Resi 6 was built up with a fair amount of hype and fanfare, the trailers promising four-count ’em, four!- different campaigns with different styles of gameplay, in order to capitalise on each type of player that would be picking this up.
Each campaign also represents a different style of play that the Resident Evil games have adopted in the past. Chris’s campaign hearkens back to his adventures in Resident Evil 5, and is an action focused shooter against bullet-sponge enemies who can fire back at you. Leon’s obviously plays as a loose homage to Resident Evil 4, fighting against zombies and more mutated creatures in cramped, dark environments, while Ada Wong’s campaign focuses more on puzzles, and new character Jake Weskers story mixes elements of them all, but with a chase scene every half-hour or so on every sort of vehicle the developers could think of, with a smattering of Quick-time-events for good measure.
Going into the game with the knowledge that this game is very different from the others that came before it, you might be forgiven for thinking it might be a more enjoyable experience if you are prepared. Sadly, the clunky and inconsistent controls and bullet-sponge enemies seem determined to fight against you. For fans of action games that are not interested in horror, it seems ideal at first, but the best moments in the game are the few that take the time to escalate the tension, and that’s what we’re here to talk about.
It’s about the build up, not the pay-off
What made Resident Evil 4 so memorable and accessible for a new generation, was a mix of it’s fluidity and horror. You could move at your own leisure, with a fully explorable and interactive environment that felt alive, with traps that can remotely detonated to birds that hide grenades if you’re quick enough to shoot them, the world was dingy and dirty, but was open to a huge amount of possibilities. The sense of danger, however, was omnipresent, and developed further within the interior areas. Especially those labs, those Regenerators can do one. The game ramped up the horror and fear with each new enemy type, and although you were sometimes outgunned, you were never out-manoeuvred, you had full control of Leon and the camera, and it was your own ingenuity that could overcome each new threat.
The next instalment, the fifth game, misappropriated this at most points, instead taking a more action heavy premise that would lead us to this point, but it still had small sprinklings of tension, that would ultimately lead to satisfying conclusions. The first tell-tale introduction to the new breed of Licker enemies, most notable, is one of the highlights in the game. A smearing of claw marks, blood stains and ominous noises, before walking to face an entire room of them, with only a plane of glass to separate you, that ultimately culminates in a terrifying sprint towards an elevator. Resident Evil 6 has similar moments to these, but fewer, but the contrast between them and the non-stop action makes these moments all the more effective. Honourable mentions go to the first chapter in Leons campaign, after fighting numerous creatures in tight, confined locations, you flee to an underground tunnel, where a large horde of zombies sprint towards you in the dark, but you cannot see them, only their shadows, and another moment in Chris’s campaign, where you explore a ruined apartment complex, as your men get picked off one by one by an invisible monster.
The Town hall of Edonia appears in the second chapter of Chris’s campaign, as the climax. The last two chapters have been non-stop shoot outs, the only tension present is when you have been blind-sided by an off-screen enemy, or use all of your ammo on an enemy that cannot be hit in between animations. The story is bare-bones at this point, but hints towards something coming. After killing two giant creatures, and frustratingly protecting an NPC as he struggles between destroying three objectives as you protect him and running around like a lost roomba, the next cut-scene begins, and you are handed over control.
As you enter the Town hall, however, your movement is restricted. Your HUD disappears, there are no enemies firing at you, and you walk at a slow pace. The grand hall slowly unveils itself in quiet gloom, beautiful architecture reminiscent of an old county house, but littered with grotesque, opaque black shapes, that look vaguely humanoid.
The cocoons are everywhere, and we are aware that these are an image of misfortune from the previous chapter. You slowly explore the area, for the first time in the campaign, at your own pace. There is nothing to kill, only quiet corridors and empty rooms. Unfortunately, the space is small, and without stopping to ogle the lighting in this place and the detail on the cocoons, there isn’t enough to engage you, but the stillness, the slow movement, the quiet, it’s all such a contrast to what just came before, and all the more striking.
Then you come across it. The creature from the cocoon. Of course there was going to be, that was inevitable, but what, was always the mystery. A gigantic, red mass of flesh and teeth awakens, and as you weaken it, another hatches, and another, and with strategy and an alarming amount of shotgun shells, you bring the creatures down, you check your depleted ammo supply, and your first thought is;
“Oh shit, what about the other cocoons?”
The cocoons you passed in the beginning of the scene suddenly spring forward into the same giant monsters, and although the actual confrontation between them is clumsy, with AI getting stuck between each other or just running bizarrely away from the action, it’s still a spectacle in it’s entirety, one that culminates with you running for safety, before the genuine sadness of having your team-mates turned, and corrupted into the same cocoons, causing Chris Redfield to dwell on his guilt and spiral into a deep depression that is depicted at the beginning of the game.
This may be an unfortunate case of ambition exceeding execution, but it’s heart is in the right place. We take a stark contrast, and slow it down, build the atmosphere with quiet dread, and culminate it in spectacle. If each chapter adhered to this a little more with some variety, RE6 might have been on more people’s radar rather than as a mediocre game in a beloved franchise. However, if this game turned out any better, we might never have gotten Resident Evil 7, so take that how you will.