With Resident Evil 6 you get the feeling that Capcom isn't quite sure as to what the series should be and after playing the game it becomes very clear that this once great series may have greatly lost its way. Resident Evil 6 suffers from a major identity crisis and is never really sure of itself. It seems to have strong desires to be all manner of things; an action film, strategic shooter and a survival horror game and while this offers a great deal of variety to the player, none of these work well together.
This is abundantly clear in the main campaign with four stories (three that are playable at the start, the last being unlocked on completion) that are tightly interwoven with each other. While the game works hard to bring these campaigns together, they never quite gel.
Chris Redfield's campaign plays as a military shooter as he and his squad of marines negotiate the war-torn streets of Eastern Europe to take on the mutated J'avo. This section is very much about strategy and action, with enemies carrying weapons and using cover to avert fire and draw Chris out. That's not to say that all remnants of the series have been forgotten in this campaign. J'avo mutate and sprout additional limbs when shot and there are moments of high-tension combat with you having to: carefully time your moves, conserve your ammo and avoid being flanked by the enemy; these moments hark back to the action in both RE4 & 5. That said, more often than not you will forget that you're even playing a Resident Evil title.
Newcomer Jake Muller & Sherry Birkin's campaign is more focused on melee combat and scripted events. There is a real emphasis here on high-octane chases and striking surroundings as you are hunted by a relentless Nemesis-type enemy. Whilst this is a very adrenalin-fueled fast-paced story, it seems far removed the RE series and often feels like one long chase sequence in a movie.
It is Leon Kennedy's story that is steeped firmly in traditional RE roots and gives glimmers of what could have been. Joined by newcomer Helen Harper, he has to battle his way through zombie-strewn streets and creep though dimly lit corridors, solving puzzles as he attempts to get to the bottom of the events that led to the death of the President and the new viral outbreak. This campaign mixes the action of RE4 with the gameplay of earlier titles which fans of the series will truly love. It’s a shame that it and the other campaigns are let down by the shoddy controls and mechanics. You will find you are never able to completely immerse yourself in any of the campaigns due to the heavy reliance on ‘Quick Time Events’ requiring you to press a selection of buttons to complete a sudden action. While this featured in RE4 & 5, you’ll find it's used in this game to the point of exasperation. Any tension that the story builds is disrupted by the incessant QTEs which are sometimes nearly impossible to complete.
You'll find yourself furiously button-bashing to no avail and it quickly feels like a chore. There doesn’t seem to be any pattern to this either: there are lengthy sequences where you are able to fully throw yourself into the game only to have those moments ruined by a constant barrage of QTE. It jaggedly disrupts the pace and stops you from being able to engross yourself fully in the story. Another aspect that lets the game down is the camera angle. Like in the two games before it, the camera is focused tightly behind the player and while it can be said that camera angles have always been an issue in Resident Evil games, the camera in RE6 is infuriating. The camera swings constantly around the player, zooming in ridiculously close so you are never quite sure of your surroundings; this is extremely frustrating when you’re engaged in combat and are easily blindsided by an enemy. It also makes it difficult to manoeuver yourself, especially during the many chase sequences where you have to run towards the camera, only to have it swing around behind you revealing an object that you are now stuck behind: cue instant death. Oh yes, having your character die unavoidably is something you will face often in Resident Evil 6. Be in the wrong place at the wrong time and splat, you’ll find your character has been taken out by an out of control car. There is no warning or guide as to when these action sequences will be triggered; you’ll simply have to watch as the ‘You are Dead’ message appears on your screen and load to an earlier checkpoint.
That's not to say that Capcom doesn't get anything right: graphically, Resident Evil delivers. Whether it’s the shards of moonlight that pour through the windows of the college campus or the buildings that aggressively protrude from the snow-covered mountains, the level of detail and the set design in this game is astounding. It’s a shame that we don’t get a chance to thoroughly enjoy it due to the constant bombardment of QTE and wildly revolving cameras. On the rare occasions we’re not overwhelmed by these things the level design helps to create real moments of tension, which is very apparent in Leon’s campaign. In it, some of the chapters really hark back to the settings of Raccoon City in the earlier Resident Evil games with tight, confined hallways and creeping shadows. The chapter based in the cemetery works especially well with lightning momentarily revealing Leon and Helen’s surroundings before plunging you back into near darkness. It’s the atmospheric moments like this when you really get to see what the series is about.
As a whole, Resident Evil 6 comes across as being very confused and unsure of itself. It offers varied gameplay with many distinct styles, and you will spend a good 10 or more hours completing each campaign but when it comes down to it the heart of the Resident Evil series has been lost. It’s convoluted and at times feels like Capcom have made 3 different games and put them all under the Resident Evil tag. There's nothing wrong with wanting to evolve and move the series in a new direction. RE4 did an amazing job of refreshing the somewhat tired series, but where that succeeded is that is was very clear it stood firmly in the world of survival horror. Resident Evil 6 does not. That's not to say that RE6 is a bad game. It has moments of pure brilliance but it's clear to see it's been pulled in too many directions and lost the essence of what made the Resident Evil series great. 7/10