I've never been a die hard fan of the Resident Evil series. After the first or second game on PlayStation I hadn't touched a Resident Evil game until Resident Evil 5 came out on Xbox 360. I was shunned and told I had to play Resident Evil 4, but trying to play it on the PC I just became frustrated by antiquated controls. So while the series on the whole might not hold the meaning it has for some people, I can appreciate what is there. Resident Evil 6 is the latest game in the series and it expands on a feature introduced by Resident Evil 5 - cooperative play. This time around we have three pairs of co-op partners and four separate campaigns to play. This is a meaty game folks, lets dive in.
Resident Evil 6 tells the story of a new deadly virus called the C Virus which was created by a new splinter group called Neo Umbrella. Like any terrorist organization, the virus is being released in the form of biological strikes around the world and its up to our good friends in the BSAA to stop them. Things start out when the President of the United States gets turned into a zombie forcing Leon Kennedy putting him down and a good ol conspiracy theory as to who done it follows.
The campaigns offer slightly different views of the events and stop and start at different times during the timeline of the game. The campaigns themselves will find each other intersecting, where our heroes end up meeting each other and at times, teaming up. These sections expand on the two player co-op found through most of the game, this time allowing four players from two different games to team up. Typically these section feature some sort of boss battle, but there are times you simply see and possibly cover the other group of players from a distance. In one section, both teams of players are solving puzzles simultaneously racing to get out of a death trapped room. While the integration of the intersection moments during the campaign isn't seamless, it works well enough - with a 60 second loading screen that lets you know its actively matchmaking to find other partners that are at the same part in the story. Once the section is over, players part ways and continue on their own campaigns.
The campaigns themselves vary slightly in style. Leon's feels a bit slower and more overwhelming. The zombies are more of the traditional variety, ammo is scarce, and the environments are usually dark and cramped. Chris's campaign is more reminiscent of Resident Evil 5; larger bright outdoor environments, mutated human like enemies, and plenty of big guns and ammo to play with. Jake's campaign is something of a hybrid of the two, though his speciality is hand to hand combat, so the fighting can be more melee focused. All three campaigns have their own unique HUD and interface, which creates the feeling that you are playing a separate Resident Evil game with each successive campaign. Finally there's a fourth campaign which runs through Ada Wong's story, it is a single player only affair (though upcoming DLC will change that) and focused on more stealth style gameplay while arming you with a crossbow.
For fans of the series, specifically the games before Resident Evil 5, you're going to be a bit disappointed here. Resident Evil 6 is an action game first, with horror and puzzle elements taking a backseat. The puzzles in the game are elementary and the RPG like upgrade system feels pretty minor. In fact, you can only purchase upgrades between chapters and the costs of the upgrades can take a few chapters to earn.
Each campaign contains five chapters and each chapter can take anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours to complete. Like I said, this is a meaty game and completing everything will take you well over the 25 hours. The chapters are broken up into sections that auto save, but between those sections are checkpoints. It's very tricky and it's easy to lose your progress if you don't see a proper save icon. On more than one occasion this happened to me, so make sure you see the typewriter icon when saving to know it's safe to quit. One nice feature is the ability to switch between campaigns to keep the story timelines in sync, though you can only have one mid mission save at anytime, so you best do that at chapter breaks. You'll also need to hit the chapter breaks to save your progress if you join someone's game, otherwise you won't get credit for completion.
Mechanically the game does have its problems whether you are fighting the camera or being blindsided by enemies. There's an overabundance of quick time events for several actions, including the frequent grappling by the undead. You may even find the shooting system a bit unforgiving, but for the most part I can look past these issues. The biggest problem I have with Resident Evil 6 is it offers a lot of variety in the way of handling the situations thrown at you, but there is virtually no tutorial or even a manual to tell you that you are capable of certain things. For instance, if you are playing the game in single player there are ways to tell your AI partner to do certain things, but it's nowhere to be found in any of the game's menus. Instead, to find out the controls, you'll need to download a PDF from Capcom's website or if you are lucky, catch it on a loading screen.
It's also hit or miss from the co-op side of things for game mechanics. Playing online Resident Evil 6 is a blast, dropping in and out of a game is smooth and seamless. Both players get healed if they pop some pills or spray themselves when standing close together, promoting teamwork. Another great feature of online co-op is that each player gets their own copy of items to pick up so there's no fighting for ammo. But if you are playing Resident Evil 6 in split-screen, it's a fight for ammo as the double spawning doesn't take place. Also during couch co-op play there are some quirky camera and screen oddities that are distracting.
Outside of the core game there's some alternative modes buried in the "extras" menu. You can jump into other players' games as a zombie in the agent hunt mode, something I was unable to try in a dozen attempts to find a match. Allowing players to "raid" your game is something you must turn on when starting game, but I don't think it's entirely obvious what it is. There's also a return of the Mercenaries mode. This is a fun, arcadey diversion that can be played in singleplayer or co-op and earn you skill points for your characters. Sadly, there's only three maps out of the box for Mercenaries and three primary characters to choose from - none of the co-op partners are present for whatever reason.
Resident Evil 6 is an ambitious game on many levels and I can't help but feel with a little AAA polish it could have been something really great. Some of the earlier set pieces in Leon's campaign are top notch, showcasing the high production values and fun that can be found throughout. On the flip side it seems that all the time and effort on certain "popcorn moments" have caused basic gameplay elements to be lost. I can't say enough good things about the intersection mechanic and the potential it showcases, not only for what's there, but for what other developers might try to do in the future. If anything has to be Resident Evil 6's legacy, let it be that.
The Co-Optimus review of Resident Evil 6 is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.