Saturday, 14 April 2012

Preview: Reflecting on the Action of Resident Evil 6

I've always had a sort of love-hate relationship with Capcom as a games developer and publisher. They're one of the biggest names in the industry, known for unleashing a fair few classic franchises upon the world, such as Mega Man and Street Fighter. But honestly, and you'll know this all too well if you've been reading my blog for a while, the company has made some frustrating moves throughout their mostly high-quality legacy of game development. I'm sure we all remember the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3, a superb-looking 3DS title, as well as some recent downloadable content annoyances, but one that really springs to my mind in particular is a certain Resident Evil game. No, I'm not referring to Resident Evil 6, the topic of today's post, but instead to Operation Raccoon City, an action-focused title that basically throws up poor-quality gameplay, pathetic storytelling and absurdly bland characters all over the classic Resi 2. Look up some reviews of the abomination, and you'll know full well what I'm talking about. Of course, you're probably wondering at this point why I've brought up this title, when the subject heading clearly states that this post is meant to be regarding my thoughts on the next main instalment in the long-running Resident Evil franchise. What does the atrocity that is Operation Raccoon City have to do with that? Well, it has a fair bit to do with one aspect of the upcoming release, I'll have you know.

Operation Raccoon City is purely an action-focused game, and not a very exciting one at that. The core gameplay is essentially built on two very generic elements, these being a cover system (never seen that in a 3rd-person shooter before, am I right?) and of course, the shooting itself. Both are badly handled, no doubt, but I'm not here to discuss that. My point is that, if this is what a focus on action could do to a Resident Evil game, all of us need to await the arrival of the sixth main series installment very cautiously, until it finally drops in a hopefully high-quality package at the beginning of October towards the end of the year. Now, don't think I'm booting the game, here, in all honesty I think it looks absolutely amazing, but the clear increased focus on action does bother me slightly. In the first trailer we saw for the game, a cover system was spotted. Big deal, right? Well, you'd be surprised at how easy it is to mess an element like that up, as many 3rd-person shooters have showed us over the years, ORC in particular. I should mention the fact that the aforementioned abomination of a Resident Evil spin-off wasn't developed by Capcom, but was under their supervision. If they gave this the green light, and not Mega Man Legends 3, there's something quite wrong with them. Regardless, with this short piece of word-based ranting out of the way, I'm going to begin my thoughts on what we've seen of Resident Evil 6 thus far, while also reflecting on the main complaint many have with the game, in the space of a few paragraphs. Get ready to experience some word-based hype, folks...

I thought now would be a good time to write up my impressions of Resident Evil 6 so far, considering the fact that we saw a second trailer for the game at Capcom's Captivate event the other day. Unlike the debut trailer, this 3-minute video focused completely on story footage, and it's in this aspect that the next big Resident Evil release clearly won't disappoint. For those who haven't been following the game since its announcement around two months ago, here's a brief summary of what can be gathered from the first two trailers: First off, the brilliant protagonist of the second and fourth main Resident Evil games we know as Leon Scott Kennedy makes a return, and he's looking scruffier than ever 10 years after the Raccoon City incident that occurred in the events of Resident Evil 2. The President of the United States, supposedly the father of Ashley Graham (that's the girl Leon had to save in the fourth main game), has decided to tell the world the truth about the catastrophic bio-terror outbreak a decade prior, but unfortunately for the world, things go a little bit wrong. Well, very wrong. You see, before having a chance to inform humanity of the Raccoon City incident, the President becomes infected and zombified himself, left alone with Leon and his new partner, '''''. The hero is regrettably forced to neutralise him, a decision that would later drastically change the course of history. With the President deceased, utter chaos across several regions ensues. One of these locales is Tall Oaks, a city that has seen the same fate as Resi 2's setting, and it's here that Leon and his partner need to investigate what's going on some time after the former world leader's death. Who could possibly be behind the President's infection? What effect will the biggest scale of bio-terrorism the Resident Evil franchise has ever seen have on its fictional world? All of this looks to be explained in this one release.

The massive-scale zombie outbreak that Resident Evil 6 portrays would make it difficult to stick to the survival horror formula, and one character and his partner alone realistically wouldn't be enough to combat it. As the viral campaign promoting the game states, there's literally 'No Hope Left' for this world, other than the hope that three major protagonists and their counterparts give off, all as playable characters in three alternate story branches that intertwine in the form of three separate campaigns. It's like Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition's extra story, Separate Ways, which saw the player taking the role of Ada Wong, filling in some of the gaps left by the main story. This, however, is on a much larger scale, with quite literally three sides of the story to play through. Leon's campaign is a more survival horror-esque affair, and personally this is the segment of the three-way tale I'm most excited about, if only for the badass protagonist's appearance. A scene reminiscent of the bit in Shaun of the Dead where Ed smashes an ashtray into an undead groom's forehead is seen in the debut trailer of Resi 6, hinting at the player's ability to use various everyday objects around them to survive, rather than just guns and knives. I could be wrong about this, however, so see it as pure speculation for now. Honestly though, I'm pumped for the continuation of Leon's story after the events of Resident Evil 4. Next up is the campaign in which you play as Chris Redfield, which is where things get a lot more complicated. You see, Resident Evil 6 has received a lot of hate for its supposed focus on action, and there really is no denying that both Chris' side of the story as well as the third main arc, which I'll get onto in a moment, are clearly more action-focused. Chris and his crew of comrades find themselves in China, where, like Leon in Tall Oaks, they find themselves fighting off an epidemic. However, Chris has other reasons to fight, too. I mentioned Ada Wong earlier, and anyone who has beaten Resident Evil 4 will know that the lass gets her hands on a sample of the Las Plagas virus before the game ends. Ada is clearly being hunted down by Chris, as he believes that she's behind all the madness, which would make sense. Let's just say you should watch the trailers for more insight into this.

A lot of people have been comparing the gameplay of Chris' segments to that of Gears of War, the emotionless 3rd-person shooter that pushed the sub-genre into the 21st century when the Xbox 360 launched. Honestly though, you could compare any third-person shooter to Gears of War these days, and while I can't really deny this comparison - Chris is a burly man taking on the zombies with brute force, using some heavy weaponary (a tank is even spotted at one point) - I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing. This is Resident Evil, after all, so a fair amount of charm the series is known for will be pumped into the game to give it more character. The story alone is enough to make Chris' scenarios an exciting contrast to Leon's slow-paced, survival horror segments. All I'm hoping is that this action-oriented campaign doesn't play out like the atrocious Operation Raccoon City - as long as it works and offers a similar style of gameplay to the fourth and fifth main Resident Evil releases, just more action-packed, I'll definitely be satisfied. Moving on to the third campaign, we meet an all-new character, albeit a descendant of the series' main antagonist. I'm of course referring to Albert Wesker and his playable offspring, Jake (or alternatively Wesker Junior). This campaign that ties in with this character is easily the most out-there aspect of the game, especially for Resident Evil. Jake doesn't use weapons at all, instead opting for the superhuman strength and speed he has clearly inherited from his apparent father. This makes for a third-person beat 'em up experience, much like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry. With zombies. It looks interesting, but not quite as exciting as the other two campaigns that follow in the footsteps of past over-the-shoulder Resident Evil games.

All in all, I'm generally very, albeit cautiously, excited about Resident Evil 6. As I've written on a few occassions throughout this post, the continuation of the Resident Evil story alone, with many characters we know and love (I haven't even mentioned the return of Resident Evil 2's Sherry Birkin) from throughout the franchise, is enough to be excited about. Let's just hope the gameplay holds up just as well, if not better, than the plot. Let's not have a repeat of Operation Raccoon City, eh, Capcom?

1 comment:

Kezz said...

Good post, well written as usual. I'm also glad to see Leon returning. Hope it turns out to be a great game. It'd also be nice to see a Wii U release.