Game development has an unwritten rule. If you “Over Deliver,” players will be satisfied with your product, knowing that they got their money’s worth. However, over delivering can sometimes come at a cost as proven in Resident Evil 6. Three separate character arcs, plus a fourth unlockable story, may sound like a robust gaming experience. Sadly, theory and practicality lead to a muddle of gameplay snafus in the latest Resident Evil.
For purists who grew up with the franchise, Resident Evil has never been the same since the days when a dog jumping through a window could scare the crap out of you. Over the years, the gameplay was shifted from a slow-paced horror thriller to that of a standard shooter. Capcom went so far as to turn the franchise into a multiplayer adventure in Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. You can call it evolution or you can call it confusion.
When you play Resident Evil 6, it’s hard not to think of the franchise as one big state of confusion. The core three missions all come with different gameplay mechanics. The Chris and Piers mission feels like a bland run-of-the-mill shooter. Both the voice acting and character animation are great. Piers finds Chris drowning his sorrows away in a bar and motivates him to get back to work. The legendary Chris Redfield does just that, but everything that comes after is a litany of self-deprecation. The only points where the story is remotely interesting is when it overlaps with both Leon and Jake’s mission.
Leon and Helena give you the traditional Resident Evil experience. It’s slow paced and the characters have a chance to talk and develop. However, your biggest obstacles aren’t the mutated zombies, but rather quicktime events, which don’t even make sense. While you’re locked in a hand-to-hand combat with a zombie, a train will come out of nowhere and run you over. You’re giving a small time frame to press two buttons so that you press your body flat against the subway wall. Unfortunately, if you’re already in mid-kick, you’ll get run over every time. The biggest problem with the trains is that there is no real reason as to why these trains are coming at you. They’re just there like the obligatory ghost train in Ghostbusters 2, except this train will kill you.
The Jake and Sherry game is very similar to that of Leon and Helena, except Jake is a mercenary with some platforming skills. In one chapter, he shows up in Chris’ mission to help with a mini boss. Chris is there on screen with you helping out. However, in Chris’ mission, Jake is nowhere to be found during the combat. Once again, gameplay suffers when quicktime events become the biggest obstacles when you’re trying to reach for a parachute before falling off of a crashing plane.
Playing through all of these missions feels more like a venture of habit than enjoyment. You know the franchise will continue so you’ll fight your way through each of these stories. Leon and Chris are both old favorites so why not play as their characters. Jake is a mercenary whose blood may hold the key to saving the world. Great. That’s reason enough to play as Jake. Perhaps this will be the final chapter in the Resident Evil saga.
Unfortunately, these three separate stories feel more like filler episodes on Smallville. The design team just wanted to throw all the characters in a game so that they could have the chance to be on screen together for maximum billing. Even the HUD between characters is needlessly different.
Resident Evil 6 might have been more interesting if it were designed as one long story, where you have a chance to play as each of the characters. That way, there could be higher stakes and bigger cliffhangers between chapters. WE could have started the game as Leon and then slowly gravitated towards Chris when we needed to pull out the big guns. Later on, you’ll unlock Ada Wong, a Chinese agent, who fights a solo campaign. There’s just so much story potential here that it’s a shame it’s all wasted on the cheesy story intersections.
There will no doubt be a Resident Evil 7. It’s a great franchise with a long legacy. But, perhaps it’s time the story chose a singular direction and went with it, instead of trying for several stories and failing to do any well. Right now, it’s beginning to feel like season 2 of Lost. Where are we going? Perhaps if we knew the end goal, we’d know how to get there.