So there’s been a bit of a delay in my playing and completing of the Xbox One Resident Evil (Capcom, 1996 to present) titles due to life and the release of Resident Evil 2 (Capcom R&D Division 1, 2019) but I finally played through and completed Resident Evil 6 (Capcom, 2012). Resident Evil 6 is the culmination of the more action-orientated approach the series took from Resident Evil 4 (Capcom Production Studio 4, 2005); while Leon S. Kennedy went solo in that title and played babysitter to the otherwise-useless Ashley Graham, players were forced to constantly play in co-op, either with a friend or with a questionable AI, in Resident Evil 5 (Capcom, 2009), a title which also upped the action-centric focus of the franchise.
Resident Evil 6 continues down this route but expands upon it in numerous ways; the most obvious is the amount of playable characters available. Players can choose from four campaign modes, three of which follow the same mechanic of the Resident Evil: Revelations(ibid, 2012; 2015) games and lumber classic Resident Evil characters with a new companion. Players can pick between playing as Leon and Helena Harper of the Secret Service agent, Chris Redfield and BSAA grunt Piers Nivans, Albert Wesker’s son, Jake Muller, who teams up with the returning Sherry Birkin, now a member of the Division of Security Operations, or go it (mostly) alone as Ada Wong. Each character has their own narrative to follow and, as you play through each campaign, you will visit the same locations as other characters, though sometimes at different times, encounter some of the same enemies, and interact with the other character’s stories at various points. This results in perhaps the most complex and connected Resident Evil story ever; you’ll play a lot of the story events out of order so it’s only by playing through each campaign will you truly get a sense of what’s going down.
Essentially, though, it’s the same Resident Evil storyline you’re familiar with only with everything ramped up to eleven and taken to the extreme; a terrorist group known as Neo-Umbrella, apparently under the direction of Ada, develops a brand new virus, the C-virus, and unleashes it at various locations across the globe, causing people to turn into zombies, grotesque mutations, or enter a chrysalis and become these weird, insect-like creatures. Each of the characters pursues different goals in service of ending this threat: Leon and Helena find themselves framed for the murder of the President (who had become a zombie) by Neo-Umbrella affiliate (and National Security Advisor) Derek Simmons and fight to reveal Simmons’ role in the whole conspiracy; Chris and Piers relentlessly pursue Ada after she wiped out their platoon; Jake finds himself recruited by Sherry to bring down Neo-Umbrella because he happens to be carrying the anti-virus to the C-Virus in his blood and they are pursed by Neo-Umbrella’s Usantank; and Ada sneaks around aiding the other characters at various points, obtaining data and information, and uncovering the origins of her imposter.
It’s quite the twisting narrative, to be sure. To differentiate each campaign, the characters all receive slightly different HUDs, weapons, and melee attacks; Leon can duel wield pistols, for example, while Jake can switch to an unarmed mode to pummel enemies. Every character can use melee attacks, however, to stun enemies and set them up for instant kill moves or knock downs but these all drain a stamina meter that can only be filled by standing still. Disappointingly, and somewhat strangely, Jake has this meter and I didn’t really notice it refilling faster than any other characters; I kind of expected Wesker’s son, who is portrayed as this tough, semi-superhuman badass, to have an unlimited stamina meter, especially as he has less weapons to begin with. Another slightly annoying aspect of the weaponry is that the knife is back to being an equippable weapon, so you can’t shoot enemies and then switch to slashing and stabbing with a simple shoulder button press like in Resident Evil 4 and 5, which seems like a step backwards to me.
Also a step backwards is the inventory interface; while other Resident Evil titles favour a grid-like system that clearly displays all your items and weapons, Resident Evil 6 opts for a linear interface that makes selecting a weapon far more time consuming, switching to a sub-weapon (like a grenade) feel very rushed, and forces you to combine herbs into pills and then store them in a pill case. While this means you can recover health at the push of a button, the entire interface makes it very difficult to juggle your inventory; I was playing for most of Leon’s story before I realised that the inventory isn’t unlimited, which it appeared to be, so you have to be constantly reloading every weapon and combining those herbs, which gets especially complicated when your pill case can only hold so much. All this serves to slow the gameplay down quite a bit, at points, or make combat very stressful as you’ll be desperately scrolling through the inventory to select a different weapon or combine your herbs so you can heal. This is also quite complicated and time consuming as, when you press the button to eat a herb pill, your characters will enter into a short animation where they pop the pill out and swallow it and you’ll only regain health once this animation is complete; I was killed quite a few times during this animation, which was very frustrating. Also frustrating is that pressing the button only restores one block of health; you’ll need to press it multiple times to recover enough health to actually have an impact on your gameplay.
Luckily, your partner is always on hand to aid you in these times of crisis; while you can’t swap and change items like in Resident Evil 5, the partner AI will still come over and help you if you get knocked down and are near death and their ammo appears to be unlimited, which can be useful in tough battles. What isn’t useful, though, is how unbelievably weak all of the characters are; it’ll only take a few bites from a zombie to sap all of your health to one measly block; enemy gunfire and attacks also have a really annoying habit of knocking you to the floor, forcing you to crawl around on your back trying to unload a shot and get to safety.
The enemies are quite varied, which is nice; you’ll get the usual zombies, of course, but some of the weirder mutations, similar to those seen in the Revelations games, have deadly weaponry merged into their anatomy, like a particularly nasty chainsaw-armed asshole. Similar to Revelations 2, though, a lot of the intermediate and advanced enemies have seemingly unblockable one-shot kill attacks (I say “seemingly” as it may depend on how much health you have; if you have more than one block, you might be able to fight back in a quick-time event), which is made more annoying by the unskippable and overly long death scenes that accompany these enemies.
There are some new enemy variations at work here, too; there’s one enemy that will burst from its chrysalis as a swarm of insects, which is one of the more annoying and tougher enemies as you have to either chuck an incendiary grenade at it or wait until the big bug appears and hope you can kill it before the smaller bugs swarm over you and drain all your health. Comparatively, the boss battles are much less of an annoyance; they are long and consist of multiple stages and elements, but they generally boil down to a simple tactic of keeping your distance, shooting at the big glowing eyes/boils/similar weak spots, and let your partner do a lot of the shooting. Unfortunately, the enemies all tend to be bullet sponges; in Resident Evil 5, I found I could blast away with reckless abandon and there would always be more than enough ammo to find to keep going but Resident Evil 6 really cuts down on the resources. While I appreciate this as a fan of the classic Resident Evil videogames, it does kind of run contrary to the game’s heavily action-orientated approach; how are you expected to blast through hoards of enemies when your ammo drains away like nothing and the drop-rate is so low? Resident Evil 6 tries to compensate for this not only with the aforementioned melee attacks, which can be useful for conserving your ammo, knocking down enemies, and landing an instant kill, but also in its overabundant use of quick-time events (QTEs).
Literally anything could be a QTE in this game; while I don’t recall too many happening in cutscenes like in Resident Evil 4, there are plenty at work in the videogame proper here. Grabbed by an enemy? Waggle the control stick! Being chased by a boss on a mine cart? You better press X and A together to duck under those low-hanging planks of wood! Tackled by a bigger enemy or brought another boss to its knees? Better hit that A, X, or R-trigger and then mash away at X to pummel them! It’s kind of fun in some cases, like when Leon is desperately trying to pilot a helicopter through China, but it’s a lot more fun to do a similar mission with Ada, where she can fire the helicopter’s weaponry.
Resident Evil 6 also really loves its cutscenes; you’ll sit and watch a cutscene filled with some suitably-dramatic tension or an impossible situation and then maybe take two steps forwards and another cutscene will happen. Similarly, you’ll be tasked with defeating a boss and struggling to take aim with the game’s janky sniper rifle controls and then suddenly a cutscene will interrupt you and you’ll realise that you wasted your ammo on the first couple of stages of the battle as all you really need to do is trigger the cutscene and survive to the final stage of the fight. Don’t get me wrong, I found the story interesting and complicated but it got very annoying to be constantly interrupted with the explosive arrival or return of a massive enemy or another twist in the tale. Also, call me crazy, but I don’t see the gameplay benefit of forcing me to walk sl-low-ly from one point to a door just to trigger another cutscene; just show Chris entering the building in the damn FMV!
As in Resident Evil 4 and 5, Resident Evil 6 features numerous autosave points and adopts a chapter-based structure; each character’s story is split into five chapters and each chapter is maybe the length of two of Resident Evil 5’s, making casual play a bit more of a chore this time around. At the end of each chapter, you’ll get a medal based on how well you performed, maybe earn a dog tag (which can be customised and used as your gamer profile banner, I assume), and will be able to use the points you earn to buy new skills to equip. Again, though, this is a limited system; unlike previous Resident Evil titles, you can’t upgrade, improve, or buy new weapons between chapters and can only assign three skills at a time. There are bunch of skill slots available, though, and you can switch between them in-game, but being able to equip only three at a time does make the entire skill tree a bit pointless. I would have much preferred being able to upgrade certain things, like weapon accuracy or melee effectiveness, for each character rather than being forced to equip better ammo pick-ups or infinite ammo as a skill.
Like many of the other Resident Evil titles of this era, there are some additional modes available; the “Mercenaries” mode returns, where players to survive as long as possible against waves of enemies across the game’s various maps. In “Onslaught” mode, two players battle against waves of enemies while “Predator” pits up to six players against the Ustanak and “Survivors” is more of a classic death match set-up. I’ve only really played a bit of the Mercenaries mode as I have no desire to be depressingly owned by twelve-year-olds over the internet but I can’t say any of these extra modes hold much appeal for me. Unlike other Resident Evil titles, there aren’t really many incentives for completing the single-player campaign. You’ll get an extra scene at the end of everyone’s credit rolls, unlock New Game+ to play with the weapons and items you’ve previously acquired, and eventually unlock the ability to equip infinite ammo for various weapons but there are no additional costumes to unlock except for in the online modes. There are Serpent tokens hidden throughout each location that you can shatter to unlock concept art and the like, and you can play through each campaign again as the partner character, if you really want to play as Sherry again, and there are obviously a lot of Achievements to unlock, but I really missed unlocking extra costumes and weapons after a playthrough.
I heard a lot of crap about Resident Evil 6 but I didn’t really believe it; I figured I would be happy to be playing as Leon once again and returning to his Resident Evil 4 style of gameplay but, ironically, Leon plays very differently to how he did in that game. Instead, every character feels and plays like they’re from Resident Evil 5; much more tactile, combat-focused, and relying on a bunch of over-the-top, QTE-heavy melee attacks to dispatch enemies. I was a bit confused, to be honest, as I figured Resident Evil 6 was going to mash together the Resident Evil 4 and 5 playstyle, the more first-person-shooter approach taken by Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (Slant Six Games/Capcom, 2012), and an entirely new, melee-centric playstyle. This seemed like the perfect time to mash together the older, more popular style of gameplay with Capcom’s newer, faster, FPS approach but…that’s not what has happened here. Instead, every character is essentially exactly the same, which doesn’t offer a lot in the way of variety; obviously, the Resident Evil characters were never that different in the original titles but that was more due to hardware limitations. Resident Evil 6 can’t really use that excuse, though, and really should have tried to make the characters more distinct in the way they play.
In the end, I did enjoy Resident Evil 6 but it was much more of a slog to get through than any of the other titles; as annoying as I found the Revelations games, at least their chapters and missions were short and could be played in a casual burst. Here, everything is an annoyance; you’ll constantly be sent flying, knocked to the floor, run out of ammo and resources, wrestle with QTEs, die a lot, and probably get sick of seeing the same boss enemies crop up again and again and again. I found it much more enjoyable to focus on one campaign at a time and leave a little gap between starting the next campaign, which is a bit of a shame as I didn’t feel as fatigued playing through the campaigns in the previous games.