To certain people, some games are forever disappointing.
While that might be a bit of an understatement (see the Watch Dogs user reviews on Metacritic), there’s no denying the impact a disappointing game has on its player base, its legacy, and in many cases, blemishing the series as a whole. Games like Batman: Arkham Origins, Assassin’s Creed III, or Call of Duty: Ghosts are all disliked among the gaming mainstream, and sometimes even by their most steadfast of fans. People don’t forget, and they rarely forgive. It happens for various reasons, ranging from perceived design choices that weren’t what fans wanted, to poor story implementation and resolution. While true, internet rage can boil over a little too easily—its also not hard to see why. You spend time and money eagerly waiting to see your favorite franchise again….and it’s not what you wanted
Such is the case with Resident Evil 6, a game so infamously associated with disappointment, that it caused fans to denounce the series entirely. Having never played upon its original 2012 release, I decided to take a chance on the updated PS4 version when it dropped this past spring. As someone who had played every other main series entry, I was ready to be disappointed. I was ready to see its faults. But upon playing, I had a nasty shock in store.
Resident Evil 6 is not actually that bad.
I know, I know. My opinions are wrong because they’re not your opinions, yadda yadda. If you strongly disagree at this point in reading, first of all—it’s okay! Leave a comment as you go. But if you do stay, let me explain to you why I think Resident Evil 6 deserved some—but not all—of the criticism that has haunted it since launch.
The big fanbase hoo-hah about Resident Evil 6 can usually be boiled down to one of two points: “it’s not a horror game,” or, “it’s trying to be Call of Duty.”
Neither of these are true. Not even remotely. In fact, Resident Evil 6 is every bit as much the horror game as its immediate predecessors, RE4 and RE5. I would even go as far to say that with the reintroduction of zombies, and the numerous horror-trope locales, that it is even more of a horror game than RE5. Spooky subways, elegant mansions, and misty graveyards beat out sunny African villages and swamp alligators any day. And to all the yahoos saying that it ruined the series with quick time events, you better stop loving RE4. You know, the game that actually introduced QTEs to the series.
As for the conception that it takes liberal cues from popular action franchises such as Call of Duty and Gears of War, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. The well-implemented cover system, like most, owes it’s inspiration to the Gears series. The cinematic set pieces certainly harken to games like Uncharted (a much more accurate reference point than Call of Duty). But why exactly is that a bad thing? Is an engaging set piece or two going to ruin the atmosphere when you’re all alone in a dark zombie-infested room two hours later? When you’re running low on ammo and surrounded by danger, are you still going to be shaking your head in disbelief that they dared to shoot a bullet in slow motion in a cutscene from twenty hours ago? And just because a game has a cover system, it doesn’t mean it’s an all-out action experience. Did you really want that same aiming system from RE5 AGAIN?
My last bone to pick is with how people remember the story. Let me first make it abundantly clear that while I like the Resident Evil series, I don’t think the writing has ever been particularly compelling, or even good. Resident Evil 6 didn’t change the status quo in this regard. But what surprised me was how much they actually tried to tell a compelling story, and how much they succeeded. In previous games, the cast has largely served as a series of vaguely friendly blank slates—interacting primarily via long stares, head nods, and talks of loyalty.
But it’s how Resident Evil 6 attempts to shake up the formula that really interested me—instead of giving characters reasons to care about each other, it tries to give the player a reason to care about the characters. Chris Redfield is shown as a guilt-ridden alcoholic. Jake Muller has daddy issues. None of these stories are particularly heart-wrenching, but they valiantly reach for legitimate drama. It doesn’t work of course, but I’d take a botched attempt at character evolution over the same-old routine, any day of the week.
All of this isn’t to say the game is without problems. Boy Howdy, it has plenty of those. Take your pick: the incredibly convoluted Ada Wong storyline, the overstuffed 40+ hour main story, the occasionally ropey gunplay, or the monotonous enemy variety during certain encounters. But there’s still plenty to like here.
Graphically at least, Resident Evil 6 has aged very well—with generous moments of tension and cool, creatively designed levels. Don’t get me wrong, there are some real clunkers in there too, but as a whole, this is a good product.
I’ve tried to find the root of people’s hate, and honestly, much of it seems to stem from the gaming zeitgeist at the time. In 2012, hate was at an ll-time high for trends like QTE’s and the seeming Call of Duty-ization of every other franchise. So when the minds behind RE6 told the world that they were heading back to the series horror roots, they inadvertently set themselves up for a perfect storm. Fans disliked it because it wasn’t what they wanted. Critics saw it as uninspired and overlong.
On the internet, that’s all you need to scar a franchise forever.
Resident Evil 6 is by no stretch of the imagination a standard to strive for. But like many games that are poorly remembered, isn’t actually a bad game. It is an immensely well made production that features solid mechanics and a huge amount of gameplay and replayability. It certainly deserves some of the criticism leveled at it, but not all.
Naturally, you should play it for yourself to decide.