Saturday, October 6, 2012

Resident Evil 6

After all of the controversy over Resident Evil 6, with very lukewarm reception all over the place and a handful of downright bad reviews, I decided that I should share my opinion on the whole thing.

First of all, let it be known that I completed the entire game through all 4 campaigns, have spent a lot of time grinding skill points and I've played a good bit of both The Mercenaries and co-op. I have also tinkered with all 4 available difficulties that are available from the get-go, and I purchased the strategy guide with the game. And for those of you that somehow don't know, I am a skilled gamer that's been at this for around 25 years. Oh, and I have a huge obsession with the Resident Evil series, even down to the point of possibly admitting that I just may be a fanboy.

Do you think this game impressed me? Will I love the game strictly based on blind devotion to the series? Are the bad reviews really accurate? Read on if you're curious to find out!

From the start, it's very obvious that Resident Evil 6 has very high production values. Each campaign has a nice opening with a brief bit of backstory and includes the introduction of the new characters, both to each other and to the player. Even the mandatory tutorial level is sort of it's own thing, with a minor bit of an alternate spin on what actually happens in the campaign.

After the tutorial, the player is greeted with a very awkward menu. It's not difficult to find things, but it would have been nice if everything were condensed into a single menu screen, much like, you know, almost every other game in existence. That is, of course, only the beginning of the frustrations. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. We have much more to discuss!

Combat is one of the two primary aspects of this game (the other being QTE; we'll get to that later), and is surprisingly refined. If you've ever played the 4th or 5th main entry in the series, you know how the core combat feels. Throw in stuff such as quick shots, ground combat, stealth kills and more melee options, and you have Resident Evil 6. It works very well, although there is supposedly a cover system tacked on as well that I have yet to even see with my own two eyes.

And while I'm on the subject of combat, Capcom seems to be gambling a bit too much this time around. Instead of a gun upgrade mechanic, there is now a slotted skill upgrade system in place. It's a simple system that is both better and worse. Kill things, pick up skill points, achieve high ranks on chapters and purchase skills, then equip said skills into one of three slots. Stuff like enhanced firearm damage, more ammo drops, piercing effects and even the old infinite ammo bonuses all go here. This means that you can have a universal bonus to all firearms instead of grinding enough to upgrade a single gun, but it also means that infinite ammo is no longer a permanent passive bonus. Infinite ammo must be unlocked, purchased and then equipped into a skill slot to become active, and is only active for a particular set of guns, which means that you can not stack all of the most powerful upgrades and still have infinite ammo, nor can you have infinite ammo for every gun the game at once. It's a balanced skill system that definitely has it's perks, but I much prefer the gun upgrades of Resident Evil 4 and 5.

And speaking of unlockables, there are no longer any secret or special weapons. Aside from 80 serpent emblems, much like those blue emblems found in the past two games, there's just.. nothing. No rocket launchers, laser guns or anything of the sort. The closest thing is +100% damage bonus skills that can be earned, purchased and equipped for each weapon type, as well as the infinite ammo unlocks that become available upon clearing all four chapters for the first time. It's highly disappointing to see that Capcom gave fans no real reason to replay the game. It's all serious business this time around. All work, and no play.

The other half of the game is not what it used to be. Survival? Nope. Puzzles? Very few. Who would have ever guessed that Resident Evil would merge with the basic formula of Heavy Rain or Indigo Prophecy? That could have been a good thing in moderation, but Capcom really went all out.

That's right folks! Quick Time Events, or "Minigames" as some people tend to call them, are littered throughout the entire game. Some campaigns are worse than others, with Ada Wong's being nearly 100% free of them and, by contrast, Jake's campaign being about 70% based around them.

Now, this whole QTE controversy may not have been a bad thing in itself if it were done properly, but it's not. The events are not fun at all, and sometimes lead to meaningless frustrations that are virtually out of the player's control even during scenes that would otherwise be wonderful. And what's worse is that difficulty makes these events even worse, adding multiple buttons to the sequences, and even an element of randomization at times.

What's more important to note about this QTE whole thing is that the game is not unplayable, lacking in fun or entirely bad as a result of this very large mistake. Capcom messed up and that's totally obvious, but the game as a whole is still highly entertaining, with many thrilling scenes that are sure to keep any player on edge.

With that out of the way, let's talk graphics. The visual quality has been ramped up in some areas, such as the character models, but environments look very muddy. Environmental texture quality is downright horrible in many spots and looks as though it was created as a first-gen Xbox 360/PS3 title back in 2005. This is easily a forgivable flaw, but it makes no sense that Capcom would take a step back in that department when Resident Evil 5 was held to such a high visual standard by comparison.

That's not to say that the entire game is ugly. There are some awesome effects, and quite a few setpieces that standout. Namely, water and fire effects are greatly improved over Resident Evil 5. And as mentioned before, character models are about as good as it gets, and that includes every type of enemy in the game.

More unforgivable is the level design. For the first time in Resident Evil history, I found myself wondering where the heck to go. Even with it's very "Point A to Point B" linear design, there are many instances in which I seriously could not find the target item or destination. It seems as though someone just threw everything together last minute and went with it.

And on top of that, each area feels rushed on the player. You're never in one area for too long, and there's never anywhere to explore. There's not much to find in the way of hidden weapons or easter eggs. The entire game is literally a linear journey with icons displaying new destinations, including supposedly "hidden" weapons, which are always out in the open for the player to take with no real effort. And if that's not enough, there's a help arrow button that displays an arrow in front of you that shows you exactly where to turn in order to reach the next destination. You can actually hit this button after each turn and the arrow will point exactly where you need to go, kind of like Dead Space, except there is no line; just an arrow.

Linearity is fine, but when a series completely departs from any trace of it's roots, it's a bit unnerving.

Speaking of departing from roots, Capcom has decided to split the full story up into four campaigns, each of which shows a different portion of the events, all of which happen around the same period of time. This is an odd tactic that would have been great, but each campaign feels like a testbed for a new style of game. It's almost like Capcom is testing fan reception using the Resident Evil branding, so they can base the next game in the series around the fan favorite campaign. I wouldn't be surprised at all.

Let's break this down a bit.

The tutorial is a small variant of a specific section during chapter 4 of Leon's campaign. It's rather long for a tutorial and feels much slower paced compared to the rest of the game, but it does a good job explaining every aspect of the game as a result. I do wish that this were a unique sequence, though.

Leon's campaign is the most balanced, with every element utilized in a relatively positive way. I cannot remember any specific sequences in which I was frustrated for any reason. There are only zombies and a few special monsters, as well as a small handful of bosses, but it's a very well made campaign with plenty of action, a few tasteful QTE sequences and a nice blend of everything else. I simply enjoyed this one and it set my expections high for the rest of the game.

Chris' campaign is filled with action, although there are still QTEs here and there. There are no puzzles, and the enemies are no longer zombies, replaced by the new "J'avo". J'avo can do everything that any human can do, and can mutate in an unscripted way to create all sorts of crazy creatures. They are also incredibly smart at times, and if you're not careful, you will die a lot on difficulty settings of Veteran or higher. This one was fun, but there was one particular sequence near the end that really annoyed me. In fact, even though the rest of Chris' campaign was very fun, that one sequence was enough for me to say that I'm not very inclined to play through it ever again.

Jake's campaign is by far the worst. Like Chris, there are J'avo everywhere, but instead of being an action oriented campaign, there is a heavy emphasis on movie-like action scenes, all of which have crazy amounts of QTEs. The first 2 chapters are great, and there are some very intense stealth scenes. Aside from those things, this campaign had a friend and I ripping our hair out, swearing like crazy and wishing bad things upon Capcom. The 3rd chapter in particular is the single worst thing I have experienced in a video game of the current console generation. I could not believe what Capcom had done, and I still can't stop thinking about it any time the game comes to mind.

Ada's campaign is my favorite, with a nice blend of action and puzzle sequences at a pace that feels more "Resident Evil". This is also the only campaign featuring both zombies and J'avo, although zombies only make a brief appearance here and there. There's no co-op here, which is a bit odd considering how much Capcom put a focus on the co-op design of the game, but this camapign actually benefits from the single player design. There's not much else to say; Ada's campaign is awesome and I'd totally play an entire game based on this design.

Bare in mind that difficulty impacts these campaigns quite a bit. Amateur is a walk in the park, although certain scenes are still extremely frustrating and equally as pointless. By contrast, Professional is extremely difficult during QTE scenes and enemies are very fast. Enemy AI is quite ridiculous as well on higher settings. I recommend playing on Veteran for full effect, and perhaps Amateur for Jake chapter 3 and Chris chapter 5 strictly because of QTE and the freakin' dash/snow mobile sequences.

And if that 20+ hours of very mixed gameplay isn't enough, there's always The Mercenaries, which has been a staple of the series since the second game. It's back and is just like it has been for a while now. Simply collect time and combo bonuses, survive and kill as many enemies as possible, building your combo as high as you can before the time runs out for massive points. It's really that simple, and probably the best part of the game. It's a majorly improved aspect this time around, with a total of 15 characters, counting the unlockable alternate loadouts and the final secret character. The only downside is that there are only three levels included on the disc by default, and threee more that are likely unlockable later in some sort of DLC, some of which can be obtained early with preorder codes. I have the catacombs level, which is very much the worst of the four that I have, but still fun in it's own way.

If all of THAT isn't enough, there's the brand new Agent Hunt mode, which gives you the power to join someone's game and control random creatures in an attempt to kill them. On lower difficulty settings, this mode is very boring, as creatures are very slow and weak. On higher settings, however, this becomes a neat little way to pass the time. Be warned, though: You ahve no control over which creature you control. It's entirely based on the section of the game that the random player you joined is playing. Also, Leon's campaign is the worst for Agent Hunt mode, as many enemies are easily killed and more or less unarmed outside of melee range.

I'd say the bottom line here is the fact that Capcom invested little to no resources into the testing of this game. Coming from a hardcore Resident Evil series fan, it pains me to say that this game is the weakest link of the core series. There are many high points, but it's impossible to ignore the handful of game breaking scenarios. Do I like the game? Yes. But do I love it? Hell no. This is definitely more of a "wait for a sale" kind of game, but even then, only for the fans. If you are not a big fan of the series, I highly recommend sticking with 4 or 5 for the time being.

Resident Evil 6 is a fairly good game, but far from greatness. I'd give it a 7/10 overall, but I'd wager a 6 is more appropriate for those that would not consider themselves fans.

I will say one thing, though: This is NOWHERE near as bad as Resident Evil: Operation Racoon City, which is an abomination.