Four years ago I would have insisted to you that Resident Evil 6 is “the worst thing ever”. I played through RE6 five or so times in rapid succession with different friends and family members back in 2013, and after I had finished running my RE6 gauntlet I had come to the conclusion that it was a broken mess of quick-time events and sloppy game design. After a flawed-but-quite-fun Resident Evil 5, I tasted bitter disappointment after experiencing RE6. It seemed like RE6 had taken all the things I didn’t like about RE5 and cranked them up to eleven, while simultaneously getting rid of the stuff I liked. More quick-time events! More lengthy cutscenes! More enemies with guns! No more in-game store packed with lots of different weapons! No more weapon upgrading either, while we’re at it! I felt like RE6 was more concerned with being a movie than being a game, and playing through all four story campaigns turned into a slog as the weird story went nowhere and lots of explosions happened onscreen while I wiggled the analog stick. Modern gaming had struck a fatal blow to Resident Evil and turned it into something that reveled in being all flash and no substance.
Fast-forward four years. Resident Evil 6 sits untouched on my shelf, collecting dust. I’ve been collecting PS4 ports of Resident Evil games for a year or so, and Resident Evil 5, Zero, Remake, Revelations 2, and 7 have all made it onto my PS4. For some strange reason, I felt compelled to pick up the PS4 port of Resident Evil 6, partly for completion’s sake and partly to give the game another chance. I had some free time and a friend willing to play through the game with me, so against my better judgment I took the plunge back into the explosion-filled world of Resident Evil 6.
25-hours and many kung fu kicks later, allow me to now revise my previous stance on the game. Resident Evil 6 is not the worst thing ever. Is it flawed? Absolutely. Is it fun? When it decides to be a video game… yes, it is fun. German suplexing an enemy into a group of enemies is fun. Thrust kicking a zombie’s head off is fun. Powersliding through a group of enemies and detonating a remote mine is super fun. Resident Evil 6 has the tools to be a fun game thanks to its robust engine. Many reviewers pointed out that Resident Evil 5 felt a bit dated in the combat department — back then you could move, shoot, reload, and do a punch or two when game prompted you to do them. In response to this, combat in RE6 has been tremendously beefed up. Players can now move, shoot, reload, dodge, roll, slide, counter, quickshot, and do melee moves on command. RE6 gives you tons of tools to get creative with in combat. Throw in a co-op partner, and combat becomes a roaring romp of headshots, explosions, kung fu, and your friend yelling “OHHHHHH!!!” when something particularly cool happens.
This array of fun tools is definitely Resident Evil 6’s strongest point. Never before has Resident Evil allowed you to be so creative with your combat. As such, Resident Evil 6 is at its strongest when it simply steps back and allows you to experience this combat. Here’s an environment, here are a bunch of enemies, get out there and have some fun. Most testimonies I’ve read seem to agree that Leon’s story campaign is the strongest of the four campaigns, and I agree. Unlike the other stories which rely largely on “J’avo” (smarter enemies with guns) and gameplay sequences that stray from the traditional combat gameplay, Leon’s story is filled to the brim with zombies that are very fun to smack around and blow up. They come in all shapes, sizes, and degrees of threat. It feels undeniably satisfying to dodge a leaping zombie, run up behind them, and score some kind of nasty tag-team melee combo on them with your partner that undeniably ends with an exploding head. Throw in an interesting environment to run around in and RE6 reaches its peak: you and a friend running around shooting zombies. Simple, sweet, and timelessly fun.
Unfortunately, Resident Evil 6 is not content to sit back and watch you shoot enemies for very long. I understand wanting to shake up the gameplay and keep the campaigns from getting samey and stale, but RE6’s idea of “gameplay variety” is dropping you into turret sections, vehicle sections, and lengthy cutscenes with rapid quick-time button presses and stick wiggles. I remember reading complaints about RE6′s nasty habit of showing you a cutscene, dropping you back into gameplay for 20 seconds or so, and then jumping back into another cutscene, and this is a legitimate complaint.
This is an over-the-top co-op action game. Lengthy sequences of cutscenes and scripted events left me wondering when I’d actually get to play the game again – and I mean really play the game, not shoot my way through a heavily-scripted sequence. And these cutscenes might have had some Resident Evil charm if not for RE6‘s intent to be as gritty and serious as possible in many instances. No more Wesker giving over-the-top speeches about being God or Leon cracking awful one-liners — instead we have Chris and Piers arguing for half their campaign and Helena trying to rescue some girl we don’t know anything about. Say something funny, dammit!
In spite of all this, there is great fun buried underneath RE6‘s rough exterior. Each campaign contains sequences in which the game does step back and let you have fun. Leon and Helena get to run through the subway and city streets having hectic battles with zombie hordes. Chris and Piers rescue civilians from groups of dangerous J’avo and have exciting battles on rooftops. Jake and Sherry get to explore a fancy Chinese hotel, whacking any J’avo they run into in the process. And Ada has to dance her way through groups of heavily-armed enemies without being overwhelmed. Resident Evil‘s signature Mercenaries game mode is also more fun than ever thanks to RE6‘s robust combat. Diving into a map full of enemies and items is fantastic fun.
If Resident Evil 6 had been content to take full advantage of its excellent combat mechanics and filled its campaigns with shootouts in well-designed environments, it could have gone down as a shamelessly fun co-op shooter full of suplexes and general Resident Evil ridiculousness. Unfortunately, RE6‘s heavy-handed story telling and obsession with heavily scripted sequences and quick-time events kept it from reaching its full potential. In spite of this, I definitely recommend picking up the fairly-priced PS4 port. Playing through the campaigns with a friend still offers plenty of thrills, and Mercenaries mode is a blast. Also, you can shimmy through entire levels on your back, which is hilarious.