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Post Mortem Review
Resident Evil 6

  I am not afraid to admit that I actually liked the Resident Evil series for as completely and utterly batshit as it is. It’s just that I’m not sure it likes me very much. After Resident Evil 4 decided that the plot was completely stupid and for dumb babies, the emphasis shifted to action, complete with bad one liners. Case in point, the better part of an entire act is spent trading verbal barbs with a midget dressed like a purple Napoleon. It was that kind of game.

  The awesome kind.

  Then Resident Evil 5 came out. And it was more of the same in terms of the actual gameplay, but the life was gone. No longer running around not-Spain, we’re running around a fictional country in Africa. And there was a big ol’ uproar about the very racist imagery of uber-white protagonist Chris Redfield gunning down Africans, but it was never played as racist in the game. Chris just happens to be a white dude fighting not-zombies in Africa. There are certainly cringe-worthy moments, though. I feel it best not to revisit that discussion, namely because RE5 is pretty worthless, outside of Sheva.

(There was a video here; it is gone now)

  The biggest point I want you to take from this initial discussion of Resident Evil is that the game series isn’t well suited for drama. Having it take place in a war-torn region of the real world is not really what we’ve come to expect from a game series that, at one point, had you German suplexing monks to death in a castle. Then again, it did seem to actually be attempting to bring a resolution to the series, so I suppose trying to give it some semblance of drama is alright.

  But then they made a sixth game in the main canon. And like every self-important franchise, the only way to go is further up its own ass.

  The story is essentially the same story the series pulls out every time it wants to print money from its fan base: a bad guy unleashes a virus for cretinous reasons. He also kills the president with it, because the president was going to reveal the “truth” about what happened in the first three Resident Evils. Ignoring the fact that, up to this point in the series, it had been assumed that the U.S. population knew what happened, apparently the villain has never heard of a gun. He also attacks China, probably because of a chronic inability to concentrate.

  There are a lot of reasons why Resident Evil 6 failed so colossally at everything it did. And fail it did – don’t take what Metacritic says as anything less than failure. I bought my game when it was dirt-cheap on Steam and had undergone numerous patches to fix things – and it was still a mess. Like the doughnuts that refused to render:

Ummm... maybe they're powdered?
Ummm... maybe they're powdered?

Or an entire level that did the same:

Umm... maybe it's... um... powdered?
Umm... maybe it's... um... powdered?

Or the partner A.I. that was raised exclusively on a diet of lead paint:

"Chris, we really need to..."
sigh "Goddamnit..."

Or just the innumerable ‘because fuck you!’s that pop up. Like one instance where I was out of the way of a speeding subway train, but I had missed the quick time event. In previous games, this wasn’t a big deal. But since I didn’t experience Resident Evil 6 the exact way it was meant to be experienced, the game teleported me in front of the train and killed me instantly. Fun!

  Even the gameplay is a blur of consistently bad decisions. Quick time events are always a terrible idea, but instant-death ones are anathema to having a good time. Take one where I was fed into a fucking meat grinder by a monster while my A.I. partner just watched. And speaking of just watching, overly long kill animations (like when a female character gets drilled to death) border on the fetishistic. The combat is alright, but guns all present the same, unimpressive firepower. And, really, the whole point of the gun is to knock an enemy into a stun state so you can melee them in some stupid pro-wrestling move that seems utterly out of place considering how desperately they want the game to be taken seriously.

  And something that has been harped on a lot elsewhere (or, at least, it should have been) is the absolutely stupid amount of gimmicky variety there is. It’s a game that is literally trying its best to be what everyone wants and failing miserably in every regard. When it’s not trying to be a half-assed version of Resident Evil 4, it’s trying to be Call of Duty, and when it’s not doing that it’s trying to be Resident Evil 2, and when it’s not doing that it’s trying to be a shitty racing game. The constant switching between gameplay modes (melee combat!; climbing up a pillar with one set of controls!; tactical gun fights!; motorcycling!; climbing up a rope with completely different controls!; snowmobiling!; this isn’t a quick time event!; well this one is and fuck you you’re dead!) just means that you have shitty controls spread out over ten million different moments of bullshit.

  And all this stupid switching between dumb bullshit gets to the heart of the issue: that Resident Evil 6 has no identity of its own.

  The first campaign I played through supposedly followed Leon Kennedy, a protagonist of a previous game in the series. Unfortunately for him and for the audience, he wasn’t really the central focus of the story. His sidekick, Helena, is actually the one that a majority of the plot follows. She’s trying to rescue her sister. She has to seek revenge against the guy who kidnapped and ultimately kills her sister (oh, fuck you, it was going to happen). She was the one chosen to be a mole for the bad guy. But, because they absolutely had to have Leon there, we follow him – even though he has no idea what’s going on and, ultimately, his impact on the story is negligible. Further, his personality is so starkly different that he may as well be a different character.

  And then there’s Chris’s campaign. Chris, like Leon, is a previous protagonist. Like Leon, he may as well be a completely different character. Turns out he lost his squad awhile back and now he’s an embittered drunk with amnesia. Considering the guy lost his squad in Resident Evil and lost his partner in Resident Evil 5, you’d think he’d be used to it. But, no, the writer turned in a single draft of the script and that was that. He, too, has a partner. The gentleman’s name is Piers, whose outstanding characteristic is that he has no personality whatsoever. Oh, and he dies at the end, so Chris’s endless fuckup streak continues.

  The final campaign is with a minor character we haven’t seen since Resident Evil 2. But, since Sherry has a vagina and Resident Evil writers hate women (presumably), she’s stuck doing support for Jake, a burly “anti-hero” who is the son of the series’ traditional villain Albert Wesker. They run away a lot from an indestructible monster. It’s all very exciting. (Side note: it is hard, if not impossible, to imagine Albert Wesker – basically a superhuman with a god complex – having sex with anyone. It’s the difference between ‘sexy’ and ‘sexualized’ that Yahtzee talks about here.)

  There’s also one last, unlockable campaign that is boring and stupid, so the less said about it the better.

  Now, each campaign operates under a different homage/ripoff. Helena’s campaign with Leon is more Resident Evil 2/4 in approach and is the only one that actually approaches fun. Chris’s campaign is Call of Duty with a dash of Need for Speed at one point, which is roughly an eighth of exciting as it sounds. And Jake’s campaign is like someone took the excellent game God Hand and ran it through the wash thirty or forty times.

  Resident Evil 6 could have actually been a lot of fun if they had actually bothered to approach the story with a sense of camp. Leon being in the back seat to a lot of the events could have had him grousing about how he always gets stuck on jobs like this. Instead, he endlessly and ominously intones how this is exactly like that one time this happened.

  Chris’s campaign is similar in that it has numerous opportunities for a knowing wink to the camera. For instance, he ends up chasing a giant snake through an abandoned building, practically begging for an opportunity for him to mention that he did the exact fucking thing in the very first game. But, no, he’s instead going to talk about how it killed his men, even though every last man in his squad dies because he’s so focused on trying to kill it. Everything just has to be so damn serious, even though the final boss of Chris’s campaign looks like a giant melted gummy bear.

  But this also necessitates the fact that both campaigns desperately needed to be realigned in regards to their protagonists – what I mean is that Helena and Piers should have been the stars of the show. You wouldn’t even have to rewrite anything in the first campaign. For the second, where Piers is the main guy, you could have Chris or some other dude in support. Piers could have been the one with a tragic back story, with Chris trying to help him through it with the healing power of killing terrorists. I mean, Jesus, this isn’t hard guys.

  Basically, because the writing was so phenomenally poor, there’s no way to really engage with the characters. Chris and Leon – who players would recognize – are basically different people, so why do we care? Chris makes absolutely boneheaded decisions, gets mad, and makes more bad decisions. When I’m actively rooting for the bad guys to bite his stupid haircut off, there’s a problem. Leon is just a crabby prick now, so who gives a shit what happens to him? Part of the deal with having returning characters is that they already have their stories established – when you rewrite them so casually, we don’t know who they are and we don’t care.

  In the case of Leon, most people will play him first and be subconsciously upset that the story isn’t really about him. In fact, he probably could have stayed at home and the entire thing would have played out the same way. In the case of Piers, he’s so pathetically underwritten as to be a non-entity. And since everything is written to be so grim and life-or-deathy the entire fucking time, it all comes out as a boring mess.

  With the one attempt they actually make to have a new character they want to focus on – that would be Jake, for those who have forgotten about him – he’s just some angsty dipshit whose main story arc is that he finds out his dad is Albert Wesker. He can’t seem to decide if he’s angry about being related to the super villain or that Chris (in a shocking display of narrative relevance) is the one that killed him, so he just aggressively plays both sides. Since he oscillates between those two points, he has no consistency and comes off like an aggravating idiot. The thing is that we’ve already seen this character arc play out with Dante in both versions of the Devil May Cry universe – and it was handled so, so much better because Dante never shot at a man for killing someone he didn’t even know.

  What made Resident Evil 4 so much fun, outside of the gameplay, was that it didn’t take itself too seriously. It knew that trying to keep it serious was a bad idea, so it went goofy. Resident Evil 6 wants to be taken as a grim drama about the horrors of war or some such rot, completely forgetting that this is a universe where a guy injected a virus, grew tits and high heels, and shot lightning out of a claw-hand. Guys, give it up. There’s nothing left to take seriously. Admit that you wrote a shit story that got out of hand and give into the dark side.

  Because what ends up happening is the players feel that they don’t have an impact on the world around them. For instance – in Helena’s campaign (fuck you, it’s hers), there are numerous moments where you try to save civilians from apocalyptic horrors. Outside of the developers thinking that this is a perfect place for a vaguely kinda-sorta implied-rape joke in their achievements...

Yeah... no.
Well, it's either sex or pillow fights.

... Most of the non-player characters have the resiliency of tissue paper and will die for the sake of plot-critical events. You save civilians in the cathedral, they end up getting nuked by the bad guy anyway. Earlier, you save a group of survivors to be picked up by a bus and taken to the cathedral (which will end up as nuclear ash), but the bus crashes and everyone but you dies. It’s hard to be invested when the entire world is populated with red shirts.

  The story can’t even really decide how seriously to take its own threats. Supposedly, this new virus is super bad news, but there’s a mutant fish monster living in a town’s ground water (along with several dozen corpses soaking in the virus, mind you). Presumably, the thing sheds skin, bleeds, and shits there – yet no one was sick beforehand. And then there’s the fact that at one point Sherry can fall twenty feet from a helicopter and die instantly, yet can fall the same distance on Jake’s speeding motorcycle and survive. And that’s ignoring the fact that she routinely leaps down that distance in-game about as frequently as most people blink. At one point, Chris gets pummeled by a monster in a cutscene so hard his insides should have been gravy, yet he survives. In game play, an errant monster’s slap can kill you fairly easily. Every character is a hyper-durable action star when needed, but then suffers from brittle bone disease once the player gets hold of them.

  And if that weren’t enough, most boss monsters have to be murdered multiple times – Helena’s antagonist is shot sixty bajillion times, blown up, hit by a train, struck by lightning, shot with a rocket launcher, and only dies because he falls down and gets impaled by an obelisk. That’s right, you don’t even make the killing shot – it’s literally the fall that finally takes the prick out. When your job can be better handled by Mother Nature, it’s time to just move to the furthest reaches of the Canadian wilderness and let old age kill your foes.

  The worst part about it all? There have been a fuckton of these games, each with another stupid villain. Narratively speaking, it literally doesn’t matter that the heroes averted disaster this time. There’s always going to be another lunatic who will kill the planet for whatever reason and, eventually, they are going to win. Why ask the player to try to stop them when everyone seems so keen on scrubbing the planet clean? There is probably going to be a Resident Evil 7, and it will render everything that went before completely and utterly pointless.

  Now, to be entirely honest, I did enjoy one aspect of the experience: on the PC, the Mercenaries mini-game includes No Mercy mode, which brings in characters from Valve’s stupendously fun Left 4 Dead 2, makes all the enemies super weak, and floods the screen with their squishy bodies. So, surprisingly enough, I like Resident Evil 6 the most when it’s pretending to be Left 4 Dead 2, which is actually really fucking sad when you think about it.

(EDIT 8/12/2015: I removed a video from another website that provided a longer review of RE5 that, in retrospect, was wholly unnecessary. Also, general grammar/language fixes, because I am a perfectionist)

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