I’ve got to admit, I’m confused. So this latest Resident Evil game wants to be a movie. But it doesn’t want to be like the Resident Evil movies, which are loosely based on the games, but different. It wants to actually be a movie of the game that it is.
Yes, I’m confused. Still, I understand that the cinematic influence (which has always been there ever since the first Res Evil game which came out, I think, back in about 1735) is alive and well. Multiple storylines twist and turn around one another and the main characters talk in clipped, action-movie prose. Cut-scenes deliver white-knuckle thrills, lighting and mood music are used to ramp up the zombie tension, and bit-part characters yell and sob as hordes of the living dead attempt to dine on their grey matter.
Capcom’s review copy of Res Evil 6 arrived in a metal box, its surface scarred with rust, wrapped in biohazard warning tape. There was no Capcom logo, no game logo of any sort, and we have to wonder how many went unopened through fear of infection. The box contained not only the game but photographs, newspaper cuttings, letters… a lot of merch to help create the feel that you’re living through the zombie apocalypse. And this is all before you even power up the ‘Station. You’ve got to give them their dues here, the buildup was great.
As for the game? Well. It’s a third-person shooter really, played in co-op mode (either with real people or with AI chums), that sees you journeying through various monster-strewn locations, many in urban settings. I promise to stop banging on about it soon, but the influence of cinema is ever-present – from runaway vehicles causing mayhem in the streets to tense, creepy quieter scenes where every door is opened slowly with the possibility of a surprise zombie shock awaiting on the other side. But these shocks rarely really materialise. Either the surprise is killed by signposted zombie attacks (some of which fail because the zombies can’t get past the furniture) or you’re rolling your eyes at the petulance of the game engine. See, you can be moving down a corridor towards a door, and there’s a body lying on the floor. Obviously, it’s going to get up and try to chew off your throat – they all do, right? So you blast its head with a shotgun before it ever moves. Better to be safe than sorry. Then, once you’re at the door, there’s a short cutscene and BAM! Mr. Obvious-Zombie is on his feet ‘terrifying’ you from behind. No matter that you already shot him in the skull at point-blank range with your triple-barrelled shotgun. The game wants you to be surprised by a zombie, and surprised by a zombie you will bloody well be. At other times you’ll be duking it out with a posse of brain-chompers when BAP! You’re hit by, I don’t know, let’s say a train. No real warning, and you’re too busy actually playing the game to see it coming. You’re dead. Try again. Only this time you’re specifically waiting for the train.
Quicktime events are the best anyone has come up with so far for making a game feel like a movie, and yes, there are quite a few in Res 6. But to be fair to it, many of these are incorporated into the actual dynamic gameplay. Let a zombie get too close and he’ll go for the throat. You then have a short QTE to push him off, then it’s on with the game. They’re not really so bad. Melee attacks ended up making up a pretty sizeable proportion of our strategy actually, so teeth-to-neck combat was pretty commonplace. As well as saving ammo (not that you’ll desperately need to), there’s something very nice about the various finishing moves even if the actual melee itself feels a little wooden next to the likes of Arkham City and Sleeping Dogs. If a zombie is trying to attack you with a fire axe, your finishing move will invariable see the same axe buried in the zombie’s head. Skulls are stomped in, staved into car windows, and body-slammed clean off.
Much of what we’re used to in a Res game is still here – plenty of green herb (stop sniggering), arbitrary puzzles involving putting things onto plinths, and giant infected bosses feature throughout. Experience (or ‘skill points’) are collected from the corpses of slain foes like ammo, although what exactly this is supposed to simulate is anyone’s guess. Collecting… valor and battle knowledge, presumably?
Res 6 does some things well and a couple of things badly, but in the main it does things adequately. It has its moments of drama and tension as well as times when you’ll just want to slap your forehead (such as when a passing zombie gets caught on-screen during a cutscene, for instance when you’re opening a door, and will just sort of shuffle around awkwardly while the main characters ignore him). Overall though, it’s a zombie game like other zombie games. There are no real surprises, not a lot of novelty (the levelling perks are particularly uninspired, being nothing but a series of unquantifiable plusses) and not a lot to make you want to replay it. But if you’re jonesing for a fresh horror shooter and like the idea of co-opping about with a friend, it’ll certainly pass the time.