was one of the most important franchises associated with the survival horror genre, or at least it used to be. Over recent years, the franchise has seemingly moved away from survival horror into the world of action and tactical shooters. Back in January, Capcom decided that Resident Evil 6 (Xbox 360)
would attempt to return the franchise to its roots with a “fusion dramatic horror” atmosphere. Our official review is here to explain whether the game is the instalment for which survival horror fans have been waiting.
As the intro titles fade away, the camera comes to rest inside an abandoned car. Attached to the steering wheel, a creature struggles to emerge from a chrysalis. Just as the creature appears to be winning his battle, a huge explosion rocks the street and the camera turns off as two people are thrown against the windscreen. As the cameras slowly return to focus, bullets fly as a hand reaches out for a pistol. That hand belongs to Leon Kennedy who, along with new character Helena Harper, needs to crawl to safety away from the helicopter that is randomly spraying bullets at a horde of zombies. It is here that the tutorial starts walking players through the basic controls needed to survive.
The tutorial does run the risk of giving players a completely false impression of the upcoming game. An experience for just one player that is filled with quick time events, the true nature of the game doesn’t really come across. Although quick time events do occur, they definitely do not make up the majority of the game. Added to this, the three starter campaigns are set up for co-op play in their entirety. Those who do not have a couch co-op partner can join up with an Xbox LIVE friend (or stranger) – in fact, the game will automatically default to an Xbox LIVE setting. Those who wish to play on their own with an AI partner will need to change their settings. Choices, choices
Once the tutorial is finished, players then get a choice to play one of three campaigns. Resident Evil 6
takes place ten years after the events in Raccoon City. Leon’s campaign begins on June 29th, 2013, when the President of the United States hopes to curb the resurgence in bioterrorist activity by holding a conference in Tall Oaks to reveal the truth about Raccoon City. Leon, a personal friend of the President, is due to appear with him. However, the venue is hit by a bioterrorist attack and Leon is forced to team up with Helena to uncover the source of the outbreak and save any survivors.
Leon’s campaign is the closest that the game comes to survival horror. Players begin the mission armed with just a pistol and a shotgun with which to fell the zombie hordes. In this campaign especially, the shooting mechanics felt a little clunky and the number of shots needed to fell a zombie seemed to vary randomly. Whereas two shots to the head would kill the first zombie, the second would still be approaching after taking four shots to the same area. I found that melee attacks were often more effective, but players need to keep an eye on their stamina meter. If players hammer the melee button too much, their stamina will deplete and the characters will barely be able to push the zombies away. Melee is also pointless against zombie hordes, where getting surrounded happens much too often. Unfortunately the cheap tactic of running quickly towards the next checkpoint is the best option here. Although the zombies will shamble after you, they are easily outmanoeuvred.
There is ammo lying around if players bother to explore in side rooms, but the campaign is far from a complete free roam environment. The whole campaign funnels players down corridors or streets, and if it appears that another route is open to you, you’ll find yourself facing the dreaded invisible wall. There is a story to be told and set pieces that must take place. This was never more apparent than a situation involving a metal detector. Players can vault barriers and tables to gain an advantage on their enemies or to take cover. At the side of the detector was a table that players should
have been able to vault. Instead, an invisible wall prevented that from happening so that players had
to walk through the metal detector and set off another horde.Is the outbreak confined to North America?
The answer is no. Six months before the events in Tall Oaks, a very drunk and down-on-his-luck Chris Redfield is tracked down in a bar by his former squad mates in the BSAA. Piers Nivans has been sent to return him to the team, but post traumatic amnesia prevents Chris from even recognising his former partner. The muscle memory and the ability to fight is still there though, and he agrees to return. The campaign begins with six team members rappelling down onto a rooftop in Lanshiang, China. An outbreak of the C-Virus has turned the local civilians into J’Avo and the BSAA must stop the virus from spreading.
The J’Avo are a different enemy to the zombies. They can communicate, take cover and shoot, but they have no free will. They also have the ability to mutate damaged limbs, meaning that a different strategy is needed to combat the threat. As a result, Chris’ campaign has more of a third-person shooter feel. Ammo must be acquired from breakable boxes or incinerated J’Avo – there is very little lying around. Although this campaign is the one where players will use the most ammo, the sheer proliferation of boxes and enemy drops mean that ammo is never really limited. In fact, this could be said for any of the campaigns, where I actually ended up throwing grenades and ammo out of my inventory so that I had enough room for new items. The game menu contains the option to turn on infinite ammo, but this really isn’t needed. What about Europe?
At the same time that Chris is being dragged out of a bar, Albert Wesker’s biological son Jake Muller is based in the European city of Edonia with his band of mercenaries. All of them are given a shot, which they believe to be an energy booster to improve performance, but is actually a dose of the C-virus. All bar Jake are instantly turned into deadly J’Avo. With valuable antibodies in his blood, US agent Sherry Birkin must make sure that Jake escapes unharmed so that an antidote can be developed. The only catch is that an Ustanak also wants a sample of Jake’s blood for unknown reasons.
Jake’s campaign is a little harder to describe. The best that I can come up with is that it is survival action without the horror. There are many more scripted set pieces in this campaign, but these are what give the campaign its own distinct feel. Ouick time events are much more common here and vary in difficulty depending on the situation. For those that find themselves struggling with these events, Capcom thought of that too. The Amateur difficulty takes care of these events for you, so all you have to do is shoot and run. There is also a little room for exploration, with hidden rooms sprinkled around to reward players who take the time to look around properly.
Each campaign has five chapters, each of which total 1-2 hours for those not attempting speed runs. Although each campaign has its own feel and own individual story, there are key points where the campaigns intertwine and the characters cross paths. These rare moments allow for four player co-op, but without a proper matchmaking system it is impossible to guarantee being able to play as a group of four friends. Once in the match, you can only communicate with your team mate and not the other two players, meaning that the four-player moments seem more of a token gesture than a proper attempt at bringing players together.Bringing the skills
Throughout each chapter, players will be able to pick up skill points from broken crates or felled enemies. At the end of the chapter, players will be given the opportunity to spend these points and upgrade their skills. The skills range from firearm proficiency to damage reduction, with things like increased item drop frequency in between. The prices of these skills range from a lowly 100 skill points to over 70,000 points just for a single upgrade. Certain skills, such as accuracy, have levels – your accuracy will increase with each level you purchase, but whereas the first level may cost just 3,000 skill points, the next will cost 33,000. Any difference to the character’s capability is barely noticed during the lower levels, but higher investments are definitely recommended.
Luckily your AI partner’s capability is not effected by your skill choices. The AI in Resident Evil 5 (Xbox 360)
was a large bone of contention for many players and Capcom has definitely taken this criticism to heart. Your partner will now target and dispatch enemies with relative ease and will not be a drain on your resources. All of your ammo and skill points are for your use only. They will come to your aid fairly quickly if needed with an infinite supply of adrenaline shots. My only complaint was their occasional tendency to get in the way or block doors. However, the need has passed for a human partner to complete the game on the higher difficulties.Mercenaries returns
The other game mode that players can access upon first starting the game is Mercenaries mode. This is a timed survival mode where up to two players must kill enemies to increase the amount of time on the clock. Working together will increase the combo count and lead to bigger time bonuses. If players are struggling, time and combo crystals will temporarily increase those factors to give players a chance to get back into the groove. If the match is really going badly, players can pause the action and restart the level from scratch. Unfortunately, once a match has ended, a restart option is unavailable. Players must end the game and reselect their characters and level before being able to have another go. This seems like a bit of an oversight on a mode that really encourages players to have ‘one more go’ to better their score.
Once players have completed one campaign, Agent Hunt mode is unlocked. This allows players to take on the role of an enemy in the game of another random online player. Although players can upgrade their mutants, the initial enemies are weak and can barely make an impact on the campaign. Those worried about random players trying to sabotage their campaign can choose to turn Agent Hunt mode off when starting their campaign chapter. Another unlock occurs when completing all three campaigns; Ada Wong’s campaign unlocks after here. Unlike those three, Ada’s campaign is only a single-player journey where she uses stealth and puzzle solving. With a different feel again, this campaign also doesn’t have an epilogue. If ever there is a source of story expansion for Capcom to build on with DLC, this is it.Achievements
This couldn’t be a TA review without mentioning the achievements. The majority of the achievements are gained by working through the campaigns. In fact, all of the achievements are unlockable solely through playing the four campaigns, making Agent Hunt and Mercenaries mode entirely optional. As well as the story progress achievements, there are several tied to the use of certain weapons. One achievement requires ten kills with every weapon in the game, meaning that players will need to assume the role as the secondary characters at times.
Some of the achievements will appear to be a grind, but the only one that will take quite a while is Mad Skillz
. Although the achievement isn’t that hard to unlock, players may find it a grind to unlock the number of skill points needed to meet the achievement requirements. Of course, there are also the obligatory collectibles. There are four serpent symbols per chapter and they range from blatantly obvious to being slightly hidden away. Those who are obsessed with finding and smashing every box will not find them a challenge though, and there are already several competent guides available.Has survival horror returned?Resident Evil 6
is definitely a step in the right direction compared to its predecessor. Leon’s campaign definitely recaptures the survival horror vibe that was distinctly lacking from Resident Evil 5
. Unfortunately, this is the only place where survival horror can really be found. Chris’ campaign seems like a slightly clunky third person shooter, whereas Jake’s campaign has much more of an action vibe. This gives the impression that Capcom is uncertain of where to take the franchise next.
Much needed improvements to the AI means that this is now a fairly competent single-player game, although the real emphasis is placed in two-player co-op. Those who choose to play in single-player are actually gifted with an advantage as there is no need to share out skill points, ammo or health, which seems to go against the grain of the game. The emphasis on the four-player co-op also falls flat as there are no matchmaking options, meaning that you can only ever guarantee being able to play with one friend instead of three.
As value for money, this game is definitely worth it with four campaigns and two extra game modes to be exhausted. However, I don’t think that this was the game for which fans of the horror genre have been waiting.