It’s been three years since the last installment of the Resident Evil franchise. And while there have been other games to give us our zombie killing fix in a more evolved manner-like Tell Tale’s take on the Walking Dead series or EA’s attempt at survival horror with Dead Space - it’s good to know that the series that started it all is back. We recently previewed Resident Evil 6 and returned wishing for a time machine. Read on to know why.
The first thing to strike us about RE6, were the controls. Sure, RE5 was a fine game, but it felt clunky at best, with the biggest problem being the inability to run and shoot at the same time. For those of you who don’t remember or haven’t played it, you could only shoot down enemies while you stood still; it felt counter-intuitive and downright discomforting. RE6 finally allows you to run and kill at the same time. No, that was not a typo - the fine folk at Capcom have finally let you rain death on the undead while on the go.
The mutants are still at large
How does it feel? As a seasoned veteran of RE4 and 5, it feels liberating. The game feels a lot more fluid than its predecessors and nothing holds you back. While the most obvious side to this is that it gives the game a rather third-person action feel instead of the usual measured, survival horror approach, it also allows you to experience the game’s heartstopping moments without cursing your controller.
That aside, the game’s UI has been re-tooled. Gone are the ugly boxes and serif font that would be right at home with an old CRT TV and a boom box. In their place are slick icons and easy to understand colours. Needless to say, Capcom has gone well out of its way to ensure that gamers have no problems whatsoever figuring out how many bullets they have left in their 9mm pistol or how many health-bestowing green herbs they have. Incidentally, in a tip of the hat to modern game design and possibly another subtle-yet-important step towards accessibility, your health regenerates, much like in most contemporary games.
Run and shoot, Finally!
Graphically, RE6 looks impressive. Be it claustrophobic underground parking spaces teeming with mutants or the vertical challenges of suburban high-rises fraught with mercenaries, there’s a sense of gorgeous uniformity in terms of presentation. This extends to the character models and enemy designs, too. RE6 might just be the best-looking game we’ve seen this year.
Speaking of presentation, the story is told in three separate parts, each with its own unique feel. The first segment we checked out had us in the role of Leon Kennedy (survivor of the events of RE2 and RE4) along with agent Helena Harper. The duo have to escape the city of Tall Oaks, under siege from a bioterrorist attack that results in the death of the president of the USA.
With tight corridors, damp and dark surroundings, minimum ammo and a nasty number of undead to end, Leon’s missions feel like classic RE. It’s jam-packed with creaky floorboards, flickering lights, shadowy figures and every other survival game horror t rope you could think of. This ended up being a carefully orchestrated affair that’s a delightful throwback to how things were, minus the chunky controls that took away from the experience. A definite upgrade in every way. If Leon’s part of the game was homage to classic survival horror, the second section has us discovering the series’ hero, Chris Redfield, drunk out of his wits and on the receiving end of the oddest intervention from series newcomer, Piers Niven, after trying to kill a patron at a bar somewhere in Eastern Europe.
A lot more fluid than previous editions
The scene then shifts to Lanshiang, also known as Capcom’s take on Hong Kong. Here, we find ourselves duking it out against hoards of J’avo. They’re intelligent, infected mutants that tote guns and can coordinate with each other to plan attacks. You would be best served aiming for the head, simply because hitting a limb would cause it to transform into a ghastly battering ram that has the sole intention of slamming you to death. Get a perfect headshot, however, and they burn up and turn to ash with some rather cool effects.
Replete with explosions, guns and military jargon, this segment plays like a mix of Gears of War and Call of Duty, except you’re squaring off against hideous mutations instead of aliens or terrorists. The pacing is completely out of step with most survival horror games, but rest assured that Capcom has a few tricks up its sleeve to ensure you end up in a state of shock and awe.
So, Chris’ action-packed missions pay homage to RE5 and Leon’s resemble the first few games in the franchise with a dash of RE4. But the final campaign tries to recreate the tension of RE3: Nemesis. It takes place in the Eastern European country of Edonia. It begins with RE2’s Sherry Birkin and newbie Jake Muller being chased by a humongous bulk of muscular zombie flesh known as the Ustanak. For some reason, it is obsessed with Jake.
Most of these levels have you trying to escape from the creature while avoiding gunfire from J’avos in the vicinity. There’s a greater focus on melee combat and the requisite amount of tension as well. There are some Ustanak-free moments as well, which have you clearing up a mall and dueling with chainsaw-weilding zombies. It’s a peculiar yet satisfying amalgamation of Leon’s and Chris’ segments, marrying action and tension with ease.
The bigger they are...
Though we’re not entirely on board with the game’s price point of Rs 3,499 in a season that has Halo, Hitman and a slew of other titles vying for your attention, we’re of the belief that this RE has all the makings of a potential blockbuster.
As it stands, this is quite possibly Capcom’s most radical take on their flagship franchise till date. There seems to be an attempt to bring a more mature, serious tone to a series known for its corny dialogues and improbable story lines. While it’s interesting to see how the narrative comes together with three different plots, we ended up with the feeling that it is a lot more mature and darker than anything bearing the words “Resident Evil” we've come across. Look out for this game on the shelves on October 2.