It wasn’t until Resident Evil 4 that I actually loved a title in the Resident Evil franchise. Yeah, I’m one of those guys. Because of that it’s hard for me to avoid the comparison to what is, for me, the seminal game in the series.
To be fair, I did play all of the console titles leading up to RE4 (except Code: Veronica, Outbreak and the light gun one), but the franchise up to that point never struck a chord with me because of those pesky tank controls. They were/are horrible and I could never quite get comfortable with them (go back and play them, you may actually agree)… It was equal parts survival horror and frustration – not a good combo. The thing about RE4 was that it retained the pace of the tank controls, but gave you a much more tactile interaction… Even the QTEs were good at breaking up what would’ve otherwise been ‘just another cinematic’. And I’m obviously not the only one who thinks so; RE4 was loved by almost everyone that played it (although maybe newcomers liked it more than established fans).
Then Resident Evil 5 came out. It was objectively decent, but seemed to lack the magic that made RE4 such a runaway success. The co-op was nice (I love co-op), but it was essentially just a 720p version of RE4 with a weaker campaign… Plus it’s safe to assume most players prefer Kennedy to Redfield.
And so, when it comes to Resident Evil 6, I have been cautiously optimistic. Honestly, my fear for the game was that it would be essentially the same thing, and lack the campaign magic that made RE4 so strong (kind of like a copy of a copy – RE6<RE5<<<RE4). The good news is Leon is back, Ada too… Chris is in there as well, which makes RE6 somewhat unique — an all-star cast each with their own playable campaign. Rounding out the storylines is Jake Muller, Albert Wesker’s kid… Like RE5 it’s a partner based game, so it has jump-in/out co-op (online or offline with split-screen no less) and you always have an on-screen sidekick in SP. Needless to say on paper it has a lot going for it – basically four shorter games all intertwined together.
Arguably the coolest factor of RE6 is that all of the different character campaigns are happening essentially simultaneously and starting in different locations across the globe before heading to China for a big brouhaha. Leon is in the states, Chris is in China, Jake in Eastern Europe, and Ada is… kind of everywhere, as she often is… Of course this allows for each one to feel surprisingly different while still working towards a common goal (vanquish bio-terrorism) and also integrating some cool cross-campaign moments in the action. Plus, it’s a great way to incorporate multiple threads and keep things diverse (including gameplay; e.g. Chris’ campaign is more action oriented, Leon’s is more horror-ish, etc.)
The caveat is that, because it’s on a global scale and there are always other characters around, the game feels more like an “adventure horror” rather than a “survival horror”. There are obviously a few jumps and scares, but at no point did my playing style slow-down. In previous games I would often hesitate before entering another area (check my ammo, build up a scare tolerance, get my herbs combined, etc.) On the flipside, RE6 felt more like, "Let’s kick zombie ass!" than "OH sh!t, oh sh!t, oh sh!t", and the franchise as a whole seems to be depreciating because of it’s loss of focus on scaring the player via tension.
Note to readers, that is my biggest (only?) criticism of the game. It’s Resident Evil and it’s Capcom; you know up front that it will have a high level of quality and for the most part you’ll enjoy it. The problem is if you’re expecting a traditional RE fright-fest you’ll be disappointed as it’s more actiony than even RE4 or RE5 (which were more action-based themselves). So on one hand it’s more accessible (presuming there are more action/shooter fans than survival horror fans), but on the other hand it’s competing outside the realm that established the series.
For example, Left 4 Dead (1 and 2) are far more horrifying/scary while still offering more action, however L4D has only a very basic story. So it’s a trade-off that, in my opinion, doesn’t strengthen the RE franchise. It used to be story+horror = unique and special; now it’s story+action (with zombies) = okay, but not excellent… Maybe Capcom feels the switch is necessary for the overall Resident Evil story-arc to mature; relying less on individuals trying to survive a zombie outbreak alone in the dark and more on a rag-tag group of heroes trying to set things right. Obviously your mileage will vary depending on your gameplay preferences, but objectively Resident Evil 6 is far less niche/different/special than the franchise used to be.
The PC factor is strong, but not too exceptional either. The first thing I noticed is that even though the game looks great by console standards, by PC standards the graphics engine is starting to show its age. Instead of being organic looking, it has a tendency to get corridor-like. It’s almost as if such high graphic fidelity shows the game’s seams and, as a result, makes it look a more lifeless (pardon the pun) than previous titles. The silver-lining is that it’s almost impossible to make it run bad; I was able to max it out at 1080p/60fps using a GTX560 (that’s ~2 year old graphics tech).
The rest of the additions are fairly straightforward; basically all the major updates/content have been included in the $40 price tag. ResidentEvil.net access and multiplayer are all there too, and Ada Wong’s campaign is playable from the get-go — which is nice as, unlike RE4, RE6 doesn’t have as much replay value. There is a Left 4 Dead character model tie-in (for multiplayer; it’s an exclusive Mercenaries mode), but that in itself shouldn’t be enough to make PC gamers want to buy it.
Controls are handled surprisingly well on the keyboard/mouse, but with full 360 pad support I opted to play that way. It’s a better fit for the speed and game type, plus I tend to play console-ports with a controller, as it’s what the game was designed for from the onset. The controls themselves have been “revamped” to allow for shooting while moving (a franchise first), but it honestly just makes them action-gamer friendly (more traditional dual analog shooter controls). Another ancillary benefit to the PC version is it’s Steam integration; the built-in friends list and the recent Big Screen mode make playing on an HDTV (and maxing it out graphically) a no-brainer.
Resident Evil 6 PC is arguably the definitive version of the game – best graphics, all-inclusive, best multiplayer backbone – and obviously worthy of a playthrough if you’re PC-only gamer. However, if you played the console version last year (our review here), it’s probably not worth double-dipping and it still handles best on a controller. In short, while it’s Resident Evil, and you know you want it, it’s definitely no Resident Evil 4 replacement.