Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Resident Evil 6 Review

Note: There will be a video review for this up later this afternoon.

Let's face it, Resident Evil 5 was a disaster of a game. Though I appreciated the sentiment of moving away from 4 because they are unlikely to ever top it, the execution of their more action packed approach just wasn't good enough. So to say that the pressure was on for Resident Evil 6 would be a huge understatement. Despite having previously lamented the shift toward action and away survival I now know that it was a wise idea and, fortunately, it's one that is executed well in the Hollywood epic that is Resident Evil 6. You see this game is big, it packs four campaigns, mercenaries mode and agent hunt mode but also the environments are huge, the zombies have been overhauled and there is a near endless stream of set pieces and high octane action with only a few throwbacks to older style Resident Evil games. But does it all fit together? Yes, it does. There are a few moments where the near endless action gets tiring and yes you do sometimes repeat parts of the story in the other campaigns but, overall, the ambition behind this game is realised and the final product is a very strong one.

As I said, there are four campaigns, one for Leon, Chris, Jake and Ada. Chris undoubtedly has the most action whilst Leon and Ada lean more toward the survival horror though Leon still uses guns a heck of a lot more than he used to. Each of the campaigns has their fair share of highs and lows with great set pieces countered by occasionally tedious shootouts. The one good thing about them all is that the story really does grip you thanks to things being revealed across the four campaigns gradually. You can't just learn all of the story through Leon, you have to play the others. This keeps things interesting even when you have to repeat something you did as a different character. The campaign is also helped by split screen or online co-op which is a great feature that, unlike in Resident Evil 5, isn't necessary to have a fun play though. It isn't necessary because your partner's AI is pretty solid and they will help in fights, won't waste items and only very occasionally seem to dawdle when you need them to open a door.

So far I'd say Leon's campaign is certainly the strongest but I do have somewhat of a soft spot for the man because Resident Evil 4 was the first game in the series that I played. His campaign does have the same emphasis on action that permeates the majority of the game but there are some cool throwbacks to Resident Evil 4 scattered throughout it which I thought was quite a nice touch. Leon himself is looking a lot more mature than he did in Resident Evil 4. He always looked a little young, innocent and naive to me but now his face is certainly more stern and rugged than before. You can tell just by looking at him that the events he's been through have taken their toll and I thought this was a great bit of character design.

Which leads onto the game's most noticeable improvement, the graphics and artwork. The characters all look fantastic with detailed outfits and facial expressions and the weapons that they use all have a good amount of detail and look pretty authentic. The same level of care has been given to the environments which is a good thing because in a game that trots around the globe so much you need some good environments. The cities look sprawling and the tight corridors are menacing and everything else in between is fantastically designed and detailed. The textures are pretty solid throughout apart from the very occasional bit of pop in and the animation for all of the characters is superb.

The other thing worth noting is the design of the zombies. This game features a new cast of enemies ranging from typical zombies, to hulking Goliath like men, serpent like enemies and everything in between. All of the new opponents are suitably horrifying and they are all detailed, unique and just great. The other good thing about the new characters is that you have to switch up your tactics to fight them which, when you consider the fact that you have to learn how to handle an all action Resident Evil, really makes you consider your tactics before you go into the game. You can't just approach it like you did the other games, melee is more important but there are also far more shootouts than you are used to. Oh and some enemies use guns so the new cover system comes in very handy, which I really didn't expect it to when Capcom first announced that the game would feature one.

That leads me into one of the other significant changes in the game: the controls. Instead of being rooted to the spot when shooting you can shoot on the move, you can dive into cover and shoot out of it, you can tackle zombies to the ground and all in all everything just feels more fluid, more violent and more action oriented. Of course other elements of the game have changed to fit the new action feel but really it's the controls and the mechanics behind the action that make the game an action game rather than a survival game. There are still elements of survival left in the fighting, for instance melee is crucial because ammo is (compared to most third person shooters at least) fairly scare but the controls alone tell you that this game is about action. Indeed in the prologue you are quipped with a vast array of weaponry which really signals that this game will be played with guns blazing instead of feet fleeing.

For the most part the campaigns are all pretty good, I would certainly say Leon's is the best because it features the best amount of variation but all of them are solid offerings and on many games one of them would be all you get but here you get four! This is probably the best value for money a new game has been since Valve released the Orange Box. Though all of the campaigns are strong none of them are perfect. As the stories overlap there are occasions when you find yourself replaying a previous section, sometimes this isn't a problem because of the new perspective but when it's just you going through an area with standard zombies and gunning them down again it can seem repetitive, not to mention pointless. I accept that it must be a logistical nightmare to have the four campaigns overlap each other but still, you would have thought that basic sections like that could have been changed to keep the game fresh. Fortunately though this doesn't happen too much and, as I said, most of the campaign is great with excellent pacing, great boss fights and an awesome story.

I have to say that, although the story is just fairly bog standard Resident Evil fare it is my favourite from the series. I care about the characters and the mystery surrounding Helena at the start of the game was set up so perfectly and it really hooked me and made me care about the story even before some of the major twists occurred. The other thing worth mentioning is that, as you'll see in my video review, the game starts off with a bang. Watch my video and you'll see what I mean, it's not really a spoiler because it is not a major plot twist that you never saw coming but still I'll let you decide for yourself whether you watch the video or play it yourself.

There are some other minor problems with the story aside from slight pacing problems. Sometimes the conversations can be very strange, for example at one stage Leon mentions Ada and then Helena continues the conversation about her but Leon, instead of carrying on a conversation that he started, snaps at her for asking too many questions. Resident Evil has never been known for its astounding script writing so this really isn't a huge complaint but still, it is a little bit jarring.

Another minor problem is actually very nit-pickish but its something that bothered me so its worth mentioning. When you sprint your character will start to breathe as though he/she is running out of breath but will never actually have to stop sprinting to catch their breath, I understand that Capcom probably just didn't think to add a stamina system or they thought that it might slow the pace of the game too much but still it's just a minor thing that can break the immersion that the game so confidently creates.

On top of the story mode you also get Mercenaries mode and Agent Hunt mode. I've always enjoyed mercenaries in Resident Evil games, some people wanted Raid Mode from Resident Evil: Revelations but to be honest I enjoy both equally so I'm not phased by the decision to have mercenaries instead of Raid Mode. As for Agent Hunt it's good fun but it doesn't offer as much depth as mercenaries mode, its more of a brief distraction to be honest, still though, it's more fun content so I can hardly complain.

So should you buy this game? Absolutely, it marks a great change for the series and is a fun game with plenty of content. If you approach the game with an open mind you should be safe (unless you hate third person shooters that is) but if you expect a game in the vein of Resident Evil 1-4 then you will be sorely disappointed.

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