While I was playing through Resident Evil, my wife tweeted the following: “When my husband starts holding a one-sided conversation with a video game he’s playing, that’s when I know it’s really making him angry.”

You guys, I had a really long conversation with Resident Evil 6.

Resident Evil: 3 Ways

This entry in the series is meant to tie together—but not tie up—the various plotlines scattered across the series. Separate campaigns address the ongoing stories started in the first couple games and threads introduced later in the series. Leon Kennedy, Chris Redfield and a new guy named Jake Muller have overlapping campaigns that are intended to take different approaches to the Resident Evil formula, addressing the play styles of Resident Evil 34 and 5.

The approach reminded me a bit of those competitive cooking shows, liked Chopped. Stick with me here. In those shows, chefs will sometimes try to wow the judges with “Steak Three Ways,” going for smaller bites of a wider variety of foods. Unfortunately the criticism leveled at almost all of those attempts can be used with Resident Evil 6, with very few changes to the words.

Primarily, one of any of the three choices would’ve been better than all three. It’s a courageous attempt, but none of the three selections works quite as well as each of them could have if given the proper attention and focus.

Because the campaigns are intertwined, they cross-over at multiple points. This means that playing through all three, as one would do, sends you to the same locations one, two, even three times. Some boss fights even crop up in multiple campaigns.

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Non-Communication

One thread that stays consistent throughout the three primary campaigns, as well as the fourth unlockable one, is a lack of information, both of the instructional and feedback varieties.

Resident Evil 6 has lots of cool ways to combat the C-Virus zombies more effectively, but they’re never communicated in the context of the game. If you’re lucky you might spot them during a loading screen. For example, you can mix herbs by pressing R2+Square. This saves a number of button presses and is a life-saver when in the heat of combat. This didn’t appear in a loading screen until partway through the fourth campaign. This would be less of a problem if the game came with an instruction manual or even a “How to Play” menu required for Xbox Live Arcade games.

Aside from simple lack of instruction in basic mechanics, there are problems with contextual instructions as well. You’ll be dropped into a quick-reaction situation with no context of what you should be doing, and it often results in multiple deaths before you figure out that you’re supposed to be crawling and that to do so, you need to press L1 and R1 slowly and alternately, rather than as fast as you’d think the game wants you to with all the other quick time events.

This lack of information also carries over into feedback, especially during the bigger fights with bosses and mini-bosses. Often, it’s tough to tell whether you were expected to win or merely to survive. Sometimes it felt like the game was actually just waiting until I ran out of ammo before it ended the battle.

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Aside from simple lack of instruction in basic mechanics, there are problems with contextual instructions as well.

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Finally, there are the quick time events. Despite the widely held opinion that Resident Evil 4 is the apex of the series, it’s also the game that introduced this particular mechanic. When used well, quick time events can bring some cinematic flair to a game and be used as a way to create a branching sequence. In Resident Evil, though, they’ve always been used to punish poor reaction time, and Resident Evil 6 is no different except in that there are even more of them. For some reason, the teams behind these games feel the need to keep adding more in with each successive entry, as if they’ll reach a point where we all suddenly develop great reflexes and fall in love with them. Eventually, Resident Evil is going to be all quick time events and no actual game play.

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Resident Evil 6, as much as it sounds like it, isn’t all bad.

Over the years, I’ve fallen in love with the cast of characters and the silly situations they’re thrust into. I like the characters on display in the game, and even miss some that aren’t around this time. Fans of the series will get something out of playing it just for this alone.

Like Resident Evil 5, a partner accompanies the main character in each of the three primary campaigns and this time around the partner is much easier to deal with. They have unlimited ammo and will reliably revive you when you’re down (though, a little too often they’ll revive you just in time to get permanently put down by another monster’s attack), and there’s no need to swap inventory with them to keep them from wasting precious rounds.

The combat itself is actually fun, and the included Mercenaries mode proves that by still being as much fun as it was in the last couple games. Combat is tight, frantic, and satisfying, especially with all the top secret techniques the game never really imparts. The greater emphasis on melee combat keeps battles compact and tense. The Mercenaries mode is the one thing I really look forward to going back to again.

Despite a solid core in the middle, Resident Evil 6 is a troubled game. That core is too often obscured by unclear mechanics, bad instructions, and poorly implemented quick time events. I’ve played just about every game with the Resident Evil name on it. I own Resident Evil 4 on four different systems. I’ve played Resident Evil 5 on every difficulty and unlocked everything you can unlock. Resident Evil 6, however, won’t be getting the same treatment.

Rating

4.0

We purchased a retail copy of Resident Evil 6 for PlayStation 3 with company funds. We played all four single-player campaigns and checked out both Mercenaries and Agent Hunt modes.

Curious about how we score games? Read this.

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