It would suck to live in the world of Resident Evil. After 16 years of constant bio-terrorist threats, zombies, megalomaniacs, and viruses with names slowly using up the entire alphabet, it’s surprising to see any real survivors left. But rather than give us hope for humankind’s triumphant victory, developer Capcom is content to keep chipping away at its numbers with Resident Evil 6 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC (due out on Tuesday, Oct. 2).
The current and familiar protagonist crew of Leon Kennedy, Chris Redfield, Sherry Birkin, and Ada Wong team up with newcomers Helena Harper, Piers Nivans, and Jake Muller for the largest ensemble cast in this zombie-shootin’ franchise to date. You follow their adventures across the globe as the threat of the new Chrysalid virus spreads.
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They’re kind of like The Avengers, except with fewer superpowers and better hairstyles.
WHAT YOU’LL LIKE
Half the fun of playing a Resident Evil game is seeing how many more viruses and grotesque monsters Capcom can come up with. In Resident Evil 6, the new bio-organic creatures on the block are the C-virus-powered J’avo, a formidable threat thanks to the multiple ways they can instantly mutate and evolve. They can sprout large, bony arms to shield themselves or long legs to jump great distances. Your tactics in battle constantly change to counter their attacks.
The enemy transformations look fantastic, too. Entrails pour out of the J’avo like goodies from a blood-soaked piñata as their limbs twist and break at bone-crunching angles. Others spontaneously combust into flames, and their melted skin forms a golden cocoon that quickly gives birth to even larger creatures. And some of the more gargantuan bosses look like they belong in the next Godzilla flick than a survival-horror game.
With these zombies, who come in their own shapes and sizes (my favorite being the “whopper,” a large rotund creature who looks like he’s about to pop), Resident Evil 6 is challenging, even by series’ standards. I even found myself struggling with limited ammo and healing herbs while playing on normal.
A ton of content
With 20 chapters to play through in the campaign, either solo or in cooperative mode, Resident Evil 6 is a really long experience. On average, each chapter took 60 minutes or more to complete, with my total run time being 23 hours. If you want to see absolutely everything and hunt for hidden items, you can tack on another couple of hours to that total. The tally also includes exploring alternative routes in each level since characters often separate and take different paths to help each other out. Unless you’re playing co-op with a friend, the only way to see it all is to replay certain sequences.
All of that’s not even counting the “extra content” section of the title. This is where you’ll find The Mercenaries, a recurring minigame (since Resident Evil 3: Nemesis) where you blast enemies to earn a high score. It’s a fun little diversion if you need to get your Resident Evil fix in small bursts. You can also check out Agent Hunt, an online co-op option that allows you to invade other players’ campaigns by controlling specific types of zombies and J’avo, but it only works if they set their Agent Hunt setting to allow anyone to jump in. Unfortunately, even though I unlocked this mode, I was unable to play it during my review period.
“Crossover” scenarios allow for more co-op moments where four characters team up during key sections of the narrative to fight a boss. As with Agent Hunt, this only happens if everyone has their online settings open, and, if so, you’re automatically matched with others who are playing within the same eligible chapters. Since I played the campaign offline, I wasn’t able to experience these portions either, but it seems like a neat way to work multiplayer action into the game without being too intrusive.
In spite of this, however, I still got a lot of mileage out of Resident Evil 6. For those who like to measure the value of their entertainment in terms of dollars per hour, the game doesn’t disappoint.
A certain level of cringe-worthy dialogue and events have been in every major iteration of the franchise, but with Resident Evil 6, Capcom kicks it up to a whole new level. You’ll realize this once you see that almost every character is really a professional wrestler: Helena has a devastating elbow drop, Leon jumps from behind to grab zombies into a skull-crushing headlock, and Jake loves to suplex the J’avo into submission. These context-sensitive melee attacks are just the beginning.
In addition to a generous helping of slow-motion cutscenes, timed button prompts are back in full force for dramatic face-to-face encounters with your enemies. Quick shots, dodge rolls, and stylish butt-sliding are all part of your new arsenal of acrobatics, and they work rather well here as zombies and J’avo alike will remind you to keep moving (a huge change from the series’ stop-and-shoot mechanics). As the action ramps up, so do the verbal wisecracks coming from the protagonists that only fans of previous games will understand.
RE6 pays homage to traditional survival-horror elements with Leon’s and Jake’s chapters, but Capcom is finally embracing the action-heavy direction it hinted at in Resident Evil 4 and took a half step toward in Resident Evil 5.
Subtle visual changes
While Resident Evil 6 is a great-looking game, the graphics and visual effects aren’t what make it so impressive. I loved the little details like the way Sherry’s winter coat flapped in the wind or the mud that slowly accumulated on Leon during a rain-soaked adventure in a graveyard.
Another neat touch is the revamped inventory and health system, as shown on the bottom right or left of the screen. The system’s look changes depending on which character you play as. Chris’ has a green-tinged glow, as if emanating from a laptop. Leon’s has a clinical feel with its white octagonal compartments. Ada’s consists of blue cubes with an aquatic theme, and you can actually see bubbles rise to the top of the screen as you look through your items and weapons. These visual motifs extend to the settings menu as well where large but simple icons take the place of the usual text descriptors.
These aesthetic choices are interesting, and they don’t affect the gameplay at all. But they help reinforce the idea that you’re playing with characters who have distinct personalities and motives.
Your computer-controlled partners are actually competent … perhaps even a little too good. They can’t die, at least on normal difficulty, and you don’t have to worry about them spending any of your ammo like Sheva Alomar did in Resident Evil 5. They’ll have no trouble killing groups of zombies or J’avo on their own, and they’ll do their best to revive you when you’re down. So if you don’t have a friend to play with, don’t worry. You can play the game perfectly fine without the A.I. getting in the way.