Ever since Resident Evil 4, RE fans have been divided between (smart) people who saw RE4 as the savior of the rapidly aging franchise and those who saw it as the game that killed that the traditional survival horror genre. Personally, I loved RE4; as much as I loved the “classic” styled RE games, RE4’s tense atmosphere and perfect game play made it one of my favorite games of all time. But regardless of how you feel about the changes made to recent RE games, there’s a chance that Resident Evil 6 will have something to make you fall in love with the series all over again. Let me preface this preview by stating my opinions on some of the recent RE games, just so you know where I’m coming from: like I said earlier, I love Resident Evil 4. While it definitely wasn’t as “scary” as the original Resident Evil, it still had a tense atmosphere that kept me on edge for the entirety of my first play-through, and the game’s revolutionary take on third-person action still feels fun and impeccably balanced even to this day. In contrast, I kind of disliked RE5. Where as the changes in RE4 seemed like a natural evolution for the series (whether you like to admit it or not, RE has been an action game since RE2,) but Resident Evil 5’s gameplay and thematic elements made it seem more like a generic shooter rather than the revelation that RE4 was. The forced co-op took away most of the tension in the game (and the stupid partner AI made the game feel like a chore if you tried to play it solo,) the enemies weren’t very interesting to fight, and the simplified level design and inventory systems made the game feel shallow when compared to RE4’s more involved and deeper adventure.
So while I love Resident Evil, my underwhelming experience with RE5 made me a little apprehensive about RE6. Thankfully, it seems like Capcom has listened to all of the criticisms about previous games in the series and they’ve seemingly created a game that should appeal to everybody without compromising what truly makes Resident Evil unique.
The demo at E3 was divided into 3 sections, each centered around one of Resident Evil 6’s 3 protagonists: Resident Evil’s original hero, the muscle bound Chris Redfield, fan favorite star of RE2 and 4, Leon Kennedy, and finally there’s the newcomer Jake, who is apparently the son of the series’ now deceased main villain, Wesker.
The demo seems to suggest that Chris and Leon embody the different play styles that RE has taken on over the years: Chris’s stage was action packed and linear, with a focus on combat and on scripted events, while Leon’s was slower paced and moody, with an emphasis on exploration and story, similar to earlier games in the series. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to play Jake’s section of the demo (Capcom had a strict time limit on how long everyone was allowed to play — the game was very popular at E3, and people often had to wait hours for the chance to simply see it,) but Capcom has kindly uploaded full video walkthroughs of each of the demo sections, which I’ll embed below:
As I said earlier, Chris’s sections of the game seem like they’re pure action. Following an introductory cutscene which reveals that Chris seems to be suffering from sort of amnesia, the game cuts to a later scene where Chris and a team of BSAA agents are storming a Chinese slum that’s filled with gun-toting thugs who are apparently infected with one of the series’ mutation-causing viruses.
I noticed two things immediately once I started playing RE6: 1. this game is absolutely beautiful, and it’s easily one of the most technically impressive games I’ve seen this generation, and 2. the controls have been dramatically changed, and overall, it’s a massive improvement over RE5’s clunky controls. The game now controls more like a regular third person shooter: the left stick moves, the right stick aims, and yes, you can now move while shooting, unlike in RE5. Weapons can now be changed in real-time using the d-pad, and pressing the R2 button (or the right bumper on Xbox) will allow you to quickly use a healing item without having to pause the game. Melee attacks work a little differently in this game: there’s now a dedicated melee button, and instead of using a knife, your character melees with whatever weapon they have equipped (or, if you’re playing as Leon, a quick karate kick.) The knife is still in the game, but it has to be equipped like one of your guns and gives you access to some brutal close-range combos. Characters now also have a quick dodge move that they can use to evade enemy attacks at the last second.
The controls work flawlessly: combat in RE6 is easily just as smooth and and intuitive as it is in Gears of War or Uncharted. Despite the more action oriented controls, the game still feels like RE: basic “Ganado” type enemies transform into hideous, bug-like monsters when defeated, and despite an increased focus on running and gunning, you still have to be careful with your ammo: I got a little trigger happy during the demo and ran out of ammo on multiple occasions. This may be an action game, yes, but you still have to make each shot count. Like Resident Evil 4, the demo always provides with you just enough ammo to handle each situation, but never gives you enough of a surplus to make you feel comfortable: Capcom has seemingly managed to recreate RE4’s delicate balance that made that game feel so tense and challenging throughout.
While Chris’s section was all action all the time, Leon’s part of the demo was a little more cerebral. Picking up immediately after the famous scene from RE6’s debut trailer where Leon is forced to execute a zombified President of the United States, Leon and newcomer Elena Harper must make their way through a city that’s just suffered through a zombie outbreak. Though it’s hard to tell in the above video (because the host is constantly talking over the game,) the atmosphere in this part of the demo is incredible: the ruined building that Leon has to make his way through is definitely reminiscent of the original game’s iconic mansion, and it’s a genuinely scary setting: though actual enemy encounters are far rarer than in Chris’s level, much of the stage is dark (you can really only see what’s directly in front of Leon’s flashlight,) so I found myself in a state of constant, fearful readiness as I searched through each room.
Though the controls and mechanics are identical to Chris’s section of the game, Leon has access to lower caliber weapons and far less ammo than Chris, so his section of the game almost feels like a throwback to the original style of RE gameplay. Though Leon is definitely just as able of a fighter as Chris, his extremely limited ammo means you’ll either have to run from enemies or really rely on head-shots in order to get through some of the more enemy infested rooms. This part of the game really feels like it was designed to stop all the whining from old-school Resident Evil fans who somehow illogically feel like Capcom “sold them out” with RE4.
Capcom has already revealed that the game will be playable in co-op, but unlike RE5, it didn’t feel like playing the game in single-player would be a chore. While there were definitely sections that felt like they were designed for two people in mind (such as a section where Chris’s new partner, a fellow agent named Piers, had to give him covering fire while he shimmied across a rope,) I never felt like I was babysitting the AI or that I was being penalized for playing by myself.
All in all, Resident Evil 6 feels like the proper sequel to RE4 that I’ve spent years waiting for. The game intelligently modernizes Resident Evil while at the same time retaining or reintroducing all the traits that made classic RE’s so great. Capcom is planning on releasing Resident Evil 6 on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 on October 2nd of this year, with a PC version coming sometime after that.