Can Resident Evil 6 Raise the Franchise from the Dead?
As a long-term Resident Evil fan, I find myself becoming increasingly concerned about the direction the series has been taking the last few years. Whilst it was common knowledge that the ‘classic’ formula of the franchise (static camera, ‘tank’ controls, old inventory system) was becoming stale by the early 2000s and needed a change, Resident Evil took a turn by way of Children of the Corn and The Wicker Man and arrived at Resident Evil 4: a refreshed mode of survival horror, set in the light of daytime (a first for the series), with new mind-controlled intelligent but terrifying creatures, new third-person shooter gameplay (setting the bar for the modern third-person shooter) and an incredibly tense, slow pace. Resident Evil 4 was exactly what the series needed, and is often cited as one of the best games of all time.
This revitalisation drew in many new players to the Resident Evil franchise, and as more action-focused titles released it was evident that this was the beginning of a rift in the fan community that would later lead to many arguments on forums over the more modern games of the series. Some preferred this more action-based stance, finding the classic games fairly unplayable because of the control system. And whilst there were fans that were happy with the two styles, others – particularly the long-term fans – found the newer titles way too action-focused, losing sight of what Resident Evil had created.
Whilst is it logical to follow trends and recognise what’s popular – particularly when it comes to running a business – it is clear that Resident Evil has left some long-term fans at sea. Although Resident Evil 4 was a perfect balance of action and scares, later titles – particularly Resident Evil 5 – have moved away from the survival horror format, opting for more popular action-game integrations such as co-op, purchasing and upgrading weapons, hordes of enemies, being able to buy health items, quick-time events, agile combat manoeuvres, faster pacing etc.
It lost the slower, terrifying pace of the original games that still to this day I find terrifying even though the zombies look like Lego bricks in their dated PlayStation One format. One zombie was terrifying in those games, and sometimes when you found yourself being attacked by three or four at a time it made for tense gameplay as you quickly had to decide whether they were worth your last two shotgun shells, and how you were going to move around them in the tiny corridor you were cornered in. I miss the complex puzzles that required me to think hard as well as try and cover myself from the monsters all around me. I long to be able to explore rooms, backtrack to discover more about the world and dread what was around every corner. As Simon Pegg’s character Tim said in Spaced, Resident Evil is “a subtle mix of lateral thinking and extreme violence.” Unfortunately, now it’s just a linear shootout. The thing is, Resident Evil 5 was not a bad game – it was just a bad Resident Evil game. It wasn’t scary at all.
Resident Evil 6 feels as if it’s trying to be the Sonic Generations of the franchise, covering the different gameplay styles and stories to try and bridge the gap between the different kinds of Resident Evil fans and please everyone. This is something that I feel has been attempted before in the franchise with side games Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles and Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (by incorporating the classic story, monsters and moving through dark areas with a more action-based gameplay style). Seemingly taking inspiration from Slant Six Games’ Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, Resident Evil 6’s key word seems to be “mobility” (as the three campaign demos below seem to reiterate over and over again) as the characters can now move and shoot, perform combat rolls and crawls, engage in CQC/melee attacks and other moves action gamers expect to see. The monsters seem to have fused classic flesh-eating zombies and the modern intelligent Ganado/Majini together as the new C-Virus infected zombies feel reminiscent of the zombies Land of the Dead, carrying weapons but also happy to eat your face off.
Also new to this game though is a reticule (which seems a little odd considering the red laser is also still present), the ability to kick or slide to break creates, skill points (little detail has been given on these as of yet), up to four-player co-op at sections where the different campaigns intersect, and, most irritatingly, an arrow that points you in the direction you need to go and a distance meter to the next door. The latter takes away the element of exploration and makes the game far too quick and linear, and I hope it’s a feature that can be turned off in the options menu.
The three campaigns seem to take very different styles. Leon S. Kennedy’s and Helena Harper’s is – apparently – more of a traditional survival horror (apparently slower paced and closer to the style Resident Evil 4), Chris Redfield’s and Piers Nivans’ campaign is more modern and action-based and Jake Muller’s and Sherry Birkin’s campaign seems to be somewhat inspired by Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, as they are pursued by a gigantic monster known as the Ustanak (who looks and behaves very similar to the Nemesis T-Type, a point that has been explained by the developers). All three campaigns not only have different gameplay styles but strangely different HUDs – perhaps something that will be explained in the game itself. Gladly ammo conservation seems to have been taken into consideration in order to return Resident Evil to its survival horror roots, as this was one of the more interesting elements of the earlier games that have been lost in the hail of bullets of the later games.
One thing that has been particularly frustrating in the demos was the lacklustre environments. The Resident Evil franchise has seen plenty of grand old gothic buildings, warehouses and construction sites in its time. These plain, unimaginative environments failed to impress and one can only hope that rest of the game has something new to explore rather than the same old areas we are all used to.
Other survival horror games have already fallen victim to the popularity of more action-based titles, and we can only hope that Resident Evil 6 will be the game to raise the franchise from the dead.
Resident Evil 6 comes to PS3 and Xbox 360 on October 2nd 2012, and on PC at a later date.