It's uncanny how much Resident Evil (RE) has in common with the Silent Hill (SH) franchise, despite having a fundamentally different approach to the Survival-Horror genre. Both games used clever means to overcome the PlayStation's hardware limitations. SH employed fog to limit draw distance, whereas RE leveraged the claustrophobic environs of a mansion to reduce rendering complexity. These clever workarounds eventually went on to define the franchises.


Ada's current '70s inspired outfit has nothing on the elegant red number in RE 4

Deja Vu, Anyone?
Their sequels distilled gameplay elements to perfection and combined them with a compelling narrative to emerge as the best in their respective series. Their third iterations were more of the same, whereas the fourth instalment, in both cases, went through a radical change. SH 4 did away with the eponymous town altogether and introduced a first-person camera view, whereas RE 4, for all intents and purposes, eschewed its Survival-Horror roots for an all-out action romp. Both games hit the right chord and were successful to a great extent.

Thereafter, it was all downhill for both franchises, as SH: Homecoming strayed from its cerebral psychological horror roots, and replaced it with a pitifully literal approach to horror and gratuitous gore—all reminiscent of Hollywood schlock. RE 5, on the other hand, went full-retard with all-out action without caring to overhaul its debilitating controls, which were good enough to generate tension in a survival horror title, but extremely frustrating for an action game. Both franchises have been on a steady decline ever since. However, as a die hard Resident Evil fan, I had genuinely hoped for this game to succeed.


Michael Bay was here

A Complicated Affair

It's quite difficult and rather futile to summarise the plot, considering how it continues the canon from the RE 4 and 5, while also introducing new cast members and a grown up Sherry Birkin from RE 2. The characters and their story arcs are convoluted and, to be honest, mimic the current state of the Bollywood industry. I mean, you have such abundance of sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, uncles and complicated relationships that it pretty much explains why the franchise avoids love angles altogether. Think about it, there's a serious risk of ending up with something decidedly incestuous here, if Capcom doesn't exercise caution while pairing them up.

After Albert Wesker's death and Umbrella Corporation's dissolution in RE 5, the game conveniently shoves in a new evil entity, unimaginatively named Neo-Umbrella, which has been busy developing the C-virus just in time for another global crisis. RE 6 is played out in three interlinked campaigns offering a considerably long 30-hour playtime in totality, with Leon Kennedy and newcomer Helena Harper starting off on the American front, Chris Redfield and newbie Piers Evans taking the fight to China, and Jake Muller and Sherry Birkin facing off with the relentless uber-mutant dubbed Ustanak in a fictional Eastern European country. Finish all three of these story arcs, and you're rewarded with a solo Ada campaign, which serves towards clearing the mysteries left in the wake of the criss-crossing narrative.


The reworked combat system is surprisingly effective

Major Gameplay Overhaul

The plot may be convoluted, but the combat doesn't have to be that way. Basic gameplay elements and controls have received a major overhaul this time around, and the change is positive. The in-game menu and inventory systems, for example, function in real time and have been streamlined to perfection. Gone is the awkward item and weapon management of the past games. It has been replaced by a system that can be quickly and effortlessly accessed with the D-pad without pausing the game. The ability to move and aim simultaneously, in addition to swap weapons and items in real time has been carried over from RE: Operation Raccoon City. Combat, however, has a lot more depth than the last game. Skill points earned through the campaigns can be spent on perks that buff up parameters such as defence, firing rate, recoil, power, critical hit, piercing ability, and more.

Melee combat receives a whole new dimension thanks to a counter system that can turn the tides against your enemies, provided you nail the timing. In addition to regular kung fu and melon-smashing critical hits introduced in RE 4, you have flying kicks, shoulder butts, and sliding as well as environmental attacks. The FOV has been maintained at the bare minimum to increase the scare quotient. However, that doesn't mean you end up running into a zombie's arms. Thankfully, you can get around this limitation by pulling off a Quick Shot, which lets you reflexively target the nearest zombie without aiming. All of these moves are tempered by a stamina bar to prevent abuse and ensure a fine gameplay balance.


Unlike RE 5, the partner AI actually works this time around

Despite all these improvements, my experience with Resident Evil 6 still resembles a bell curve. It shows a brief glimpse of great promise before squandering it all away by repeating the same mistakes made in the last game. The Leon/Helena campaign is the best of the lot. The initial few chapters therein capture the essence of its Survival-Horror roots, harking back to the suspense and tension created in the first three games. The updated controls and inventory system work well with the slow, deliberate build-up characterised by sparse action and shambling zombies. In fact, the first 40 minutes of the campaign were so genuinely interesting and atmospheric that this game would have easily deserved an 8/10, if it had just stuck to the same formula.


I've had it with these motherlovin' snakes in this motherlovin' game!

That Escalated Pretty Quickly!
Unfortunately, it doesn't. A fair bit into the Leon campaign, a barrel explodes, followed by a car, then a school bus, a plane, and a helicopter that crashes into a building, which in turn explodes in a bag-ass flame. If you haven't clued in on it yet, the game transforms into a pyrotechnic orgy involving pointless set pieces shoehorned in without much consideration, and relentless hordes of enemies that makes even the updated controls seem clunky.

The Jake/Sherry campaign is the best way to illustrate where this instalment goes wrong. While RE 4 had elaborate set pieces and frenetic combat, it had got the pacing right down to a T. The action would crescendo as it moved from the eerily quiet moments that unexpectedly fulminated in carefully choreographed and fun set pieces. All this fit in well with the storyline. RE 6, on the contrary, gives an impression that the development team merely wanted to saturate gamers with high-adrenaline action sequences, by focusing on sheer numbers rather than on quality.

In a way, all this action is sort of like porn—gratuitous and not very cleverly done. The only difference is that unlike porn, none of these set pieces are really enjoyable. No, that isn't just because they are trite, unimaginative and repetitive—which they indeed are—but because you have to endure an endless barrage of finger-busting Quick Time Events (QTE) to survive them. No sir, these aren't the press-a-few-buttons-to-unleash-pretty-cinematics kind, but they are Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-inducing exercises that force you to wiggle thumbsticks and tap buttons till your finger muscles throb with pain.


The Ustanak has more hitpoints than Vijay Mallya has debt

If you think this was bad, the Chris/Piers campaign takes this brand of mindless action and dials it all the way to 11. There's hardly a moment of respite, with a relentlessly boring onslaught of pointless chases and annoying boss fights garnished with the drudgery of repetitive QTEs. This campaign underscores the poor cover-based combat, dodging mechanics, and the general travails of re-purposing controls meant for a Survival-Horror game in an action-packed Third-Person Shooter.

I can't think of many things that can compare to the agony of taking down an infuriatingly tough and abundant new enemy class dubbed as J'avo, which mutate into tougher and grotesque new abominations, even as you run low on ammo. This is a textbook example of how sexing up the Survival-Horror zombie world with action straight out of a Call of Duty game can screw up a formula that seemed to be working for the quiet bits of the Leon campaign.

A Wasted Opportunity
The game does have its moments of brilliance, but they aren't significant enough to make up for its transgressions. Unlike RE 5, the single player partner AI works well for a change. The graphics are sharp and fluid (for PS3 of course), while some levels display impressive art direction. Co-op junkies will love the split-screen co-op system, which is quite satisfying if you don't mind the loss of TV real estate. Online co-op works equally well and it's more fun playing with a real human being. However, none of the game has any puzzle or gameplay tweaks that leverage the co-op elements beyond the point of having an extra gun by your side. The Agent Hunt mode lets you join others' campaigns and play as a random enemy, which is cute for the first few times, but the novelty soon wears off.


Whoa, dude, at least buy her dinner first!

Resident Evil 6 comes across as a wasted opportunity when I look at the delightfully old-school, atmospheric build-up to the Leon campaign and its subsequent descent into an incompetent action affair, shoehorned with repetitive set pieces and annoyingly long boss battles. Capcom has strayed from the Survival-Horror roots of the original franchise and left it with a serious case of an identity crisis. It tries too hard to evolve with the times and mimic gameplay elements from popular games, presumably to rope in a wider audience.

What you are left with is a tasteless pastiche of video game cliches that betrays the veterans of the franchise. Even in its quest to achieve popular approval, it isn't remotely competent enough to win over any newbies either. This game, then, is a failure on most counts and will only please the sort of die-hard fans who tend to buy anything with the Resident Evil sticker on it.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,