Resident Evil 6 is a game in the throes of an identity crisis. It's not quite willing to give up its survival horror roots and takes on more ideas than it can quite cope with. However, its strong action dynamic and moody, engaging creatures and environments, coupled with a very lengthy campaign, makes Capcom's latest an enjoyable installment in the series.
The game tells its story through four separate, yet integrally linked campaigns that each have their own protagonists, motivations, weapon load-outs and endings. As a whole, it's a satisfying formula, with a compelling storyline, but one that leaves players with a lot of questions during their play through of the first campaigns. Explanations are deliberately left out of the early sections, which adds the motivation to put in the significant hours it takes to complete the title, but it's also a little annoying at times.
There's also the issue of the force replay sections. When the storylines converge, there are extended action sequences where players are given no choice but to play through the often lengthy encounters for a second time. There's no option to skip these events, even if you've played the other campaign.
Ranging from snow-capped mountain towns to a chaotic Chinese metropolis, the environments are varied and engaging, providing a change of pace that helps to keep both story and gameplay fresh. Creature design is equally varied and often downright repulsive. There are inexplicable C-Virus giants, the Nemisis-like Ustanak, the ubiquitous zombie dogs and all manner of other abominations to tangle with.
Despite RE6's lengthy nature, the gripping and intriguing storyline keeps the title from ever feeling like a grind. The action rarely lets up and, whether it's the pressing threat of some monstrous creature or the constant quest for answers and explanations to the intriguing plot, there's always something pushing both the player and the story forwards.
Although the title does a lot right, it also makes some pretty significant misses. Let's tackle the biggest one first: this is not a survival horror game. Resident Evil 6 could most accurately be described as an action title that blends some horror elements. Leon's campaign is closest to the survival horror roots with dark corridors, eerie subway sections, graveyards and underground crypts, but the game won't have you counting bullets or jumping out of your skin. Some enemies make no attempt to scare or overwhelm the player at all (we're looking at you J'avo) and some sections of the game take on an almost Call of Duty-like fire fight dynamic that feels forced in the RE universe.
RE6 isn't just a single player title – in fact, we'd go as far as to say that the emphasis is on co-operative play here. The option for second players (both online and offline) to jump into the action at any time is welcome in some respects, but the constant presence of a companion makes it nigh on impossible to create the tension-filled gameplay we've seen in previous titles.
When you first pick up the controller, movement feels a little clunky and aiming is downright cumbersome. However, after an initial adjustment period we didn't have any major issues and at times, the slightly inaccurate nature of the aiming and movement actually felt right, adding slightly to the tension and desperation. The title is also plagued by quick-time events that force the player to engage in a series of button-mashing commands. While these work at times (particularly when you're struggling to break free of the undead), they feel overused and dated as a whole.
While the title isn't going to win any awards in the graphics department, the visuals range from passable to downright gorgeous, but always atmospheric. The significant improvement in lighting over the previous title, leads to a number of low textures and some jagged edges, but overall it's a solid-looking game that provides a moody and engaging aesthetic.
While Resident Evil 6 isn't without its faults, it does present a well-crafted action horror experience that is on-the-whole enjoyable and engaging. The separate campaign structure is both the title's greatest triumph and biggest mistake. The globe-spanning storyline is intricate, over the top and personal at the same time. But due to the over-lengthy play-through time and forced-replay sections, it really starts to drag by the end. Even though the game failed to scare us and the controls were a little on the clunky side, we really did enjoy our time with RE6. All its faults somehow come together to create an experience that, while being far from perfect, is one hell of a ride.
Resident Evil 6 is available on Xbox 360, PS3 and Windows.
All images courtesy of Capcom