If you were counting on Resident Evil 6 to be a return to classic Resi gameplay and suspenseful survival horror then prepare for a disappointment. If anything, most of the game has made another leap further away from the survival horror genre towards the third person action shooter. For those of you who enjoyed the new direction Resident Evil took with the fifth main installment, you’ll likely find a lot to love here too.
That’s not to say that us older Resi fans won’t find something we enjoy here, but only as part of the whole. That old fashioned survival horror is not the main focus of Resident Evil 6.
Leon’s return is the bright point for those of us who still remember trudging around Raccoon City Police Department or Spencer Mansion with fondness. Despite the action packed Prologue you play through to begin the game, Leon’s main campaign is much more subdued and, dare I say it, scary. It’s as close to the old style of Resident Evil gameplay as we’re ever likely to get and, consequently, it’s the part of the game that I’ve found to be most enjoyable, in comparison with the other two campaigns.
During Leon’s campaign, there are the tense moments, the smart use of sound and lighting and the need for avoidance rather than confrontation that made Resident Evil famous. Some things are missing, like inventory management and a desperate scarcity of ammunition but, on the whole, it’s a much more familiar way of playing than the other campaigns.
This style of Resident Evil has always been as much about the setting as the characters. Resident Evil 6 gets that right too – the claustrophobia of settings, linear corridors and paths to walk around and the general funneling of everything down pre-scripted routes means that the developers can play with your senses much more effectively than if you had freedom of movement and wide open spaces.
It’s early days, and this is still unfinished preview code, but the mild puzzling, enclosed game areas and jumpy tension are all a delight. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the other two initial campaigns.
Chris Redfield is back and his campaign will be immediately familiar to anyone who played through Resident Evil 5. It still has those familiar Resi tropes but there’s much more action and gunplay involved. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Resident Evil 5 repositioned itself away from what fans of the earlier games in the series had initially fallen in love with but it carved out its own fan base. It still does all of those things that Resident Evil 5 fans enjoyed and it does them at least as well as its predecessor. Ammunition is limited here and there might be times when it’s better to run than to stand and fight but, on the whole, gunplay is the name of the game with Chris.[drop2]Jake Muller’s is the third campaign I was able to spend some time with and it’s going to be the most unfamiliar to the Resident Evil series. There’s a great emphasis put on Jake’s hand-to-hand abilities, making that a viable way to fight through large sections of the game. It can even be equipped, like a weapon type, to make your unarmed combat even more effective.
During the early stages of this campaign, there’s turrets to use, bosses to fight (hit the weak points!) and staged moments of running towards the camera or away from deadly bullet spewing helicopters while a fixed camera shows your positioning. The influence of Capcom’s Lost Planet series shines through at times during this campaign. The weak points don’t glow orange but they’re just as evident and the quick time events that are a feature of the gameplay in each of the campaigns are more prevalent with Jake – at least in these early stages.
In some ways, though, Jake is the most interesting character in the intertwining narrative of the game. Not simply because he’s the newest but because he’s so crucial to humanity’s survival and he’s not driven by the desire to do The Right Thing. Jake’s abilities and attitude make for an interesting inclusion in the Resident Evil series because he’s a mercenary so at times it feels like you’re playing as the bad guy – something that was perhaps explored in Operation Raccoon City earlier this year.
Each of the three campaigns features online or split screen cooperative play, with a partner for each of the main stars of the game. These partners offer some variation in gameplay, each bringing something slightly different to the game, and can be selected to play without a cooperative partner too.
Capcom has tried to make Resident Evil 6 cater for all tastes and, to some degree, they appear to be well on the way to succeeding. The only serious concern is that, in trying to fit gameplay styles from both eras of the main Resident Evil series, they will alienate the fans of each.
Will those who lament the passing of true survival horror in Resident Evil 5 really want to play a game that consists of only one third that kind of experience? Will those who adored Chris’ action packed tear through throngs of zombified people in Resident Evil 5 really want the return to slower paced movement, confined spaces and jump scares with Leon? Who really wants the scripted hazard runs and giant weak-point boss battles that Jake brings?
While each of the three varying styles of gameplay is as accomplished as you’d expect, having all three there – trying to cater to all tastes – might be the game’s biggest problem.