Resident Evil 6 – Review
“I can’t believe this is happening again. It’s just like Raccoon.”
Leon S. Kennedy’s reference to the first town overrun by zombies in Capcom’s long-running survival horror series is pregnant with meaning. At face value, it’s the eye-rolling incredulity of a zombie-thwacking protagonist thrown into the familiar peril of a sequel: ‘This again? Really?’ But as Kennedy and his new partner-in-uniform Helena Harper creep their way through an abandoned American university, its creaking halls resounding with the thunderclaps and rude flashes of a nighttime electrical storm, at times it does feel just like Raccoon.
Rabid dogs smash through glass panes while bug-eyed cadavers turn their heads to glare back at you over rotten shoulders, just as if you’ve wandered back into Spencer Mansion’s woodworm-infested corridors. The fixed camera angles and boat-like character steering of the series’ formative days have been consigned to history. Nevertheless, the scenery in these early stages of Resident Evil 6 – from the set dressing to the instant deaths to the quicktime events – is pure Shinji Mikami – even if the gifted designer is long gone.
So, in this moment, Kennedy is also acting as Capcom’s mouthpiece, whispering reassurances in our ears. For all its respectable sales, Resident Evil 5 found few lovers. And with the series lacking a visionary to replace Mikami, the comment is part statement of intent, part hopeful reassurance from the Japanese developer: We’ve still got it. It’s just like Raccoon.
And God, the effort they’ve gone to. Four expansive, intertwining campaigns, each divided into five 60-odd minute-long chapters. A return of the series’ best-known protagonists, paired off into co-op-facilitating duos. Scores of different zombie types to stomp and dismember; hundreds of collectibles to gather; thousands of skill points to harvest and funnel into an array of performance-enhancing upgrades – the game’s generous stuffing is packed tight.
There’s even a seasoning of fashionable multiplayer invention layered on top, the game momentarily pairing players of different campaigns at key points where their stories cross paths. Then, complete a campaign and you unlock a Left 4 Dead-style Agent Hunt mode, in which you can dive into another player’s game and hunt them as a zombie.
The storyline, in bulk at least, feels like four triple-A games tacked together, each with its own distinct interface, each with its own flavour, each riffing on a different aspect of Resident Evil’s past. Over its course you fly planes, dodge trains and drive automobiles. This is Resident Evil on a seemingly infinite budget, no idea too expensive, no whim beyond scope. The swollen statistics even spill out of the game and into its creation, which called upon over 600 internal and external staff to deliver it ahead of schedule.
It’s a giant, cumbersome beast – possibly the largest and longest action game in history – and its heft dares you to talk about anything other than the sheer effort that went into its construction. It’s an Egyptian pyramid of a game (no doubt with the tired spirits of its builders buried inside).
And yet when you get down to it, Resident Evil 6 is not much like Raccoon at all.
The feature was originally published on Eurogamer here.