It’s hard to believe that Resident Evil 6 is almost upon us. In less than two weeks the newest chapter of Capcom’s beloved survival action horror franchise comes home, promising a global outbreak of hopelessness, mystery, and massive explosions. To get us ready for the C-Virus-fueled pandemic, Capcom has released a public demo of the game. And after playing through each of its three Campaign samplings, I’m happy to report that the end of the world looks like it’s going to be an eclectic ride of genre mixing.
The Leon and Helena Campaign demo harkens back to Resident Evil’s roots. You’re inside a tight, dimly lit college campus space where any number of creatures can jump out at you. Unfortunately, they don’t. I would have loved a few suspenseful jump scares, but instead the game takes the time to reintroduce players to some of the more traditional slow, shambling zombies from older Resident Evil games. Once you start fighting the later enemies in the other Campaigns, you may learn to appreciate these guys. The camera is a little jarring at first, and a bit too close to your character, which can make it tricky to see portions of the screen. Fortunately you can always maneuver the camera, so visibility isn’t a lost cause. There wasn’t much suspense until the very end of the demo, when Leon and Helena are trying to get away from a horde of approaching zombies and the player has to actively search for a car key while sitting inside of a police car. Unfortunately Leon turns out to be a terrible driver and wrecks the car moments after he gets behind the wheel, and the demo ends as he and Helena hop into an open sewer.
Chris and Piers’s Campaign demo felt reminiscent of Call of Duty. The tactical, military presentation of your mission, as well as the settings and enemies felt a little out of place for a Resident Evil game. Piers is a perfectly bland Chris clone, while Chris is his usual “focus on the mission” self. Everyone I encountered throughout the demo kind of blended together, and there were a few instances where I mistook my enemies for my teammates. If not for the massive, gruesome B.O.W. that showed up halfway through the level, I would swear I was playing a military shooter.
In my opinion, Jake and Sherry’s Campaign demo best showcases what Resident Evil 6 brings to the table. From the first moment we meet him Jake is a mouthy smartass that spouts off one-liners, but he exudes more personality in those first few minutes than all of the other characters combined. It’s also really neat to see Sherry return as a playable character. Once you get into the game and cycle through your inventory you see that Jake has a lot of weapons at his disposal, but one option that is unique to him is hand-to-hand combat. As I ventured through Jake and Sherry’s Campaign demo and encountered a nice sample of the game’s infected, it was a lot of fun to dispose of them in a variety of ways. And unlike the other campaign demos, which ended with a fizzle, Jake and Sherry’s demo ends just after a bizarre B.O.W. boss with a chainsaw-like arm drops down to fight. It made me want to play more of the game.
Resident Evil 6 has a few new features I really liked. Because each of the game’s Campaigns is designed with certain elements in mind, each set of characters has their own distinct HUD and menu layouts. The Character Select screen seems to take inspiration from Batman: Arkham City’s menus. Some of the guns allow you to switch between automatic or single-shot firing modes, and one of Jake’s guns actually had a mounted grenade launcher. All of the game’s special kills are fun to watch. I found a zombie who had a knife stuck into his chest and was able to take that knife and stick it in his skull to finish him off. I was able to crush the head of a zombie that was crawling along the floor. Having the ability to sprint is really useful, especially when you need to get some distance between groups of enemies. Skill points are a new way to customize your experience, and I’m eager to see what kinds of effects they’ll have in the final game. Hidden targets return in Resident Evil 6, this time in the form of shiny aqua disks. I expect they’ll serve to unlock weapons or costumes, as in previous games.
There are a few interesting new ways you can interact with the game’s environments across all of the Campaigns. If you run into a wall, your character will collide with it and raise their hands to stop themselves. You can stumble over any corpses that litter the ground. You can switch your dominant hand, as well as the position of the HUD whenever you feel like it. You can slide over crates and climb under and onto many objects, and while sprinting your character will jump over objects automatically. When you come across one of the buddy doors, a door that can only be opened by both players, if you are the first one to initiate the sequence you can not only call to your partner, but by holding the B button you can actually cut to the other player and follow them as they catch up to you. Similar to Resident Evil 5, the buddy doors prevent you from getting too far ahead of your partner.
One thing I could not do in the demo, which I expect will be in the full game, was trade weapons, items, and ammo with my partner. There was a time where my partner was near death and I couldn’t heal her until she was actually on the ground, about to die. But it is kind of amusing to watch the characters feed each other the new herb pills while they’re being resuscitated.
I have been looking forward to playing Resident Evil 6 since it was announced, and now that I’ve had the opportunity to run through a few of its stages I can’t wait to see how the full game turns out.