E3 2012: Resident Evil 6 Hands-On Preview – Evil To The Power of Three
Written Wednesday, June 13, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Ever since Resident Evil 4 shredded the Resi rulebook and Resident Evil 5 moved even further into action shooter territory, many have wondered what shape Resident Evil 6 would take. But with some fans longing for the slower-pace and creeping sense of dread from the Resident Evils of yesteryear, while others demand the more action-oriented gameplay of Resident Evil 4 and 5, what is Capcom to do? Attempt to please everyone all at once, of course!
Resident Evil 6 wants to be all things to all Resident Evil fans, and in looking to appeal to every kind of survival horror taste, it's divided into three parallel narrative lines each focusing on a different character and a different style of game. Our E3 time with Resident Evil 6 is split into three 15-minute hands-on chunks starting with Leon S. Kennedy's story, which is supposed to represent traditional survival horror at a more considered and careful pace. Partnering up with sultry secret service agent Helena Harper, Leon finds himself stalking the dark corridors of a university campus, following mysterious sounds through a dining hall decorated with celebratory balloons, streamers and banners.
This is much closer to the original Resident Evil titles in terms of tone and setup, although it retains the third-person shooter perspective first introduced in Resident Evil 4 and later honed in Resident Evil 5. The mechanics are even more streamlined and refined in Resident Evil 6, with a slick PDA HUD and the ability to quick heal using a single button. In Leon's case, you can even dual wield his handguns. Following the clattering and bumping noises through the university's kitchen, Leon and Helena find a terrified coughing man looking for his daughter. Despite Helena's protests, Leon decides to help the man, and so we retrace our steps back through the hall as the power goes out and the only illumination is provided by bolts of lightning outside the window.
Finding the man's daughter behind a blood-stained door, we fear the worst as she runs towards us, but it turns out she's fine. Or is she? Escorting father and daughter to an elevator that leads to a parking garage, it soon stalls as elevators tend to do in survival horror games, and in the darkness, we hear an unsettling gurgling sound. The lights come back on and the man's daughter has chowed down on his jugular, leaving him spluttering on the floor as she crouches over him in full zombie mode. We soon have plenty of company as zombies pour through the doors into the confines of the claustrophobic lift sending the action into a confusing blur as we shoot our way through the raging horde. It's pandemonium for a moment.
Exiting into the parking garage, we're confronted with even more shuffling zombies, but manage to make good our escape past the undead. This first taste of Resident Evil 6 still doesn't prepare us for what's ahead in Chris Redfield's portion of the demo though. Washed up and knocking back whisky in an Eastern European dive bar, we find Chris struggling with amnesia and the locals, as he refuses to stop drinking. “I'll tell you when I've had enough!” he says. Probably. Maybe.
Enter Piers Nivens, an up and coming BSAA agent who's been tasked with bringing Chris back to fight against marauding bio-organic weapons in China. Flashing forward to some rooftops in a Chinese slum, the action picks up with Chris and Piers pairing up to fight an army of gun-toting porcelain clown-masked infected foes. There was a hint of these zombies with guns in Resident Evil 4 and 5, but here they're out in full force. We don't like the idea of zombies with guns.
Playing as Chris, it's more than apparent that this is Resident Evil 6 unleashing its action id, feeling like a straight up third-person shooter, with the ability to tag enemies for Piers and the rest of your squad to shoot, while blasting through numerous clown-faced freaks. Close-quarters melee attacks are no longer context-sensitive, so you can pistol whip and punch to your heart's content, smashing the porcelain visages right off the zombies' faces. Ammo is still in relatively short supply, but there's more than enough to keep you shooting away at marauding bio-organic monsters, who also sprout mutated arms or flying moth-like appendages to keep you on your toes. They're typically gooey and massively dangerous Resident Evil enemies. Yet they're not particularly scary.
Fighting our way across the rooftops, dangling from a rail and climbing as Piers provides covering fire, we finally call in the extraction chopper and mount a last stand against wave after wave of aggressive zombies attacking from all angles, including the air with those pesky moth winged nasties. It's a hard fought battle that requires a great deal of trigger-happy gameplay, confirming outright that this is Resident Evil 6 as balls-to-the-wall action without compromise. It might not be to everyone's tastes, and it could jar with Leon's sections, but it was inevitable that Resident Evil would at least experiment with this style of gameplay. To it's credit, it's well done and suitably intense stuff.
Wesker's son Jake is the last character we sample, and the third and final central protagonist in Resident Evil 6. He's teamed up with a grown-up Sherry Birkin from Resident Evil 2 and on the run from a hulking Nemesis-like bio-organic beast known as the Ustanak. A nigh-on invincible tank with interchangeable metal arms, the Ustanak is the stuff of nightmares and he'll relentlessly pursue Jake and Sherry throughout the course of their story in Resident Evil 6. He'll even pop up in other parts of the game too, he's just that nice.
The first section is a straightforward escape as it runs after us, before we're trapped in a warehouse with the Ustanak as it strives to kill us. Shooting him is futile, so we have to lure the Ustanak near to explosive barrels and then shoot them, damaging him enough to buy us time to raise the bar on the exit door and get out of the building before we're crushed to death beneath his gigantic boots. Incidentally, we fail spectacularly even with Sherry's help.
Boasting three very different narrative threads all running parallel to one another (apparently each being about the length of Resident Evil 5), no one could accuse Capcom of not being ambitious with Resident Evil 6. Each story will offer 2-player co-op throughout, with intersecting junctures in the timeline that see characters meeting offering the opportunity for 4-player co-op. All three sets of characters will interact at some point and even swap partners, making for some interesting co-operative setups during designated moments in the story. If you're playing 2-player co-op, a pair of AI characters will take over the joining team, whereas you can happily play the game in single-player with all AI characters, barking commands with a single button, like shouting at Sheva in Resident Evil 5.
In striving to cram every kind of Resident Evil game into one package, Capcom runs the risk of making Resident Evil 6 a confused, uneven mess. But based on the 15-minute sections we've played from each character's perspective, it all seems to hang together rather well with the shift between gameplay styles keeping things exciting without being too jarring. How this will translate when you're fully invested in the story remains to be seen, and of the three sections we played, Leon's was the most engaging, while Chris's was a frenetic shooting gallery and Jake's was a tense chase sequence. We're looking forward to seeing how Resident Evil 6's story will unfold and where Capcom will take its characters, but rest assured, it looks as though we're in for one hell of a rollercoaster ride. Or should that be a ghost train ride?
Resident Evil 6 will be going viral on October 2nd, 2012.