Preview: Resident Evil 6

It’s been three years since the last mainline entry into the Resident Evil series. Since then, we’ve seen zombies occupy a position of prominence in gaming. From adrenaline-fuelled shooters like Black Ops to casual flings such as Plants vs Zombies, you’d be hard-pressed not to find yourself up against a horde of walking corpses at every possible turn. In a world close to zombie saturation in video games, how does the grand daddy of survival horror franchises cope to keep things fresh? For Resident Evil 6, the answer seems to lie in variety.

As you may already know, from the outset, RE6 contains three campaigns that have you kicking zombie butt across the globe. After that, there’s a fourth campaign that has you in the high heels of spy Ada Wong that was announced as an unlockable after you finish the first three. You see, in your effort to make the world less of a biohazard, the first three campaigns have you as Leon Kennedy, star of RE2 and RE4, series staple (and Marvel vs Capcom 3 fighter) Chris Redfield, and newbie, Jake. Each character and their levels play out very differently leading to a highly varied experience.

The Leon chapters have you rummaging in the dark and finding yourself amidst tense zombie encounters, where every shot counts. Borrowing from RE5, you have another character accompanying you on your perilous journey that can be controlled by a friend for instant co-op. This time it’s Helena Harper, a special agent with a fair share of skeletons in her closet. As you venture forth to uncover the truth about the latest zombie apocalypse that plagues the world of RE6, you’ll find yourself fending off death across of the city of Tall Oaks from underground train tunnels to winding, narrow streets. Our time with this segment of the game gave us a distinct old school RE vibe, what with limited ammo, scary moments and a sense of foreboding in every turn. Needless to say, it feels like the strongest of the three story arcs.

That’s not to say the other two are weak. No. They’re just…different. Chris’ story has you as the muscle-bound anti-bioterrorism grunt or his counterpart, Piers, as they try to quell the threat of the infected known as J’avo. Think of them as an evolved version of the Majini you squared off against in the previous game. You’ll be moving in and out of cover, gunning down enemies and indulging in theatrics that are more at home in a Call of Duty or Gears of War sequel, with explosions, set pieces and an unshakeable army feel. Nonetheless, it was entertaining enough, and for some, would appear as a welcome break from the drama of Leon’s tale.

As for Jake’s third of the game, it takes place in the eastern European country of Edonia, with you being chased by a hulk of a zombie hybrid called the Ustanak, similar to sections of RE3. A majority of what we played has you trying to evade the creature and the advances of J’avos in the area. There’s melee combat and a sense of pacing that has more in common with the Uncharted series than survival horror. For these levels, RE2’s Sherry Birkin is player number two, if you were to c0-op. Aside from running from the Ustanak, you’ll be duelling with chainsaw-wielding zombies and other assorted baddies as well.

With each of the three campaigns having their own sense of pace and style, there are somethings that are consistent across. For one, gone is the series’ tried and tested mechanic of letting you shoot a foe only when you’re standing still. Yes, this is the first RE game that will let you run and gun. It results in a game with a greater sense of urgency and smoother gameplay versus it’s predecessors’ clunky shooting. Melee combat, for most of it, is a lot more smoother too. In fact, it’s too smooth, devolving into a quick press of a button, QTE style, which can easily be misused to get past throngs of enemies (which we managed to do during our playthrough on several occasions). We say this for a majority of melee combat and not all of it because Jake’s missions feature their own mechanics for melee, which are on the other extreme, requiring timing and multiple buttons to be pressed. Not as fun as we’d have hoped.

In terms of eye candy though, the game delivers in spades. The character models are impressive and the environments are well-detailed. From infected bylanes to large winter vistas, Capcom’s pulled out all the stops in terms of production values. There were minor instances of aliasing, but by and large, it was a fluid experience that looked very good.

Resident Evil 6 seems to be Capcom’s most drastic makeover of the series to date. There’s a sense of scale that defies their earlier games, what with multiple storylines and experiences that will inevitably converge, and a tone that attempts to be a lot more serious than the campy nature of their previous offerings. Whether it manages to live up to it though is another thing altogether. As it stands, this is one title we’ll be watching quite closely.

Resident Evil 6 is shceduled for release on 2nd October for Xbox 360 and PS3. No release date has been announced for the PC version.

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