At least one third of Resident Evil 6 is a linear, tiresome action game (let’s hope it gets better)

At least one third of Resident Evil 6 is a linear, tiresome action game (let’s hope it gets better)

Chris Redfield is busy killing himself with alcohol, and apparently suffers from some sort of memory loss about the years he’s spent fighting the Umbrella Corporation, but all it takes is a man eating a steak to convince him that it’s time to suit up and kick some bio-weapon ass yet again. “We will not lose any men out there,” Chris says at one point. “It will be really hard for me if we lose men. Losing men is a bad thing, because I have a long history of bad experiences, so no men will be left behind no matter what. Ever.” I may be paraphrasing. Rookie soldiers are introduced to us, and they’re adorable. Guess what happens next?

Thus begins the Chris Redfield campaign in Resident Evil 6, the latest game in the long-running series about a company that wants to turn people into zombies for reasons, and the people who stop them. There are three campaigns in the game (or are there more?), and each one can be played with at least one other person in multiplayer. So far I’ve only played Redfield’s campaign, but I can only hope things are going to get better with the game’s other sections.

Gears of War without all the pesky horror

There is precious little context for any of the story in Redfield’s campaign, and it’s nearly impossible to figure out what’s going on. Umbrella is now Neo Umbrella, and you’re in China, and familiar faces from past games pop up, and at one point someone who is supposed to be dead pops up to kill someone else, and everyone watches it and doesn’t seem to think that’s weird. It’s not mentioned by any of the characters, even though they see it happen. The time frame for all this is a little slippery, as something that happened in the last chapter was referenced as if it happened months ago. I’m a Resident Evil fan, but I was digging through wiki articles and fan timelines trying to figure out some semblance of a plot.

While the actual reasons for what happens on screen may be impenetrable if you tackle this campaign first, there is no confusion as to what you must do next. The campaign is perfectly linear; you can hold a button to be told exactly where to go next. Weapons are given to you when you need them, you can do some light exploration to fight crates with more ammo or items that give you skill points. “You can use skill points to purchase skills,” the game told me helpfully. You fight zombies and mutants and all manner of ugly things, but your melee attack is inexplicably powerful. Why use a rocket launcher when pimp-slapping the bad guys is so effective and fun?

The game can be played in co-op with another player taking control of your partner, who is there to remind Chris what the mission is, damnit, and is this about REVENGE OR OUR DUTY? YOU’RE WAY OVER THE LINE, SOLDIER! Anyway, it’s clear when there are sections where you’re supposed to split off and both players have something interesting to do, although those sections aren’t nearly as effective when one is playing alone. It’s also annoying to have to wait for your AI-controller partner to catch up to you before opening the many doors that require both of you to kick down.

This is an action game, and feels more like Gears of War in places than a Resident Evil game. There is an incredibly painful chase segment where you can fire a car-mounted machine gun at civilians, and also your target, although you don’t really need to do either. You just kind of smash around until you get to the end, and then the section is over. There are hints of character development that are erased by the end of the campaign. The final boss returns time after time, until you’re glad to see the final credits when its finally put down for good.

Resident Evil 6 is a beautiful game, and there were one or two pieces of character design and set pieces that were tense and well executed, but that’s the highest praise I can give the Chris Redfield campaign. I’ll be diving into the other two campaigns soon, and I’m hoping for something that feels more like survival horror and less like an attractive run and gun title. I also hope the story doesn’t remain a self-indulgent mess, but clean storytelling hasn’t been a strong suit of the Resident Evil series for awhile now.

“How many of these assholes do we need to kill?” a character says during a long gun battle, and it’s hard to tell if the game was criticizing itself. How many of these do we need to kill? The rest of the game may improve, and I’m giving up if the next campaign I play doesn’t get better, but I can say for certain that at least one third of Resident Evil 6 is an ill-conceived, overly linear slog with a number of frustrating issues and quirks. Let’s kill the “wiggle the analog stick really fast at a moment’s notice” QTE once and for all, okay?

Let’s hope for a little less BOOM and a little more Moonlight Sonata in the rest of the game.