There are only a few short days left until the release of Resident Evil 6, the latest in Capcom’s classic survival horror series. Join us for six days of ghouls, guns, and gore as we count down the days, right here at FEARnet!
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
This line, directed towards Leon S. Kennedy by ever-present villainess Ada Wong, sums up Resident Evil 6 succinctly. Over the years the game has gone through countless mutations, giving us hundreds of plot twists, armies of repulsive creatures to do battle with, and viruses with enough code letters to fill a season of Sesame Street. After the original trilogy—as well as the tie-in titles of Resident Evil Zero and Code Veronica—the series saw its biggest shift with Resident Evil 4, which replaced the slow-burn survival horror with fast-action gunplay and replaced the T-Virus with the parasitic Las Plagas. It was a fantastic paradigm shift which led Resident Evil in a brave new direction. Resident Evil 5 continued down this more action-oriented path, but stumbled over its sun-baked African setting that seemed to bleach out the horror in its solar rays. Resident Evil 6 attempts to give us the best of both worlds and it does so without the slightest attempt at subtlety. This is a game that gives us countless throwbacks as it tries to move forward, and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t succeed in virtually every way.
The plot of RE6 is not something that can easily be explained for a number of reasons. One, I am loathe to print any heavy spoilers. Two, the game splits its story across three campaigns that run primarily parallel to one another, a storytelling trick that slowly fills in the plot gaps in each successive campaign as the lives of the characters intersect, both in plot and gameplay. It comes across as fairly simple initially, with a new virus mutation—the C-Virus this time around—being used in a series of bioterrorist attacks. The plot thickens from there, adding in deep conspiracies, a secret society, the rebirth of Umbrella (again) as Neo-Umbrella, and even more plot twists than my brain could even handle at times. There are some incredible set pieces to boot, featuring everything from zombie shark boss battles to a strafing run in a Harrier jet to an incredibly epic confrontation between Leon and a beast that can only be described as a Meat Dinosaur. It’s not Academy Award winning writing, but it had the flavor and rhythm of a great summer action film with a devilish dollop of horror on top.
As you play through each of these successive campaigns, you’re also introduced to three distinct tones in the game. Leon’s first campaign calls to mind Resident Evil 2 and 3—a comparison Leon readily acknowledges multiple times to his new partner Helena—with the town of Tall Oaks being a flame-scorched repeat of the Raccoon City incident. The horror is definitely old-school, with deep shadows hiding slavering zombies that boast greater speed and the ability to wield weapons, firmly planting the frights somewhere in between both old and new RE.
The second campaign follows Chris Redfield through a strange journey of rediscovery as he fights B.O.W.s across both Eastern Europe and China and comes to terms with his own losses and sacrifice as he faces off against the J’avo, a new B.O.W. mutation that reconfigures its biology on the fly, transforming themselves into hideous Las Plagas inspired monstrosities or cocooning themselves to emerge as incredibly difficult Chrysalide monsters. These new, more deadly foes ensure that his journey is both pulse-pounding and poignant, juggling military-style action with some surprisingly deep pathos, including a deep relationship between himself and his partner Piers that positively screams bromance.
Finally, there’s Jake Muller, a new character joined by RE2’s Sherry Birkin to go along his own journey of discovery. The pace of the action falls somewhere in between the first two campaigns, giving us enough familiarity to focus on Jake’s own journey with Sherry and the deep, dark secret he harbors inside—literally.
All of the campaigns boast the same tight controls which will be almost immediately familiar to players of pretty much any third-person action game. Gunplay is fast and furious, and players have a brawny melee option for eliminating foes that fall within arm’s length. The fantastic controls of the game are marred only by the inventory management shuffle that you need to undertake in order to throw grenades, making these strategically crucial explosives a chore to wield.
The three campaigns all run chronologically parallel to one another, occasionally meeting up with each other for short bursts that give each already meaty story an extra epic edge, expanding the story substantially without bogging the player down in a massive web of plot threads.
These crossover points become their own gameplay feature thanks to the aptly named Crossover Mode, which allows players to team up with one another at these junctures for a massive, 4-player cooperative brawl against some particularly nasty bosses. While it’s not the meat and potatoes of the game experience, the ability to tackle these challenging foes with three live people as opposed to AI partners adds a fun, fresh new wrinkle when it happens.
The other major addition to multiplayer is the Agent Hunt mode which, as I hoped in Day 1, is a shockingly transparent and brilliant feature. One you finish a campaign, you can then choose to invade other player’s single-player games as the controller for the various zombies and creatures that have devastated the world. It’s a shockingly different gameplay experience from the game proper for the invading player, as you try your hardest to slaughter the heroes of the game while controlling a very different type of avatar. Playing as a old-school zombie in Leon’s campaign is especially jarring, as you’re limited to the slow shuffle of the walking dead trying to slow down a fast-paced player. It’s damn difficult at times, but actually taking down the other player is a sickly satisfying moment that also awards you more of the game’s Skill Point currency, which you can use to buy new abilities to pump up your characters. Mercenaries also makes its (expected) return, although it’s the same Mercenaries you’ve known and loved for the past few games.
All of these additional modes add on an incredible stretch of longevity to a game that’s already surprisingly long. Each campaign will take you about 8-10 hours apiece—an acceptable length for a standalone title these days—but once you clear all three campaigns and the additional, unlockable Ada Wong campaign that ties up all of the loose ends, you’ve clocked a good thirty hours into the game already without even touching the multiplayer. You also get the promise of additional hidden items and collectibles that practically demand additional playthroughs for completists.
There is a certain segment of the population that will always bemoan the rebirth of Resident Evil as a more action-oriented title, wondering just what the hell happened to survival horror. While there is some validity to their complaint (as nostalgia-fueled as it may be), it’s ultimately a moot one. Resident Evil 6 is a new high point for the franchise, blending together old and new into a satisfying, superpowered hybrid that never lets up in its bullet-blasting pace and never lets you down as a Resident Evil title.
We’re winding down our 6 Days of Resident Evil 6 series, with just one day left. Be sure to come back tomorrow for Day 6: No Hope Left!
Still need to catch up on Days 1-4? Check out Day 1: New Game, New Features, Day 2: Three Campaigns, Three Types of Horror, Day 3: New Foes, New Fears and Day 4: Resident Evil 6 Survival Kit.