Thursday, 28 November 2013

Resident Evil 6

This game interests me on various levels. For a game with this much clout to it, I find it surprising but entirely unjustified that people are going in with attacks on its presentation; it changes and deviates from a supposedly socially-accepted norm for a genre that, as a series, it created itself; it has fallen into the 'marmite' selection of games where people either love it or hate it (and one or two spread it on toast). It also has zombies in it and other such fun monsters that need a royal arse kicking, preferably with a magnum or something more lethal.

In essence, we've 5 games in one based around various levels we get to see during the game. 3 games are the main story mode where you'll progress from A to B, killing the infected, undead, brown bread and done-up-like-a-kipper enemies that need more than just a smack in the mouth to fix and solve the situation of "how to get from living enemy to dead enemy" which has plagued almost every video game villain/opponent since day 1.

Control wise, it plays very much like a third person shooter in that "over the shoulder" view used within the series back with Resident Evil 4. Items and weapons are on two inventory wheels and the new addition to the system is the advent of health pills that can be popped in rapid succession for oneself or a downed partner to get them back in action more quickly. Weapons effectively remain with the characters the entire time rather than the inventory switching around used in RE5 between rounds, opting instead to have things bought through experience points gained including infinite ammo for each weapon type. It does take a short while to get used to the new system but feels a lot more intuitive than RE5 managed to make itself but not as efficient in its deliver as RE4 was when it adjusted to the 3rd person camera approach.

The first story is the campaign with Leon Kennedy and generic new face mcbreasty having shot the president in the head (after becoming a zombie, sadly) and taking the slowly building and suspenseful approach to a long build up to an actual zombie attack with the obligatory jump scares. The first run through of the first level takes elements from previous games and even self-references situations from the first game Leon was in, where in people are fighting through the streets against zombie infections. It takes roughly an hour or so to get from the start of the first level to the end of the first level and packs in so much that it would have been most of a game in its own right back in the mid-late 1990s.

Large building, check. Sewers, Check. City scapes, check. Meeting other survivors, check. Watching them get killed horrifically in nasty attacks as a result of their own stupidity, check. The only thing missing from the first level is the underground huge complex that turns up in level 2. Then we hit the plane in a rather jaunted fashion to China and blow up a dinosaur that sprouted out of a man and back again while juggling a forced little 3way situation between Leon, McBreasty and Ada Wong. Nobody really wins on that.

This particular game is set and based around gradual and slow builds towards the medium level enemies that result in being challenging, if only because of the lack of availability of higher power weapons, which can be seen in other sessions. The main focus is on the zombies as the slower and more predictable enemies and leaves for the game having a slower felt pace towards the general feel. Almost as if it's a "beginners" session for the game, and becomes a little jarring in the cross over sessions with the faster paced characters that have fought tougher opponents (i.e. the ones with real guns or can do instant-kill moves against our protagonists).

As a campaign, it feels more of a return to the original games (barring the helicopter/train crashes and huge monsters fighting around buildings with lightning strikes from the heavens. It's the big budget Hollywood special remake of the gritty original B-Movie, no cast, games.) If anything it feels like a subversion of the movie industry doing big money remakes of films and losing all the tact and subtlety of the original games. Most noted when the plane crashes in China, fire-balling everything out, spotting another character UPON a train, before walking out and meeting 2 other characters involved in the plot and fighting the big stalker monster of the game, before meeting the other characters in a fight then riding another train out while battling a giant monster.

After the 3rd act it goes WAY overboard compared to the first two acts that manage to build suspense and give a slow rolling inertia to the pace and setting of the game, then it goes all Michael Bay on us and loses its integrity. But still pretty to watch the CGI fireworks. It depends on your preference, yes the genre has changed from what it originally and occasionally dips into the Hollywood banding and because of the way CGI can be made, there's little limit on the excessiveness of what can be achieved.

Second story is the Modern Warfare take on the zombie invasion, with no zombies. Starting off instead in China with Chris Redfield, series staple rock punching hard case, and a new guy, Mr ArmyYoungDisposableMan who looks better on the cover of magazines advertising 'generic new man' specials. Following the two on a mission to rescue people while blowing up buildings and shooting idiots with spider like faces in masks that shoot back. Very little to do with zombies and almost entirely apart from Umbrella and other such previously established names and organisations. Yet this makes sense, we're DONE with Umbrella, and we're looking at the world wide view and other companies taking the remnants of Umbrella and making their own contraptions and creations/creatures. Going beyond Raccoon City and STARS to the BSAA and the world wide prevention of B.O.Ws and punching them out (if you're Chris at least).

The 2nd story runs a bit of the back-story showing the former group of soldiers with Chris and FreshFaceMan taking on small militias of enemy soldiers and giant monsters too large and impractical to develop and use in small skirmishes as overkill, and too large to use pretty much anywhere else as being too big and inviting tanks, choppers and planes to open fire on them.

This might be expected with the key players armed with machineguns, rifles and the more heavy duty weaponry and as such, get to have the fun time of taking on the greater number of enemies and the more gung-ho approach to the gaming, in their quest to find the villain that caused all the big problems in the flashback and turned Chris's team into a bunch of muppets with a few syringes in a grenade. (Yep... makes sense in ... never), before enjoying a pointlessly destructive fight with a giant snake, chases through cities against a sports car that would destroy the speed limit while in a Humvee. Attacking an aircraft carrier, attacking ANOTHER aircraft carrier with a Harrier, then going deep underwater to battle the big bad monster to end the world, and having a very long-winded battle against what is more accurately described as a translucent foetus.

Again, the story escalates from being pseudo realistic/appreciable, to becoming full on crazy-bullshit within a level and a half and never going back on that. It's a shame when the game forgets the situation that it has started upon and whether through the use of too large a department in making the game, or some people just not getting the right memo about consistency.

The third story starts off as possibly the more interesting of the 3 main games with the storyline being that Sherry Birkin (daughter of the great inventor/asshat, William Birkin) has gone the super powered healing route and now not under government surveillance, is allowed to roam free in working for the government to find and locate Jake (Wesker's son) whose blood holds the cure to the current virus outbreak. Basically, she needs him to come along and play nice, everyone else is not playing nice, so he's a ninja with speed and power moves while she's got a stun rod.

It basically sums up the start.

Through their story they get chased down by one HUGE son of a bitch that makes Nemesis look like a midget, with interchangeable guns and a cage. Most of their story is running from this guy or other indestructible creatures (like the creature with the chainsaw of flesh... yes...I said that) and fighting various troops or monsters. Or running from a tank, before they too end up underwater and fighting the big guy again in a fist fight brawl that apparently works despite spending the whole game and a 6month period of imprisonment, shooting him with Gatling guns, shotguns, explosives barrels, dropping buildings on him, ramming him with an industrial drill taken from Total Recall, dunking him in lava for yet ANOTHER return (instant bad guy, subtract legs) to the final magnum in the face.

There's an attempt to highlight how a bad guy can be money grubbing one moment, human the next and not having to be tied down to whomever his father was and how avenging death is not necessary when there's guys to shoot that explode into insects and various monsters that can worm wriggle their way back together and give you an Alien Chest burst death if they get close enough to kiss you. By the time the "story" comes about, you won't give two shits and you'll be busy running up combos that Bruce Lee would have called bullshit upon.

And that seems to be the biggest issue with the game. Part way through the story, plot and everything that has been built up, is thrown aside and destroyed by the urge to one-up itself in a poor display of disregarding everything previously established to show a wank-fest of explosions, big special effects and the like of which would have cost millions in a film. Which in itself is destroyed when things like this in the game DON'T cost that much to make. But with the emphasis on this supposed big-budget situation, atmosphere and plot are shoved aside and relegated to the back seat.

Given the game has that co-operative function, used again since the RE5 attempt, there's pros and cons to the involvement of other people. A good partner can aid the game and blitz through the system with remarkable ease and battling bosses can be made easier (depending upon the boss). The AI can have issues with trying to get back to yourself to get you picked up and healed, while another player will (usually) put it in higher priority. Though you could get some boneheaded player that will be walking around every situation and taking their sweet time and eventually fall into various traps over and over. While the AI won't do that. They could also fail Quick Time Events while the AI never does. The use of another player can speed things up with considerable difference to not using them, IF they know what they're doing.

At various points in the plot, the game will pause for approximately 60 seconds, at points where multiple characters intersect from other storylines, to find other players who are at that point as well. Case in point: After Leon and Busty McTitty crashes down from a jet-plane, they encounter Jake and Sherry and a fight kicks off with the giant Nemesis-Wannabe in a scrap yard where a double-decker bus is sitting. At this point, the game will try to connect with someone else playing the game, in the same point on the Jake and Sherry team, and combine the 4 together for the fight, including having a person from each pairing, having to combine forces in a Quick Time Event. Incidentally, anyone dying fails it for everyone. It's an interesting way of engineering this all together though the costs for failing are rather high where someone random is joining the game. This has everyone joining up with everyone else at least once (if the game permits this in the settings) with Jake and Sherry teaming up with Chris and NewbieSoliderMan three times during their respective campaigns.

This however does run nicely into the much more interesting aspect of the online mode where the game has bottle neck points of enemies attacking which can be populated by other players, playing as the monsters. Ranging from zombies (with an assortment of weapons) to dogs, lizard beasts, fly-people, worm-filled monsters, powered zombies, knife-wielding troopers, mutant crows, walking pustule bombs and armour-plated goliaths, all with the sole purpose of screwing up the players by attacking and hopefully killing the main heroes. You can respawn as many times as you want until they heroes leave that particular area.

In easy mode, it can be a real chore to batter someone down to the critical point and then deliver a killing blow, more frustrating when you do all the work and the AI makes the kill and even MORE frustrating when the other player quits like a pansy. A good team up with another player allows for 2 people to stalk and try to kill the hero player(s) and although only one of them can make the final kill, it's actually a very rewarding feeling when one of you distracts the player so your partner can sneak up behind them and deliver the killing blow.

Personal preference goes to the worm-filled skins that can effectively instant-kill someone if they grab a hold of them and then it becomes instant worm-face snogfest death. Hilarious and you know it's just pissed off someone else's day.

Other vs. modes include the mercenaries modes where players pick a character and try to survive and score as many points as they can within an arena until the time runs out or they kill everything, including the involvement of hidden bosses or super monsters such as fatty-boy zombies, lizards and a whole host of nasty pieces of work. Modes where you take control of the biggymonster of the game and try to kill everyone else within an allotted amount of time or playing a sort of vs. mode where the more monsters you kill, the more spawn in your opponents arenas. They're an interesting subset of the game and have a level of appeal but to be honest, I'd much rather have more of the Trolling Mode where you get to be the monsters. It's a lot more fun, in some cases more fun than the story mode, trying to hunt down and kill someone else and ruin their fun.

It's a very mixed bag for the game, it has good points, it has bad points, and it has terrible banging-skull-against-wall points. It can be appreciated if you can REALLY suspend your belief for some of the cut scenes but that's going quite a stretch for the game that already has the supposition that not only do zombies exist, but people are freely making monsters in competing companies/organisations. It's the attempt to make a move into a bigger and more expansive world within the Resident Evil franchise but it's taken in far too wrong a direction akin to the excessive sequalisation. If Resident Evil 1 is the same as Saw, then Resident Evil 6 is Saw with people lobbing nukes at each other while dropkicking helicopters of explosives towards Blue Whales. It's only really the name that's keeping the same and the use of a few characters from earlier instalments, but the game isn't the same.

Not to say it's a bad game, it's a responsive game, it's a good co-operative experience, it's a great trolling-session with the bad guy mode, but it is a bad addition to the established order of the franchise. It's the difference between Alien and Alien 3, some good ideas and most of the film done really well but very different over all in sense and feeling that the film tries to stay loyal to the roots but goes about it in such a convoluted way, that it misses the point it tries to make and might have fared better as a stand-alone experience rather than part of the series.

At the very last, naked breasty boss with tentacles for the shot gunning! Will the next game just have full on mutant porn?