PREVIEW: six of one, half a dozen of the other.
The rather sudden rush to Resident Evil 6's release date is coming thick and fast, starting with an onslaught of information, footage and now, the first opportunity to play the game.
Capcom has been surprisingly generous with this demo. Though each of the three sections on offer are short, each nonetheless lasts around 7 minutes with the ability to play as each of the three teams of characters, each team showcasing quite different gameplay.
Series veteran Leon S. Kennedy and new partner Helena Harper are given a very slow burn sequence, helping a father look for his daughter through a dark university. The gameplay crawls through this demo, as Leon and Helena search in the dark (and this game is dark, even with high gamma settings.) Combat for Leon is kept to a minimum, with encounters against returning zombies only occuring right at the end. Though not a great deal happens in Leon's demo, it establishes the mood very well, and effortlessly continues the atmosphere seen in the superb Resident Evil Revelations.
Those who have played more recent Resident Evil titles (Revelations aside) will be right at home with Chris' demo, which is absolutely action packed from start to finish in the same style that the closing stages of Resident Evil 5 offered. The refined controls, however, make this play better than ever and it fits right at home with many third person shooters of this generation. The enemies continue in the vein of the weapon-wielding majini from Resident Evil 5, although these new 'Javo' can now regenerate and mutate after taking a lot of damage. Cover is available, but due to the difficulty of the demo it isn't really neccesary as it's normally just as quick to rush them using Chris' (or new parter Piers') strong melee moves. Overall, to fans of the more modern Resident Evil game, they'll be right at home playing as Chris in Resident Evil 6.
Which leaves us left with the final duo, series newcomer Jake Mueller and Resident Evil 2's now adult Sherry Birkin. Their campaign is a bit more melee focussed than the other two, but the real difference that this demo level establishes well, is the large pursuer that constantly hunts Jake and Sherry throughout. Named Ustanek, it is a large monsterous creature with a large machanical arm that can grab you from a distance, if you think back to Resident Evil 3's Nemesis, you'd have a good idea of how this scenario plays out. Ustanek is relentless when he attacks, and sticking close to him will often result in a very quick death.
Though the play styles within the three different scenarios vary, the controls and combat are still very much rooted to the modern style. Though Leon's campaign is the slowest and most atmospheric, when the combat begins it's very much intense with just as large focus on melee as the other two scenarios. With the controls pretty much abandoning the old ways, (though you can customise them somewhat) moving and firing together is now not only available, but also built around the mechancs the game presents you with. At times it feels dangerously close to Operation Raccoon City, but obviously with umpteen more times level of polish and refinement. (It is worth pointing out however that the AI is notably simplistic with the enemies showing little in terms of intelligence or tactic. I would imagine that, as with previous Capcom demos, the difficulty has been toned down to what will be on offer in the final game).
Looking indepth to the controls, they are a strange blend between Operation Raccoon City and Metal Gear Solid 4. Though this continues the changes to control style that Resident Evil 4/5 began, and admittedly doesn't feel like Resident Evil control-wise anymore, it at least feels functional and work well (with the exception of dodging which requires pushing two buttons and a direction, which is overcomplicated and clunky.) The biggest problems that exist within the game which we hope that will sorted before release are mainly down to how the camera works. Being as Capcom are one of the pioneers for the over the shoulder camera, the fact that this game can't get the feel right is a bit odd to say the least. Given also that the game departures from RE5's fixed system by making the camera now looser and controlled with the right analogue (instead of it being permanently fixed behind the player.) it feels much more like ORC than RE5. When aiming the camera also feels a bit off as the game has a habit of positioning the aiming camera too close to your character meaning you lose much needed peripheral vision. The controls however suit the game well, and are intuitive enough, and with a little more work, they could be absolutely superb- but the camera issues are important to note, and really need looking at for the final release.
The team mate AI seems a lot stronger than Resident Evil 5's at the time of writing, though the aformentioned difficulty of the demo might lend itself to that, but it's still clear that playing with someone else is where the true meat of the game lies. Here at The X Button we quickly ran through all the three demo campaigns, and found they all held up extremely well in co-op, with Leon's campaign actually holding a certain degree of tension despite there being two people running through it at once. This looks set to be a very strong co-op title this year, just like Resident Evil 5 before it (say what you will of that game, but you can't deny the co-op was anything but superb).
The game itself looks stunning, the visuals holding up extremely well, lightning is as impressive as ever, but the darkness could prove some issues, needing a tweak of the gamma settings to reap rewards. Voice actors have disappointing been changed in some cases, Leon has changed, but Chris remains played brilliantly by Roger Craig Smith of Resident Evil 5.
Which leaves us with the characters and setting. The demo is generous in that we are given some opening sequences to watch, and Chris' is by far the most standout. Though the full extent of his story is still to be revealed, Chris' demo begins with him being extremely drunk and even more unpleasant, requiring new character Piers Nevins to actually bring him back from the brink of self destruction and back to the fight. To see Chris fallen so far from grace after the high he ended Resident Evil 5 is jarring, but credit to Capcom for making it work. It's a simple sequence, but it establishes the characters wonderfully. Returning Sherry Birkin is looking absolutely superb; though her cutscene is brief, you quickly warm to her, and she looks to be an absolutely great character.
All in all, a lot to look forward to, and with Capcom promising the size of the game will go well into double figures hours wise, it seems we've seen but a fraction of the game will offer.