Capcom is rereleasing Resident Evil 6, 5, and 4, in that order, over the course of the year. Rereleases for 4 and 5 make sense as the former game is considered one of the best ever and the prior a flawed, but enjoyable follow up. Resident Evil 6 shouldn’t have been released initially, let alone again in 2016.
There are a lot of problems with this game, but they all lead to the same thing: It is the end result when a developer learns all of the wrong lessons from a previous success, in this case Resident Evil 4.
RE4 was the first Resident Evil game that really pushed action into the forefront. Instead of trying to avoid enemies to conserve ammo, players are often required to shoot their way out of a bad situation. From RE4 on, Capcom incorrectly figured that people only liked Resident Evil games where they could shoot hordes of infected enemies.
The success of RE4 doesn’t just hinge on the action, but the lead up to that action. The game has a simple, refined gameplay loop that I wrote about at length last week. The TL;DR version of that post: it gives players a large overall goal in an area, with smaller, more immediate goals and enemy encounters scattered in to keep things interesting. The overall goals usually hit a crescendo with a boss fight or big action set piece. RE4 then ratchets the tension down for a room or two, introduces a new big goal, and repeats the process.
RE6 takes RE4, a game pushing the limits of how bombastic a Resident Evil game can be, and gets bigger. Like, Michael Bay bigger.
To start with, RE6 has a lot of shooting and explosions. It makes RE4 look reserved in comparison. The cutscenes are beautifully rendered, but are either something being shot, something exploding, or something about to be shot, where it may shortly thereafter explode. I became numb to it after a couple of hours. I like a good action movie as much as the next person, but shouldn’t there be something else in a franchise built around horror?
All that shooting and exploding is just as mind numbingly boring in gameplay, as none of the weapons feel particularly powerful or fun to use. This is mostly because the enemies are obnoxious bullet sponges. You pound bullets into enemies, they mutate into tougher enemies, and then you pound more bullets into them until they die.
These mutations are an attempt to cover up for the lack of interesting enemy types. At best, the mutations are slightly more challenging than your standard foes. There are no enemies as memorable as the Chainsaw Man, the Regenerators, and the Garrador.
You can move and shoot now, which works fine. However, one of the big appeals of RE4 is how your lack of being able to shoot while moving informs the combat. You rarely have to worry about how to best position yourself to take out an enemy. There are no subtle tactics, only brute force.
The gunplay is bad, but the fatal flaw is pacing. Simply put, there is none. There is no pacing in story, tone, or gameplay. The only variations exist in the four (yes, four) different campaigns, and they are just uglier shades of an ugly color.
The continued focus on co-op for three of the four campaigns is a real killer. RE5 was the first main game of the series to introduce co-op, and did so at the expense of tension. RE4 is more empowering than its predecessors, but it still wrung out genuine frights through the sheer, overwhelming isolation of Leon’s task.
The only campaign that tries to be scary is Leon’s and the co-op destroys any scares the “horror” themed Leon campaign can deliver. It is awfully hard to be scared when you have another person or AI controlled character helping you shoot through enemies.
To compensate, Leon’s story is alarmingly dark 90 percent of the time. Enemies jump out and grab you constantly, but after the third or fourth cheap jump scare, it becomes supremely annoying. The Chris, Jake, and Ada stories forgo terror altogether, save the occasional bit of body horror or a chase sequence.
This steep impact on atmosphere can be overcome if the gameplay loop is rewarding, but no. Instead of the beautiful, perfect pacing of the franchise’s best game, we move our characters from one part of the map to another, shooting down boring wave after boring wave of enemies, doing massive amounts of QTEs, and using standard co-op actions such as “both players pull their respective switch at the same time”.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. If you are a newcomer to the series, don’t be sucked in by the marketing on this one. Play the excellent remake of the original, and then wait until this fall until Resident Evil 4 comes out. This game should only be remembered only as one of Capcom’s greatest failures, if remembered at all.