In the crazy medium that is video game entertainment, it’s not uncommon for fan-favourite and tent-pole franchises to evolve in the attempt of remaining both fresh and relevant to those that are passionate about a respected property.
The Resident Evil series is one that has continued to do this various times throughout its long and prestigious history, with Resident Evil 4 notably often being regarded as one of the greatest games of all time in part due to its revolutionary over-the-shoulder perspective. When Resident Evil attempted this once again in 2012 however, the reception wasn’t nearly as positive, and for the longest time I’ve felt this overblown and a little exaggerated.
Whilst Resident Evil 6 was by no means revolutionary, its reception in the four years since its release has been dismal, to say the least. Since 2012, it has gone on to gain a reputation of being lacklustre, disappointing and frustrating, often being regarded as the entry that almost sent the series into spiral instead of bettering the horror genre with an emphasis on dread, supernatural and suspense. Now that we have a clear idea where the franchise will be headed next in the form of PT and Outlast-inspired Resident Evil 7, I felt it worthwhile to look back at the unloved cousin of the Resident Evil series, proposing that maybe it’s a game worth re-considering in terms of how bad it is.
When first beginning your journey on the wild, bombastic ride that is Resident Evil 6, the game actually starts out in relatively familiar territory for any long-time Resident Evil fan. In a brief flash-forward presented separately from the game’s four campaigns, as Raccoon City survivor Leon Kennedy you trudge your way through a dimly lit alley that seems very at home for anyone expecting to experience fear, mystery and the unknown. Compare this to the sunny vistas of Resident Evil 5’s opening chapter, and it’s immediately obvious to me as to which one feels the most like survival horror – at least from the outset.
Whereas one of the fundamental problems I had with Resident Evil 5’s campaign was its relentless desire to thrust players through the brightly-lit corridors of Kijuju, Resident Evil 6 understood that there is an inherent beauty in slowly revealing the threat of the enemy to you; similar to the moment you encounter the first hostile villager in the opening moments of Resident Evil 4. Even though Resident Evil 6’s narrative expands globally across various characters, its locations continued to fill me with an unnerving sense of dread, whether through the snowy mountains of Jake’s campaign or the silent campus corridors of Leon’s.
Resident Evil 6 is also without doubt the most pleasant to control when compared to those who came before it. Instead of unnaturally rotating 180° in order to gain a better sight on the enemy, for the first time it felt liberating to take aim with such a great degree of fluidity, even going so far as to being able to walk forward whilst shooting – a first for the Resident Evil franchise!
In previous entries, there was an overarching feeling that it wasn’t just the monsters or undead the game wanted you to fight against, but the controls themselves. And while series veterans might take offense to having such a great deal of flexibility over your movement, modern horror games such as Outlast, Inside and Alien: Isolation never ask you to struggle with motion or button input, so why should Resident Evil 6? Survival horror games should endeavour to use original and innovative concepts to fairly instil fear within the player, instead of relying on outdated control restrictions that exist outside of the game’s realm.
One major critique that is consistently made towards Resident Evil 6 is the game’s active decision to move away from traditional survival horror conventions such as limited saving, singular narrative, and restricted health pick-ups. And whilst there is still a great deal of inventory and item management that the franchise has always championed in Resident Evil 6, there is definitely a more explicit focus on sprawling action-adventure. This works well with the sense of atmosphere and horror however, being present most notably through the game’s otherworldly creature designs and visceral boss battles.
Who could forget first encountering your partner Helena’s slimy sister Deborah as she chases you down the dusty underground caverns of the Washington mine, or the stealthily sneaky invisible basilisk you are required to track as Chris Redfield whilst scoping out the Lanshiang area of China. Each boss may fail to impress from a gameplay point of view in terms of how you’re tasked to take them down, but purely with regards to gross-out factor alone, Resident Evil 6 presents its fair share of bio-terrorific beings that feel just as creative as any monster featured in Resident Evil 4 or 5.
Although not entirely successful, you have to at least sit back and admire all of the various plot strands and story threads that Resident Evil 6 attempted to balance across its four character campaigns. It’s hard to deny the fact that the “jack of all trades, master of none” approach to the game’s campaign isn’t the most thrilling or coherent narrative found in a Resident Evil game, but it also isn’t the worst. I could reminisce about the dark days of Resident Evil: Outbreak, or dare I say Operation Raccoon City, but at the risk of not gauging my eyes out, I’ll refrain.
Look on any ordered list which ranks the Resident Evil games from best to worst and Resident Evil 6 will almost certainly be at the lower end of the spectrum. However, with regards to the multiple campaigns it can at least be said that each of the four felt noticeably distinct from one another. Whilst it would have been easy for Capcom to simply copy and paste HUD designs and explorable locations from one to the other, the slow-pacing and thoughtful tone of Leon’s campaign feels remarkably different to the action-packed set-pieces found in Chris’. Likewise, the hand-to-hand combat of Jake’s section felt original with its up close and personal approach to enemies.
Overall, it all boils down to the fact that Resident Evil 6 is an experience that has and always will be divisive and provoke debate. Am I arguing that Resident Evil 6 is the greatest game of all time? Of course not. It’s not even the best third-person action game, over-the-shoulder shooter or even the best Resident Evil, but I would argue that it is an experience that demands re-evaluation, ideally without the great deal of fan-expectation it received back when it first launched in 2012.
As a thoroughly enjoyable, creep-tastic action-adventure game that sees a genuinely interesting cast of characters globe-trotting in the hope of saving the world, Resident Evil 6 is a perfectly fine entry into any avid gamer’s media library. I would have to deem it unfair for anyone to bash it purely for its bold choice to lean more heavily on action, when this was an element first made prevalent with Resident Evil 5, and this game succeeded in avoiding any great deal of unfair harsh condemnation. Resident Evil 7 looks set to launch the franchise into an entirely new direction once again, so let’s hope it can do the same.