Resident Evil 6

Tuesday 4 October 2016

The latest main installment of the Resident Evil series (not counting Revelations 2, which is typically a side game) is a powerful and substantial game with a cinematic feel and aesthetics; maybe not the perfection that Resident Evil 4 was, but still it is very close to that. There is action, adventure, zombies, puzzles, melodrama - a little bit of everything. Resident Evil 6 is a gloomy and eery epic story which has the world directly threatened by a terrifying virus that turns people into zombies (which is the best case scenario) or causes monstrous irreversible mutations. There seem to be several people involved in this, and there are quite a few individual stories connected as well. Solving the mysteries and getting to the end won't be an easy task.

We get to play as three of our long-known and favourite characters (Leon Kennedy, Chris Redfield and Ada Wong) plus a new addition to the saga, which is Jake Muller, Wesker's son. As an alternative, you can also play the three main campaigns (Leon, Chris and Jake) with the characters' partners (Helena Harper, Piers Nivans and Sherry Birkin), which is recommended as the experience is very different with them.

The story of the game is divided in four main sub-stories, and at some point theses stories intersect. As a result, there are a few stages that you have to go through more than once (ie, you have to fight a certain boss with Leon and then with Ada, or a couple of mini bosses with Chris and then with Jake). This may get slightly boring after some time, and there's a possibility that these particular stages may feel like a chore. However this doesn't really take the fun away, if you think about it, because with each character you may have to apply slightly different strategies and this is very interesting and enjoyable.

The plot revolves around the attempts of a secret organization to gain power over the world via bio-terrorism while at the same tame tracking down the carrier of an antibody which is the key to defeat the C-virus. There are several parties involved in this plot, and each one of the lead characters and their partners have a special role in this case.

Leon Kennedy is at the Tall Oaks University with the President of the USA in the visitors room when the latter turns into zombie. The only other human in the room is a young woman, Helena Harper, whom Leon saves as the zombiefied President is about to attack her, by shooting him dead. It turns out that Helena is a secret agent and was supposed to be in the President's personal security team. Seeing the President dead, she gets devastated, bursts into tears and insists that Leon follows her to the Tall Oaks Cathedral where a revealing secret lies.

The two of them have to cross the zombie-infested campus, the subway and the town before they are able to reach the church. They locate an underground laboratory there which leads to an altar of sorts where they find someone very close to Helena. Unfortunately said someone has been infected already and becomes a monster, so they have no other choice than shoot and kill.

Now that Leon knows all about Helena's involuntary involvement in the Tall Oaks incident, he agrees to help her and they start a journey to track down the man who planned all this, Derek Simmons, who happens to be the National Security Advisor. He is also member of The Family, a secret organization that plans to control the whole world using bio-terrorism as a means. After going through a series of adventures, Leon and Helena end up in China, where they will have to fight Simmons several times until they defeat him.

Meanwhile, Chris Redfield and his team are in China, where a bio-terror attack has taken place, and they are rushing to a building where mutated soldiers are holding UN workers as hostages. After the mission ends successfully, Chris has a flashback from six months back when he and his soldiers were in war-torn Edonia (an imaginary country of Eastern Europe) fighting against the same kind of mutated soldiers, as well as monsters of several types. There, a mysterious woman who introduced herself as Ada Wong, offered to help them out but in fact what she did was to lead them into a trap resulting in nearly all of the soldiers getting infected and mutated. This was a huge shock for Chris, causing him partial amnesia, and putting him outside the field for six months.

Back to the present, Chris is starting to slowly remember all the things that he had pushed back while moving on with the rest of team to locate Ada Wong. Among his men, and more like his right-hand man, is Piers Nivans, a gifted young soldier who is very loyal to Chris and cares a lot about him. Piers always talks sense and is there to hold Chris back when he goes too far.

During the course of the campaign, Chris bumps onto Ada once again, and this time too she leads another soldier to infection and mutation, which makes Chris want to chase her down more than ever. However, as it turns out, things are much more serious than they already seem, and the well-organized plot involves many parties and has several targets as well. After meeting with familiar faces and getting to know new ones, Chris and Piers get face to face with the most apalling and dangerous monster. The fight against it isn't a fair one, and when it's over nothing will be the same again.

Jake Muller is a new character introduced in the series, but he is not irrelevant; being Albert Wesker's son, he is more connected to the saga than many others. He isn't aware of this, however, and he is working as a highly paid mercenary. While doing his duties in Edonia, he meets Sherry Birkin who has come to recruit him. Sherry is the very known little girl from Resident Evil 2, who has now grown up and become an agent. Her boss sent her to find Jake, as he is the carrier of an antibody that could exterminate the C-virus.

Jake and Sherry don't seem to get along that well at first, but somehow they manage to co-operate and as it turns out, they have more things in common than they suspect. One thing, for example, is that they are both children of the people who were responsible for the Raccoon City incident years ago. Another is that they both have antibodies that make them immune to specific viruses and infections.

While struggling to make it alive in the hostile mountains of Edonia, they get trapped and kidnapped by Ada Wong. Or, at least, the woman who introduces herself with that name, because if you know Ada from the previous games, it's hard to believe that she could actually act and talk like that. This new Ada is a ruthless woman who wants to take advantage of Jake's antibodies so as to make the C-virus stronger for her own benefit. She has Jake and Sherry sent to a facility in China, where they are held for six months, subjected to experiments and painful medical examinations that test their precious antibodies, before they finally manage to escape.

During their journey, and as everybody seems to be chasing them with all sorts of means - monsters, tanks, choppers, soldiers and more, it is, at some point, revealed to Sherry that her boss (who, by the way, is - surprise, surprise - Derek Simmons) doesn't want Jake so as to use his antibody for a good cause, but in fact he wants to exterminate him, so as to ensure that no cure for the virus will ever be found.

The two of them have to go through lots of tough situations and dangers until they finally defeat their Nemesis, a persistent monster that was sent to track down Jake and had been chasing them all along. By the end of their story, both of them are changed for the better and their future seems bright and promising.

Ada Wong makes an appearance in all three campaigns, but her role remains a mystery until you get to play her part. In her story, we accompany her as she chases down Simmons, wanting to find clues and proof that will highlight her innocence and point out the real guilty ones. It is revealed that Simmons was obsessed with Ada, and because he couldn't have her, it dawned on him that he could make a clone of her. He had the idea but could not realize this plan on his own, so he recruited Carla Radames, a gifted scientist, to do the experiments and all the hard medical work for his sake.

After Carla and her team tested several possible candidates with no success, Simmons found out by chance that the best matching subject was Carla herself, and forced her team to secretly carry out the experiment on her. What Simmons hadn't foreseen was that Carla had meanwhile fallen in love with him, and naturally became outraged when she eventually realized what was going on behind her back. Since it was too late to stop the experiment, and as she had her own power trip issuels, she took advantage of the new situation and set off to realize her evil plan to rake her revenge on Simmons and the real Ada.

All this time, the real Ada is constantly being chased by Chris who still doesn't know the truth. Ada meets with all the other characters in several instances, helping them out or simply crossing paths, and eventually, after having put together most pieces of the puzzle, she comes face to face with Simmons and fights him - not without a little help from her friends. The truth is revealed, but her identity and her essential role still stay undisclosed.

Unlike the bad partner programming in Resident Evil 5, in this game the partners never cause you problems, they have their own inventory and they come to your rescue whenever you need them. But overall the gameplay is excellent anyway; each character has their own fighting style, others are quicker (Leon, Piers) others have better melee (Helena, Sherry, Jake) or are great at going stealthy (Ada).

There are four main difficulty levels, ranging from piece-of-cake kind of easy (Amateur) to really tough stuff (Professional) plus an additional extra hard mode (No Hope) which is basically of the Professional level, but without any perks and skills.

Atmosphere-wise, each campaign has a different feel, and develops with a different action, rhythm and style. Leon's campaign is a strong reminiscent of the classic Resident Evil games, with all the zombies infesting the towns, the labs, the cemeteries and the cities and what not (there is even a police car to make your escape, and the - almost always present in zombie-themed stories - gas station in the first chapter). The depiction of the zombie-infested town in the first section in particular is so effective in its mystery and gloominess that, despite its creepy setting, it's pure enjoyment to play.

Chris's campaign on the other hand has a dominant feeling of war, mostly due to the overwhelming flashback. Chris is a Captain in his team, his duties are very specific and he has to be extremely tough in his command. As a consequence, his story also shares these elements and it's an action-packed episode which I think is the most difficult of the game. Nevertheless, there are a few very touching moments in this story; not to mention the immersive finale, guaranteed to break your heart.

Jake's campaign is a refreshing change of pace with him and Sherry being constantly on the run. First they have to run away from the war torn Edonia, then escape from the Research Facility where they were imprisoned, and later make it safe from the hideous enemy that is aparently undead and is constantly one step behind them and who will insist on chasing them till the end. Jake and Sherry both change a lot during their adventure, each of them affecting the other in a rather positive way.

Ada's campaign is a lonely journey of our lady spy (well, unless you play co-op in which case you have a nameless and speechless soldier for partner) through most of the places that we have seen with the other characters. Her story is more brief but doesn't lack interest and challenge.

Gameplay-wise, everything works perfectly; however there are a couple of situations and quick-time events that may cause issues. I don't know if these are bugs or something random, but I found out that in these cases fiddling with the screen resolution and/or the FPS fixes the problem.

Other than that, the game is almost flawless; each character has unique melee attacks and counter attacks and a special weapon or fighting skill, and there's decent variety in weaponry as well. There are also many moves, other attacks and finishing moves that you can perform, plus the amazing quick-shot, which can be executed in different styles and ways depending on the character you are playing with. However the game is not so generous with ammo, which makes it significantly more demanding in this light.

Resident Evil 6 features the first time ever on-screen meeting of Leon and Chris. Although unfortunately we don't have gameplay time with them together, we do get to see them in a cutscene which even involves an epic hand 2 hand fight, and have the chance later to watch them discussing a few times over their headsets.

As Leon, you also have the chance to play with Ada a couple of times, and vice-versa, albeit the sequences are brief. Additionally, at some point, as Ada, if something goes wrong, you spend a few seconds of on-screen action with Chris, although this is always Mission Failed for Ada.

The character design is gorgeous, with realistic expressions and wonderfully designed moves. The models of Chris and Leon are among the most beautiful ones of the two characters; Ada is fine, although her Resident Evil 4 version is generally better. The new characters are very nicely designed, and I particularly liked how Jake was made to resemble Wesker without actually looking like him - a random look, a smirk, the general aura, smaller and bigger details about him that bring his notorious father to mind.

There is interesting and in-depth character development, though it may not be easily appreciated on first look. We see aspects of the characters we know that we had never seen before, like when Ada feels compassion for the survivors on the rooftops and rushes to help them or when she gets really mad at Simmons and his plans; or like when Chris is in total despair when a soldier dies; and not to mention of course the heart-breaking finale of his campaign. For almost everyone there is a twist, bigger or smaller, that seems to change their lives forever.

Leon seems to be the one less affected in this sense, but this is actually a bit misleading if you stay on the surface of the events. If you pay more attention to the plot and its details, you will see that his attitude and feeling of solidarity towards anyone who is in need, are what in fact slowly make Helena change her views and become less self-centered and more compassionate. In that light, his character is much stronger than it seems.

Some observant fans may also notice subtle references to older games, ie: Leon has his fringe covering most of his right cheek to hide the scar that was caused by Jack Krauser's knife in Resident Evil 4 (you can even see the scar in plain view in some cutscenes); Jake was a mercenary in South America, just like Krauser in the Darkside Chronicles; and several others that may require a more thorough playthrough to be discovered.

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