While Resident Evil remains one of gaming's biggest franchises, successfully supporting Hollywood films over the years, the series has been going through a bit of an identity crisis as it attempts to balance action and survival-horror. Capcom's latest entry, Resident Evil 6, goes even further in its quest to attract gamers with modern sensibilities - e.g. bombastic set-pieces, a heavy dose of co-op, and of course, simultaneous run-and-gun gameplay. Will this take Resident Evil away from its roots, or is it a natural evolution of the series? It's tough to say, but after seeing some of what Capcom has up its sleeve, Resident Evil 6 definitely doesn't lack ambition.
Full disclosure: I've never been the biggest fan of Resident Evil's complex, often convoluted, plot lines and ragtag band of zombie-slayers. It's always felt a little too over-the-top and silly for my liking. However, for the legions of fan-fiction creators out there, RE's latest outing aims to capitalize on the lingering nostalgia in a big way. Series stalwarts Chris Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy, among others, return to unravel the mysteries behind the Raccoon City incident and a new wave of bio-terrorist attacks. Naturally, these trying circumstances require a globe-trotting, zombie-infested adventure. Oh... and the President of the United States is a zombie. They said it would never happen in our time!
Beyond narrative, the first footage I saw of Resident Evil 6 was at Microsoft's E3 2012 press briefing, and I have to admit, it was far from impressive. Character movement looked clumsy and enemies seemed especially mindless as our heroes navigated a narrow series of absolutely ridiculous set-pieces. Needless to say, those holding out hope for traditional survival-horror tension and atmosphere may be waiting awhile. Granted, press briefing demos always seem to land on the commercially-viable Michael Bay side of things.
Whether RE6 ultimately lives up to its series horror pedigree remains to be seen, but one thing's for sure - Capcom isn't pulling any punches with co-op. We were shown a behind-closed-doors look at the game's unique take on multiplayer, which takes a page from the Demon's Soul school of design by integrating online co-op elements seamlessly into the main campaign. As players progress through one of RE6's three primary two-person squad storylines, they will periodically encounter four-player co-op missions, wherein two squads are paired together while playing online. It's an intriguing, original way to add replay value to the campaign. That being said, the online option can be disabled, meaning AI allies join your team instead.
This take on co-op definitely presents some interesting gameplay possibilities, but it didn't hide Resident Evil 6's somewhat clumsy-looking combat. Capcom still seems to be struggling to successfully imitate the fluid feel of its Western-based third-person action rivals. Fortunately, there's time for the team to add another layer of polish to Resident Evil 6 before its October 2nd release on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.