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Preview: Resident Evil 6

Conan O'Brien Reviews RE6

“I’m told this is a video game.”

Conan O’Brien reviews games. He doesn’t do it that well, since he knows nothing about games, but it’s pretty funny to watch which is the whole point. Usually, that’s all I get from them, a good laugh. But recently he got to play the latest Resident Evil 6 demo before it was available to the rest of the world and it actually served to get me interested in the game.  I like to imagine that if he discovered one of his reviews was somehow helpful, he’d have someone fired.

Let me rewind. I’ve avoided most previews and trailers for the game up until now. I saw the one from E3, but that’s pretty much it. I had purchased Dragon’s Dogma earlier this year for the PS3 which came with a code you could redeem for a early look at the first demo, but for some reason even this was a timed exclusive for the 360. Must…resist….urge….to….rant about a demo being timed exclusive. OK, I’m better. At any rate, it came out for the 360, I avoided reading anything on it because I wanted to go into it fresh, then I lost my code for the PS3 version and beyond that just had no idea when (or even if) it ever came out. That brings us to last week, when the second supposedly more polished demo was released to everyone on both consoles. So I grabbed the PS3 version and booted it up to see what I thought.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a fan of Resident Evil as a series as much as I’m a fan of certain games in the series. Mainly Resident Evil 4, but I did have some fun with Code Veronica on the Dreamcast as well. Resident Evil 5 was OK, but never really grabbed me, which is why I still haven’t finished it. Most of that was due to the atmosphere. So when I booted up the RE6 demo I was pleased to see that at least the menus had the classic Resident Evil atmosphere. There are three characters you can choose from in the beginning, each with his own campaign. Supposedly there will also be a fourth in the final game. I started at the top of the list, with Leon.

Resident Evil 6 - Leon

Leon

Upon choosing a campaign, you are then given the choice of two characters to play in each. Yes, the entire game can be played co-op just like RE5 – more on that in a minute. I chose to stick with Leon (the other character was a girl that I wasn’t familiar with) and set the game to not allow anyone to join. I was then greeted by a dramatic cutscene and when I regained control, I found I was in a seemingly empty school at night. Very creepy, and also very typical RE. The demo lasted around 20-30 minutes, and during that time I was allowed to explore a part of the school and engage in some combat. Combat felt very nice – in addition to finally being able to move and shoot at the same time, Leon has some nice hand-to-hand moves that are a nice alternative to shooting. My AI-controlled partner also did quite well on her own and didn’t require any inventory babysitting, unlike her counterpart in RE5. In fact, I’m not even sure that you can access her inventory. She didn’t seem to run out of ammo, and at the same time I never noticed her picking up anything that dropped. All-in-all, this part of the demo felt like an update to the classic RE formula, and I was very pleased with what I played.

Resident Evil 6 - Chris

Chris

That evening, I fired it back up to try out the other 2 characters. Chris, the protagonist from RE5, was next on the list so I went with him. This time I was dropped into what looked like the same setting from RE5. The setup here was very military-focused, and I was quickly sent out with a squadmate to fight nazis zombies. This part of the demo felt completely different from Leon’s section – the controls were still good and everything was very fluid, but it felt a lot more like a typical military shooter, complete with a very loose cover mechanic.  At the end of the demo we got to fight a huge mutated enemy, and that was a nice change of pace. After the fight that portion of the demo ended. I was bewildered at this point – while I certainly didn’t HATE Chris’ section, it was a far cry from Leon’s. I went back to the main menu, one campaign to go.

Resident Evil 6 - Jake

Jake

Jake, the third main character, is a newcomer to the series. His campaign is set in Eastern Europe, and it can best be described as a cross between the previous two campaigns. It’s set on an old city street at night, and definitely invokes the feel of RE4 without looking too much like it. The gameplay here is still more action focused that Leon’s, but there is some minor platforming and exploration mixed in to break things up. As with the other two, I had no issues with my AI partner, the controls were great and the action was fun.

In the end I’m torn.  There was one campaign I loved, one that has promise and a third that’s just OK.  It’s very difficult to judge these things from a demo – it may very well be that there’s exploration mixed into Chris’ campaign, but they chose to focus on the action instead for the demo.  Also, I don’t know if all three campaigns are the same length or if it skews more towards one.  All the pieces are in place for a very interesting game at least, and from the surface – graphics, music, controls, menu interface – it’s all top-notch.  It looks like we’ll find out if it all comes together to make a great game or a great big mess in a little over a week.

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