At some point, even the most bountiful well runs dry, the once-great bow out, the rabbit-out-of-the-hat trick isn't that amazing anymore: success isn't everlasting. Keeping things fresh and interesting gets harder the longer something stumbles along, and for the Resident Evil series, 6 marks the stalest. In the approach to almost two decades' worth of games, films, comics, and merchandise cash-ins, the longstanding franchise has explored and exploited its base fiction of zombifying bioterrorism conflicts in a healthy ad hoc manner. By marrying old design with what someone, somewhere thought was the stuff that makes modern day games 'cool,' Resident Evil 6 disregards its heritage in favor of over-produced mediocrity.
This is a case where you can't pinpoint one nitpick as being responsible for a systemic problem; RE6 is just a conceptual mess.
The few superficial strengths the game has are of little worth when the net outcome of the experience is more impacted by the faulty root systems of its structure. It's a game where the first playable moments take too long to get to, but when you do, they're a bunch of button prompts and slow-walking corridors sequences. Eventually you come to a street filled with a zombie threat, and you're finally allowed to take target practice on the shufflers, but the bullet sponges soak up pot shots and lock you up in more quick-time events with only a finite amount of ammunition at your disposal. Once you make it by the hoard, a chase sequence complete with clumsy camera angles leads into another round of more QTEs.
The setup is an in medias res prelude, meant to inspire drama, but it's a tutorial session that ultimately accomplishes little more than to plant a seed of ire and is indicative of the entirety of the game. Only after completing one of three interconnected story lines does that seed eventually sprout and dull to full-grown indifference. What was once a series built on exploration of environment and puzzle-solving has devolved into a grind for “skill points,” which are traded in for character upgrades. It takes upwards of an hour (sometimes more) on each of the five chapters of one story to amass enough points to make your firearms effective against enemies and the endless onslaught from them less annoying.
Even after beefing up your skills, however, it doesn't change the fact the game exists as a continual push forward, separated by doors, gunfights, and too many prompted quick-time events. Some segments might split up you and an ever-present partner, requiring some lever pulling here or switch pressing there, but heads-up markers always relay the next checkpoint of your route (as if you could get lost). There's so little ingenuity in gameplay, it's frustrating. Overdrawn vehicle sequences only confound the experience more, further setting RE6 apart from the survival-horror aspects that made the series so popular in the first place.
At best, 6 is a mediocre shooter with cobbled together actions like shooting from cover and dodging that require so much dexterity of the player's hands, they're simply not worth using. Enemies will continually bombard you, and you'll run out of ammo, but at least a competent buddy AI can find you, heal you, and take out some opposition (if you're playing by yourself), but never are the engagements suspenseful or the atmosphere eerie. In its linear design, Resident Evil 6's hallways are filled with invisible walls, blockades of waist-high cardboard boxes, and telegraphed enemy ambushes. Terror is not derived from recognizing threats well before they're animated, and sadly that's all the game has to offer up as a 'surprises.' Even the boss encounters are so drawn out they lose any luster in their glowy-spot battles.
This all becomes apparent through a story so filled with holes, awkward transitions, eye-rolling dialogue, and happenstance, I'm still not totally sure what went on besides the boiled-down explanation of a villain trying to take over the world—in this case, with a new strain of the series' weaponized virus. The plot brings together two groups from the three campaigns at points, ambitiously allowing four players to work together, but the whole thing never functionally coalesces as one impressive narrative. Cutscenes throughout might be animated and rendered beautifully and realistically, and foley sound effects are surprisingly nuanced, but without any actual weight to the script, it's all for naught.
At least RE6 works; it doesn't falter to any truly debilitating technical issues unless the design choices get in the way. Drop-in, drop-out multiplayer allows for both online and splitscreen gaming where progress isn't held hostage even if the host leaves a session. In addition to co-oping against BOWs, players can continually spawn as enemy infected, but just like the disappointing shooter controls, so too are the underwhelming infected's. With poor maneuverability, most of the time trying to take down players in Agent Hunt is spent in an effort to keep from walking into walls. Beyond that, there's an interesting challenge to be found in the arcade-style Mercenaries (kill to add time to a countdown) mode.
Realistically, the greatest praise you can give a game shouldn't be, “It works!” For a game built on a legacy, Resident Evil 6 seems hardly qualified of its namesake. Between counterproductive design choices, a convoluted story, and every-other-game-does-a-shooter-but-better approach, 6 is evidence the series could use a break for awhile and maybe a reboot when it's appropriate. It's playable if you plug away enough to upgrade your skills, but suffering through to a “meh” outcome isn't fun or scary—it's barely passable.
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