Published: Nov 16, 2016 12:00:00 PM

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Resident Evil 6 is Bad Movie: The Movie: The Video Game. It’s the big-budget Hollywood blockbuster avatar to an entire fiction-genre of trashy movie, squeezed into a greased-up video game sausage casing. It contains a challenging one-upsmanship that most games fear to wave genitals toward. Not Resident Evil 6, though, huffing with silvery machismo. It mutates each tendon, joint, and cell in its body to achieve maximum uniqueness from its contemporaries. Whether these mutations will protect Resident Evil 6 from the hard winters and blazing summers remains to be seen.

As of this writing, it’s been over 4 years since Resident Evil 6 was first released. Its sequel, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, is staged to be a first-person frightbox horror-crawl. Resident Evil 6 did not survive the winter.

\\\ Resident Evil 6 hates its gigantic, loyal audience of fans.

Resident Evil 6 is divided into four campaigns, with three available from the outset. They can be played in any order. This is somewhat unique, even within video games. As individual pieces, each campaign makes no narrative sense. Characters speak about events and locations as if they are factors the player should recognize without context. It resembles attending Thanksgiving with your Craigslist-roommate’s extended family. Accusations and burnt bird-skin are tossed as frequently as unknown names and memories. If you muster through Resident Evil 6 to your second chosen campaign—much like returning to the same family’s Thanksgiving a second time—context begins to erect itself around why you were blasting those particular undead idiots in the first campaign.

By the time you reach the third campaign of your choosing, it’s clear that the stories are interconnected, they are confusing, and that they are moronic worldwide gibberish. There is a thrill in not possessing the full story during the initial beats. It makes the character dialog more real, meaning they do not stop to exposit to one another like a story-character would. There is a thrill in having not one, not two, but SIX protagonists—something I’m sure the punny creators did on purpose to celebrate six mainline Resident Evil games. Six protagonists means there truly is enough room for the good guys to fight among each other whenever their paths cross. Even television shows and films boasting an ensemble cast still put Iron Man at the center of the movie poster. Resident Evil 6 does not put anyone at the center.

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That’s neat. That means the protagonists, Leon, Helena, Chris, Piers, Jake, Sherry, and eventually Ada, are beholden to the whims of no main protagonist. It’s Michael Bay’s Babel, which is a comparison for nobody.

Leon’s campaign opens with Leon wearing a jacket that is not as cool as his Resident Evil 4 jacket. His haircut is also bad and different. It’s the scratchy beard. It doesn’t work with his sarcastic, beautiful-man persona in Resident Evil 4. History students will note the original Devil May Cry was derived from an early failed attempt to create Resident Evil 4. This explains Leon’s charming Dante-esque swagger in that instance, an alchemy of the notorious hard-action Sith lord godfathers, Shinji Mikami and Hideki Kamiya, directors of Resident Evil 4 (and Vanquish) and Devil May Cry (and Bayonetta), respectively.

No, now, Leon is in a room, wearing a jacket, featuring unwise facial scraggle, with a zombie he doesn’t want to shoot. A yet-unrecognized woman hoisted by a restrictive-looking vest. Both she and Leon have guns drawn.

Leon begs with the zombie. “Mr. President,” he says before it lunges. He must fire to defend himself. “Adam!”

This scenario summons further questions, too numerous to list. Location, motivation, characters’ names and relationships to one another, all of it is tossed off. The answer to all of them is a term that high school sophomore English students are told is, “medias res.” You’re in the middle of it, buddy, try to keep up!

Yes, you are in the middle of it. It’s a goddarn worldwide biological war. Who is attacking whom? Never mind: it’s nighttime. Cellphones still work. America is full of guns, and bullets, and fire. You’re either Leon or his companion, Helena. Escape is the primary objective.

The walking-along intro is a tour through a focus-tested smile factory. A smile factory is where a multinational company designs and assembles smiles with machines. A lot of thought went into the introductory segment’s slowness. Slow, encouraging smiles coaxed from a friend explaining their wallpaper to an old high school crush, come to visit.

The slowness melts. All that remains is a cackling fleshstack. Resident Evil 6 invites you further down, down, down into its frantic cover-band architecture. Outside the city where you begin Leon’s misadventures with the viral outbreak is a graveyard with a cathedral at its center. You journey there. Underneath the cathedral is a laboratory. Underneath the laboratory is a sewer. Underneath the sewer is a catacomb. Underneath the catacomb is a prehistoric lake, falling down further into metamorphosed wildlife.

You will shoot the brains off of any jerk you encounter on your descent.

This all takes place beneath a Harvard University facsimile in a Cambridge, Massachusetts facsimile. Wishful thinking.

Some critics accused Resident Evil 6’s idiotic escalation to be, uh, idiotic escalation from the subdued idiocy in games past. If I were one of Resident Evil 6’s reportedly 600 salarymen neck deep in my own cigarette butts at Capcom developing this game, I would tilt back in my chair with a polished metal creak and say in a normal speaking voice, “I think we can go more idiotic.”

Resident Evil is corporate-weird. Japanese corporate-weird, yes, which is enough to get white folks to point and curl their brows as the internet’s many-faced facelessness has taught them. Resident Evil 6 lacks the impish weirdness of Resident Evil 4. The heroes aren’t as sarcastic. The horror isn’t as “other” because it is simply: zombie. The location isn’t horror because it isn’t caging, or remote, or dangerous in and of itself. The monsters here mere beasts with gigantic tongues that become humanoids. Why?

Go further. Go deeper. Go faster. Resident Evil 6 is such conservative, marital fucking.

Resident Evil 6 is a game that grew up wrong.

\\ Resident Evil 6 contains a trashy action control scheme.

The action’s stringy-friction resembles you, the player, controlling a man, controlling a Wii-remote to control the in-game gun. Like any good video game puppet, the scheme can be mastered. Leon’s campaign requires the least finesse, battling mainly your Georgia-standard zombie. Sometimes the zombies wear knight armor, if you’re in the catacombs. Sometimes the zombies are very fat. They are all nonetheless zombies.

There are extra dodges, dives, rolls, and kicks that would appear as a game-box bullet-point, if the game-box existed today. They make Resident Evil 6 into a subtle action-shooter. While it does not reach the quarterbacking virtuosity found in, say, Destiny, it carries more meat on its bones than your bog-standard pre-Titanfall first-person shooter. Most shooters only permit shooting, not-shooting, aiming, punching, crouching, and hopping.

Resident Evil 6’s characters dive, duck, slide, leap, lunge, roundhouse, skid, and freakin’ unload when they need to.

But, oh, if only Capcom had added Shinji Mikami’s immortal God Hand melee combat onto the standard aim-shoot guncraft. If only the dash had been mapped to double-tapping forward on the stick. If only the melee attack has been mapped to the triangle button. If only the circle button did ANYTHING instead of “look at your partner.” Hey, you have an entire control-stick mapped to “looking.” Furthermore, there is a constant on-screen indicator for where your partner is, as well as their distance from you, in meters.

The circle button doubles as a “cooperation” button for opening CERTAIN doors with your partner. This is to accommodate the two-player cooperative mode. It keeps the players near to one another. It prevents one from getting too far ahead without the other’s consent.

But there already is a “do” button: the x button. But the x button doubles as the sprint and open-door button. These particular doors are the ones opened with x, mind. In a game where there are three buttons responsible for menu-related actions, there are two buttons for opening doors, depending on the doors, and something has gone wrong.

Resident Evil 6 has 3 “menu” buttons: triangle, select, and the directional-pad for quick-selecting weapons or items from an icon-list. That is too many. Something has gone wrong. The game never pauses when you look at inventory, again a concession for the cooperative mode, which is fine, but the twin-excuse for this constant danger and lacking pause-menu safety is likely another smoke-lunged muttering from a developer, “we wanted to maintain the tension for the player.”

If so, then reduce the need for quite so much menu navigation that players must move between 3 potential buttons to interact with inventory. The game is lopsided and over-designed in this regard.

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This is an action game. Five buttons on a 16-button controller are taken up by actions that aren’t “fun.” That is the game telling you one third of the game will not be fun. Instead, these button-strokes are necessary to keep the gargantuan vessel afloat, perhaps, but they aren’t ACTION. Why is the game’s “shoot” button (R2, after aiming with L2) also the “attack” button (when L2 is not held)? They have to double-up? I do admire the standard-transmission stick-shiftiness for achieving certain actions in games, but nothing else in Resident Evil 6 resembles driving a pickup truck. Nothing else in the game trusts the player this much. Can baby not be trusted when clawing for destruction?

No, baby cannot be trusted. The result is mistreatment and confusion.

The result is a game that demands a trumpet-player’s grip for certain maneuvers. Hold the stick forward, run with the x button, and press L2 to lower your character into a butt-slide. Make no mistake, this is a freaking rad move, man. It is the world’s second-best slide-move, just behind the Resident Evil’s unassailable cousin-game, Vanquish. During the slide, you are free to aim with the right stick and fire your weapon with R2.

Still, I have never been more wistful for Max Payne 3 than I was while playing Resident Evil 6 because Max Payne 3 is not an action game where five buttons are devoted to opening doors and sorting inventory. This topic shall be pursued no further.

The puppet mastery is there, though. You are free to flick the left stick down, press x, and L2, resulting in a backward fall out of harm’s way. Safe for a heartbeat, your character falls to his or her back. You are “aiming” throughout this action and encouraged to blast your moronic opponents full of daylight.

Trouble is, the muscle memory and situational necessity for these lunges for safety are minimal. Your weapon crosshairs in Resident Evil 6 aren’t built for long-range opponents and any threat who might strike you with a close range attack requiring such a dodge can literally be counterattacked with proper timing, again from the same danged R2 button.

Perhaps the developers anticipated accidental counterattacks when baby blasts on the usual attack button?

The result is, again, my question: why, oh, why, didn’t they stitch the God Hand melee smash-punches to the Resident Evil 4 pop-aim-fire shooting?

Because Gears of War exists. Because of anxiety. Because of market research. Because being beholden to a million and one masters is a brutal way to live and that is the only Resident Evil 6 could exist, growing and growing, up, down, sideways, inward, and elsewhere.

It’s a unique game. It’s special nonsense.

\ Resident Evil 6 is special nonsense.

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Take, for example, how Resident Evil 6 approaches cover-based shooting. You will face more shooting and Call of Duty-inspired military shootouts In Chris and Piers’ campaign. First, you fight camo fatigue-wearing guys with machetes. They have ornamental Chinese masks over their faces. Shoot their masks off to reveal spider eyeball clusters slathered across their foreheads. Shoot their arms and there’s a chance they will lose the arm, only to have it replaced with an impossible, mutated freak-limb resembling skinned roadkill. These mutations are the game’s design. They are what make Resident Evil 6’s special video game nonsense so special.

More mutations burst from your shotgun-surgeries. Grasshopper legs sprouting from enemies, good for jumping up to higher ground where you thought you had a tactical advantage. Entire house-fly bodies rupturing from lower torsos, good for circling around behind you. Eight-legged spider bodies pop in a similar fashion, permitting enemies to crawl on walls and ceilings, choking the already-narrow corridors of Chinese tenements with more panicked, skittery gun-wielding psychos. The aforementioned freak-limb mutation can be used to snatch your character out from behind the precious cover that video game vocabulary has taught players is near-invincibility.

It is, of course, frictionless. There is no stick, as they say. You can tell Capcom put a lot of light and magic into the Resident Evil 6 show. It does not amount to the spectacular Hollywood automobile chase it aspires to though. It barely becomes a auto-show, packed with concept cars, tweaking and parroting the industry norms, all while hoping nobody checks under the hood to notice there's no engine beneath all that bizarre gloss and international chic.

-- Alex Crumb
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