The first and most important thing to say about Resident Evil 6 is something thatâ€™s been said plenty of times since the gameâ€™s console release last year: this is not a survival horror game. This is an action game through and through, a non-stop explosion-riddled thrill ride that often looks more like Uncharted or Call of Duty than the Resident Evils of ages past.
This isnâ€™t a criticism against the game, nor is it praise - whether you like this take on Resident Evil will depend a lot on whether you like action shooters - but itâ€™s important to make clear right at the start that Iâ€™m reviewing the game based on its merits and flaws as the action game it is, not on the survival horror game that many people wanted it to be.
RE6 follows the plot of a handful of characters in their conflict with the bioterrorist organisation Neo-Umbrella. Itâ€™s pretty much what youâ€™d expect from a Resident Evil game, with the usual twists and turns and strange bioweapons that turn regular people into bizarre monsters; itâ€™s good without being groundbreaking, but does the job and sets the scene for the game well. Itâ€™s a lot more action-focused than previous entries in the series, a common trend throughout the game, with a lot of big set pieces and plenty of explosions and desperate escape scenes.
There are four individual campaigns, each of which follows a different hero or pair of heroes and is mostly self contained, but they intersect at certain points throughout and each fill in part of the overall story. Youâ€™re free to play the campaigns in any order you want, and can jump between them as much or as little as you choose - if you want to play each individual campaign in its entirety, you can; if you want to jump between them on a per chapter basis, you can do that too. This is a nice touch, and it really helps to tie together the somewhat disparate stories of a handful of returning characters from previous entries in the series.
Resident Evilâ€™s transformation into an action game means that if youâ€™ve played any other third person shooter, youâ€™ll know exactly what to expect here. Combat controls are much more fluid than previous entries in the franchise, especially for the PC version - mouse and keyboard just suits shooting games so much better than analog sticks ever will. There are a few minor flaws here and there: cover controls are awkward (but fortunately cover is almost never needed) and melee attacks are somewhat inconsistent, often whiffing inexplicably, but the combat generally works well by sticking to a proven formula.
Despite smooth controls and generally exciting run-and-gun action, RE6 isnâ€™t without its frustrations. At times, the game tries to return to its survival horror roots by turning off the lights and making it near impossible to see anything. In survival horror, this frustration adds to the tension and sense of helplessness, but in an action game, it just gets in the way and makes combat tedious.
The game also has an odd auto save system, with regular checkpoints but very infrequent proper saving and no manual save option. This means youâ€™re often forced to give up on a huge chunk of progress when you need to turn off the game, which there just isnâ€™t any excuse for in 2013. To add insult to injury, the game doesnâ€™t really tell you that â€˜checkpointâ€™ doesnâ€™t mean â€˜savingâ€™ like it does in basically every other game; this is something you learn the hard way.
Level designs are pretty straightforward, mostly just linear A to B setups with a few simple mazes thrown into the mix here and there, and there are a handful of puzzles strewn across the game, but again, theyâ€™re pretty straightforward aside from a few trial and error types. The heavy focus on combat is yet another sign of the direction RE6 has taken the series, and all in all, itâ€™s a lot of fun despite its weaknesses.
Love them or hate them, it seems like quick time events are now an embedded feature in Resident Evil; theyâ€™re really back with a vengeance in RE6. As plentiful as they are, for the most part they donâ€™t really get in the way, although having to spin your â€˜analog stickâ€™ when youâ€™re playing on keyboard seems like good way to fast track RSI.
Boss fights tend to take QTEs a step too far though, with a lot of them basically just set pieces with some QTEs at select points to damage and kill the boss. You can shoot the boss a much as you want, but it often doesnâ€™t seem to have any effect other than giving you something to do while you wait for the next scene of the fight to kick in. Not all the bosses are like this, but enough of them are for it to be noticeable, and it takes a lot of the excitement out of fighting some genuinely awesome looking bad guys.
RE6 was a good looking game on consoles, but the PC version has really kicked it up a notch, as you might expect. Textures are smoother and more detailed, lighting effects are much more atmospheric; it just looks better than on consoles in every way. However, despite all this, it doesnâ€™t need a beast of a machine to run; I was getting more than acceptable framerates on high settings with my mid-range laptop. This might be a turn-off for some, as it suggests that they could have pushed the visuals even further, but itâ€™s nice to know that the game will run smoothly on any semi capable machine. The lower settings donâ€™t look too bad either if you need to pull it back a little bit, although some of the textures can get a bit rough, almost a problem for this game - particularly close ups of writing on walls and such.
The strong artistic direction complements the high quality graphics well. The environments are gorgeous (or gruesome, when they need to be), and varied; you may find yourself getting off the rollercoaster every now and then just to have a look around. The monster designs are impressive and true to Resident Evilâ€™s bizarre form - there are plenty of â€˜regularâ€™ zombies with a lot of variety (Iâ€™m sure I ran into the same model more than once, but if I did, I certainly didnâ€™t notice it), and then there are the Jâ€™avo, infected people with a tendency to mutate into all sorts of weird and wonderful monstrosities.
There are some excellent sound effects to go with the visuals, particularly among the zombies, who bear a striking resemblance to The Walking Dead with their moans and shuffles. I donâ€™t know what the difference is between good and bad zombie gargles, but itâ€™s something you know when you hear, and RE6 definitely nails it.
The music, on the other hand, is less impressive. Itâ€™s not bad by any means, but it doesnâ€™t really set the scene or do anything special. At times, it harkens back to the seriesâ€™ roots and provides a bit of a suspenseful tone, but these parts tend to sound a bit out of place given the nature of the game.
So, the big question - is the PC version of RE6 the definitive one? Well, that really depends on your gaming preferences. It looks much nicer, mouse and keyboard controls are a blessing, and it comes bundled with what was paid DLC for the console versions, but this is balanced out somewhat by clunky menus and some odd bugs.
If you prefer PC gaming in general, then this is definitely the one to go for, but if you prefer consoles or just donâ€™t care, you wonâ€™t really miss out on much by sticking to the console version. As for the game itself? Itâ€™s definitely a good game, one that shows promise for an action focused future in the Resident Evil franchise, but too many little annoyances add up to prevent it from being a great game. Itâ€™s still a game worth playing though, especially if youâ€™re a fan of action shooters. Shooting zombiesâ€™ heads off is something thatâ€™s always going to be fun.