keskiviikko 10. lokakuuta 2012

REVIEW - Resident Evil 6 | PS3 | 2012

GENRE(S): Action / Survival horror
RELEASED: October 2012

Albert Wesker might be dead and buried, but despite the loss of its chief antagonist, the Resident Evil franchise seems to be alive and well. Many things have changed during the sixteen years that have passed since the very first installment in this most classic survival horror series, all the way from the core design team to the very orientation of the core gameplay - not to mention the cinematic values. First teased in late 2011, Resident Evil 6 was to be a dramatic ensemble game, with many playable characters ranging from enigmatic newbies to worshipped vets, core gameplay that would have the best of every Resident Evil that came before, and finally, a whole truckload of its own tricks. Resident Evil 6 is the first true horror game in the main series since Resident Evil Code: Veronica. Resident Evil 6 is the most cinematic game in the whole series. Resident Evil 6 is the most action-packed game of 'em all. Resident Evil 6 is the ultimate Resident Evil experience. ...What is it, again? All of these things, or just one of them? Or NONE of them?

Zombie kept a-comin'

Roger Craig Smith : Chris Redfield
Christopher Emerson : Piers Nivans
Courtenay Taylor : Ada Wong / Carla Radames
Matthew Mercer : Leon S. Kennedy
Laura Bailey : Helena Harper
Troy Baker : Jake Muller
Eden Riegel : Sherry Birkin
Joe Cappelletti : Derek C. Simmons
Salli Saffioti : Ingrid Hunnigan
Dave Mallow : HQ

Two massive viral outbreaks on opposite sides of the world leave people with the dramatic conclusion that there is no hope left for the human race. Six people are caught in the middle of both events. Government agent Leon S. Kennedy and his partner Helena Harper are turned fugitives for the assassination of the U.S. President and being the main suspects in the case of the outbreak in Tall Oaks, USA. Meanwhile in Lanshiang, China, B.S.A.A. Captain Chris Redfield is dragged back to active duty by a young soldier named Piers Nivans after a tragically failed mission some months back. Raccoon City survivor turned agent for the National Security Advisor, Sherry Birkin, seeks out a young mercenary named Jake Muller, who is completely immune to any virus, and whose blood is therefore invaluable to the world.

The bastard son of Albert Wesker meets the
bastard son of Steve Burnside and the Nemesis.
For 16 long years, Resident Evil has been at the top of my favourite video game franchises of all time. Hard to believe it's been so long. Now, Resident Evil has spun off to a million different directions - none of them good. Although it seemed promising enough, I hated Resident Evil: Outbreak. I hated the rail shooters. I haven't played Operation Raccoon City, but I believe I would've hated that, too; I've read the reviews. Finally, I kinda count the live-action movies as spin-offs, and although the first two of them had some good moments (some of which might've featured Milla Jovovich naked), I haven't found the time or the interest to watch the rest of the series that never seems to end; to be completely honest with you, I wouldn't know how many of these they've made if the Internet wasn't there to keep me posted. My point is, that Resident Evil - the main series - has never let me down. Sure enough, I didn't like Resident Evil 3: Nemesis all that much, but I never played it in chronological junction with the others. In other words, this is the first time I've bought a brand new Resident Evil game... and been gravely disappointed with it. That's right, most of what you've read is true. Although I aim to find and point out all the good and fresh qualities of this game, it's no secret that the main Resident Evil series has definitely seen better days. I can be all angry and sarcastic about it, or I can be rational and calm, for the sake of all this franchise has given me. Or, I can try to balance it out.

The driving force of the story is that even if the series' main antagonist Albert Wesker is dead (like DEAD-DEAD-DEAD!!!), double agent Ada Wong STILL lives, as shown in the end of Resident Evil 4, after dying at least twice during the series' timeline. The game feasts on the common thesis that this bitch just won't die - you'll see. Additionally, Wesker's unique genes still exist in his son, who serves as one of the three main protagonists - his evil heritage doubled with his nasty attitude makes him kinda suspicious from the beginning, which in turn serves as a great dramatic backdrop for any interaction between him and series stalwart Chris Redfield. So, even after having witnessed Wesker's ultimate demise and at the same time, the supposed demise of Resident Evil, I'd say this game has got a platform for good storytelling in the bag. And sure, the story is great. Its on/off execution aside - such as the whole character of Helena Harper (what a fucking useless whiner!) - it will be the main reason for you to bear with the game's mistakes, if you're half a die-hard. It has some ridiculously epic scenes, the kinds of which we've never seen in this game - an underwater battle with a huge, mutated fish, a falling plane filled with zombies, and even the most ultimate of sacrifices made by a playable character for nothing but the greater good. Where can the franchise possibly go from here, besides down? That's what I'm afraid of - while cinematically very impressive, Resident Evil 6 isn't that awesomely great a game to begin with, and I have a terrible feeling we're going to see something even worse if the main series is continued, now that they've used their best chops. Does Resident Evil 6 pave way for yet another sequel? Yes, it does - by far, the only thing missing from this story is true closure.

Things are not very dandy in China tonight.
There are four different campaigns, with a total of seven playable characters. There are only three campaigns to access from the beginning; you need to play through all of them once, with one of the two characters involved, to unlock a fourth one, a solo op which will finally explain the whole plot, the strange occurrences and the dramatic, potentially lethal meetings between the main characters, most of which are already known to anyone who's watched the trailers. The first scenario stars Leon and Helena, and I guess this campaign's focus was meant to be set on survival horror. Well, not really; "survival" is a key word, though, as the enemies just keep on coming. It's not any more of a horror game than anything released under the brand name during the last decade. It does have some creepy moments, sure, and a lot of in-jokes relating to the two previous main series games that starred Leon - which happen to be the finest games from both sides of the franchise. But, a horror game? Most Adam Sandler movies are scarier. Chris and Piers' campaign is a straight-up, objective-based third-person shooter in the vein of Gears of War. In this case, when I say, "in the vein", I mean "completely like"; even the main characters are similar. Jake and Sherry's campaign is similar to the last, but there's more emphasis on hand-to-hand combat, which is only natural, seeing that the whole character of Jake is like homage to Capcom's age-old beat 'em ups - and is most definitely being reserved a spot in the next Marvel vs. Capcom game. Ada's campaign is non-surprisingly the most difficult campaign of 'em all, and the main focus in this maelstrom of torment is stealth (yeah, they made Resident Evil a stealth game too) and puzzles. I love puzzles, but there's a huge difference between good ones and dumb ones, and I can tell you, these are not good ones. I will break down every campaign in more detail later. For now, I'll just say that no matter how much you butter it up, every campaign shares the same basic elements: lots of Quick Time Events dedicated to those who hate 'em (Jake has more than anyone else), somewhat quirky controls, way too many enemies, even more sudden deaths. Lousy checkpoints - I mean, God damn. Which brings me to the autosave system - you definitely cannot trust it, but you DON'T HAVE any other save option besides it, so you'll find yourself taking risks in turning the console off to go to work or take a little healthy break, or perform some other equally mundane task. The game doesn't give a shit about such stuff. I find myself missing the age-old typewriters that were laid to rest after Resident Evil 4; they might've been annoying and out of place, but at least they saved your game at a 100% certainty.

Co-op isn't quite as essential as it was in Resident Evil 5 - as proven by the game having NO multiplayer Trophies/Achievements at all; I'm sure the game would reach another level with a friend beside you, but in Resident Evil 5, having a friend tagged along raised the game to whole new spheres, after which you couldn't return to the single-player campaign, 'cause your partner's A.I. sucked, and it sucked bad. Well, in this game, your A.I. partners cannot die except in choice scenes that test your reaction speed, and they cannot use consumable items, nor can they pick them up for you. They have infinite ammo to boot, so it's no wonder if you can't even feel their presence from time to time. The only reason for you to risk your butt to save them is that they're very capable of thinning the numbers of enemies whose numbers are hard enough to thin as it is. If co-operation with the A.I. - not to mention the inventory system - was as clumsy as it was in Resident Evil 5, this game would frankly be completely unplayable. I'm glad they worked on the comfort of the single-player campaign as opposed to the co-op, but of course, I find myself a little disappointed with the fact that the game is damn easy, once you figure out how to get around its quirks.

These are some of the basics I needed to get out of the way before actually reviewing the game. For those not really that into Resident Evil, I'll do the favour of a short summary. The game is easy to summarize. It's a cinematic thrill ride beyond pleasure, but it suffers just as much as it benefits from it. It's somewhat dumb, incoherent, and tedious. It does not cash in on nearly all of the theoretical hype. It's not the new Resident Evil 2 or Resident Evil 4, and it's not much of a successor to Resident Evil 5, either. BUT, a game that yields a Trophy called Zombie Massacre, for defeating 500 zombies, as early as in under six or seven in-game hours, over the course of one single campaign, can't be half bad by any possible measure. Ugly - meet shotgun. Shotgun - meet ugly.

She's back, she's hot, she's enfuriating.
And man, does shotgun meet ugly or what? In this context, I'm not talking about the crazy amount of enemies, or criticizing it - I'm lauding the presentation. Ever since Soldier of Fortune (one of my favourites in a genre that is not one of my favourites) came out in 2000 and revolutionized graphic violence by enabling you to shoot off the enemy's limbs in a highly graphic fashion, I've found myself very annoyed with capitally violent games that do not actually capitalize. For example, a game in which you blast your shotgun in some guy's face and he just falls down. Resident Evil is one of the few franchises which has never had a huge problem with showing what really happens when you do that, and Resident Evil 6 is definitely no exception. It's visually very pleasing as it is, but what puts the final cork on it is the fact that when you shoot someone in the face, the result is not pretty. Now, we've seen heads blown off... but rarely merely halves of them blown off, and the victims of your sick antics still comin' at ya after the supposedly last shot, with their brains leaking out of their half-broken skulls. Yeah, I might find my delight in strange things, but what can I say? Ultra-violent presentation is one of the things firmly in place in Resident Evil 6.

The only thing bothering me about the acting is that it takes three different actors to build a Resident Evil character nowadays; the voice actor, the stuntman, and the model. You know what the problem is, so I'll not overanalyze this - I'll just say what needs to be said. The voiceover work is superb, the best in the series. Now we all know better than to even count the first three or four games anymore. Roger Craig Smith and Salli Saffioti are the only actors to reprise their respective roles as Chris Redfield and Ingrid Hunnigan. It's kind of distracting that they keep switching actors for certain characters all the time, but there's not much essential difference between the guys who did Leon in Resident Evil 4 (Paul Mercier) and this game (Matthew Mercer); hell, even their last names are almost the same. Great voiceover work raises Sherry's character to a whole new level from the annoying bitch for a kid she was in Resident Evil 2, and Troy Baker further presses on the damn fact that Jake's a character to watch out for in the possible future. Luckily he's such a great character; I didn't enjoy his campaign all that much, with all those damn QTE's and vehicular sequences being the proverbial wedge lodged between me and utter pleasure. The music's greater and more noticeable than it's ever been, but I think the Batman-schtick (you'll know) is used a bit too much nowadays. I hate the Mercenaries' theme, though - tongue-in-cheek's got limits.

The unavoidable tutorial sequence stars Leon and Helena, and theirs is at the top of the campaign list, so let's start with that. An official, encyclopedic description of this scenario would be something along the lines of: "atmospheric survival horror in the vein of Resident Evil 2, fit into the gameplay mold of Resident Evil 4". Well, the atmosphere does work, but only for about a half of the campaign. Most of it's really just action. Until the obvious breakpoint in the story that sees this duo travelling to China to join the rest of the characters, you might experience a few slight scares and some of you will most definitely be delighted by the return of the true living dead as opposed to the brainwashed human individuals we've been blasting to oblivion for the last decade. To be completely honest with you, I think I ultimately enjoyed Leon's campaign the most. It has the most awe-inspiring cinematic moments, the most unique gameplay sequences, and the adaptation of some classic scenes from the ghost of Resident Evils past into this environment is kinda cool. However, some of the button prompts are just plain stupid and they last forever - like the L1 + R1 climb which you have to use the most out of the whole game in this one campaign - and it has the most annoying and resilient enemies in the whole game, like the main antagonist, and that one regular enemy that just keeps knocking you over with his scream and then running away like a bitch. There are a lot of boss fights, but after the fish, the fight on the falling plane, and another boss fight in a subway train on a one-way trip to hell, nothing really feels like anything anymore, except dull. Sudden deaths are a-plenty; there's no way for you to survive the whole deal with a good rank on the first time around, if you're out to find the collectables. And, your heavily breathing partner was created to annoy the shit out of you with her inability to just spit things out and refrain from blaming herself for everything that was ever wrong with the world. She's lucky her model is hot. On another positive note, I was pleased with how things turned out in the end - Leon had probably the best and most carefully written ending in the game.

There's always time for some teasing.
Being the first campaign I saw through, Leon's scenario introduced me to a lot of the game's problems. At first I was enraged, in time I grew used to 'em, but that doesn't mean I'd no longer perceive them as problems. Might as well go over them before I continue. Where to start...? Well, the crappy GPS, as well as the shifting camera angles are extremely disorienting, and they switch at the most inappropriate of times, leading into even more sudden deaths than the in-game stipulations themselves. I already told you everything there is to tell about the sucky autosave system, and the even suckier checkpoints. With all those sudden deaths looming throughout the game - I mean completely unpredictable the first time around - the developers could've at least spared us from having to hear the same damn dialogues and watch the same damn informative cutscenes on every consecutive try. Then, there's the inventory system. That's right - it has been a problem since the very beginning. It has changed shape in almost every game, but it's always had its quirks. I already said that it's not as bad as in Resident Evil 5, but it's still like from one gutter to another. You see, Resident Evil 6 adapts the system used in most action games - including the previous game to a certain degree - and automatically assigns items and weapons to directional buttons. They're all stored in the inventory, and the inventory has limits as always, but there are different categories; one's for weapons, ammo and herbs, while one's for First Aid Sprays and grenades. I know, kinda weird. Well, anyway, "automatically" is a key word, since to my knowledge, you can't reassign the slots. The most important thing is, that I know for a fact that you cannot remove the knife from the inventory. It's a real pain to toggle through the weapon inventory (Left and Right on the digital pad) in the heat of the battle to find a weapon that has some ammo left (the game does not automatically make the switch, don't even dream about it), especially when that useless knife is constantly in your way. You choose the grenades or the First Aid Spray by pressing Up or Down on the digital pad, but once you've used one, you automatically switch back to your basic weapon. Not a really practical quirk against enemies that won't fall easily to anything else besides explosives.

If all of the above doesn't sound so bad, get this. OK, so from day one, your basic healing item's been the Green Herb. When you pick up a Green Herb, it goes to the inventory... but to USE it, you need to assign it to the HUD, from where you use it by pressing R2. It doesn't go there automatically. You know why? Because the game developers couldn't let go of the Red Herb. Apparently, the Red Herb was so important to them that they decided to sacrifice the joy and consistency of gameplay for it. So, only in the inventory screen (which doesn't pause the action, by the way) you can mix the Green and Red Herbs to get... yeah, what exactly? Well, multiple Green Herbs, which you must then assign to the HUD to be able to use them!!! GOD DAMN IT! How fucking far can they go with this system before they realize they MUST let it go, just like they did with the typewriters?! Since you cannot pause the game when you go to the inventory, mixing those herbs just to get a few more at once might cost you your damn life! Oh yeah, and they do take up inventory space. Just like ammo stacks only to a certain amount.

The last problem I'll mention for now is the problem I have with the new Combat Gauge. It's right there under your health squares in the HUD, and it determines your current physical aptitude; in other words, your current hand-to-hand combat strength, and your ability to perform certain actions. The latter is key. I had no problem with it at all before I was nearing the end of Chris' campaign; in one certain non-combat sequence, it's unforgivingly hard to merely survive if you haven't bought and equipped an upgrade for the Combat Gauge. There are way more important upgrades for the whole game than this one that practically just applies for one single sequence. Why does it matter to anything else besides combat? It's called COMBAT GAUGE, right? They should've kept it that! I'll save the rest about the skills for later, you can be sure I have a few more words about 'em.

Can I use your phone, man?
On to Chris' campaign. Here we have a good partner, an upstanding young soldier named Piers Nivans, who might seem like an annoying punk at first, but turns awesome quickly, and in the end, I think many Resident Evil fans will go on to remember this guy as one of the best and most important characters in the history of the franchise. Yeah, so this is Gears of Evil; it's a straightforward shooting campaign, with a fairly straightforward plot, and the greatest and most meaningful co-op campaign Resident Evil 6 has to offer. Both players get to play as an awesome character, switching between together and separate at a steady pace. The enemies turn from brainless zombies into gun-wielding, intelligent, virus-ridden mercenaries called the J'avo, which evens the odds a little. Being so straightforward, however, is the downside to Chris' campaign - in retrospect, I think I should've taken it on first, since it lacks notable variations, and is more or less a traditional, chaotic shooter. It does, however, come equipped with the most interesting storyline twist in the whole game, which occurs in the very end of the campaign. It's kind of a reward, and leaves you craving for more... or at least it would, if you weren't already heading to the third campaign with a mental reserve tank ready to help you through a third round of the very same cutscenes and gameplay sequences.

Any sane person that grew up with Resident Evil 2 wouldn't want to play as Sherry, especially when Jake's around to impress, but I must say the annoying brat from Raccoon City is all grown up, into an attractive young lady... with some serious weapon skills and a Wolverine-like ability to heal extremely quick, thanks to the G-Virus strain her dear old daddy Bill injected her with back in the "good old times". Sherry and Jake make for a good duo, and being such an interesting character in just about every possible way - the kind of which I thought impossible to create in this day and age of the Resident Evil franchise - Jake namely promises great things as the main protagonist of a whole single-player campaign. Jake's campaign is the shortest out of the three main campaigns, and unfortunately, as well as ironically, it has the most useless crap in it. Tedious sequences such as a chaotic motorcycle ride that doesn't allow one single mistake to be made - and of course, they're hard not to make since you can't properly make out what you're driving at - not to mention the previous motorsled escape from a mountain cabin, or previous to that, the search for three small keys on that very same mountain, in the middle of a fucking snowstorm and being hounded by constantly respawning J'avo. I tell you, after two good, but disappointing campaigns, I was almost ready to call it quits right here. I mean, what good things could the game offer me anymore? After I decided to grit my teeth, I truly hoped for the better, but I never got it. There are way too many Quick Time Events, way too many sudden deaths, way too many annoying sequences in which you simply just don't know where to go, and which are not made any easier by your partner that has a tendency to disappear. Actually, they go to the place where they're supposed to be to make progress. That's great - what would be even greater is a functional GPS for YOU to find the place where you're supposed to be to make progress. After all this shit I've frisbee'd at it, Jake's campaign has the benefit of the most unique boss fight in the game, perhaps the whole franchise. I didn't exactly love how it played out, and I definitely didn't jump out of joy when the L1 + R1 climb from Leon's campaign made a return afterwards, but I loved the idea.

That was my car, you asshole!
When the same plot is witnessed from three different angles, it's time for the game to finally explain it, and I guess you can't help but be intrigued - that's what Capcom was counting on. Enter Ada Wong. If you came into this game thinking you'd finally figure out this broad's true motives and where her allegiances lie, I can tell you right now that you're going to be none the wiser. NONE. I've never really liked the bitch, but since she's been part of two of my favourite games in the franchise in the past, I guess she's somewhat grown on me, but here's where I draw the line. She has gone from an intriguing anti-heroine into a stale, annoying enigma. Nothing she does surprises me anymore, least of all falling dead. The three main campaigns all feature Ada in a central role, perhaps the most enigmatic one she's ever had in the whole franchise, and heading into her "secret" campaign is supposed to be exciting, but it really isn't. The story is lame, forced and predictable, and Ada has never been much of a playable character in my opinion; I enjoyed the bonus content in the PS2 version of Resident Evil 4 as it was, BONUS content. On top of all, Ada's campaign's main focus is on three features that aren't Resident Evil 6's strongest: stealth, races against time and puzzles. The stealth elements are great to have, but a whole campaign was not prepared to be built on 'em, and the puzzles are generic and dumb. The only things I appreciate about this campaign are the high difficulty level in comparison to the three main campaigns, stemming from the solo op setting and the fact that alerting just one enemy will result in an all-out assault from all sides, as well as a few choice sequences that almost save the whole thing - but not quite. There's a wrong reason for the difficulty too, that being the worst checkpoints in the whole game - that already has crappy ones. As for the races against time... well, I've never been a huge fan of them in any game, but mix that with the disorienting camera and the occasional "no can do" response from the controls, and you've got yourself not a piece of shit, but a whole shit. This campaign is like cough medicine; it tastes awful, you'll feel great after taking one sip, but you're never touching that crap again.

Since Resident Evil 4's bottle caps, Resident Evil hasn't been itself without extras, and those we have a-plenty. The Serpent Emblems represent in the stead of the blue medallions and B.S.A.A. Emblems - they look pretty much the same. Finding and shooting these 80 blue trinkets (occasionally) well hidden across all chapters unlocks interesting files to be read in the Collection, found in the main menu, on the characters and different storyline events that have taken place between games. Finding all Emblems from one chapter, thus unlocking four files, unlocks an action figure, traditional to the series.

Every standard weapon in the game is either found on the field or received in accordance to script; there is no merchant or weapon store this time around. The skill points you collect can be spent in the Skill Settings screen between chapters. It's a little hard to figure out it's there, and NO, it cannot be accessed in-game; you have to quit your session to access the screen. You can assign three different skills into one skill set from a pretty long list, and with a shitload - that's "a LOT of" - skill points, you can raise some skills up to Level 3. Might seem pointless as there are a lot of skills available, but believe me, these ones are the most useful ones. If not the only useful ones. Like Defense and Firearm... wouldn't leave home without 'em anymore. Although you can't equip skills in-game, you can switch between different skill sets, but at least I haven't had use for any more than just one.

It's on. Vote for your favourite.
The game is full of sudden deaths that will have you turning whatever controller you might be using into a wall ornament, and a crappy autosave system that will have you on your toes all the time especially if you're a working man, but it's really not that hard at all. Neither is getting all the Achievements (in Xbox terms) or platting the game (in these PS3 terms). There are some secret Trophies that provide some challenge, but no multiplayer Trophies (from The Mercenaries or the Agent Hunt online minigame) at all, or Trophies that would require you to keep hacking through the game for years way beyond its life cycle.

Everybody's saying Resident Evil 6 suffers from an identity crisis, which I do not see as a problem at all. The way I see it, it's one of the reasons the game stays at least somewhat alive through four campaigns. Well, three, since the fourth one pretty much sucks. Anyway, it seems the gamer in me also suffers from some identity crisis, since I started this review over three times. First I absolutely hated the game, now I sort of appreciate it as at least a different experience, all the gameplay quirks and other criticisms aside. It's the weakest game in the main series, but not a totally lost cause, and it will please true fans to some degree... except for the Chinese ones. For casual gamers, I'm still voting for Resident Evil 4 as a good starter for the modern Resident Evil experience.

+ Great story, how they can still pull this off is beyond me
+ Very impressive cinematics; cheesy as hell, just the way we like it
+ Ultra-violent presentation, it goes to "that place"; shotgun-shotgun-shotguuuuuuuunnn!!!
+ Great sound
+ Good partner and enemy A.I.
+ A big welcome to the characters of Jake Muller and Piers Nivans
+ The overall length of the whole game works to both ends, ups and downs, but being an action game this big is an achievement nonetheless

- No matter which order you play the campaigns in, at some point you'll get tired of the same twists, making Ada's whole campaign feel like you're feeding a dead cat
- Helena deserves her mouth sewn shut
- Disorienting camera and quirky GPS system
- Sensitive analog control, occasionally totally non-responsive action prompts
- The inventory system - especially the thing with the herbs - is horrible
- Sudden deaths galore, way too many Quick Time Events, and horribly designed button prompts; some might say this is Jake's campaign in a nutshell
- The autosave system and checkpoints suck; ironically, the latter suck even more so whenever there's a sudden death looming around the corner
- There are sequences which make me wonder whether the Combat Gauge was really a necessary addition or not
- A lot of loading screens

< 7.2 >

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