Resident Evil 6’s strange mutation

Resident Evil 4 requires measured commitment. The controls are so stiff, every movement so fine, that players need to plan a step ahead. There’s not always time to take the shot – Leon needs to ready his weapon and sweep his laser sight across vast inches of screen space. Often, the best course of action is to run past axe swings and whipping plagas to reload and regroup. Every movement is precise. Every action works just so.

Since then, Capcom has been breaking down those limitations with modern innovations like twin stick movement and shots from the hip. Based on the demo for Resident Evil 6, player limitations have been broken down almost completely. Needing to ready your weapons is the only holdover of the old style.

It almost feels like every other third person shooter.

Considering it’s only a demo, it’s unfair to condemn Resident Evil 6 to an early grave. And that’s really not what I’m trying to do. I love the series. Even Resident Evil 5, which many players criticized for being too action-packed, became one of my all-time favorites with its advancements to the score-chasing Mercenaries mode.

I’m just trying to understand where the series is going with Resident Evil 6.

Previous Resident Evil entries only allowed players to move toward and away from the camera. When you turned, the world turned with you. You could back up or run forward, but you were always the focal point, and you often needed to take a moment to reposition yourself.

Players now have full control, no commitment required. Leon freely bumbles around. He circles objects and loses enemies. It doesn’t matter if Leon loses his reference point, because he can just stumble about until he finds one.

And he does stumble, tripping over every single slain enemy. Leon, Chris, Sherry – everyone stumbles over every body, every time. They’ve survived multiple zombie outbreaks, but they still can’t figure out how to step over bodies. It feels like Capcom put tripping in the game because they could.

It feels like feature creep.

There’s more. Leon can dive to the ground, lying on his back and aiming at enemies. He rolls about the floor and, in a particularly goofy animation, pulls himself forward with his legs. Enemies frequently knock him into this position, so it’s unclear whether it’s meant as eccentric badassery or a form of punishment. It just makes Leon look like a clutz.

Maybe he’s just incompetent: his aim is certainly off. In Resident Evil 4, the laser sight shakes ever so slightly to simulate unsteady hands, imperfect aim. Resident Evil 6 defaults to a targeting reticule. The sight lurches around within its generous bounds, circling vital points, never resting where you want it. It’s a guessing game.

Switch over to the classic laser sight and the beam appears in full, allowing you to trace Leon’s jaunty aim. The first time I tried this, the beam came out of the wrong gun. I couldn’t really see very well, since Leon was blocking my view, but it was the first time I noticed him dual wielding his pistols. I imagine he does this because dual wielding is cool. You can switch his dominant hand by clicking the right stick.

I keep saying Leon, but this applies to his partner, Helena. And it applies to Jake and Sherry in their campaigns, and Chris and Piers in theirs. Resident Evil 6 has three different campaigns, and Capcom has explained that they all have a different focus and gameplay style.

You can feel the differences as you switch between them. Leon’s plays like Resident Evil 4, Jake’s like Resident Evil 5, and Chris’s plays sort of like Modern Warfare. There’s an emphasis on dramatic setpieces in Chris and Piers’ campaign that highlights the new cover system.

Enemies pop out from behind walls as Chris stands behind armored vehicles and takes potshots. He can latch onto cover, but I never figured out how to get it to work. Sometimes he’ll cooperate, sometimes he won’t. The armored vehicles move along at set times, occasionally bumping him and scooting him around. It’s a demo. That’s fine.

Because it’s only a short demo, I’m reluctant to comment on the scenarios, but they don’t feel different enough. From how Capcom described the game, it seemed like Leon’s campaign would feel like classic Resident Evil, but it isn’t so. Everything’s definitely survival action, if not pure third person shooter.

I don’t want to pick on the game. The demo is still enjoyable. It’s just not what I expected, though minor problems could easily be fixed.

Capcom’s in a tough position right now, and they’re looking to innovate within the genre. Japanese developers are being inundated with criticism. Many gamers say they can’t compete with the West.

That’s garbage.

Japanese developers have their own style, their own voice. Just because Western developers have come into their own doesn’t mean that Japanese games are outdated.

But Resident Evil 6, so far, feels like Capcom’s been badly incorporating Western design without nurturing the qualities that made Resident Evil an action horror phenomenon. Hopefully I’m proven wrong this October. Hopefully Resident Evil retains the Salazar crown.

Either way: The king is dead. Long live the king.

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2 Responses to “Resident Evil 6’s strange mutation”

  1. Karl Weller Says:

    I think I would be glad to play as Leon and Chris as vertically challenged characters, they always felt too calm, calculated and sure footed in situations where most would be cowering in fear. But my expectations have been severely lowered by abstaining from any information regarding RE6…well, until now.

    • catstronaut Says:

      I feel the same way sometimes, but it’s a little different when they stumble over every body and constantly fall on their asses :O Plus, they weren’t total klutzes in the other games, so I’m not sure what happened to all their S.T.A.R.S. training. If you haven’t played the demo yet, give it a shot; you might like it more than I did. I’m still looking forward to the game – just with a little trepidation.

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