Resident Evil 6 In Restrospect

Saturday 11 September 2021

Now that the classic Resident Evil saga - that is, from the very first game until the sixth, including the side games - has seemingly come to a halt, for the time being at least, it looks like a good time to view the highly underrated Resident Evil 6 in retrospect, and under a different light. I had written an extensive review several years ago, but now that it's been almost a decade since it's initial release, and taking the remake of Resident Evil 2 into consideration - since this is very important, as I will explain in the article that follows - I feel that I have more specific feedback to offer, seeing how I also came to realize a few things which did bug me from the start that I couldn't exactly distinguish back then, although I loved the game and it still is one of my favorites of the series.
Resident Evil 6 is, on first look, an impressive game with a stellar cast, featuring four characters that belong to its classic core: Leon, Chris, Ada and Sherry come from the long past of the series, each one of them being connected to some of the most memorable stories of the saga. We could also include Ingrid Hunnigan in this dream team, since she is also a character who has appeared in Resident Evil 4 alongside Leon and established herself as a memorable part of the cast. But the four aforementioned characters, since they are protagonists in their own plotlines, are the ones who star, and inevitably attract most of the limelight. Each of them has a different story to tell, although at certain points their paths cross and they experience the same things from a slightly different aspect. Technically, this has its pros and its cons, but I am not going to go there in this article, since I will focus exclusively on the story from a "literary", so to speak, point of view.
What happens in the game plot-wise is that we have one main story which is split in four parts. Its core is a linear development of a series of events, while the additional storylines offer extra insight concerning certain characters and events. The very essence of the game's plot revolves around Jake Muller and Sherry Birkin, who find themselves stranded in war-torn Edonia after Sherry tracks Jake down among other mercenaries that are fighting in the civil war that is gradually devastating the region. Jake is Albert Wesker's son, and thanks to this heritage he has antibodies that can help fight the C-virus. Sherry has been sent to find him and bring him to her boss, Derek Simmons, naively believing that the latter wants Jake so as to use his blood for the development of an antidote for the virus. At some point they fall in a trap set by Carla Radames, a mad scientist who has cloned herself into an Ada Wong lookalike and whose intent is to use Jake's antibodies in order to make the virus stronger for her own gain. After spending six months imprisoned in a luxurious facility in China, Jake and Sherry manage to escape, at which point Sherry finds out the evil plans of her boss and decides to ignore all orders so as to save Jake and prevent the bad guys from taking advantage of his precious blood. 

In their long journey, Jake and Sherry come across Chris and his men, first in Edonia and later in China, Leon with his partner Helena and Ada who, however, never reveals herself to them. The campaigns of Chris, Leon and Ada explain how the three of them got involved in Jake and Sherry's story, each one of them following a very different path up to the point of each reunion. 

Stripping Resident Evil 6 off its many plotlines and focusing on the core of its story, all loose ends basically lead to Jake: he is Albert Wesker's son, which automatically makes him an extremely intriguing character, and he carries the antibodies that can help eliminate the virus. Simmons wants him in order to kill him or maybe keep him under control so as to prevent the discovery of a potential cure, Carla wants him so as to experiment on his antibodies and make the virus stronger and Sherry has been tasked to accompany him throughout his dangerous journey, putting her own life into great risk. All the surrounding stories eventually lead up to Jake one way or the other; Carla has even created a specially trained monster, Unstanak, that is able to sniff out and locate him. People die and sacrifice their lives for him, even unbeknownst to them. Chris himself crosses paths with him many times, helping him out on several occasions and eventually rescuing him for Carla's underwater facility. Ada literally watches over him, intervening whenever it is necessary to offer a hand. Leon, with his valuable intel, provides information about him that helps push the story forward, and he as well aids him in practice at a certain point. Jake is the leading key character in the game, he is essentially its driving force. His part of the story is the most important, and in my opinion it deserved more screen time and needed to be more complex and elaborate than the others. Leon's story is great and brings back memories of the older games, Chris's story is powerful, touching and heart-breaking, Ada's story has a mildly interesting plot with excellent gameplay - all of them have something to offer to the main story, but it is actually Jake's campaign that is to the point, it is the one where the "hot-stuff" happens, and Jake is the character who basically leads almost everyone's steps, although most of the times he is unaware of it and the game is structured in such a way as to (un)intentionally conceal it. When there is so much to do in the other three campaigns, it is inevitable that the main focus is lost, and Jake's story is considered on the same level of importance as the others - or less, even.

I could perfectly see an extended version of Jake's campaign, maybe with flashbacks of his childhood, his mercenary past and memories of his father, as the main game with all the other three stories as accompanying DLCs; and moreso since now we have more insight concerning certain of the characters involved.
The release of Resident Evil 2 remake put Leon and Claire's relationship in a new path. The emergence of a more than notable amount of fanart featuring the two of them as a "couple" after the remake, is on its own a strong proof of the impact that this unexpected but welcome change had. I don't know if this was done intentionally by the developers or it just happened randomly in the making of the game, but it looks like the remake simply highlighted what has always been there but the creators ignored, for some mysterious reason: Claire has always been the perfect choice of a female love interest for Leon, and not only because they look so good together on screen: Claire is the sister of Chris Redfield, a character as strong, charming and fascinating as Leon, and she has gone through a series of extremely dangerous adventures that she has carried out with impressive bravery and skill. So she is pretty much like Leon on that matter, their only difference being, up to a point, their social status: before Claire joins Terra Save, she is a civilian, while Leon is introduced to her as a police officer before he becomes a government agent. 
As much as I like Ada, I always felt that, excluding Resident Evil 2 where she made her first appearance, she was thrown in the stories mainly as a plot device and much less as an independent character. Although she did have her separate plots in Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 6 plus a small part in The Umbrella Chronicles, her mysterious and constantly vaguely explained (if at all) intentions seemed to be simply a cover-up for her real role: she was there as a distraction for Leon, acting the same way towards him every single time, secretly helping him in a way (although, in practice, her help was not really of much use, unless you take the infamous Rocket Launcher drop into consideration), and always disappearing in the end. Even in Damnation, the second of the CGI movies starring Leon, her role, albeit seemingly crucial, was in fact nothing more than a series of expected stunts; and although there is a mention at some point of "something" that she and Leon started but never finished, this stays in the air and, considering that Damnation took place just before Resident Evil 6, we cannot even be sure that it was indeed the real Ada in the movie, or if it was Carla, her evil "clone"; on the contrary, the story focused discreetly on Leon's connection with Alexander, something that became more and more obvious as the movie progressed, and especially in the finale.

Claire has always been there by Leon's side, obviously the ideal companion for him but constantly ignored by her own creators. Just think of Degeneration, the first CGI movie: Leon would flirt with Angela as if this was the only expected prospect for him, while Claire would again be his "buddy". Not surprisingly, this changed in the brand new series, Infinite Darkness, which came right after the Resident Evil 2 remake: you can definitely catch the undertones in the interactions between Leon and Claire, and although there is another female character in the story, Shen May, Leon has no romantic interest in her, nor her in him;  she seems to be quite smitten with the ill-fated Jason, although she expresses it a bit too late; and in fact the one who ends up fascinated with Leon is Patrick, the young agent whom Leon saves early on from the attack of a bloodthirsty zombie.
I have the impression that in their attempt to establish Ada as a main character in Resident Evil 6, the developers came up with the whole part involving Simmons's obsession with her which eventually led to the creation of her evil twin and his own tragic fate. Because this way, Ada would be essential for the story, and where she would simply appear and disappear again as a supporting character, like so many times before, instead she became the one who actually caused the evil mastermind's outrageous actions (albeit without her knowing), gaining more power as a character compared to her co-protagonists. This could have been an interesting standalone plotline, had Ada a game of her own. But in the whole context of Resident Evil 6, it is as if this specific story is there to minimize the importance of Jake's part and shift to Ada the focus that should have been all on him. In a different context, had the whole story been more elaborate and differently structured, Ada's "interlude" with Simmons could have been an ideal red herring. This basically means that if Simmons was "just" an evil guy without any interest in Ada, there would have been no need to create her clone; Carla would have simply been a genious-turned-crazy scientist (like Sherry's father), aiming at taking over the world (like Jake's father); and if Ada still appeared in the game, her role would have been very limited, and additionally Helena's story in the game would also have been unnecessary, at least as far as her sister's part was concerned. 

Chris's story, on the other hand, was more than strong enough to get a separate game on its own. For what it's worth, Chris deserved it. We have witnessed instances showing the strong bond that he shared with his comrades - like in the first game with Richard, for instance, but never before have we seen our beloved marksman in action with a group of soldiers under his command, until Resident Evil 6.

This was the first time that we saw him as a leader of his team, and his relationship with Piers was very intriguing, to say the least. Most of us have noticed the desperate subtle confession that Piers mutters to Chris at the tragic finale of the story, and how sad and devastated Chris is in the concluding scenes. It would have been extremely interesting if the ending was extended, and we, as Chris, could get to choose between two possible endings a-la Life is Strange with a dramatic "Save Piers or Save the world" kind of moral dilemma. I confess I would have chosen to save Piers without the slightest remorse.

Speaking of which - and this is something I have mentioned also in my review - I love the character development in this game, although now, after having replayed it recently, I wish it stood out a bit more. We see Helena becoming more compassionate thanks to Leon's influence; Jake ends up far less cynical thanks to Sherry, and Sherry gains more confidence in herself because of Jake; Chris gradually frees himself from the ghosts that haunt him thanks to Piers's support, while his unexpected meeting with Leon seems to play a highly important role in him admitting that he was indeed trying to hide from his past: Leon somehow connected him with his "original" self, the "legendary Chris Redfield" like Piers call him, since Leon came from a time in his life when everything was different. It is not random that it is after this specific encounter that he comes completely to his senses; and then bumping onto Jake, his archenemy's son, brings out his real, heroic and just character. Piers and Leon, for their own part, are by default positive and balancing characters, with their sense of duty and kind heart always showing, never losing their nerve and constantly being ready to face any situation with calm and insight. Only Ada seems to be totally detached throughout the whole story, just momentarily showing a hint of emotion during her meeting with Leon, and then going back again to her cold self. The sole moment when she really seems emotionally overwhelmed is at the end when she destroys Carla's lab; but this is probably due to the fact that Carla stealing her identity was something that personally affected her deeply.

What is more interesting, however, is that in spite of the presence of so many known characters, it is actually Leon who represents the spirit and essence of Resident Evil (the whole first chapter of his story is a tribute to classics like Resident Evil 2 and Nemesis), while at the same time being the link that connects all main characters: he personally knows Sherry, Chris and Ada and he is the one who sends Chris to rescue Jake and Sherry. Leon functions as an invariant in the Resident Evil saga, much more than the other classic characters, and this is something that becomes much more evident in Resident Evil 6, if you view the game with the distance of time and taking into consideration the power and gravity of Leon's presence and his emotional and intellectual development throughout the games.


Related articles: 

» Resident Evil 6 Review

» A Love Undercover

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