I am going to be totally upfront and admit that I really liked Resident Evil 6, I know that can be an unpopular statement with die-hard fans of the series but if you will indulge me, I will tell you why it was the Resident Evil game we deserved, even if it wasn’t the one we wanted.
Capcom have never been afraid to make changes to their format, unlike other franchises that are still quintessentially the same (look at Assassin’s Creed, Mario, Call of Duty and Battlefield), Resident Evil has gone from a sombre fixed camera, haunted house to an action packed QTE obsessed blockbuster of a game, with the odd diversion for remakes and remasters, First-Person rail shooters and one often forgotten FPS: Resident Evil Survivor. I am willing to admit that a good number of these games seem to have spat in the face of what the franchise stands for, but Resident Evil 6 is not one of them.
Let’s start by covering a few of Resident Evil 6’s flaws. The constant waypoint system ruins the immersion and takes away from the exploration of the older games, the short level segments make it a much more linear game than we were used to and the thought of a BoW with a gun made many people balk at this new direction. I won’t even try to defend the utterly ridiculously moment Chris rides a small playground ride or the boss battle at the end of the Leon campaign because it’s not an argument I can make with a straight face.
These are undeniable shortcomings of the game, poor choices by Capcom and simple oversights but if you can look past these issues, you will find Capcom’s best attempt at a story and real characters yet. They say you can please all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time. This was something that Capcom clearly disagreed with. Hardcore fans wanted more survival, the return of zombies and fewer explosions, whereas the “average” gamer wanted more action, less suspense and a more guided experience overall. Capcom’s solution to this age old adage was to simply make three campaigns, Leon: featuring the good old fashioned zombies we have come to know and love, Chris: the action-packed beefcake gun-fest and then there’s Jake: somewhere in between that focuses on character development above everything else.
The interconnectivity between the three campaigns was done brilliantly with fan favourites Chris and Leon coming face to face in the later stages of the game. Both protagonists were following their own course and only crossed paths by the most random of circumstances, Jake and Sherry Birkin (yes, the little NPC from Resident Evil 2) also cross paths with the characters from the first two games. It painted a picture on a global canvas, and the ambition to intersect the stories (often for boss fights) allowed players online to drop into your game while they were making their own path. The execution of this was done brilliantly in my opinion and it is one of the few times that the Resident Evil series have gone out on a limb with their story and not had it snap beneath them.
The second arrow in Resident Evil 6’s quiver is the story and character development. For the first time in the series, we have characters that are neither noble heroes nor evil villains. Chris’ crisis of conscience takes up a large part of his campaign and has to find his confidence after a disastrous mission where he lost pretty much all of his troops (I mean only Chris, Jill and Rebecca made it out of the Mansion but he wasn’t technically in charge so I guess he is OK with that). The constant support and ass kicking of his AI or Co-op partner Piers showed us that while Chris seemed to have given up, he wasn’t past saving. I still get a lump in my throat whenever I finish the campaign and see the BSAA badge clenched in Chris’ fist at the end.
Compare the last scene from Chris’ campaign to one of the first from Jake’s, The BSAA badge represented duty, it represented hope and it represented courage, and the first look we get at Jake, he peels his arm patch off and casts it aside, it was no more important to him than the apple he was chewing on. We see a cocksure arrogant and angry young man who is only concerned for himself, but after the journey that bridges the gap nicely between horror and action, he is a changed man. Fundamentally no better or worse than he was, I mean he is still a mercenary, but one who has grown to accept compassion, compromise and allow himself the vulnerability of caring for the welfare of others.
It is Capcom’s best showing of character development in any of the games and I think that is something to be applauded. The storyline of a sole man crazed on the thought of world domination through bioweapons still exists in the game, but it isn’t the whole game. It allowed us to care for the characters more, I think we can all agree that we didn’t care what happened to Ashley in Resi 4 (outside of having to restart at a checkpoint) or even the semi-touching scene with Ada in Resident Evil 2, hell, even Barry’s death in the original (depending how you play) didn’t dwell on the tragedy of the situation. Ultimately every character was the same at the end of the game as they were at the start (okay, some of them were dead but you get my meaning), a little weary perhaps, more stoic and battle-hardened but more or less the same.
That’s why we deserved Resident Evil 6, most people didn’t want the three campaigns, they wanted the campaign they liked, we didn’t want the waypoints and linear level design, but we deserved a good story. One that focused on characters that we have known for almost two decades, characters some of us grew up with and have followed in the expanded universe. That is exactly what Capcom gave us in Resident Evil 6, so for all its faults, it is the game we deserved, even if it isn’t the one we wanted.