Resident Evil fans are a notoriously unhappy lot. They seem to find something to bellyache about with each successive installment in the series. First, they complained about the static point of view of the games. Then they griped that they couldn’t shoot their weapons and move at the same time. Then they wanted the ability to crouch behind cover and pop out to shoot at encroaching zombies.
Like Homer Simpson’s $82,000 albatross of a car—which featured extra-large cup-holders, three horns, and an engine that caused people “to think the world’s coming to an end”—Resident Evil 6 is not only the most comprehensive Resident Evil game to date; this is the mea culpa fans have been demanding. It’s also a monkey’s paw-style cautionary tale: Careful what you wish for.
Resident Evil 6 features no less than four storylines. If you’re looking for a slower-paced, traditional Resident Evil experience, complete with throat-bound undead dobermans, choose the Leon and Helena campaign. If it’s Gears Of War-style run-and-gun action you crave, choose the Chris and Piers campaign. But what if you’re in the mood for something between those two extremes—a few of those traditional Resident Evil-type scares mixed with some of that sweet, run and gun Gears-style combat? No problem there. Jake and Sherry have your number. Or go it alone, Metal Gear-style; the game’s unlockable fourth mission is all about stealth. It features Chinese secret agent Ada Wong, who has apparently undergone a surgical procedure to have all of her Chinese-ness removed. She now looks like Frances “Baby” Houseman from the 1987 film Dirty Dancing for reasons that are never addressed.
The four campaigns all overlap via awkward coincidences, not unlike the way Fonzi from Happy Days would occasionally show up on Laverne & Shirley. These encounters typically play out via cutscenes like this:
“Hey! What are you guys doing here?”
“What are you guys doing here?”
[Insert shot of knowing looks featuring several raised eyebrows. Monster comes crashing through a wall]
“Look out! Here comes an X!”
“We’ll catch up with you guys later!”
[Exit stage right]
Speaking of “X”es, they are legion. There is The Shirtless Thing With The Pulsing Goiter. There is The Half-Spider-Half-Man Thing. There is The Thing With About A Million Boobs Which Walks Like Kool-Aid Man’s Prancy Cousin. Finally, there is the game’s chief villain, who you know is the villain from the outset because he has a pocket watch, a three-quarter-length Colonel Sanders overcoat, and a Colonel Sanders beard.
Later in the game, after you’ve “beaten” Colonel Sanders, and his “corpse” disappears into a river Helena says to Leon, “Do you think we killed it?” Leon responds, “I don’t know. But we did all we could.” This dialogue captures the essence of the nervous heart that beats at the center of Resident Evil 6. It’s not a stretch to imagine this bit of dialogue actually being spoken by the game’s makers, comforting one another at the game’s wrap party. You can almost see them, clinking their cold bottles of Sapporo together.
And they did do all they could, didn’t they? Here, now you can take cover behind little barricades just like every other game. Here’s your ability to move and shoot. Here’s the great unshackling that you’ve all been pestering us for since 1996. Here’s your Mercenaries mode, and your damn medals to collect, your online and your offline. Here is one of the biggest games of the year, and what should be the crowning moment of an 18-year-old series. Minds should be blown. Yet the whole enterprise—despite a pedigree that included longtime series producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi—in its need to be all things to all gamers, ultimately comes off as insecure as a teenager with a new pimple.
Defeated enemies in Resident Evil 6 typically leave behind either a bit of ammunition or experience points (which physically manifest as chess pieces for some reason). But sometimes you’ll draw a stingy corpse that leaves jack shit behind. Whenever that happens, you’ll find yourself standing next to a magically disintegrating corpse, waiting for an extra two, maybe three seconds to see if something might still arrive. It’s hard not to feel cheated in these moments—cheated, then embarrassed when you realize that you’re still loitering on the spot where a corpse has vanished. And that reward you’re waiting for? The reward you’re sure you deserve? Slowly, it dawns on you that it’s not coming. You reload your gun and move on.