One of the keys to a successful, long-running video game series is the ability to adapt and constantly improve, avoiding the pitfalls of just replicating past successes and becoming dated. The Resident Evil series did this with RE4, its latest installment falls into that trap of trying to do too much. Any pretensions of hanging onto the survival horror elements that made the series famous are pretty much completely dispelled here as RE6 is wholly a third person shooter that retains some atmospheric horror elements. The game constantly beats you over the head in its aspiration to be an action movie, complete with big set pieces and quick time events. Even with these flaws, Resident Evil 6 is an incredibly enjoyable game that is well worth playing.

One of the things the game does very well is in its narrative structure that weaves together 4 separate campaigns with each intersecting with each other at various points. The settings are outbreaks in the fictional towns in the US and China as well as the fictional Eastern European country of Edonia. The partner system of RE5 returns as each main character gets their own partner. Leon has Helena, a Secret Service agent with her own secret and his campaign is perhaps the most traditional,  with a creepy graveyard and zombie-infested streets just a few of his locations. Chris and fellow BSAA member Piers Nivans are all action and playing through their part of Edonia you could swear you’re playing a third person version of Medal Of Honor. Jake Muller is a new character with a connection to a past RE character and his partner is Sherry Birkin, last seen in RE2 getting an embryo implanted in her by her G-Virus mutated father. Beating all 3 stories, unlocks the ‘secret’ fourth one starring none other then Ada Wong, who for the first time in her professional life may be dressed appropriately. One aspect that is lacking is the depth of the story intersections. When Leon runs into Sherry, you’d think there’d be some mention of Raccoon City, but it’s glossed over. Likewise when Mr Scott Kennedy meets Chris, you’d think Claire would come up at some point.

Long time fans will be relieved to see that the zombies are back

Speaking of tradition and breaking it, the viral culprit in this game is the C-Virus, which can create both shambling ‘classic’ zombies as well as the more intelligent J’avo. Capcom might have outdid themselves with this latest virus, as throughout the course of the game it can be seen mutating J’avo into a variety of different creatures, as shooting out certain body parts only causes them to grow appendages. With different mutated types it does force the player to constantly change tactics instead of blindly shooting around. The bosses are even more spectacular, because whereas you had to run around a room battling a giant plant hanging from the ceiling in the original you now face a  zombie shark while sliding backwards down a sewage pipe. It might seem ludicrous, but it’s still very fun. If a different virus is going to be in RE7, then it’ll be hard to top the variety of the C-Virus.

One of the game’s biggest calling cards is the inclusion of big set pieces. When used properly, they are quite enjoyable, but more often then not they have you frantically fulfilling quick time events that force you to wriggle sticks or mash buttons at a very fast pace. The few instances where you have to alternate button presses are so counter-intuitive that it makes the sequences frustrating when they should be fun. The camera system also suffers from this as it constantly takes control from you to highlight the appearance of a big monster or zoom in on a scene even when you’re in the middle of a firefight or are surrounded by enemies. It also seems fond of chase scenes where it focuses on the characters and not what’s in front of them. The new cover mechanic is emblematic of all this as it’s implemented poorly and you’ll probably ditch it after a few tries.

One area where the game excels is in the visuals. The settings are incredibly detailed and realistic, from the ominous fog-shrouded cemetery in Leon’s campaign to the crowded urban environment in China. Even the J’avo mutations look cool. It’s not just the aesthetics that are great, but the level design and the China setting in particular showcases this aspect. Running through markets and tenement buildings are enjoyable and stopping to appreciate the level of detail is worthwhile. That is when you’re not being hounded by enemies. The tight quarters of the tenements provide for some frantic action. The use of shadow and darkness to create tension is noteworthy as a few times you’ll only have your flashlight to illuminate the way. One aspect of the level design that is intriguing is when Leon and Helena are in the cemetery and need to unlock a gate. Instead of finding the key on a table or in a chest they have to chase a mutated dog all over the cemetery in order to recover said key. It’s the little touches like that which add interesting twists to the usual fetch quest formula.

Some of the big set pieces involve running away from the Ustanak, a bigger, badder version of Nemesis, though it unfortunately has no STARS-esque growl

A good number of reviews of Resident Evil 6 have been largely negative due to several reasons, some of which have been outlined above. It seems like a large amount of the criticism is based on the fact that the game is such a large departure from the series’ survival horror roots. That’s just the way the series has evolved and alot of the negativity seems based on that nostalgic longing. The series hasn’t been purely about survival horror for some time and holding it up against an old and outdated model is absurd. The worst part is if RE6 had been that ‘pure survival horror’, then these same people would have been ripping on it for being the same game released with nothing new. So do not be dissuaded by venomously negative reviews that give the game low scores, Resident Evil 6 is one you’ll definitely want to buy, especially since the 4 campaigns clock in at over 20 hours of gameplay, making it the longest RE yet and well worth the 60 bucks.