Something that may come as a shock to the readers of this site: I enjoy playing video games. After sitting down and putting some thought to it, of the video games I enjoy, I’ve realized that my favorite series is Resident Evil. I love all of them, and even have a soft spot for the bad ones. Resident Evil 6 is widely considered a bad one. It’s even arguably considered to be the worst one. The purpose of this post is to both agree with this assessment, and also wildly disagree with it. This sounds confusing, I know. Do I like Resident Evil 6? Do I hate Resident Evil 6? The answer is yes.
I think I should start by talking about the context in which RE6 was made and exists in. RE6 came about during a weird time in Capcom’s history; actually, a weird time in Japanese game industry history. The “HD” era, with the success of the XBox 360, and the belated success of the PS3. Suddenly, games became bigger, more expensive to make, took longer to make, and in some cases, were harder to make. The old ways of coding a game engine from scratch, then building a game around it was not sustainable, and middleware sources like Unreal didn’t have resources for Japanese developers to use. At the same time, there was this really shitty, uncomfortable time in games “journalism” (ALWAYS TAKING SHOTS AT GAMES JOURNOS FUCK YOU) where you had multiple (white, male) critics putting the Japanese industry on blast. The Japanese were always second place to “The West.” A single level in Gears of War was now considered better than an entire decade of another countries’ output. Final Fantasy XIII was literally the worst game of all time. You had guys like Phil Fish feeling emboldened enough to tell Japanese devs, to their faces, “your games suck.” Basically, there was a time where people were paid cash money to say, “white people are better at making games than the Japanese.” It sucked.
Now, when you are a Japanese game developer, even one as large as Capcom, you still need that international exposure and acclaim, since that also equals money. As such, there were a lot of games that were made specifically so that Americans, especially those who were crying at the ending of fucking Fallout 3 of all things, would like them. I hate to say it, but a lot of these were not very good; I might be a big fan/apologist for From Software, but I’m not going to pretend that Ninja Blade was anything more than a terrible idea. To their credit, Capcom did end up taking this whole situation and making RE6’s prequel, Resident Evil 5. RE5 was huge. It was (still is) impressive on a graphical level. It had online co-op (also forgot: this was during a time where you had professional clown/thin-skinned transphobe Adam Sessler asking, “does it have online co-op?” to literally every developer at E3) It was a loud, explosive shooter staring a buff dude with guns. It was racist as fuck. All the things that could ever appeal to Americans, it did.
And…it worked! It was Capcom’s highest selling game ever, up until the release of Monster Hunter World. While Capcom was counting their money, there was a subset of fans that wished for Resident Evil to “return to form.” Go back to the days when Resident Evil was only kind of an over-the-top action game, rather than a full-blown Michael Bay movie. Bring back the horror.
Now, this post is already sort of a 600 word aside, but I think I need to take one more: Resident Evil has ALWAYS been an action game. Silent Hill is a horror game. Resident Evil is a series where highly-trained super cops use a rocket launcher to blow up a large, hulking monster. Hell, the original concept for Resident Evil 1 was a two-player co-op shooter where you played as cybernetically-enhanced soldiers shooting at zombies created by a mad scientist. It has always been fucking stupid. This is one of the reasons why I love it.
Anyways, enough ranting. People wanted either “horror” or, like me, more emphasis on exploring a large building and having to worry about ammo. Keep in mind, despite RE5’s popularity, the world at large was still very much in “Fuck Japan” mode. The only thing that had changed during the development time of RE6 was that the world went into “Fuck Japan, except for Dark Souls, which is now the only game that has ever existed” mode. Capcom was still aiming for acceptance, like this large company was a bullied, unloved child.
ACTUALLY TALKING ABOUT RESIDENT EVIL 6 NOW
The thing about Resident Evil 6, and why it got so fucking ravaged in reviews, is simple: it wanted to do everything, and accomplished nothing. It wanted the old-school style of looking for keys and emblems to fit into perfectly shaped holes. But it also wanted the frenetic action of RE5. But it also wanted a combination of the two, while you were being chased by a large, invincible monster like in RE2 and RE3. It wanted to be a big fan-servicey thing that brought back old beloved characters. But it also wanted to bring in a whole host of new characters to lead Resident Evil into the next generation.
As a result of this, RE6 is all over the place. There’s no real identity. Leon Kennedy’s story campaign involves methodically searching for keys while shooting a large horde of zombies in-between. Chris Redfield’s campaign is straight up Call of Duty but now with zombies (wait, fuck). Sherry Birkin’s campaign is a combination of the two, but now you have to contend with being stalked by something that looks like a 90s Image Comics character. Even with all these differences, they all meld into bang-bang shooty game by the end. Now, I’m not someone who has an aversion to shooters, or even games that are repetitive, but the thing about RE6 is that it does all these in a really boring way. Levels are not very well designed, and the set pieces are really generic and cliched. Doesn’t help that each campaign is about a million hours long. Right, RE6’s length is fucking ridiculous; in the time it takes to get half-way through a single campaign, you could finish about two actual Resident Evil games. It’s way too long, way too boring, and the story itself sucks so bad.
The thing about Resident Evil is that no matter how ridiculous it got, or how simplistic its delivery is, it was consistent. There really wasn’t a whole lot in the way of plot holes. At its heart, Resident Evil is a commentary on capitalistic greed and the fallout of Unit 731. It’s about a corporation that performs cruel experiments on people, and get away with it because they have friends in high places. Resident Evil 6 says fuck all this. Fuck it, Wesker has an adult son who inherited his super-strength, even though the timeline of events doesn’t match up (his son Jake was born in 1992, and Wesker didn’t inject and then gain his T-Virus abilities until 1998), let alone Wesker actually settling down to have a child with someone in the first place. There are now secret societies that run the world like supervillains, rather than the much more relatable story of “big corporation does shitty thing that kills people.” It’s a lot easier to hate Tesla and Amazon than the Illuminati. Ada Wong has a clone now, solely created because Evil Illuminati Man responsible for everything going to shit in RE6 was horny for her, and she told him no. Yes, really. A viral outbreak occurs in three different parts of the world because an incel couldn’t take rejection. At least the body horror element that Resident Evil is so good at is still very much awesome here. When I complained about the RE2 Remake, I mentioned that killing things that were once human or animal is where the real horror lies.
These new characters are also pretty bad too. You have Jake, the aforementioned son of Wesker, who fills the role of “bald white guy who makes wisecracks” that every fucking game of the era needed. There’s Piers Nivans, the closest thing to a good character, as he was originally created for a Resident Evil manga, and therefore had effort put in to give him a personality and a design that isn’t dogshit. Then there’s Helena Harper. Fuck me, she is bad. Someone at Capcom really needed a character that managed to be both a complete idiot and a complete bitch at once. She spends a good chunk of the game acting untrustworthy, being evasive around Leon, while also lecturing and chastising him for stopping to help people. It’s clear that Helena knows more than a few things about the current viral outbreak, but refuses to straight up tell Leon “hey, some high-ranking dudes in the government are experimenting on people, including my sister,” despite that fact that she knows who Leon is, and therefore knows that he has dealt with the threat of bio-terrorism at least twice already. So she goes this whole time looking guilty as fuck, but then still telling Leon off for pulling a zombie off an elderly woman. It makes no sense.
Really, that’s all there is to it to RE6’s campaign. It’s long, boring, and badly written. An attempt at pleasing everyone that ultimately pleased nobody.
Now, you might be reading this and thinking, “okay Ramona, you said in the title that Resident Evil 6 was good. What the fuck?” This is where the second part of my critique comes in.
You see, Capcom royally fucked up here. They put all this attention and marketing towards this bull shit story that sucks. Understandably, a lot of players and reviewers would have given up during the story or after finishing it. The Resident Evil 6 Campaign is bad, true. But there is a tab on the main menu called “Extra Content.” This is where RE6 shines.
RE6’s Mercenaries mode is not only the best iteration of that mode in the entire series, it easily could have been sold as its own half-priced digital title, and been a great game by itself. What fucking kills me here is that there are entire game mechanics at play here that you can go through the entire campaign never actually using. Running, diving, melee, counter attacking. Every character is different in some way, whether it be loadout or ability. The story is designed to be this shitty third-person cover-based shooter, while Mercenaries is this frenetic, intense arcade game that encourages you to be directly in the face of the enemy, taking the fight to them in order to build that combo meter and raise that high score, all set to this pulse-pounding jam. You could be forgiven for not knowing there was a third melee finisher in the game, because the main game sure as fuck wasn’t going to tell you.
No joke, I dedicated an entire Summer to playing Mercenaries. I would come home from work, load up the PS3, and kill zombies with a rando for a good few hours. It is a very compelling mode. This experience alone made up for the million hour story that I had to suffer through to get a few of the unlockables.
And it’s not just Mercs, either. The other extra modes are well worth the cost of the game. Sucks that they were originally paid DLC. I don’t have any screenshots of them, as trying to find people playing RE6 online in 2021 is uhh, impossible. Onslaught Mode is the best of the non-Merc bunch, as it is Competitive Mercenaries. It’s Resident Evil, with the mechanics of a Puyo Puyo or a Twinkle Star Sprites; shooting shit, and making more shit appear on your opponents’ screen. Versus Mode is…not so great, as I don’t think Resident Evil is designed around PvP. Predator mode is pretty cool: a 5v1 versus mode where the 1 is Ustanak, the super-powered monster that chases Sherry and Jake. Siege mode is fun if you’re the kind of person who liked Left 4 Dead’s Versus mode, as it is more or less literally that: a team of protagonists vs a team of the game’s standard enemies. I used to get up pretty early in the morning and play Siege with Japanese players, before starting my day. That was a great experience, as you got to have fun with a bunch of people that weren’t yelling out racial slurs and (never an “or”) being shit at the game. A middle-aged Japanese woman yelling out encouragement while you’re on the verge of a comeback is an experience and a memory I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
That’s what’s so fucked about RE6. There is a great game here, but it is hidden behind a massive wall of bull shit. You have this terribly thought-out digital checklist of shit that will appeal to the mainstream that absolutely fails, which will then turn off people from wanting to see what is one of the best meta-games of the last generation lying beneath the surface. It’s sad. I was thinking about playing with players in Japan, and the occasional non-dickhead here in the states, and got sad. A lot of people never got to experience that, and seeing as how the most recent version of RE6 is a garbage port for the Switch, they probably never will. And that’s the biggest tragedy of all.