by James Pikover on August 27, 2012 @ 10:00 am
At Gamescom plenty of games were shown, but few were playable. Capcom bucked that terrible trend with around an hour’s worth of gameplay for Resident Evil 6, their latest in the zombie-horror franchise that is not only bringing the entire ensemble cast together for an epic adventure, but pitting them against the biggest, most dangerous fight they’ve ever faced. And from my time with the game, it’s going to be a blast.
If you’re a fan of the Resident Evil franchise, you know the series has undergone significant growth, especially over the past five years. Starting out as a simple shock and horror game on the Playstation, Resident Evil 6 may be as far away from that slow-paced fright-fest as you can get. The gameplay is faster, quicker, and far deadlier. And at the same time, it preserves much of what makes it a Resident Evil title, down to the way the inventory system works.
Resident Evil 6 splits the game into three main sections, specifically between three groupings of characters: Resident Evil 4 heartthrob Leon Kennedy and his new partner (of course) Helena Harper; Jake Muller (son of Albert Wesker) and Sherry Birskin; and Resident Evil 5 star Chris Redfield with a regiment from the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA). If that wasn’t a mouthful, consider this: not only do players fight against zombies, they fight a new more powerful enemy called the J’avo, who like to play with guns, weapons, and have a nasty habit of becoming more powerful when their limbs are inconveniently blown off.
Thankfully though, character control has finally reached the status American gamers have seen in nearly every 3rd person shooter from this console generation. Not only can all characters move and shoot simultaneously (a “feature” that has taken Capcom over a dozen years to include), melee attacks are both powerful and easy to string together to get out corners and/or conserve ammo, knives are far more powerful thanks to movement, and the overall faster gunplay removes the previous frustration of a lack of control. And if you want, you can shoot after getting knocked to the ground to clean up any mess before again fleeing for your life.
What’s even more interesting than the change in control is the change of gameplay between the different characters. While Leon’s campaign is a slower-paced, more refined fight against traditional zombies, Chris goes head-on with a full army backing him up against the equally powerful and well-armed J’avo. Say what you will for Chris’ bulging muscles, but his levels are filled with blistering fights that are always run and gun, while Leon fights more against the numbers. And Jake? An unhealthy mix of both, with plenty of J’avo running him and Sherry out of dodge, but even more inhuman creations to keep gameplay fresh.
Of the three chapters I played, one for each, Leon’s felt the most like the traditional Resident Evil fare while Chris’ was the newest and fastest. That isn’t to say that there’s any real difference in how the game can be played; it’s up to players to decide how to go about gunning down the mindless hordes, but the difference is this: Chris has to be fast. Leon can be meticulous, and that change in pace as a user choice is kind of fun. But at the same time, Jake’s mixture of both fast and slow combat is completely up to the player. You can take your time or dash through the whole level, and both solutions are almost identically difficult.
But don’t think that the survival element has disappeared from the franchise. Far from it. “I think the survival elements really come to the forefront in the game, and it’s not fast-paced for the sake of fast-paced action,” Game Producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi told me in an interview during the show. He spoke about how, just as in past games, there may be extremely powerful weapons like the Magnum but they always have a short supply of available ammo. Physical attacks are strong, but the stamina gauge keeps it in check. Every bit of the game that makes you feel powerful has a clearly defined limit, and once you hit it, you get that moment of realization that the zombies may get you.
“The reason for this is we’re trying to give players the choice, and we think that creating more and more situations and giving the player more choice in how they want to deal with this situation really makes it more horrific. Because now, you have to decide how you react to a situation…and because you’re making [all of] these choices, you may not always make the right ones. So that’s what is scary.” And making the wrong choice can be horribly frightening, but perhaps not in the traditional sense of the word. More hardened gamers may see it as a frustration or a challenge, while less grizzled fans of the series will definitely feel more in a pinch than ever before.
Cooperative play is, as it was in Resident Evil 5, a major component of RE6. But don’t expect 3-4 player coop in this horror shooter, because that wouldn’t work right for the franchise. 2-player coop, split screen or online, will be available in every mission of the campaign following the same basic gameplay structure as Resident Evil 5. Downed players can be saved using a healing item. Speaking of items, the inventory system has been streamlined to the point that it’s very similar to the Playstation 3’s Xcross media bar; hold down the inventory button to quickly scroll through while gameplay continues, and move your character around all the while.
Resident Evil 6 will also come complete with a website to complement the full campaign and a smartphone app that you can use side-by-side with the game. Both the app and website, Residentevil.net, will provide all game owners not only in-game collected extras like documents, stat tracking, and achievements, it’ll also feature special game modes in Mercenaries (the competitive cooperative game mode) to earn in-game bonuses like new costumes. It’ll also have daily challenges for players to compete for to add one player to a Champion’s Belt, where their screen name will reside forever.
Resident Evil 6 plans to scare you – and a friend – witless on October 2nd. It’ll release on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, and later on the PC.
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