It is hard to believe that we have been playing various Resident Evil (RE) games for over 15 years. It seems like it was just yesterday that the first game launched for the original PlayStation (and Saturn). I remember playing through it, start to finish, with one of my best friends in a single night; we stayed up for nearly 24 hour, taking turns plowing through what was, at the time, the scariest video game we had ever seen. Now, many years and numerous console eras later, we are preparing to embark on another adventure as Resident Evil 6 prepares to launch on consoles this October. Looking back and comparing that original release to the one we are about to receive, it is clear that things have changed dramatically in the RE universe.
The original game set the tone for what, at the time, was an entirely new genre: survival horror. Sure, the industry had seen horror-based video games before, dating as far back as 1982‘s Haunted House, but none had engulfed the player as deeply as Capcom’s zombie-laden adventure. Over the years, there have been 18 unique entries into the series, ranging from the traditional survival horror style game to on-rails shooters to a third-person shooter. Slowly, the focus on the gameplay has shifted to being focused more on action than anything else, especially after the release of RE4. RE6 looks to be perhaps the largest step in the action-oriented direction.
Setting the stage for a new chapter
In terms of the RE universe timeline, RE6 will take place in the year 2013, 15 years of the infamous Raccoon City incident which set the stage for RE2. Bioterrorist activity has grown to levels beyond the government’s control and Adam Benford, the President of the United States, has decided the honesty is the best policy to combat the relentless attacks. Terefore he has decided to come clean with the public regarding the events at Raccoon City.
President Benford, along with his personal friend Leon S. Kennedy and his partner, Helena Harper, never gets the chance to reveal the truth as the venue in which the announcement is set to occur, is attacked by a group of bioterrorists. At the same time, bioterrorism attacks pit mercenary Jake Muller and BSAA Captain Chris Redfield in similar danger in other parts of the world. It soon becomes clear that nobody in the world is safe from these attacks and those behind them don’t want the truth about Raccoon City becoming public knowledge.
Times aren’t the only thing changing
There are more than just names and faces changing with the new chapter; just as they have done across the course of the series for more than a decade, Capcom is mixing up things with presentation and gameplay formulas to craft an experience unlike the series has ever seen. Most notably the trend towards becoming more action oriented, which began with Resident Evil 4, continues. While there are still some puzzle oriented gameplay sections, your firepower is your best friend in the modern era of Resident Evil.
One of the most noticeable gameplay changes that accompany this trend is the ability to (finally) move and shoot simultaneously. Words cannot describe how big of a deal this is to RE fans; this is a simple feature that has been sorely missed in the series for a long, long time. In addition to furthering that transition to the action genre, this also makes the game feel a lot more fast paced. You are constantly moving and engaging the enemy, rather than the slower, methodical stop-and-pop mentality of the previous entries in the series.
Another noticeable change in this edition is the inclusion of multiple storylines to experience. You won’t be following a single character or team in this adventure; instead Capcom has packed in 3 completely separate storylines into the experience. Each one, as outlined in the storyline summary above, puts you in control of a different group of characters dealing with a completely different scenario. Cooperative gameplay is also making a return as all three of the main scenarios focus on teams of characters.
See for yourself...
The demo for the game that was included with Capcom’s Dragon’s Dogma earlier this year and later released through the various online marketplaces gave players a chance to sample each of the three storylines. Immediately from the start, you get your choice between Leon, Chris, and Jake. Each one of them feels bit different; Leon’s section feels a lot closer to the classic RE gameplay than the other two. You spend a lot of time exploring with him and searching your environment; it feels like classic RE with an action edge. Returning players will feel right at home here. Chris and Jake on the other hand, throw you feet first into the fire that is the action of the game.
Jake’s demo gives players a better sense of the cinematographic advancements being made in the game. Right from the start, you will see new camera angles and perspectives used during an intense chase scene. At times, this feels more like a interactive film than it does a game, which really helps engulf the player into the world. It isn’t long though before you will be reminded that this is the world of RE and the chasing comes to an end as a game of cat and mouse evolves in a confined warehouse. Eventually, classic RE avoid and shoot gameplay comes into play as your pursuer finally catches up to you.
Chris’ demo however feels like a straightforward action game from start to finish. Right from the start you are charged with mowing down legions of attackers using the games new mobile shooting system. This was the one mission that made it clear to me that the series was truly evolving. Playing as Chris and his team of mercenaries felt like a completely new experience; this isn’t the same RE that I have been playing for more than a decade.
While the gameplay has evolved, some things are taking steps backwards to more familiar territory, namely in the return of actual zombies. The RE series was built on the backs of the undead and has moved away from them in the last couple of installments; while they aren’t the only enemies you will be facing off against, their presence is felt heavily throughout the adventure. It was very refreshing to see them play a prominent role, even if it was primarily in Leon’s storyline and not as much in the others.
Mode variety and the future of RE
One thing has been clear in the past couple entries in the series and that is Capcom’s interest in offering players more than just a straightforward campaign. The now famous mercs mode of the game, which pits players in timed scenarios to set a high score against waves of enemies will be returning. Fresh off its premiere as its own game on the 3DS (The MErcenaries 3D), the game is evolving with the introduction of RE.net. This new web-service is meant to keep you in connection with your friends and the rest of the RE6 community by logging and tracking all of your gameplay sessions and scores in the game.
This doesn’t just apply to just your mercenaries score, but the entire RE6 experience. Through the new website you can track detailed statistics regarding your time with the game as well as participate in community events and challenges. Think of this as Capcom’s answer to Call of Duty Elite or Battlefield Premium. Even you you don’t win any of the challenges or competitions, you can earn RE points just by using the service which you can spend on content for both your profile and the actual game. This content includes additional costumes for characters in the mercenaries mode and customization options for your RE.net profile. All of these features and benefits are going to be offered free of charge to anyone who owns a copy of the new game. This should certainly add some life into the experience long after you have completed the campaign.
Where does RE go from here?
It is clear that Capcom is taking the Resident Evil series into new territory with the latest installment of the game, and the sky's the limit as to where it goes from here. The focus of RE6’s development seems to be to offer a more complete experience than any other RE game before it, and judging by what has been shown, they are well on their way to doing just that. What was once viewed as the series’ strength, the survival horror classification, has grown to be more of a constraint than anything else. The series is capable of so much more and these developers are determined to see that it gets there.
Resident Evil 6 launches for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on October 2, 2012. The game will be ported to the PC at a later, unspecified date.