Given that it is one of my favorite game series of all time, Resident Evil 6 was easily my most anticipated game of the show. I was dismayed to not have an appointment with Capcom and even more dismayed when the chances of getting hands on with the game looked bleaker and bleaker. You can read more about what getting into the 30 minute hands on demo entailed here but suffice it to say it wasn’t easy and it was totally worth it.
The game follows Leon Kennedy, Chris Redfield and newcomer Jake Muller (who is the son of series villain Albert Wesker) and each character have different enemies and situations to deal with different play styles and story tones. This is an interesting approach both from a narrative and game play stand point but it makes me wonder if it will be jarring for the player depending on how each of the stories play out and how much connection and cross over there is between them. If you play them as their own separate story from start to finish and then go on to the next one I feel like that will be more successful than if you bounce back and forth between the characters throughout the game. I didn’t get a chance to play as Jake but Leon and Chris couldn’t play differently and their scenarios are polar opposite as well. Players of Resident Evil 4 and 5 should generally know what to expect, however, because Leon’s game play is very similar to what he dealt with in RE 4 and Chris’s scenario is more action focused like that of RE5.
I started off with Leon which finds him at the President’s side prior to a press conference. No context is given in the demo as it goes straight to the President turning into a zombie and attacking Leon. You obviously have to put the man down but given the close friendship the two share Leon very clearly doesn’t want to pull the trigger. Leon’s business IS killing zombies, however, so he does what he has to do. After the President is dead, Leon meets his new partner Helena Harper, a fellow Secret Service agent who was also in the room when the President turned. Leon is suspicious of her right away and gets more so as the demo plays out but that is just good business. Also, Helena seems shady and hell bent on taking a detour before evacuating. She very clearly knows more about what is going on that she is letting on.
After calling in to report the President’s death, Leon and Helena try to find a way out of the press conference hall they find themselves trapped in. The place is dark and quiet and very creepy with game play going back to the old days of Resident Evil when you were walking down deserted halls and hoping that nothing was going to crash through a window or burst through a floor. RE6 retains the general control scheme and perspective of the past two games so you aren’t dealing with the pre-rendered environments and awkward controls…well the controls are still basically tank controls but you are FINALLY given the ability to strafe and run and gun which is a huge step that should have been taken several games ago. The reasons for why this has been avoided have mystified fans for years and they are not at all apparent in Leon’s portion of the game as, when action starts happening, the strafing feature works beautifully and got me out of some serious hot water. More on that in a bit, though, as I am getting ahead of myself.
As they hit the main hall, Leon sees movement and starts chasing a guy through the place past all the overturned tables and various debris. When you catch up with the man he tells you he is looking for his daughter and won’t leave without her. He also has the key to the elevator which would be pretty helpful as far as getting the hell out of there goes. Leon agrees to help him and it is kind of slow going as the man is not in the best shape ever. Not that he is overweight but rather it seems pretty likely that he is infected by whatever virus it is that turned the President into a zombie. Eventually you find his daughter and she has very obviously been jacked. Leon goes through the motions of ‘come on let’s get out of here and get help’ but I can’t imagine he actually believes any of that bullshit given what he has already seen. Nevertheless, the four get into an elevator together and the girl turns, bites the ever living shit out of her dad and Leon and Helena have to clean house. It is a welcome bit of action after the tension and creeping dread of the level so far. Then the elevator doors open to the parking garage and all hell breaks loose.
The level goes from moody and scary to all out war as zombies try to flood into the elevator and Leon and Helena have to fight their way out. After breaking out into the open garage I found that I was out of ammo and my health was low. I dipped into the inventory and found no more bullets and an herb. I healed a bit and then found myself tangling with the zombies in some CQC which was intense and badass until I put a cop down and managed to get some more bullets. The demo ended with Leon and Helena realizing that the infection has spread beyond the Hall and that they are in some serious shit.
With some time left in my session I fired up Chris’s mission and watched the intro that finds him in a bar in a fictional Chinese city that is doubling for Hong Kong called Lanshiang where Chris is getting far drunker than is good for anyone. In the process of this a man engages him and tries to talk to him about his past. Chris is having none of it until the guy shows him that he knows who Chris is and that he has come to get him. Chris tells him that he doesn’t remember anything and wants to be left alone but that isn’t going to happen as B.S.A.A. member Piers Nivans has shown up with a full team and they aren’t exactly asking Chris to come back. The next thing you know Chris is chasing bio terrorists across the roof tops of Lanshiang with an assault rifle and his team in tow.
The action here feels pretty similar to third person shooters of the day and the targeting and handling of the gun is very good. Not as good is the strafing here as the much quicker movements of Chris and the over all pacing led me to firing in the sky or god knows where else while I was trying to run and gun. It didn’t take long to adjust, however, and the strafing became handy. What was not so handy was that when I targeted specific limbs and blew them off a crazy monster arm would break out of the hole like Tetsuo from Akira and things would go from bad to god awful as the terrorists turned into disgusting monster freaks that looked like the next mutation over from what we saw in RE5. The demo ended before I got too deep into this part and I left with Chris having his ass handed to him by somethings that look like there are all internal organs and claws.
When I first started playing the demo, I was kind of dismayed by the graphics which looked muddled and splotching like I was playing on an N64 instead of an Xbox 360. I looked over at the screen of the guy next to me who was doing the same demo I was and at roughly the same part and his was crystal clear so I think I got a bum screen and I immediately felt better about the look of the game. Leon’s general look is the same as before but his face looks as if it was modeled after Josh Holloway as he has a much grittier look to him than Leon of the past. Likewise his voice has been recast, this time being played by Matthew Mercer who gives him a more emotive quality than he has had in the past. Roger Craig Smith reprises his role as Chris who looks pretty consistent with his RE5 appearance as well. I had no problem with the voice change for Leon but it was nice to hear someone familiar for Chris. It isn’t a big thing but I like it.
With a good monitor, the graphics look pretty fantastic. There is a moment in the cutscene of Chris’s demo in which Piers is eating a steak and the fidelity on the thing was so good that I have been craving steak ever since. There is a lot of detail on display here and the roof top chase looked phenomenal. The animation in both of the demos I played was very good and the movements looked natural and realistic.
There is a lot to look forward to here with what is described as a big stride forward in the Resident Evil story as well as multiple play styles and co-op game play. I wish I would have had a chance to get hands on with Jake as I am very curious what his part of the story is going to entail (beyond knowing that his partner is RE2 survivor Sherry Birkin) but if what I have played is any indication, it will be significantly different than Leon or Chris’s. Resident Evil 6 will be releasing on October 2, 2012 for Xbox 360 and PS3. I leave you with some shitty video I took whilst waiting in line.