on when Edonia is under siege from two giant B.O.W.s. While you might imagine bullets blazing everywhere, the battle flows through objectives and quick time events. Since stories overlap you’ll see the same boss fights from the perspective of other characters and you’ll use the same attack strategies.
It feels like Capcom designed Resident Evil 6 for cooperative play since they even made co-op door kicking QTEs in the game. I played a bit of offline co-op using Resident Evil 6’s dual window mode and each mission has points where players split up. Having Piers cover Chris from J’avo while he climbs across a rope worked, but most of the time diverging paths have one player searching for a switch while the other player waits. Resident Evil 6 has two other multiplayer modes the now standard Mercenaries mode and Agent Hunt. Agent Hunt is kind of like Square Enix’s shooter Mindjack since it lets you play as a zombie or other creepy crawlies with the goal of killing a player just trying to get through the campaign. Capcom sent us an early copy of Resident Evil 6 for Xbox 360 and my game hasn’t been invaded yet. I haven’t ran into a random ally either, I’m sure this will change later today. If getting mauled by player controlled zombie-mutant-dogs isn’t your thing you can turn off Agent Hunt before starting a gameplay session. Or just turn off co-op altogether and play offline.
Leon’s chapters were the most entertaining part of Resident Evil 6. These missions have an air of tension to them when Leon is wandering through a graveyard illuminated by lightning and tiptoeing through a puzzle filled cathedral. While Chris is overly sullen and Jake trying too hard to be part of "generation me," Leon maintains his cool personality. He makes sarcastic quips like "Ugh, another locked door" and pokes fun at the complex puzzles set up for him. Helena joins Leon and asks "why does everything have to be so complicated." Especially for Chris’ chapters, Resident Evil 6 takes itself too seriously so Leon’s chapters were a refreshing change.
Leon’s campaign also feels better paced since it switches from zombie shooting to puzzle areas and then to mutant bosses. Most of the puzzles involve pulling switches or searching for items, but it’s still nice to lay off the trigger finger for a little bit. Zombies are back because, well, they’re in vogue The zombies in Resident Evil 6 are more aggressive than past games. They’ll pounce on you, throw stuff, attempt to bash you on the head with a shovel, and blindly fire machine guns. If a zombie gets hold of Leon you have to complete a QTE like mashing a button or pressing the right trigger at the right time to shake it off. Zombie (and snipers) can knock Leon down and force players to fight on the floor until you press B to get back up. If a zombie really sinks its teeth into Leon you’ll go into dying status where you’re stuck on the ground. In single player mode, your computer controlled partner will rush to your rescue. This gets Leon (or whoever) back on their feet, but a single hit will kill you. Sure, you can wait, but in the middle of a zombie infestation you’ll want to eat a health tablet by pressing RB. Each health tablet restores one life node, so if you want to fully restore your life completely you need to tap RB six times. Health tablets are made by going into Leon’s inventory, combining herbs (if you have extras), and selecting another menu option to change them into tablets. At least switching weapons is easy, you can navigate through most of your inventory (including first aid sprays) with the d-pad.
Speaking of getting knocked down… Leon’s campaign has this mine cart scene where if you don’t duck Leon gets clonked on the head and falls down. That’s fair, I missed a QTE, but when Helena revived Leon there wasn’t enough time to avoid the next beam and Leon got up and immediately fell back down. Usually, I’m not bothered by QTEs, but I got fed up with them here.
I wish all of Resident Evil 6 was like Leon’s campaign since it was the closest to capturing the essence of a Resident Evil game. The campaigns for Jake and Chris (especially Chris) were more like Call of Zombies than a horror game. I suppose the development team was focused too much on making moving while shooting a key gameplay feature. The other element that doesn’t feel right is Resident Evil 6‘s atmosphere. Take Chris for example, when did he get so emo? He must have seen worse being part of the B.S.A.A. and then there’s the whole Jill thing in Resident Evil 5. None of that cracked Chris before, but he’s a drunken mess in Resident Evil 6. And then there are all of those vehicle scenes… Before Resident Evil made players apprehensive about seeing what’s around the corner. In Resident Evil 6 we know what’s there – some mutant with a machinegun.
I am curious to see what Capcom does next with Resident Evil 6 since they essentially present three visions for the franchise. Will it be a four player TPS in the future? An escape from the uber monster while driving a snowmobile game? Or will the next Resident Evil retain at least some of the elements that made Resident Evil 4 a fan favorite?