So, remember last time how I hoped that the series couldn’t have possibly gotten worse after Resident Evil 5? Well guess the fuck what.
One of the main reasons I started this retrospective was because I wanted to see the evolution of the series. I wanted to see the series beginnings on the PlayStation and see it evolve into the series we know and seemingly loathe today. And I’ve definitely enjoyed the ride towards the series’ current peak of Resident Evil 4, despite a few bumps and, in Code Veronica’s case, a plunging ditch on the road uphill. Before I started this series, I had always known that Resident Evil 6 was considered by many as a bad entry in the series, but it is only after experiencing the almost vertical downhill slope towards Resident Evil 6 that I finally understand why it’s so revered by fans: the series deserved so much better than this.
And I don’t say that as some kind of “survival-horror” purist who thinks that Resident Evil should be about scaring your pants up onto the ceiling fan. I think it’s pretty obvious that since Resident Evil 2 the series has always wanted to become more action-focused. Hell, I went into Resident Evil 6 with the intention of looking at it as an action game, rather than a survival-horror game. And, honestly, I think that’s where the major problem with this game lies.
Resident Evil 6 is trying so hard to cram in explosions, heart-pounding car chases and badass action set pieces that it completely misunderstands why they work so well in other games. From the moment that you start the game running away from a cacophony of explosions that would make Michael Bay blush, the intensity never has a chance to die down and ramp back up again to create any awesome and memorable moments. As a result of this, the game maintains this constant level of bland action which quickly turns what should be pulse-racing chase scenes and fights against towering monstrosities into insipid white-noise to slog through so that you can reach the ending. And because of this, Resident Evil 6 comes across as an insulting joke that ends up being an unintentional parody of every action game trope that gamers make fun of for being pandering and overdone.
I feel like I should at least give credit where its due, however. Specifically, in regards to the approach that Resident Evil 6 takes to the god-awful AI partner system that I bitched about so heavily in Resident Evil 5. While there’s still a rather confusing emphasis on co-op gameplay, seen in the considerably large multiplayer menu that appears every time you play the game, at least there was some consideration made towards those like myself who just wanted a single-player experience. This time around, the AI partner looks after themselves entirely to a point that they actually help out. They seem to have an overflowing abundance of ammo and health, can actually kill enemies rather effectively and, most importantly of all, you don’t have to manage their fucking inventory for them every fifteen seconds like an overly fussy parent getting their kid ready for school. In fact, my AI partner did so well looking after itself that I kind of felt like I was the member dragging the team down. It’s a weird feeling to know you’re the one being babysat by the AI, knowing that I was the only one of us that needed to be constantly revived after getting KOed for the tenth time in the last hour.
It’s a shame then that despite taking one step in the right direction in terms of good gameplay choices, Capcom needed to take fifteen steps backward just to make sure they weren’t making anything of quality. Take for example how they fucked up trying to reinvent their perfectly fine method managing health.
In past games, healing and managing health was fairly straightforward: pick up green herbs to heal, mix them with other herbs to make them more effective. In Resident Evil 6, herbs you pick up cannot be used immediately, but rather need to be mixed into “tablets” which are applied with a quick button press. While this doesn’t necessarily sound like much of an problem at first, it becomes quickly apparent when you notice that the health system has also been changed to accompany the “tablet’ mechanic.
Now, instead of a health bar, you have something more along the lines of “health blocks”. Taking damage will either deplete a number of blocks, or a small portion of one, which can be regenerated over a short period of time. Unfortunately, unlike other games in the series, herbs will not heal you completely in one go, as the tablets you mix them into will only recover one block of health at a time. Mixing various herbs no longer makes them more effective, instead only gives you a larger number of tablets to use. So, if you wish to heal four blocks of health, you’ll need to use up four tablets by pushing the “heal” button the same number of times. As a result, the once simple method of recovering health has now been turned into one that just feels clunky and unfamiliar by requiring extra unnecessary steps.
And while that befuddling design choice stays firmly wedged in my craw, it has nothing on the bewildering decision to keep to the series’ survival-horror roots in terms of barely giving the player a passable supply of ammo and health items in a fucking action game.
Despite being a game that is essentially just a set of strung-along glorified shooting galleries, Resident Evil 6 really doesn’t want you to shoot a lot of things, let alone take any damage – a rather insulting design choice given how many weapons are doled out at the start of each story campaign. Because of this, I almost always felt completely outclassed by a room filled with just a handful of enemies, almost always relying on my AI partner to do most of the damage just so I didn’t waste what little ammo I had. Hell, during each hour-long chapter, I could probably count how many health items I managed to come across on one hand. Unlike previous games, enemy drops will almost never be what you want or need, instead leaving you with arbitrary “Action Points” which are used to buy upgrades that I never noticed yielding any visible improvements.
Looking back, it kind of feels to me like Resident Evil 6 really doesn’t want you to play it. Nothing about its gameplay feels rewarding or appealing in the slightest. Weapons never feel like they have any impact on enemies, almost always giving little response, if any to taking damage. This means that taking careful, well-aimed shots feel just as effective as firing blindly, which you will almost certainly resort to as a result. The game desperately wants to show off its new cover system, but it requires so many unnecessary button presses that it just comes off as an awkward, last minute addition because the developers probably thought “actions games do it too”. And because of the horrible decisions made towards “improving” the health system and heavily limiting useful item and ammo drops, Resident Evil 6 turns into another cautionary tale of what happens when a game’s mechanics don’t match up with its intended tone.
And that brings us to the end of the main series titles of the Resident Evil Retrospective. It’s definitely been an eye-opening experience seeing the series evolve from its humble “Jill Sandwich” beginnings on the PlayStation to a more action-packed series in later games. I saw the series grow old and tired, then turn it all around and reinvigorate with Resident Evil 4, a modern masterpiece that’s still a blast to play over a decade later. And, as you’ve seen in these last two articles, watched the series try to recapture the magic and fail in a manner that’s almost tragically beautiful. Too bad it’s incredibly hard to notice when those games were so fucking infuriating to play.
For those who have enjoyed the ride up to this point, don’t worry. I’ve still got a few more games from the series to talk about. But for now, I think I’m done with action-packed Resident Evil games for a while. Honestly, I don’t think I could be any readier for the more horror-focused romp that Resident Evil 7 promises. Keep an eye out for that review later in the month! I know I’m looking forward to playing it as a newly made fan of the franchise.
Writer: Tristan Venables