What’s With All the Dismal Resident Evil 6 Reviews?

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Resident Evil 6 is in a pickle, caught in a narrow, lightless corridor of its own design and swarmed by critics using words like hacked off limbs to bludgeon it into Metacritic mediocrity.

I’m probably exaggerating a little. It’s still averaging in the seventies on PS3, or as Metacritic puts it, “generally favorable reviews” (it’s in the sixties on the Xbox 360). Magazines with “official” and “informer” in their names seem to like it well enough.

Not so, with others like GameSpot:

With Resident Evil 6, a once-mighty series makes another stumble. From a production standpoint, this atmospheric third-person shooter (this is no survival horror game, certainly) hits a number of high notes, weaving multiple stories into a single narrative that you untangle from different perspectives. It’s unfortunate that actually interacting with Resident Evil 6 is an excruciating chore. This is a wannabe action film that resents your interference, and punishes you by forcing one horrible quick-time event after another upon you.

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Or this from Joystiq:

The problem isn’t that Resident Evil is changing direction over time. No, it wants to go in all directions at once. It wants the creeping pace and the hectic shootouts, and the blockbuster set pieces, the vehicle chases, the resource management, the hand-to-hand combat, the online co-op, the drama, and the extravagant boss fights. You might not fault Resident Evil 6 for its attempt to be an action game for all, but there’s no choice but to speak up when the overall result feels unpolished and scatterbrained. It’s chaos.

Or my favorite of the bunch (because as usual, it’s the most interesting) at Quarter to Three:

“This is just like Raccoon City all over again,” someone says in Resident Evil 6. I’m not sure who it was. Chris? Leon? Doug? Kevin? But when someone invoked Raccoon City, the place where the series was bogged down for so long before breaking out into Spain, Africa, and decent gameplay, I couldn’t have agreed more. Yes, this is just like Raccoon City all over again: stilted, awkward, ridiculous, embarrassing, tedious. Except for the parts where it’s like Call of Duty, which are equally stilted, awkward, ridiculous, embarrassing, and tedious, but with more NPC soldiers milling about. Resident Evil 6 is thoroughly oblivious to so many of the things that make a good game these days.

I haven’t finished the game — I’m traveling with a two-month-old, and XCOM just showed up — but I’m pretty meh about the whole affair so far.

I was never really into the early Resident Evil games — the controls were a mess. But Resident Evil 4 was a fascinating, freak-filled vehicle for head-popping, twitchy crowd-control free-for-alls. Then Resident Evil 5 let in the sun, iterated the game’s action vocabulary and gave your companion a slightly more full head of brains.

Resident Evil 6, by comparison, feels like director Eiichiro Sasaki’s idea of a Michael Bay movie, all the eeriness and occasional goofery shorn away, replaced by characters that ask questions like “You’re not a fan of sewers?” and take the time to clothesline zombies. After shooting, spin-kicking and pipe-smacking your way through this or that shambling scrum, you’ll walk into an eldritch-lit room, prompting your companion to deadpan “Something feels wrong here.” Is that meant to be ironic? I can’t tell, because RE6 is at once earnest and stultifying.

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Or take the game’s intro sequence, which you play before reaching the selectable campaign menu. I imagine the design consult went something like this:

“We want zombies, guns, cars, explosions, soldiers and a helicopter in a vaguely city-like city.”

“Fine, excellent.”

“We want Leon hanging off the helicopter skids with a zombie dangling from his leg.”


“We want him to shake off the zombie, climb into the helicopter, man the controls and barely save it from spinning to the ground while at the same time shooting a zombie that’s attacking Helena. We want the helicopter to sideswipe a train, crash first into, then through an entire building, pop out the other side and plunge into a tower.”

“Go with this, go with this…”

“We want Leon and Helena to fall from the wreckage, turn to see it suspended above them, then dash out of the way just as it lets go, plummeting through a glass floor to squash a swarm of zombies below.”

“Brilliant! Maverick! Incroyable!”

It’s exhausting just typing that, but it’s the sort of ridiculous cinema RE6 uses to punctuate its trademark corridor-shuffle, as you creep down hallways blocked by thoroughly impassable objects — like a couch. Where you’re forced through a door into a side room with zombies that only spring to life after you’ve crossed an invisible tripwire. Where you’ll emerge moments later in the same hallway — on the other side of the couch.

Where’s Tom Cruise when you need him to show you how couches work?

In the meantime, you have RE6 producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi with this interesting response on the PlayStation blog to the question “Is it frustrating trying to keep [the Resident Evil fan base] happy?”:

The way I always think of it is that if Resident Evil represents a child, then the fans and us as creators are the two parents. The resulting games are like the children that are born between both of us. And just like real parents, you’re not always going to agree on what is best for raising that child.

Now, we do always have our ear to the ground and listen to what the fans are saying and we try to take that into account when we’re making the game. But it’s our job to create a new gaming experience and to offer them something that’s fresh and challenging. We want to make sure that what we do pleases them but the initial reaction might not always be positive. We do listen to the fans but we can’t be beholden to them at every turn or I don’t think we’ll ever make progress in terms of the series’ development.

So in Kobayashi’s mind, RE6 represents “progress.” What say you, RE6 players?

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