Why do you do this to me Capcom? I want to love Resident Evil 6, but it has reached the stage that I am starting to doubt myself; perhaps I have been suffering from Stockholm syndrome for the last ten years. As the series has transitioned from survival horror, to action horror, to action game I have done my best to always find the core of what I enjoyed about the first game. Now though I see that I have to let go, as with Resident Evil 6 I concede that nearly all of what I loved about the original is gone.
I should clarify that it isn’t that I find Resident Evil 6 bad (though popular opinion suggests I may be in the minority), just that it has abandoned what I loved about the franchise; tense gameplay and B-movie story. The franchise’s edging away from its survival horror roots has been a long process of course (and one I have begrudgingly come to terms with), but it is only with this new instalment that I feel the story has finally left me behind.
The real issue can be traced back to fall of Raccoon City. Ever since the original source of the zombie scourge was turned to glass, Capcom have been stretching the franchise’s fiction ever thinner while making it increasingly ridiculous. Take Leon, who has inexplicable turned from rookie cop to super soldier. This was a man who fought his way through hell and survived through tenacity and bravery. Great, more power to him, he was a character I could understand. Where I stop understanding him is when he becomes a Teflon coated ninja, cracking wise in the face of fifty-foot tall killing machines. He has become a caricature of a character, whose situation is hard to worry about when he himself seems unconcerned.
However, as a fan of the first Resident Evil game, what is more offensive to me is the sixth game’s treatment of Chris Redfield; turning him from a hero into a washed-up drop-out. I appreciate that anyone who has seen what he has must be emotionally damaged, but Chris’s supposed collapse occurs outside the game and is predicated on the death of characters that fans have no connection with. Scenes in RE5 show how Chris managed to deal with the loss of his closest partner, Jill. When he believed her dead at the hands of Wesker he barely seemed phased, and certainly never exhibited the crippling survivor guilt seen in RE6. And how is he rescued from his self-pity? By an unknown, uninspiring, BSAA agent. Where is Jill? Or Claire? Hell, I would even take Sheva at this point. Chris has had partner after partner, all ignored here in favour of something new.
What pains me most about Chris’s tale is that all the pieces are there. First, swap the dead faceless members of Chris’s old squad for Claire, the loss of his sister could push him over the edge, and then send in Jill or Sheva to bring him back. Instantly better and not a single element changed, just the characters. And fans don’t belly ache about the death of Claire, she isn’t doing anything important.
As if the miss handling of previous game’s heroes wasn’t enough the new ‘lead’ character, Jake, completely steamrolls the returning RE2 sidekick Sherry Berkin, who is relegated to being a partner character. Sherry is the daughter of William Berkin, the creator of the original T-virus (or was it the G-virus…), and it was implied that she was core to the fiction in some way. But rather than make her the lead, Jake ‘MacGuffin’ Wesker is introduced, who is (at best) no more than a walking talking plot device.
My list of little niggles is endless. Take the setting, by moving action to a more realistic world the classic RE puzzles and underground mazes become horribly misplaced. There are cut scenes and set pieces choreographed to always place the ‘lead’ character at the centre of the action, even when playing single player as the ‘partner’. Oh, and going back to that post on the game being sexist, all the military personnel are male and Sherry seems to need constant help from Jake despite being a special agent.
For all my gripes though, I am part of the problem. I still try to enjoy it, and still buy it, because it Resident Evil. It’s not that it can do no wrong but, whatever Capcom does to the franchise, I will want to experience it. The difference is that with Resident Evil 6 I won’t be evangelising the game to others, nor will I recommend it to anyone but the most committed fans.