a_bit_of_wit_2: (this means war)
[personal profile] a_bit_of_wit_2
You know that feeling you get when you've been a fan of something for a long time, be it a TV series, movie series, musician/band, and then after years of devoted following, they go ahead and do something which totally ruins everything? Yeah. There are very few things in this world that I feel a purist about--usually, I'm the first one to make fun of purists when something doesn't meet their often-unrealistic expectations (say, The Lord of the Rings movies and the often-decried salvo by these people about not putting in every single detail Tolkien penned--see Tom Bombadil; or the revived Doctor Who series that has lovers of the classic series fuming for whatever reasons), but I think in a video game series I've followed since their beginnings, I tend to lean toward purist here. Full disclosure--when Resident Evil 4 was released, the sudden shift from survival horror to a more action-oriented game put off a LOT of people. However, I loved it. I felt it to be a natural progression of the series, and the action-oriented play still had enough (for me, anyway) of the classic RE games for me to really enjoy it. Plus, the fact that there was still a lot of plot left to be resolved piqued my interest: now that Raccoon City was blown to hell, where would the series go? There were tons of unanswered questions--Wesker, most importantly. What became of Umbrella?

Then came RE5, and when I played it, I found I didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped I would. The continual slide toward action-shooter, more linear gameplay, and shifting away from its survival horror put me off a little, but I overlooked them because I needed to know how it would end. I'll suffer through bad gameplay if the story's good. This game was going to have the final showdown between Chris and Wesker, something as an RE fan, I've waited nearly 15 years to play. And when the game ended, I was satisfied. The story came full circle. It wrapped nearly everything up, with just a few tiny loose ends (like Ada) left. Wesker was gone. As a longtime fan, I was content--if there were no more Resident Evil games, fine. The story concluded.

Then Capcom announced Resident Evil 6, and I was furious. I was mad because I knew that even before the game was released, this game was nothing more than simply milking the series for every drop. I was baffled--wondering where the hell Capcom would pick up, because the series concluded (plot-wise, anyway) in the previous game. Where the hell could they go?

If you haven't already noticed, I'm a huge fan of plot in long-running series like this.

But I bought the game, because curiosity got me. I had already read some reviews, many of them mixed to negative. But because I don't let video game reviews sway my purchases, because often I find myself disagreeing with them (especially a Game Informer review--they were one of the only, if not THE only, positive review. Of course they were. They're GameStop's magazine, OF COURSE they're gonna highly rate the game--they'd highly review a dog shit soufflé if they thought it was going to sell thousands of units). Here's what I thought. NOTE: I played the PS3 version, and I played offline, going for the true single-player experience.

GRAPHICS: oh, shiny. Very shiny. The game locations (a fictitious country of Edonia in Europe--which, by the way, is Serbia, since most of the enemies in game have Serbian names--and two fictitious cities in China, modeled after Hong Kong; and Tall Oaks, modeled after Washington DC and its surroundings) are rendered in amazing detail. Visually, it's the most impressive game of the series. Score: 23/25.

GAMEPLAY: The controls are pretty easy to pick up and learn; so easy, apparently, that the game didn't even come with an instruction booklet in the case. However, the gameplay mechanics suffer a lot because the game uses and abuses Quick Time Events (QTEs). This game has given me a hatred for them--for those that don't remember, they were introduced in RE4. During cut scenes, there were times where you had to quickly mash a button (or more) in a second or less, otherwise you died. Suddenly, cut scenes, typically where a good chunk the game's exposition sits, became intertwined with the game, forcing you to not even let up for a second, lest you suffer a YOU DIED screen because you didn't mash a button fast enough. They were cool in RE4 because it was something new and unique, and didn't occur often. RE6 just abuses the crap out of them--you'll find that most of your deaths come as a result of these. The game is so non-stop action-driven, and there is always so much happening at once that once you see the prompt to mash a button, it's almost already too late to prevent death.

Whatever traces of the Resident Evil I knew and loved were left in RE5 are completely gone in RE6. There is absolutely no survival horror left in this game. For all intents and purposes, this game should've been renamed Call of Duty: Resident Evil Modern Warfare Black Ops. The game is broken down into 4 playable campaigns (Leon, Chris, Jake, Ada), with each character's campaign making up part of the whole story. However, each campaign is largely forgettable. I say it should be called Call of Duty because much of the gameplay involves doing the exact same thing; gunning down wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave after wave of zombies, J'avo (the new name for infected enemies that haven't been reduced to mindless shuffling things--basically, the Ganados of RE4 or the Majini of RE5), or game bosses, all while surrounded in so many explosions--so much so that I think Michael Bay might cream himself.

Some positives: your AI-controlled partner (Helena in Leon's game, Piers in Chris's, Sherry in Jake's) can actually hold their own. Even better: they can't die (with the exception of a couple of cut scenes where you need to correctly mash buttons in a QTE otherwise it's game over) unlike in RE5, where if Sheva dies, game over; also, they don't need to steal your ammo and recovery items. Also, like in RE4 and 5, enemies drop skill points (the currency for this incarnation) which you can use to purchase in-game skills. It's changed, though--in the previous 2 games, your money was used to upgrade weapons. Here, you have no weapon upgrades, opting instead for skills that you can upgrade, like increasing damage across all weapons, or increasing the chance of a critical hit or headshot, increasing the frequency of dropped items, etc. The one drawback is this--you can only equip up to 3 skills at any one time, but you can change what skills you're equipped with on the fly by accessing an in-game menu (like the past two, accessing your inventory and other menus are in real-time, leaving yourself open to attack).

Unlike past games, the puzzle solving element is pretty much gone (ok, it was pretty much gone in RE5, but now it's really gone here), and for the first time, you can't backtrack at all. The gameplay consists of extremely linear, objective-based chapters. You can't go back into previous rooms to pick up items once you've left them. You go from one explosion-contained scenario to the next. It becomes very rote, very quickly. Sometimes, there's so many explosions going on during cut scenes that you can't hear the damn dialogue! Combine that with the shameless abusing of QTEs, I was left very disappointed. Score: 6/25.

PLOT: WARNING, POSSIBLE SPOILERS CONTAINED HEREIN. Oh, dear god. One of the hallmarks of the series, I felt, was the story. It felt original. It was intriguing. It kept me interested. Not anymore. This is not the first game that suffers from the "as the video game technology gets better and the graphics get prettier, the story goes right down the fucking crapper" malady (I'm looking right at you with angry eyes, Square Enix--another one of my beloved series right down the fucking shitter in Final Fantasy). It's as if Capcom went, "Here's what the Americans love: zombies, explosions, and killing things. Let's make a game where we combine every single "zombie apocalypse" trope ever made, combine that with nothing but hours and hours and hours of killing baddies, and lace that with enough explosions to give everyone post-traumatic stress disorder. Also, let's make the entire planet infected with another virus! What letter of the alphabet haven't we used yet? C! Let's call it the C-Virus! Let's make the reason for this virus and the reason why entire countries are getting infected the result of one man's obsession with a woman and a scorned lover! Oh, and let's throw in a shadow government, make Wesker have a son, and all our favorite RE characters for good measure!"

There were one or two high points, though, with the story. One such standout was how the game explained Sherry Birkin's ability to quickly heal herself after being impaled with a chunk of a helicopter blade. Reminded me a bit of Parasite Eve, and made sense in my own head-canon. Leon also shooting the very mutated and zombie'd President was another bonus.

One of the things that made Resident Evil so good in its storytelling was that they were very good at creating suspension of disbelief. What that means is this (courtesy of Wikipedia): if a writer could infuse a "human interest and a semblance of truth" into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgment concerning the implausibility of the narrative. Or in English: even though we knew a zombie outbreak due to a virus created by a pharmaceutical company will never happen, the writing was good enough where the events and story of the Resident Evil felt plausible. It felt believable, despite knowing full well that it was complete fiction. The characters were not superheroes. They are human. And what they go through in the games felt believable. We could latch on to them. Right until Chris began punching boulders in RE5. That, to me, was when the series jumped the shark.

During the course of RE6, that suspension of disbelief doesn't occur. In a video game series that is meant to be taken seriously, suspension of disbelief is SO important. So many times, characters get caught in explosions, fall from dizzying heights, and crash so many vehicles that by any rational leap, they should either have third-degree burns over their entire bodies, break every bone, be impaled by shrapnel from EVERYTHING, be dead, or any combination thereof. I found it hard attaching myself to the characters because there are so many things in that game that are physically impossible that it made the entire game and its story implausible. In addition, you no longer find files scattered about the game, something that in past games, added exposition and provided a fuller story. Instead, files have to be unlocked by finding hidden "serpent emblems" scattered about. But because there is always so much going on every second, you have no time to hunt down these tiny things. My biggest interest in this game, the story, was now something I was going to have to really work for. Sorry, but I'm not going to play through the campaigns multiple times just to get the full story. There's just simply too much going on. And fucking Ada keeps stringing poor Leon along. Her story does not get resolved in this game. It's starting to get a little old. Especially now since for the first time in the main series, we have a new voice for Ada. She doesn't feel the same anymore.

Adding to the game's repetitive nature are the boss battles. In RE5, we got our long, epic, drawn out for hours-style boss battle with the final showdown with Wesker. That was great. After waiting for so long to finally kill Wesker, I expected a long, drawn-out affair. Wesker was not going down without a fight. Buuuuuuuuuuuuuut...Capcom decided that EVERY one of the game's major bosses would also be along a similar, drawn-out forever vein. Again, no suspension of disbelief--I mean, really, the game's main villain, Simmons, mutating a bajillion times and coming back to life despite being so full of bullets, rocket launchers, machine gun fire, anti-aircraft missile'd, impaled, run over by speeding trains, falling into fires, being caught in explosions, and then being able to transform into massive dinosaur-looking things, housefly-things, and then being able to transform BACK into a human at will?! No, no, no, Capcom--you violated your own trope--once someone mutates into a giant slobbering monster, they DO NOT GO BACK TO BEING HUMAN. Other main bosses follow other ridiculous transformations--they resurrected Chainsaw Dude from RE4, but now he's a J'avo who apparently can, as a result of the C-Virus, mutate and sprout an entire gas-powered muscle/bone/sinewy chainsaw that comprises its right arm. What, did every boss in the game suddenly become Rasputin, cubed? I honestly felt that these battles were simply put in place to simply waste your ammo. I didn't feel a sense of urgency or panic when fighting these...I just felt more annoyed with each battle. Finally, something else that didn't feel like Resident Evil--when you finally got to the final form of the boss, there was no 5-minute countdown before everything went to hell in a blaze of self-destruct. Score: 4/25.

MUSIC: actually, a plus here. Despite not having any of the original composers for the series, the music certainly fit the game's tone. It was fully orchestrated, and definitely gave the game a cinematic feel. It definitely was frenetic and crazy where it needed to be, and very calm in the game's very few points where you could actually take a breather. However, because of just how fast-paced the game was, you couldn't sit back and listen to it. As a result, the music doesn't have some of the memorable qualities that previous entries had. The game does get points, however--they resurrected Ada's theme for a key scene between her and Leon. It was a nice homage to Resident Evil 2, and the backstory the two share. Score: 20/25.

EXTRAS: I did not take time to play any of the extra content, being so fed up. Once I finished the final campaign, I closed the book on this game. No score.

FINAL THOUGHTS: My fears about this game when it was announced, and while it was being developed, all turned out to be horribly justified. I have never played a game that was so blatantly milking a long-lasting franchise. Capcom stripped away the identity of what was Resident Evil and has turned it into nothing more than just another Call of Duty rip-off, substituting zombies and mutated things in place of soldiers. There is nothing "survival horror" about this game; it's become just another third person action-shooter. And it shows--this game has sold nearly 5 million copies, but less than a million of those were in the US. Capcom has since declared that this game did not sell as well as it would've hoped, and has put other projects on hold as a result. Since I felt that the series wrapped up with RE5, I thought this game wasn't even necessary. Even now, having played through RE6, I have absolutely no idea where a potential RE7 would even spring from. I've said before that for a series to maintain relevant and popular, it needs to contain some of the things that made the series great in the first place. Even if the developer takes the series in a new direction, they must retain some of the old familiar elements to keep those fans interested. There was none of that here. Instead, we got some of the series' most iconic characters, and many, many gratuitous shots of Ada's ass in tight-fitting black leather pants as she crawled through ventilation shaft after narrow space after ventilation shaft after narrow space after ventilation shaft after narrow space.

If you're a Call of Duty fan, or a fan of hours and hours of non-stop shooting action, explosions, extremely linear, objective-based gameplay, this game is for you. If you're a Resident Evil fan, stay as far away from this game as humanly possible. It wasn't worth the $60 when it came out, it's not worth the $40 that it now is. For me, the series ended at RE5. This game does not exist. Final score: 53/100.


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