Resident Evil is one of the classics of survival horror games. I started playing in time for Resident Evil 4. I hate to admit it but zombies are one of the few things that freak me out. I can watch any horror movie and yeah I’ll be scared and flinch (hey, it’s just a sign my reflexes are prepared to keep me alive) but after I finish watching that’s it and I carry on with my day. Zombie movies always leave an impression with me though, they creep me out in the way that Spooks creeps me out, it’s so bad that even the enticement of sex has proven to be inadequate to get me out of my malaise.
That zombie movies creep me out so much is a little wierd seeing as they’re actually all pretty boring. The plots are almost always identical and boil down to the fact that a bunch of people, no matter what skill set they have, will invariable fail to beat the zombies. Dumbasses. So enough about my phobias and more about Resident Evil which as of the fourth instalment got a little more action orientated and was brilliant. I never finished it due to a minor tecnical difficulty but what I played I enjoyed. Then along came RE5 and yes Sheva was only there as a gimic to prove that Capcom didn’t hate Africans and her AI turned out to be really fucking stupid a lot of the time (proof that Capcom isn’t racist) but I still enjoyed it . I used her in exactly the way she was meant to be used, as a mule to carry all the ammo I knew I’d need but didn’t have space for. Am I racist? No. Sexist? Yes. Needless to say I enjoyed the game and when word of RE6 came out I thought as long as the AI partner is improved I’ll be happy with that.
So, not actually really aiming to buy it until it got cheap I happened to receive it as a gift. And, well… Well, here’s 8 things about Resident Evil 6:
1. The first rule of zombies…
Zombies!!! Part of the reason I was able to play RE4 and RE5 without completley freaking was because they weren’t really zombies at all, kind of the way that the infected in 28 Days Later are not zombies either (anyone who says otherwise is a fucktard). Though that film still creeped me the fuck out. RE4 introduced the las plagas which were these bugs like things so what you were killing were wierd alien things, I think… The problem this solved for Capcom is that rule one of any zombie adventure is that you shot them in the head. That works. Full Fricking Stop. With the las plagas it was now possible to have enemies that you could shoot in the head and not die because what you really needed to do was hit the bug which was small. Or in some cases the bug had infected the whole host so a little more was required, or a lot in the case of some enemies.
RE6 sees the reintroduction of zombies and the golden rule about… Oh, no wait. You see the first thing you do when you see a zombie is you shoot it in the head which in RE6 often invovles a pretty cool effect where half the head gets blown off but the zombie’s still going. Ok, that’s fair. I mean there’s still a portion of the brain left and I suppose that could keep the rest of the zombie going. It happens in one of the Romero films. So you shoot the other half of the head and nothing. Literally nothing, I have put anywhere between two to five bullets in the remaining half of some of these zombie’s heads and they still won’t go down. Capcom took that rule and threw it out the window and then shat on its broken body because they forgot they were on the second floor. They don’t like the idea that an enemy can be killed in one shot so they deny you that without any mechnic to it whatsoever. Zombies literally become impervious to bullets almost like they’re the Borg and they adapt after the first shot (and yes I am that sad). And by mechnic I mean some consistent rule as to why zombies are suddenly impervious to headshots.
I mean I can sort of understand why they did it. Zombies compared to las plagas probably seem like small fry, they’re a little bit easy. Never mind that yes in a ratio of zombie:las plagas the las plagas is always going to win. But that’s a 1:1 ratio and on a 3:1 ration the zombie’s going to start getting an advantage. And it’s not like there aren’t games that have crowds of zombies looking to tendorise your white meat. How many of you can say you can head shot 5 zombies in a row without blinking, while they’re trying to eat your face of course.
But then again, perhaps we’ve been getting it wrong all this time and the most effective way to kill a zombie isn’t a head shot at all…
2. My Kung Fu is strong
There is one sure fire way to kill zombies in RE6. By kicking them in the face! That’s right, zombies are fatally weak to a nice kick to the head because nothing says a brilliant plan like putting your fleshy foot in the face of a thing that wants nothing more than to bite said foot off. More often than not kicking zombies is a lot quicker and easier than shooting them and far more likely to kill them. Remember how I said they threw out the rule book? It was so that they could give you more awesomeness than makes sense. Though they got the senseless bit right Capcom kind of forgot that there was fine line to tread to get from senseless to awesome.
You see it’s one thing to kick a zombie’s head off, that is admittedly rather cool because kicking anyone’s head off is quite cool. But there are certain things about the fighting style of these characters that doesn’t quite add up. Leon for example has a tendancy to do a brilliant head kick and then leave his foot high up in the air posing. Somewhat like this guy…
Now I do Taekwondo and if I leave my foot in the air to pose the way Leon does if my opponent doesn’t kick me in the face my instructor will. From behind. That’s a kick in the face against one person and my instructor who technically isn’t part of the match, Leon does this with zombies everywhere. Then there are some of his other moves such as the judo throw. I’m not quite sure how but Leon has taken one of the most basic and non-lethal techniques in the martial arts world and somehow turned it into a zombie killing masterpiece. I’m not sure what happened in the events between RE4 and RE6 but somehwere along the line Leon met mister Miyagi and he taught him some shit. Literal shit, there is absolutely no way a judo throw can kill a zombie unless you judo throw it over a cliff.
RE6 is less about survival and more about looking cool. The game wants you to attack the zombies with your “kung fu” because that’s a lot cooler than shooting them down. It actively makes the game easier if you do which makes it slightly less cool. And also ludicrous, I cannot understate the ludicrosity of suggesting that my fist and feet are more effective in a zombie survival scenario than a gun. My Taekwondo is good but there are few situations in which the statement won’t be true. Of course, its not all about hammering the right trigger over and over again. I mean that would be boring and ruin the experience…
3. Quick Time is not quick
I’ve commented on the flaws of quick time before with respect to Assassin’s Creed 3 but the saving grace there was that it was not a staple of game play. I remember the medieval days of Dino Crisis and the scattered quick time events. They’re sort of a staple of the zombie/monster/survival game. Something jumps out and halts the game with a “surprise” and you have to escape with a timely set of button presses. It’s a scripted event, it will always happen in that spot at that time in order to give the player a scare and keep them on their toes. RE6 introduces quick time as a part of your standard combat.
You’re busy shooting a zombie in the face because you haven’t yet learned the power of your own feet when another zombie makes an impressive jump at you. It is impressive, zombies in RE6 go from shambling lumps of fat to Usain Bolts for brief 3 second moments of glory. And when they do you lose control and have to fill in the command to escape. In principle there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s a lot more realistic than the old days when zombies used to just clobber you to death. They behave a lot more like the zombies in the movies and just like any movie star it wants you to pay attention dammit! A rather large button prompt appears on screen and if successful your treated to a bright flash of success. When the characters confront Ada Wong in a warehouse and she throws a flash grenade at them I’m a little confused why they don’t just shrug and riddle her full of bullets. By the time you reach her you’ve been flashed so many times by quick time events the only way that flash bang could have been effective is if she used it to bludgeon people over the head.
Basically quick time happens like a metric fuckton. All the time. This isn’t a survival game and it’s barely an action game, it’s basically dance zombie mania! I’m not quite sure but either I should be playing this with one of those guitars that feckless idiots thinks actually means their playing the real thing or I should stoop even lower than blogging and get an Xbox Kinect and fucking dancing my way through the game. Oh gods, that’s the future isn’t it… Come RE7 or RE8 you’ll be playing with the Kinect and your girlfriend’s (and by that I mean your mum, because let’s be honest you own Kinect) going to walk in and call an ambulence because she thinks you’re having an epileptic fit. Which you might be, considering how many flashes there are in these games now.
And quick time isn’t just restricted to the standard gameplay either. There’s the more classic event of a zombie playing peek-a-boo with the player. And zombies like to play peek-a-boo, it’s their favourite game because they fucking suck at hide-and-seek. Zombies do not know how to hide, they just lie there useless waiting for peek-a-boo time. In RE5 there were also bodies about the place and it was a risk whether you put a bullet in a corpse in case it might jump at you later because you might waste the bullet on a genuine corpse. In RE6 save the bullet, a zombie is invincible untill it starts peek-a-boo and it will have it’s 5 seconds of fame no matter how many bullets you put into it beforehand. So commited are these zombies to their roles and moments of fame that they won’t even flinch when you shoot them. Now that’s dedication. Those street performers who think it’s a skill to stand still for hours on end could learn a thing or two from these guys.
4. Plot spoilers…?
I could mention the fact that the cutscenes are also pretty rammed with quick time events as well but that’s the start of a completley different point. I’m not saying they’re annoying, they’re effectively Europe, but I appreciate why Capcom felt the need to include them. They want to tell us a story and if we learned one thing from Metal Gear Solid it’s that you must always chose the most appropriate bum rest available. Playing MGS wasn’t so much playing a videogame so much as watching the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in one sitting. And just like the Lord of the Rings the last hour of MGS feels like the thing should have ended an hour ago. Capcom gets around the bum-coma inducing problem of a long story by introducing those quick time events to keep you on your toes and paying attention to the story.
Because the story is everything in RE6 which would be great if I had a fucking clue what was going on. Resident Evil has never had the easiest plot to follow, its convoluted at best and trying to get how one game follows from the next is never easy. Within RE4 and RE5 I got the story of the individual game but I had no fucking clue how they fit together much beyond the fact that the mosnters were the same type. And saying I understand the whole plot of each game is a bit optimistic. RE6 makes it all the better by taking a linear plot and dividing up between 3 sets (spoiler: actually 4) of characters and then making it non-linear!
Take Leon’s plot. And if it seems like I’m picking on Leon it’s because he’s a hipster and no hipster can do anything without deserving a kick in their minute testicles. It begins with the president already zombified and very quickly shot in the face. How did he get zombified you ask? I have no clue… Nor why Helena is there and treated as if she’s been with Leon the whole time, even during RE4 and that time he met mister Muyagi to learn his Kung Fu.
It sort of starts to make sense as the game progresses but then again who really expects there to be plot to Zombie Hero 6: Rise of the tendon cords? I can’t really blame Capcom for it, the younger generations have the attention span of that dog from Up so there’s no real need for there to be a real plot with substance so long as there are the visual equivalent of squirrels on screen. And suddenly the flashes make sense…
5. Things repeat
Saying that the story of RE6 is a repeat of all the previous games suggests I understand the plot a lot better than I do. I don’t. But you can’t help play this game without a sense of deja vu. For the young attention deficit gamer everything about RE6 probably seems shiny and new but I can’t help but feel this has all happened before. Sometimes this is the clever tip of the hat to previous games and classic moments re-envisioned in greater glory. Nothing wrong in that, if you watched the hi-res version of the opening to Final Fantasy VII and didn’t jizz a little bit then you have no soul.
What is hi-fucking-larious about the deja-vu that happens in RE6 is the fact that what causes a lot of this is the Resident Evil films. There’s some sort of meta thing going on where the films based themselves off the games then went off in their own direction so the games started basing themselves of the films. Ironically in time for the films to start basing themselves off the games again. Soon you’re going to get a film based on a game based on the film which just makes my head hurt trying to figure out how that will work. It was pretty smart for the game to do this really considering that the movie plots make more sense. Although when I say copy it’s not really the plot so much as some of the set pieces. There’s the lazer corrider from the first film, the graveyard from the second, the clones from the third, I could go on…
But it’s not only just ripping off the films that RE6 does well. It rips itself off too. In a game featuring separate story lines it helps to tie the narratives together when these stories intersect with each other. Which is great in RE4 when you play the Ada missions and you see how the things she did affected Leon’s journey through the story. In RE6 the main aim of these crossing points is to make you play the exact same section in the exact same way as you did before. It’s not exactly like you’re suddenly thrust into the position where you stand on a ledge providing cover, no you’re right down there in the action doing everything you did before. The worst moment is when you replay the prologue in Leon’s campaign, the whole sequence with a few added extras but it’s the exact same thing. True you don’t go through the tutorial again but that just made me stop and think why the fuck was it even there? Why was the tutorial also the final level of one of the campaigns? The details of the level change slightly so either they just throw the events of the tutorial out the window or there are two parallel time lines currently running and you don’t know which one you’re in. And considering the nature of most of the RE plots I wouldn’t be surprised if time travel did get involved somehow.
I know Capcom wanted to tell a story, a drug addled it’s-late-and-I’m-too-drunk-to-think-straight-but-I-just-had-this-awesome-idea kind of story, but it’s a story that struggles to keep up with itself. Instead of doing the same thing over and over expecting to get a different result each time you’re doing different things each time to get the same result over and over. And for what? So Leon can get some blusher? That’s a great fucking piece of closure, yes Leon, “women”.
6. Never help anyone
That isn’t to say that RE6 doesn’t have a moral. Lots of games have morals to their stories. Lots of games invite you to make “moral” choices, right at the beginning of RE4 you’re given the option to help a wolf out of a trap because that’s a sensible choice to make… It turns out if you do act the loony samaritan and help Lobo from his iron grip he repays the favour by kicking a giant’s ass because we all know the folklore about perfectly normal wolves totally besting giant mutated monsters that soak up bullets like they’re a six year old’s insults. RE6 continues the theme of moral choices by making you help people. There is no choice, if you want to get to that gripping climax you have to help that poor innocent person from the monsters. And then RE6 teaches you about what happens when you do.
Basically if ever the zombie apocalypes happens (I’m betting the 21/12/2012) the general rule you should apply is DON’T HELP ANYONE, ever, at all. It’s not because literally every person out there is going to fuck you over the moment you do save their asses like the chump that you are. No, RE6 has a much more subtle message to give you. The people you help are going to die. No matter what. Everyone you help in this game dies not long after you’ve helped them, some I’m fairly certain died because you did help them! And it’s not because they’re stupid either. It’s not the poor random guy’s fault that he gets stuck under a car (ok maybe that part is his fault) and when you help him out a motorbike comes out of nowhere to turn him into another piece of the new wave of road art that seems to be a very big craze in the RE6 world. RE6 is a lesson in the futility of helping people because during the apocalypse, or life generally, they are going to die anyone. And it wants to hammer this lesson in by making you help those people every single time just so you can watch all that effort go to waste. Seriously, how can Sherry remain so fucking cheery all the time!? Does she not see the futility of her chosen career?
Of course then there are the times when the people you help turn out to be morons after all, which makes it all the more excruciating that you had to help them in the first place. For example Leon and Helena are making their way through the subway network (which happens to be one of the better parts of the game) when they come across a woman stuck in a subway car at one of the stations. Not five feet away is a door behind which there are a bunch of zombies, you know this, they know this, and you know all too well that the moment you let that woman out she’s going to try and open that door. And she does, and Leon and Helena stand there looking at each other with all the sexual tension of a woman not sure if this counts as her mandetory lesbian experience or not (they are mandatory right?) while the other women gets pulled very slowly under the door and dragged away. It’s almost as if Leon is so vapid that he learnt nothing from his experience in Raccoon City or chasing the president’s daughter (whom I confused with Sherry so that when Leon told her the president had died I thought it was hilarious). Or worse he’s so vapid he forgets that he has a gun or that he is somewhat stronger than the tubby lady and he could have physically stopped her rather than stand there.
It’s almost like you’re not playing the actual game…
7. You’re not playing a game
You’re not. It’s a big project so you can’t blame the fact that Capcom shipped out each campaign out to different studios and that each gave it a very different flavour. Which is great when it comes to the artistic side of things or the variations you get in the enemies. Up until the point that having played the game as Leon you switch to Chris and suddenly find yourself playing something very different. Chris also happens to have developed ammensia in response to the plot of this game which is handy because he’s as clueless as you are as to what’s going on for most of it and so things actually make more sense. Ironically. Aside from the obvious question of who thought it would be sensible to send an amnesiac into a warzone.
The enemies are very different in the two campaigns, one has zombies and one has las plagas (I think…) and las plagas aren’t mindless and stupid like zombies so they use tactics and carry guns. Chris plays very differently too because he starts with an assault rifle and you’re instantly taken further away from the survival aspect. You’re surrounded by men with guns, military types who know how to shoot shit and boy are you going to shoot shit. You start ducking and diving for cover in a way that you never did with Leon because there are bullets flying everywhere and you’re honed shooter instincts are telling you that this how you play the game. Not survival, shooter. With Leon I spent most of the campaign with less than half health because that’s what every good survival game should be like (read: I suck at them). A survival game where you spend all your time at near full health isn’t a survival game at all, they work best when you know you’re about to run out of health because that adds to the sense of urgency. The only reason I went below half health with Chris was because the block of muscles decided to do an action dive when I told him to take cover and then stood there looking all confused and amnesic, probably wetting the carpet too.
Some may think that’s great. Leon’s game plays more like the original RE’s and Chris plays like he did in RE5 which isn’t true at all. RE5 is the middle ground here and it was a good middle ground, I enjoyed it a lot. In RE6 Chris has left the middle ground in search of new territoy almost like he doesn’t want to play with zombies anymore and wants to play with Soap and Price instead.
RE6 doesn’t provide you with 4 different games. It provides you with 4 demos to 4 different games. It’s the emergence of what’s already rifling PC games like the most contagious STD there is. Companies produces games that haven’t been fully tested and use the first batch of buyers as their testers because thanks to the joys of the internet the moment a problem or a bug rears its herpes covered face they can post a downloadable patch to fix it. Xbox games are starting to do the same too, Skyrim regularly had downloads fixing all those bugs that occured in the first few days of extended play. And you can forgive Bethesda for that because Skryim is huge so there was no way they were going to spot everything or realise what the game would do when it consumed people’s lives. When you get a patch download on COD you jump for joy because you know they’ve fixed one more little thing about the multiplayer that prevents some snot infested twelve year old brat who’s only prospect of losing his virginity is his own grandmother from exploiting the game to kill you as you respawn again and again.
Here though Capcom have gone for something more subtle. They’re not giving you a half complete game to fix with patches, they’re giving you market research. Anyone who’s playing RE6 is basically telling them what sort of game they should be making for RE7. In its way that’s a genius plan, they are literally charging the players to tell them what sort of game they want. Trust me, which ever campaign players responded to best the next game will literally be that at full length.
8. They didn’t scratch the itch
I’m the first to admit that I’m not always the best at certain kinds of games. I’m fully aware that though being near death for most of the game increased my enjoyment of RE5 that only happened because I wasn’t very good at it. Modern Warfare 3 proved that I am only good at long range when it took away any pretention of long range (“You should see what I can do with a famas“). Really I’m an RPG gamer and if there’s one thing we love it’s the ability to customise everything and anything. It’s an itch, an itch that Skyrim does so well because even though the quests and combat are repetitive it’s all worth it because I’m creating my own character. RPGs that don’t let you customise stuff just don’t get the point.
You see customisation satisfies an itch, an itch that makes World of Warcraft so scarily successful and why I won’t go anywhere near it because I have real life things I need to do. Customisation extends the life of a game more than alternative storylines ever can (take note Witcher 2). RE5 scratched that itch with the guns in two ways. First, it gave you a range of guns that were all different and limited how many you carried. It made you think about how you wanted to play the game and whether you wanted a shotgun or a sniper rifle. A simple but effective choice. And then it made sure that every single gun was different. Each new pistol wasn’t just a better version than the last one you had, they all had their own pro’s and con’s and it was up to you which set you preferred. Second, it allowed you to upgrade those guns so that you could have silly sized magazines and greater zoom. And it rewarded you for customising too with more custimisation options so you ended up replying levels just to earn the coinage to get those extra three rounds into your berretta.
RE6 can do none of that. Part of the problem is that because you’re switching campaigns no single campaign is long enough to justify each character having customisable guns. You’d be just about getting the gun the way you wanted to have it when you were onto the next story. Capcom gets around this by introducing skills instead that do exactly the same thing as those upgrades did in the previous game. It’s helpful because the skills carry across campaigns so what you unlocked in one can be used in another. But it’s just not the same as upgrading a gun. What can I say? I’m fickle and I love my guns.
Then there’s the choice. There isn’t one. You are given a gun and later you collect another gun, and then another. You’re never once forced to decide whether you want to take a shotgun instead of an assault rifle let alone choose between different pistols. Each character just gets one of each gun and even then they don’t try and vary it up by making it so that certain characters only get certain sorts of guns. When Chris started out holding an assault rifle I thought that’s pretty cool, I don’t start with a pistol only then I discovered I did already have a pistol. And that’s the flaw. Rather than completley vary the gameplay styles between campaigns, making it so that certain characters only got certain weapons would have instantly acheived the effect of a different experience without making you feel like you were playing a brand new game.
Instead you’re stuck with the same guns that are only different in the superficial sense for every character. There’s a complete loss of customisation to the game and with it that fails to scratch an itch. In fact that sums up the major problem of this game, I have been left with an itch…