Demos are tricky things. Though certainly better than only watching trailers, or agonizing over the smallest details in screenshots, demos only give you a small slice of an experience. They lack the context of previous gameplay or story to fully demonstrate a game’s potential.
Resident Evil 6 has certainly suffered from that problem. A premature and poorly constructed E3/Dragon’s Dogma demo exposed the game’s weaknesses in all the worst places. A startling lack of quality made it easy to start drawing conclusions about the game. Would the camera get better? Would screen-tearing constantly be a problem? Would Leon Kennedy be robbed of action? Would Jake Muller and Chris Redfield not benefit from slower moments that allow for a proper ebb and flow of tension?
We’ve now had the chance to spend about 15 hours with Resident Evil 6, completing approximately half of the three lead campaigns featuring Leon, Chris and Jake. That time not only reinforces some of our impressions (be sure to read them) based on the second, much-improved round of Comic-Con demos, but allowed us a glimpse at new functionality, new storyline elements and new design elements in general. What follows are three new video previews detailing our thoughts, plus a variety of other notes.
Be warned: There are some spoilers ahead, particularly in the video previews. Nothing huge, but we know some of you care about that sort of thing.
Think Leon’s campaign is just about a slow crawl through Tall Oaks University? Not quite.
Are you a recent convert to the world of Resident Evil? Are you a big fan of RE 5? You’ll definitely want to pay attention to Chris Redfield’s campaign.
Leon and Chris are easily two of the most iconic characters in RE lore, but Capcom sought to add a new face to the mix this time around. Let’s take a look at Jake’s storyline, which pairs this newcomer with RE 2’s Sherry Birkin.
We cover a lot of different details between the three video previews above, but there’s even more to say about how Resident Evil 6 tells its story. What’s probably most important is that while all three campaigns share similar control schemes, and feature pairs of characters fighting bio-terror across the globe, they have their distinct tones and in their own way feel like their own complete experience.
Leon’s campaign definitely takes on a darker, slower tone that does feel similar to Resident Evil 4. With its emphasis on BSAA action, and plenty of battling in the broad daylight, Chris Redfield’s story does call back strongly to Resident Evil 5. Finally, Jake Muller’s arc is based more on tension than horror, as Jake and Sherry are constantly being chased by the Ustanak. Although all campaigns have some tonal overlaps – there’s plenty of high action for Leon and some slower, creepier moments for Chris – they do stand apart all the same.
Expect plenty of Resident Evil’s signature traits as well – both good and bad. This is B-movie horror at its finest, with some cringe-worthy dialogue, obtuse main characters and a large, generic supporting cast waiting to be slaughtered. Yet as any B-horror movie fan will tell you, that’s part of the fun. Every so often the game attempts to take itself seriously, with mixed results, but by and large Resident Evil 6 is attempting to be everything that any Resident Evil fan would want. So far, with about a dozen hours spent between all three campaigns, Capcom appears to be succeeding.
For many years, Resident Evil has wrestled with how players should handle things like inventory, ammo scarcity and character evolution. With solutions ranging from briefcases to storage bins to upgradeable weapons and mysterious merchants, the past decade has presented many options. Resident Evil 6 tries to walk a fine line between everything.
So far it appears as though Capcom has opted for an upgrade system that focuses on the actual characters, not weapons. Likewise, the stores – merchant or otherwise – are gone, replaced by a skill point system that is accessible from the game’s main menu, or between chapters. Points are found during the campaigns themselves, picked up as random drops from fallen enemies or in random treasure chests. More difficult enemies will drop thousands of points, while more common ones will typically drop 50-100 points, if they’re not leaving ammunition or herbs behind.
The upgrade system can affect everything from the effectiveness of melee attacks to gun recoil to the likelihood of certain types of ammo drops. Once purchased, these upgrades (some of which have multiple levels to buy) can be placed into one of three slots, which affect all characters regardless of campaign. In other words, if you decide you want to exit from Leon’s campaign to make some progress in Chris’s, you’ll want to check your skill set to make sure it’s appropriate for that specific campaign. What you select can definitely make a difference.
A few other details stood out to us during our time with Resident Evil 6. The herb system is particularly different, as it not only focuses on what types of herbs you have, but rewards you for risking your character’s health.
Herbs are no longer something that can be instantly consumed. They must be converted into pills before your character can use them to recover one of your six health blocks. Typically one green herb yields one pill, but waiting until you have two, and combining them when you convert, will yield three. Better yet, combining a red and green will yield six. So the game rewards you for taking risks, for holding your herbs rather than pushing to have them available. It’s a small detail, but occasionally you’ll find yourself strongly weighing whether to enter a room fully equipped, or risk having to scramble in the hopes of finding some extra herbs and profiting from that patience.
Ammunition is also an unusual commodity this time around. Resident Evil 5 was well known for providing ample amounts of ammo, particularly before major confrontations. This time around Capcom isn’t quite so generous. Though it’s certainly not as punishing as some of the older games, Resident Evil 6 often holds back on the bullets, particularly because enemies frequently drop skill points instead of usable commodities. Careful item management is definitely something worth considering. In fact there were several points where we let our partners do some of the work for us, or restricted ourselves to melee attacks to conserve ammo for another battle. It was strange to feel the need to do these things – but very much welcome.
This limited stock of ammunition does lead to a few bumps, where you simply must shoot something to progress, and little will happen until you do. If your guns aren’t loaded, prepare for some rather awkward gaps in action until you do. This type of situation doesn’t happen often, and in some ways it’s a reasonable price to pay for the thrill of having limited resources.
Even a dozen hours in, we know we’ve only scratched the surface of what Resident Evil 6 has to offer. Capcom is almost literally crafting four games in one. While each is estimated to be shorter than previous entries in the series, the sum of the parts is one massive adventure. Better than that – our early fears have been put to rest, as the more time we spend in Tall Oaks, Europe and China, the more the experience grows on us. Capcom is still taking a variety of risks here. Not all of them will pay off. Yet somehow that’s always been the story of the Resident Evil series. If we have to take a few weird moments alongside our epic horror show, we’ll gladly do it.
We’re just over a month away from the release of Resident Evil 6. Stay tuned for more and more coverage of the game and its legacy as the days count down.