With all the many delays plaguing this year’s fourth quarter release schedule, there are very few big names left on the agenda. The inevitable Call of Duty and equally so Halo aside, gamers are certainly going to have to line their stockings with some b-list releases. While that’s no bad thing in itself, it certainly would make things easier if there was another AAA franchise we could rely on. Or in other words, it’s time to start praying that Resident Evil 6 doesn’t fall foul to the same rescheduling as the likes of Tomb Raider, DmC and South Park: The Stick of Truth.
With a demo build of Resident Evil 6 launching for Xbox 360 playing Dragon’s Dogma owners today, you might automatically jump to the conclusion that Electronic Theatre‘s recent hands-on with the videogame was in fact the same build – and you might be right – but until we’ve had a chance to play through the public version there’s no knowing what Capcom have planned. It is wholly possible however, as this demo version is the same as that which was at last month’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, and Capcom aren’t about to giveaway too much of one of this year’s biggest titles.
That being said, there is plenty of Resident Evil 6 to go around. The videogame features three campaigns – simply known as Leon, Chris and Jake – each of which offer two playable characters. Obviously a set-up for co-operative gameplay, even when playing alone you may choose which of the partners you wish to experience, and each will offer a slightly different experience. There’s not enough variety to suggest Resident Evil 6 effectively offers six campaigns, but you won’t resent a second run through with a new co-operative partner when playing as the character that was previously your opposite number.
The first of the three campaigns offers the closest thing to a ‘traditional’ Resident Evil experience that you’re ever likely to get from the series. That is to say, it’s a modern take on the Resident Evil 4 formula in the same way Resident Evil 4 itself was a modern take on the original Resident Evil formula. Times have moved on and videogames are less constrained by technology than ever before, and Resident Evil 6 is evidence of this. It’s possible to build tension without tying the player down to some unnecessarily forceful mechanics; visual and sound design have now evolved to the point where it’s no longer necessary to leave some blanks for the player’s mind to fill.
Playing as either Leon or newcomer Helena, players will tread the deserted halls of an Ivy League college in the US, after having taken down the president in the most unflattering manner. He has become a zombie, and so now his skull and its contents lie buried in the carpet. Of course, if the virus has reached the president of the United States, there will be others. Many others, in fact. As the player(s) explores the corridors and dining areas of the college new objectives can spring out of nowhere. Just as with any good adventure videogame, a path which appears to be coming to an end can just as easily become the start of a new challenge.
After several moments of tension and horrors-that-could’ve-been, Resident Evil 6 does decide to let fly with the zombies. And when we say ‘zombies,’ we mean real zombies. Leon’s new found ability to move and shoot comes into play as you attempt to fight your way out of a parking garage. It’s not an easy challenge, but any gamers with a little experience of third-person headshots will find themselves on the other side practically unscathed, and ready for the next event.
Chris’ campaign is significantly different to Leon’s, and is very much an action-orientated affair. A very Hollywoodised introductory sequence sees Chris depicted as a washed-up alcoholic version of his former bicep rippling self. His new partner, Piers, confronts him and forcibly demands he sober up and return to the frontline for some reason which wasn’t evident in the preview build. Cut to a rooftop battle in a cityscape, taking the bullets to masked enemies, mutants that have huge growths in the form of powerful limbs and even some with wings. In terms of the action gameplay Resident Evil 6 is lightyears ahead of Resident Evil 5. Capcom has obviously taken into account the gulf between the likes of Gears of War 3 and the recently released Spec Ops: The Line, and that of the wishy-washy ‘is it, isn’t it’ design of Resident Evil 5‘s action gameplay. Intelligent cover mechanics, supportive AI teammates and custom melee animations that see enemies knocked over railings; here it’s all about running-and-gunning, and it’s all the better for it.
The third and final campaign appears to blend aspects of the two previous, from the small section Electronic Theatre witnessed at least. It’s a tense action experience where, playing as either Jake or Sherry, you must outrun a huge beast by the name of Usmack, who has more than a passing resemblance to Resident Evil 3‘s Nemesis in the way he behaves. Once having made your way into an open space, under powered and overwhelmed, it’s going to take more than just quick legs and a tasty aim to take Usmack down; in the best Resident Evil tradition, it’s going to take brains.
While each of the three campaigns offers their own unique experiences, there are some common flaws prevalent throughout all three. At present, the collision detection is a little off, with objects blocking your path despite a visible six inch clearance, and the enemy AI is a little wobbly, to say the least. However these issues will more than likely be fixed before the videogame arrives, and as such Electronic Theatre would rather spend our time looking at the bigger picture. It’s undoubtedly a brave move for Capcom to invest in developing three unique campaigns; a bold experiment not just for the Resident Evil franchise, but for videogames in general. When taking the different play styles of all three into account you could almost consider Resident Evil 6 a modern Die Hard Trilogy, a videogame that ultimately delivered a combination of tired and half-finished experiences in a package that was commended for even attempting to present three unique outings. If nothing else, Resident Evil 6 is doing the same in a much more difficult period of videogame development, and delivering it to a much more demanding audience. And for that, Resident Evil 6 deserves to be considered one of the potential innovators of 2012.