Genres: Action, Third-Person Shooter, Survival-Horror
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Released in 2012
Some background on the series
Resident Evil is one of the biggest, most exciting and influential gaming franchises of all-time. Starting off life on the PS1 as a genre defining survival horror title, which showed that video games could be pushed in a more mature direction with cues from movies without losing touch of the medium. While the original game, with its stiff ‘tank’ controls and much mocked voice acting, seems quaint by today’s standards its legacy is undeniable. Launching many direct sequels, spin-off video games, a movie franchise and arguably even revitalising the “zombie” genre of pop-culture.
From 1996 to 2012 there were six mainline Resident Evil titles, amongst the legion of spin-offs. While the original game carried enough clout to kick-start an empire, following up with two sequels of similar great quality on the original PlayStation, it was Resident Evil 4 which cemented the franchise as one of gaming’s greatest ever. This title took Resident Evil to the next level and made its previous three titles look archaic in comparison. No longer were the controls stiff, no longer were the camera angles fixed and no longer were the voice acting & writing as hard to take seriously. Introducing an over the shoulder style of gameplay which would go on to define third person shooters for years to come, directly influencing massively popular games such as Gears of War, Dead Space, The Last of Us and God of War (2018).
Instantly praised as one of the “best games of all-time” by many publications and fans, Resident Evil 4 holds a strong legacy and elevated an already booming franchise to new heights. Of course a fifth title showed up four years later and remains a massive financial success, but steered the franchise in a direction that would begin to polarise long-time fans of the franchise and particularly those who primarily enjoyed its survival horror elements. Resident Evil 5 takes place almost entirely in well lit, daytime environments and you don’t really have to worry as much about ammo conservation or getting into stressful enemy encounters. Taking an influence from a game Resident Evil 4 had directly influenced itself, 5 also featured and encouraged co-op play similar to the action-packed over the shoulder Xbox cover-shooter Gears of War. With every new mainline Resident Evil game, the franchise had leaned away from being a survival horror title to an action game with survival-horror elements.
The arrival of Resident Evil 6
Then comes Resident Evil 6 which promises to be the biggest entry yet. It was developer Capcom’s largest production ever, with over 600 people on the game’s development staff. Previously, Resident Evil games averaged at around 8-12 hours to beat - with an exception for 4, which clocks in at around 16. 6 has them all beat averaging at over 21 hours just to beat its main campaigns, not even counting side content. However on release it’s the first mainline Resident Evil to not receive universal praise. Coming in with modest critical averages of 74/100 and 67/100 for its original 2012 release on consoles. With time it’s not been particularly re-appraised either, with its better performing PlayStation 4 re-release in 2016 getting a critical average of 60/100. Not exactly a great score for such a massive production AAA title. Fans also were critical of the direction the franchise had taken and despite still selling very well for Capcom, the title still did not meet their lofty sales expectations for what was positioned as a big blockbuster video-game title.
Massive pushback came from the game’s more definitively “action-packed” tone and style of gameplay - despite each new mainline Resident Evil flirting with more and more action-orientated gameplay since the PS1 era. Resident Evil 6 was the first to pretty much completely drop the survival-horror moniker and go all-in on action, with some marking it as a betrayal of the franchise’s humble roots. The next mainline Resident Evil game was decisively divorced from 6 and a lot of the franchise’s baggage specifically to return to the survival-horror genre which achieved massive success and launched another mainline sequel in this updated survival-horror style of play.
But what if I told you Resident Evil 6, despite everything, is actually pretty good? No, really!
Why Resident Evil 6 is really good, actually!
Resident Evil 6 is an unashamedly crazy boiling point for a franchise that was too big, too convoluted and perhaps too successful for its own good. Looking at the franchise evolution from PS1 to PS3, it seems obvious in retrospect that we’d end up with a title as action-packed as 6. The first trilogy of games on the original PlayStation each got more action-focused, though they were still ostensibly survival-horror titles. Resident Evil 4 took the franchise in a direction that featured more dynamic third person shooter action, big set-pieces and much faster gameplay. Resident Evil 5 continued this, with even less focus on survival horror elements and 6 finally drops the pretence and almost goes fully all-in on third person action.
This isn’t a bad thing at all as long as you’re not completely focused on survival horror aspects. Especially in Resident Evil 4 and 5 the plot-lines grew more convoluted, the villains got sillier and shooter action took center stage over slow-burn exploration and item management. Resident Evil 6 feels like a blockbuster celebration of the franchise thus far, bringing back some of the most popular characters and remixing various settings the franchise had previously occupied. Splitting up its gameplay into four campaigns each which have fun quirks to make them feel distinct.
How it Plays
Most notably, this is the smoothest Resident Evil title to play. You have lots of options when it comes to tackling an action scenario. Combat is more free than ever with movement options like sprinting, sliding into a supine position and rolling about or utilising quick draw for weapons. While not entirely gone, ammo conservation is no longer as much of a worry and resource management is pretty much gone, giving your characters an arsenal of goodies to play with all at once. Most of Resident Evil 6 is made up of action scenarios, so its refined version of the Resident Evil 4 gameplay is much appreciated - even compared to the stiffer Resident Evil 5, which despite a larger emphasis on action still was kept rooted with limited survival horror style controls which sometimes felt at odds with the large enemy counts and big action set-pieces. Here the amount of depth there is in the game's combat system is deceptive but hugely rewarding, with such an arsenal and breadth of movement options it's definitely hard to find the selection of horrific villains much of a threat, but it makes the game very fun to play.
Each of the four campaigns have some brilliant, balls to the wall, action set-pieces. From encounters with waves upon waves of enemies, gigantic boss fights who refuse to stay dead and a surprising mix of vehicular sequences, including flying a jet or the ultimate over the top moment of driving a motorbike through Hong Kong and eventually jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper to escape enemy threats. It's absolutely insane in the best way.
While Resident Evil 5 introduced co-op to the franchise, it always felt a little like an afterthought in that title. Resident Evil 6 is designed from the ground up for co-op and I'd highly recommend grabbing a buddy to play this one through with since it's a rollicking good time. There are some undeniably hype moments where you'll have to save each other's bacon as well as plenty of novel teamwork focused set-pieces.
What's the tone like, and is the plot worthwhile?
While the franchise never was to be taken too seriously, ranging back to the hilariously bad voice acting of the original Resident Evil or the b-movie style set-pieces of Resident Evil 4. Resident Evil 6 decides to be as bonkers as possible, like it’s directed by Michael Bay. Explosions everywhere, wise-cracking characters and a plot that doesn’t even dare contain its cheese and overly convoluted web of characters and villain motivations. What's definitely a low point of Resident Evil 6 is that by this point the series' overarching plot has become way too big for its boots. Even if you're mildly clued in on the previous games the core plot will likely make little sense and the fact it's split across multiple campaigns makes it harder to keep track of. It's nonsense, but I view it as a vehicle to push the characters into insane set-pieces.
Character-wise this fairs a little better, there's solid arcs for the leads to go through. New character Jake and his partner Sherry have the best chemistry and a joint character arc. Jake in particular is one of those cheesy 'American as written by Japanese' characters who is impossibly snarky and badass in the face of all danger. The other two lead's Leon and Chris. who're returning from previous titles, have some solid development but their chemistry with their co-op partner characters isn't as convincing as Jake and Sherry.
But there are problems with it, right?
For sure, this game is far from perfect. My main issue with the game comes in some of the set-pieces being frustrating and tough to control, namely sequences where you are running away from a threat and the camera angles switches at a whim making it feel stiff to control. In a game that's seemingly so action-focused, it's a bit puzzling they mostly removed the item management, but still give you not quite enough ammo. In a slower paced survival-horror title, this works. In a fast paced set-piece filled blockbuster action title, it can lead to some frustrating moments as you run out of ammo during an important fight. There's still some dreaded 'quick time events' which randomly appear to check your reaction times, though their appearance here doesn't scratch how ridiculous they sometimes were in Resident Evil 4 & 5.
Mostly though, even when Resident Evil 6 is leaning into being frustrating, the co-op experience and goofy tone keep it grounded and enjoyable. A lot of fans claim that the game has lost its identity with the increased variety of action scenarios and lack of horror, but it appears to me to be the ultimate evolution of the gameplay style introduced in Resident Evil 4.
Value for Money
This game is getting on in its years now, approaching ten years old as of writing, but it still feels fresh and the discounted price you can get it at now is an absolute steal. On PC the RRP is currently £19.99 which is definitely worth it considering the hours and hours of content available. Ideally you'd want a co-op partner to play along with, so waiting for a periodic sale so you and a friend can pick it up for cheaper might still be worth a shot.
With four campaigns to play through, which will likely take you over 20 hours. Not to mention how content rich the game is beyond that. The arcade style shooter mode 'The Mercenaries' is at its best here, even taking into account the Resident Evil titles released afterwards. If you fall for this game's mechanics and breadth of third person shooter options, you can really squeeze a lot of worthwhile value out of this title.
Extra highlights worth mentioning?
For a game released in 2012 it still holds up really well. Graphically it's pretty nice, the performance is very good and the amount of detail put into animations and environments is to be lauded. Some campaign highlights for me would have to be Jake and Sherry driving a motorcycle across Hong Kong, Leon fighting a grotesque monster on a runaway minecart, the final enemy encounter for Chris and Piers is a wonderful co-op moment where both players have different roles to dispose of the final enemy. In Jake's campaign there's a reoccurring monster chasing you who's invincible, a trope for the franchise at this point, but it all leads to a laughably over the top finale as Jake finally decides to settle the score with this superhuman monster mano e mano. Generally there were a lot of points in this game where my co-op partner and I were giggling and cheering at just how wonderfully over the top they take things for this game. Often even when Resident Evil 6 was messing up with some poor design choices, it was still making me laugh.
The bottom line
While Resident Evil has now entered a new renaissance of quality titles following the tepid reception to 6, it would be a shame to write off this title as "the bad one" or "one you can skip". Not only is it one of the best co-op games I have played but generally the game mechanics and impressive amount of content make this something well worth checking out, even today. Go in expecting insane blockbuster action rather than slower paced survival-horror and you're bound to have some good fun.
Gameplay is great, lots of fun mechanics to play with
Co-op is very well pulled off, a blast to play with a friend
Insane blockbuster set-pieces that would make Michael Bay blush
What's not so good!
Plot is convoluted nonsense
Resource management should have been fully dropped to compliment the action-heavy gameplay
Some frustrating segments