Resident Evil 6: In-depth analysis
As I caught myself wanting to talk extensively about Resident Evil 6, I wondered if the game even deserved this many words. Everyone already knows it oscillates between terrible and mediocre at best, and Resident Evil 7 already came to fix the mess, so why even bother? Simply, because I believe there’s still a lesson to be learned here — about the market of gaming and about game design. So for what’s it’s worth, this is my take on the bombastic, frustrating, underwhelming, and not-scary serial killer of fun that is Resident Evil 6.
The origins of a great series
Before I start talking about RE6, there are some observations I need to get out of the way about the preceding games — a collection that includes admirable classics and brilliant masterpieces.
The original trilogy of games for the PS1 had a terrible presentation at times, with awful cut-scenes and unintentionally hilarious voice-acting coming off as unintentional comedy more than real horror. The visuals won’t please the modern gamer as well, but the gameplay — the core of any game, regardless of presentation — is undeniably solid, even for this day. And that’s what matters.
The Resident Evil Remake, originally released for the GameCube and recently repacked for other platforms, is a game worthy of any gamer’s personal collection. If you’ve never played it, go to Steam and get it right now. The presentation was largely fixed for the modern market, with a remarkable art direction that still holds up to this day, and a lonely atmosphere that perseveres throughout the entire game. But prettier graphics aside, the gameplay is where the RE Remake still shines brightly, and where it managed to grasp the true essence of survival horror . It left you alone with a limited set of tools in a huge mansion you could explore freely (with no objective markers — fancy that!), a place you would eventually conquer with your own wit and skill. Even though story-wise it’s still the same cheesy bullshit we’ve come to expect from RE, it didn’t matter — it became part of the charm, and the result was a beautiful, atmospheric, lengthy, scary game, with many unforgettable moments, interesting puzzles and brick-shitting moments.
You will never forget the first time a Crimson Head suddenly rises in a quiet hallway you thought was save. On the other end of the spectrum, you will never forget that feeling of having no herbs or ammo and running low on health, but somehow making it back to a safe haven in one piece and hearing that beautiful calming arpeggio telling you everything is OK for now.
After achieving the very best of what could be done with those mechanics in a single game, CAPCOM tried to repeat that formula with Resident Evil Zero, a prequel to the entire series. It looks and plays just like the remake, but there’s an added mechanic of controlling two characters at once — meaning that for most of the game, you’re never alone. Controlling both characters at once is ludicrous, so you’ll obviously rely on the AI to follow you and attack automatically. There’s way more ammo lying around, and having a partner takes away that feeling of loneliness which was a big part of the fear when exploring. Not to mention how much time you spend on inventory management trying to get your shit together. It wasn’t a terrible game by any means, but having a partner to babysit brakes the pace of the action way too often to remain consistently fun and suspenseful.
This will be important later.
Resident Evil 4 revitalized the series by presenting a shift in tone, but in all the right ways — the game was more action-based, but still challenging, fun, and surprisingly tense. I’ve seen people calling it the best-paced action game of all time, and it’s hard to disagree: RE4 is amazing at giving you new weapons and places to explore, while simultaneously upping the challenge with deadlier enemies in larger numbers. While the original games had you scared facing one or two zombies in a narrow hallway, RE4 revels at outnumbering you with foes: on the first 20 minutes of the game, you will face an entire village with barely any ammo, a vague notion of how combat works, and unsure if you’re supposed to fight them or run away. Then the chainsaw guy that soaks up your pitiful 9mm bullets like they’re pebbles starts running your way and suddenly you feel like both you and protagonist Leon are under-prepared for this job.
That was the brilliance of RE4 — you were no longer a rookie Leon Kennedy on his first day on the force of RE2, you were an experienced, trained agent to protect the President’s daughter. But when you get to this place, you immediately feel like this is way out of your league. Sure, you shoot a lot more than in the previous games, but only because there are often more than five times the number of foes, replicating in an entirely new way the survival horror feeling of weakness and despair. It’s one of the best action games you’ll ever play, and it’s also one of the best survival horror games you’ll ever play.
You see, I haven’t started talking about RE6 yet, but there’s a reason for it. Right after RE4 was the moment where things went downhill, because CAPCOM tried turning the series into what they felt would sell more — which is odd, since the genre of survival horror is lacking in variety to this day, but they willingly changed a unique and well established series to fit the brainless co-op action-based muddle of way too many modern shooters.
Welcome to mediocre town
Resident Evil 5 was a disappointment. Not because it wasn’t fun, but because it felt like they didn’t even try.
The focus on action shouldn’t have been a problem , since RE4 proved it was possible to pull it off while staying true to the series. The problem was focusing on multiplayer co-op — you can play alone, but your partner will obligatorily follow you around with an AI. She can heal you in combat and sometimes save your life, but you must do the same for her, and if you fail, it’s game over. This is exactly where the often forgotten Resident Evil Zero failed to be fun, and they made the same mistake seven years later. Of course, the “solution” for this annoyance is for you to play either online or with a friend — this way you blame each other for stupid deaths, not the game. But it wasn’t enough to fix the lack of any survival horror elements, inventive enemies and memorable moments. RE5 is fun, but entirely forgettable — a harmless enough verdict overall — , but you have to consider both RE4 and RE Remake were two masterpieces on their own right, and they came out only three years apart. The sudden decrease in quality and intention was jarring, specially when the series had seemingly revitalized itself.
CAPCOM either 1), misunderstood what happened to RE, thinking they should keep pushing the series to turn into into a purely action game, or even worse, 2), they arbitrarily decided the game had to change to fit the modern market, even though RE4 was an absolute hit, pleasing both critics and audiences alike, and it’s widely considered to be both the best game released for the GameCube and for the PS2, and a serious contender for the best game ever made.
And CAPCOM was like, “Hey, let’s change that.”
Then we got Resident Evil 6.
This is where we start talking about it.
The worst possible start
The story of RE6 (if you can call it that) is told via three campaigns with three different protagonists: Leon, Chris and new character Jake.
Each one takes about 6 hours to complete. It’s an interesting idea to throw these characters in the same plot and have them weave in and out of each other, there’s potential for some interesting storytelling, but the execution is so underwhelming it feels more like a cheap gimmick. Don’t get me wrong, the day I play Resident Evil for the story will be the day I play Silent Hill for the graphics — it prides itself in being cheesy with that B-movie kind of flavor, and I have no problem with that. The problem is that RE6 has action scenes that would make Michael Bay call it “overblown”, and then it shows you “serious” drama and tragedy expecting you to give a damn. It just doesn’t work.
The prologue, a short bit of Leon’s campaign that serves as a tutorial for the new control scheme is one of the worst intros ever put into a video game. In fact, the entire beginning hour of Leon’s campaign is painful to “play.”
And I mean “play”. With the quotes. Because the game seems to really want to play itself, rather than let you have all the fun.
The prologue unnecessarily jumps ahead in the game, throwing the player in the middle of a shit storm that you will only catch up to a few hours in the game. You’re carrying Helena, a new character you know nothing about who is hurt because of something. You awkwardly shoot your way through some zombies trying to get used to the new controls, and before you can even enjoy doing that, you’re expected to react to the first of many Quick Time Event trials, this one involving a helicopter escape.
Welcome to the “didn’t-press-that-button-you’re-dead” sections.
I died three times here on my first play through. These sections are not hard, they’re just jarring and hard to read sometimes, causing you to press the wrong button in panic. It gets easier after you recognize the patterns, but it never makes it fun.
When that’s over, it jumps back to the “real” beginning — and if you’re expecting a decent suspenseful build-up, I feel sorry for you.
Leon shoots the president of the United States (what?) because he turned into a zombie (how?) and was about to attack Helena (who?). Yep, shit went down already and we didn’t get to participate. Again.
We’re finally introduced to Helena, the new character who serves as Leon’s companion throughout his entire campaign. And by “introduced” I mean she’s just there and we accept her. I don’t recall any of the campaigns explaining how they met.
As for the “suspenseful build-up,” Leon and Helena walk around an abandoned White House looking for a way out. The place is decrepit and creepy enough to serve as an opening level, somewhere you could spend an entire hour exploring… but exploring is not rewarded or encouraged. You can only go where the game lets you go, and the path is always obvious. If you get turned around, press a button and you’re automatically pointed in the right direction. Don’t even think about going any other way but the right way, you will find nothing.
Your character turns and moves heavily for an action-based third-person-shooter. Enemies can surround you in an instant and jump on your face out of nowhere, but moving in cramped areas is usually awkward.
During this entire first level, the game insists on taking the controller away from you and/or randomly changing the rules on what you can do.
At first, pushing forward on the analog stick makes you walk — fair enough, maybe it has a button to run, like the older games. A few seconds later, on another hallway, doing the same thing makes you run. Fair enough. Except, on the following hallway, you can only walk again until the characters stop talking. You barely got in and the game already can’t decide if it wants to be Resident Evil or The Last of Us.
Ironically, a much better survival horror game than this one.
Then, you find a dead-end, and before you even have time to think of a solution, the camera locks on automatically to where you’re supposed to go and you have to wait a few seconds before you have the camera control back. During some bits where you’re expected to just follow the path, you can’t even aim the pistol freely. Because reasons.
In contrast, as soon as you take control of Leon in RE4, you can already perform any and all actions possible from the control scheme. You walk around to get used to the new over-the-shoulder perspective, aim to get a grip on how combat works, run and quick-turn… and there you go, you know how the game works. In the first hour of RE6, the game arbitrarily changes what you can and can’t do so much you don’t feel comfortable playing it.
There’s a specific moment that baffled me. You find a survivor and you’re following him to where his daughter is and the only door you can go through is apparently locked. Fair enough. I walk around, backtrack a little, but the objective marker keeps pointing me directly to the locked door. I try pressing a few buttons, try talking to Helena to see if she activates something… until I found out what I was expected to be doing — following the survivor, not taking action. When I got behind him, I triggered a dialogue bit and, guess what, he walked to the door I was trying to open and went through it normally. The door wasn’t even locked. I just had to stand behind him to trigger his action.
There are no zombies to kill during this entire bit, no exploring, no interactions, nothing. All you can do is slowly follow the dude as he struggles to carry his stumbling daughter back the same path you came.
And to make matters worse, once you’re finally free from this damnation and start killing some zombies, it gets only marginally better.
Fighting the game
You’ll quickly realize you can run past zombies without any hassle in open areas.
I’m all for a game with slow zombies (like in the original Resident Evil trilogy) but in those games you couldn’t sprint, dodge, punch, kick and aim at their legs. Here you have all that, and it makes a mass of slow zombies a minor hassle to deal with. Most of the time you can get away with not attacking at all.
When indoors, however, you’ll mostly want to kill zombies — this is Resident Evil after all. That’s when you discover how incredibly overpowered melee combat is. One or two shots to stagger and a roundhouse kick brings most zombies down easily. One final step on the head and the job’s done. It’s pretty satisfying to do so, at least.
For contrast, in RE4 you could kick zombies only after shooting their legs or staggering them. Here you can kick freely, so it takes away the point of shooting strategically for stagger.
You’re given limited ammo to work with most of the time, forcing you to prioritize certain guns and ammo types. That part is fine, but then why are some objetives set to “Eliminate All Enemies?” The point of having scarce ammo is to choose when to shoot, but if you’re forced to engage in combat, why have limited ammo?
Of course, regular zombies being such a joke to deal with, the game’s definition of challenge is overwhelming you with a crowd of weak enemies scrambled with a couple of stronger enemies—usually a random pick of one of the many nameless abominations that are either re-skins from the other games or just unremarkable bullet-sponges.
Even the classic Crimson Heads from the Resident Evil Remake make a comeback, but I honestly only knew that was their name after reading about it. The whole point of the original Crimson Heads was that any zombie you killed could become one later, since their bodies would stay in place for hours until the time came to turn — usually at the worst possible hour. It was bloody brilliant. Here, however, some zombies become Crimson Heads instantly after dying (missing the entire point of the original design) and become fast-crazy-jumping zombies that take up to a billion bullets to go down.
In fact, one of the most infuriating things about strong enemies is how they often won’t react to gunfire, not even to shotguns. You’d think you could at least stagger them consistently, but most foes won’t even flinch.
Sprinting is doable, but dodging and rolling on the floor are not only clunky to pull off, but essentially useless. When fighting, you never want to be laying on the floor, and I remember only one section in Leon’s campaign where that move is required to progress. Dodging often feels like it takes three buttons presses at once to work, and it’s also pretty much useless — zombies are too slow, stronger enemies are too fast, and gun fights you’re better off just taking cover. I didn’t use the dodge mechanic once out of need… but I did use it a couple times with each character from wrong button presses. So there’s that.
The strong enemies that serve as mini-bosses (hell if I know their names) are the very definition of bullet sponges. You rarely get any idea if you’re doing damage, since they absorb bullets like they’re made of positive energy.
The notorious Regeneradors from RE4 also make a comeback, even though they’re called a-stupid-name-I-didn’t-memorize. In RE4, the terrifying creature was built up perfectly and subtly, culminating in one of the scariest moments in video game history; here, it’s just another throwaway monster. They just show up out of nowhere midway through Leon’s campaign in a level where you need to find three keys to progress. This particular level, I came to realize, is repeated in all three campaigns with the exact same set-up at roughly the same midway point. You get to a place; Regeneradors happen; Find three keys. It’s remarkably easy to run past them most of the time, and I only found out later you can kill them with enough bullets — once again, missing the entire purpose of the original design, where you could only kill them with a special item and even then it was still very fucking stressful to do so. But now you have a sprint button, so don’t waste your ammo.
Oh yeah, at some point during Leon’s campaign I realized I could take cover behind obstacles and walls — and by “realized” I mean I was trying to aim straight and accidentally glued myself to a wall. The game had not bothered to tell me about it because this mechanic is completely ignored in this campaign. You’ll only use that for the gun-wielding zombies, which won’t appear until six hours later, when you’re playing Chris’ campaign. Jake uses it too. I think I only used it as Leon during the final boss, because then it suddenly became essential.
You take cover by holding down the aim button. I lost count of how many times I glued myself to a wall while simply trying to aim straight.
The game mechanics are all over the place. In the two following main campaigns, I managed to squeeze a bit of fun from some of the shooting segments when the game seemed to at least work as a decent cover-shooter, but it was never smooth sailing.
Partners are useless, except when they’re not
In all three campaigns, whether you like it or not, you’ll have a partner. If you’re playing solo like I did, they have absolutely no impact on gameplay, since you never have to bother with them and they never seem to die. The only reason you’ll either love or hate them is when you’re hurt to the point of collapsing, during which you either have to wait an absurd amount of time crawling on the floor, or get up immediately after your partner heals you.
I think I only died twice because my partner failed to rescue me on time, but I died countless times for being hit immediately after getting back control of the character — since your health is too low, you die in one hit from anything around you and will have to restart from the last checkpoint. This alone proves why this mechanic is dumb for single-player experiences, but your rage is neutered when you realize the checkpoints are so close to where you were it’s barely worth getting salty for.
Health is different as well. Trying to be more “Dead Space-y”, inventory management is now all done in real-time, so you will want to combine herbs before battle whenever possible and move them to the pill case… kind of. Then, with the press of a button, your character will eat one pill refueling one block of health. The better you combine herbs, the more pills you’ll have.
I said “kind of” because I thought the whole point of making inventory management in real-time was to encourage players to prepare in advance, because if they didn’t, they would have to scramble through the inventory during combat to combine herbs, and it would be their own bloody fault. I actually thought that was clever for an action game… but, during a loading screen, the game told me if I had no pills ready, I could press the heal button + the reload button and the character would automatically mix whatever herbs you had and pop a pill right away, which completely ruins to point of preparing in advance. I gave the game too much credit.
Another problem of this new mechanic is that since you have six blocks of health, at low-health, you’ll need to hit that button six times while running around the stage trying not to get hit. And since sometimes you get hit immediately after your partner revives you with no chance to do anything, it won’t matter how many pills you have, since you didn’t get a chance to use them.
There are first aid sprays too, which refuel your entire health at once, but good luck trying to find them. I think I found six across all three campaigns.
Finally, there are ways to level up in RE6. Oh man, do I wanna talk about that.
“Grinding in RE6 is so much fun,” said no one ever
It’s hard to pinpoint the absolute worst thing about this game, since there’s so much wrong with it in so many places. However, if I had to pick a winner, the award has to go to the insane upgrade system CAPCOM implemented — a system so incredibly not fun I can’t believe real game designers agreed to it.
Every campaign has about 5 to 6 chapters, and after every chapter you get to check your skill points and spend them on upgrades. These include useful things like weapon damage, melee damage, finding more items, finding more ammo to specific weapons, more damage to certain types of enemies, and so on. You get these skill points by collecting items on crates or as drops by enemies upon death — encouraging you to fight them.
That’s all well and good, but you’ll quickly notice that no matter how hard you try, you can never afford more than one or two upgrades per chapter, and that’s if you settle for the shitty ones. Most of the time you’ll be looking at them and moving on without being able to buy anything useful.
The skill points will remain throughout the following campaigns though, meaning whatever you got with Leon will still be available when playing with Chris, and so on. Likewise, if you start the game again (for some reason), your skill points and bought upgrades will also remain. But the same problem persists: THEY ARE TOO DAMN EXPENSIVE. You can only gather up to 20.000 skill points per chapter if you’re really lucky and never miss a crate, but the Level 2 Skill for Weapon Damage costs 75.000.
Meaning… you have to grind.
The game lets you play freely any of the previous chapters or join co-op online with other players — this is where you’ll find the skill points you need to level up. By replaying the same bits over and over and over and over and over and over again, either by yourself or on multiplayer.
But you won’t.
Because I certainly didn’t do that and I still beat all three campaigns without much trouble. And the upgrades I managed to buy didn’t seem to help much anyway. Somehow, RE6 made leveling up un-fun.
And as a final nail on the coffin of leveling up made un-fun, it doesn’t matter how many upgrades you manage to purchase, you can only equip three at a time. Yeah, you heard me. You can create “sets” of different combinations of three that you can change during gameplay, but at all times, you can only have the benefit of up to three of them, at the most.
And did I mention every single upgrade I managed to buy seemed to have little to no impact on gameplay, and I managed to finish the game anyway without much trouble?
My guess is that CAPCOM wanted you to cleverly prioritize each skill for every level, since the game will often (and sometimes jarringly) change enemy types and what you need to do, so you could pick the skills necessary for that particular level and have a major advantage for getting familiar with the game and knowing which skill to use. That’s my guess, because as previously stated, the skills I used barely changed anything, so I don’t see how anyone would benefit from wasting time trying to learn this shit.
A final nail to the coffin of online modes
While trying out the many online modes looking for something worthwhile, Agent Hunt was the mode I had the most interest in — you could invade other games as a monster and do your best to wreck someone else’s happy-fun-times. It’s a brilliant idea that could possibly bring a nice competitive asymmetrical multiplayer mode to —
Fuck Agent Hunt. Seriously.
It’s impossible. I swear on the face of God there is no way to do anything as a monster in Agent Hunt, it’s absolutely impossible to play. Every enemy has a different set of moves, but most of them feel like controlling a garbage truck on wet sand by shouting at the driver from a walkie-talkie that’s losing signal.
The monsters control ludicrously slow and every attack takes five hundred years to land. 99% of the times you’re finally facing the player after running around for an eternity, your attempt at attacking will fail. The 1% of the times they actually land, the damage you cause is so minimal it’s not even satisfying.
Even playing as the motherfucking Regenerador is not fun. It’s like they had a recipe for awesomeness and somehow fucked it up.
The other campaigns
Chris and Jake control exactly like Leon, the only notable changes are in enemy types. Chris faces against gun-wielding zombies, which calls for a cover shooter system that, as previously mentioned, is not always ideal. Jake faces against pretty much all the enemies introduced up until that point, but they try pulling a RE3 Nemesis by having this juggernaut monster guy chasing us the entire campaign. Except we already know about some of these encounters because they intertwine with Leon’s and Chris’ story line.
By the way, every time the campaigns intertwine means you’ll be doing the same thing you did last time on the other campaign, just, you know, with a different character.
Finally, there’s a fourth shorter campaign starring Ada Wong. She appears in all three campaigns and you never know what the hell she’s doing, so this campaign explains those bits. At least, I think it does. I honestly didn’t finish it. I would for review purposes, so I obviously started playing, but the gameplay was all the same stuff, I didn’t care about the story enough to force myself through it, and I kept messing up and dying because I couldn’t aim properly on those bloody narrow hallways… bear in mind at this point I had accumulated 26 hours of RE6.
I was done.
Despite me shitting all over this game, I was very happy to see CAPCOM learned the most important lesson the disastrous reaction to RE6 stirred — you can’t please everyone.
I was more than happy to purchase and play through the excellent Resident Evil 7 on launch week after the demo did it’s job of peaking my interest. It was a much needed breath of fresh air to the series, and I have no hesitation saying it’s already one of the best games I’ve played this year.
RE7 was almost an apologetic game. RE6 tried to pull the series in every possible direction, pandering to old-timers, horror fans, action fans, and newcomers alike, and we got a mess of a game that ended up pleasing no one. It didn’t fully work as any of the individual genres it tried pandering to, and as it’s own thing, every element felt heterogenic. RE7 worked for doing precisely the opposite — it tried something new to the series, sure, but it’s also the most classic RE game in terms of mechanic since the Remake. All the classic elements that made fans fall in love with the series were there, but it was new and interesting enough to welcome new players who didn’t play the previous installments. It was a brilliant move altogether, and I wish I knew who to blame for it.
So, there it was. My take on Resident Evil 6. It sucks. I guess I went on for so long because I didn’t want anyone thinking I’m just hating on the game because it became a thing. I’m not one to jump on bandwagons. On the other hand, I’ve played this game for 26 hours (according to Steam), and I was very mad at it. Hence why you just read nearly 5000 words on why it sucks.