Resident Evil 6 is the grand total result of 600 developers without a clue as to what they’re doing and a budget rivaling the GDP of a small country. The game’s main draw is its story campaigns, each featuring a prominent Resident Evil protagonist to attract fan interest and each structured as a series of throwbacks. Settings are borrowed (the zombie-infested city, the war-torn third-world locale, etc.) alongside gameplay elements (technology-aided gothic-residence puzzles, multiple playable characters who interact across the story, an unstoppable Nemesis-like antagonist, etc.) and side characters in an attempt to make Resident Evil 6 a “best of” in the series. The problem is that everything about the game is ineptly designed, from the completely incoherent and impenetrable plots to the incomprehensible mechanical decisions and unwieldy quick-time events that make the game a frustrating chore to play.
Consider that the core shooting mechanic of this 30-plus-hour, borderline-unplayable monstrosity builds on Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5, adding movement while firing, which for no good reason has the standard laser sight moving inside an ever-resizing crosshair, giving little idea of where you’re actually aiming. It makes no sense. Ditto the on-screen objective-guiding arrow, often spinning erratically and frequently losing you in the boring, repetitive settings. Deeply unintuitive boss encounters give little to no feedback as to whether you’re damaging the stupidly ugly and unimaginative monsters—not to mention the fact that events revisited by multiple characters must be replayed, forcing different characters to do identical things and kill the same bosses even while the characters you’ve previously played through those events are present, defying logic and canon.
It’s not that Resident Evil 6 has one of the worst campaigns ever, but that it has three of them (four if you count the awful epilogue campaign tacked on as reward/punishment for enduring the other three, now permanently unlocked for PC gamers as some kind of masochistic bonus). Each chapter is completely free of tension and coherence, with no sense of time passing between sections (can be minutes, can be months) and a stunning amount of reuse to make areas more bloated. Potentially beloved Resident Evil characters from previous entries in the series are dragged through the mud with some of the worst writing ever in a video game or otherwise; there’s never any kind of understanding or emotional attachment, despite the game trying repeatedly to top itself with massive set pieces and rising stakes. The comparatively smaller-scale events from Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5 both had a level of urgency and effectiveness because the games made us care about the characters. From its city-destroying prologue to its witless, incoherent ending in an unnamed Muslim country, Resident Evil 6 features astonishingly over-the-top action sequences that somehow bore because there’s no reason to give a shit.
Despite demonstrating competent graphical capability, like every other AAA mainstream release, the game’s designs are universally terrible; every setting looks droll and unexciting, the creature designs are uninspired, and there’s the occasional odd glitch, like characters running on invisible floors. The popular multiplayer mode Mercenaries is, here, a stripped-down shell of itself, with few maps, poor abilities, and an inferior scoring system. At least it’s consistent.
Terrible games of this ilk, like this year’s earlier franchise-killing Dead Space 3, are fascinating because, despite their lack of merit, they demonstrate that games are indeed art, and in this case, bad art. Not only is Resident Evil 6’s narrative lousy (as is its characters, and art, etc.), but with every terrible gameplay decision it demonstrates that it doesn’t understand the language of video games: It doesn’t effectively communicate its plot to the player, nor detail any of its character’s motivations, nor is it ever fun or engaging to play. There’s nothing interesting from a thematic point of view, nor any sign of worthwhile subtext. (Considering current/ongoing relations between China and Japan, it’s probably best not to think too hard about Japanese developers so realistically and horrifyingly depicting a devastating biological terrorist attack in the People’s Republic of China that is then instantly forgotten about.) Resident Evil 6 is the rare big-budget release with no redeeming features whatsoever. Consider yourself warned.