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A Bittersweet Struggle for Fun

Resident Evil 6 is the most befuddling game I've played in a long time.  My twenty hours with it was a constant struggle between archaic game design and exceptional presentation.  While I wouldn't recommend many people to buy it, RE6 is an experience that every action gamer should play.

Actually playing RE6 is like playing a game of 52-card-pickup; all of the cards are on the table, but they're a scattered mess.  The core gameplay is sharp and satisfying: shooting is precise, melee is viciously gratifying, and several co-op segments keep things fresh.  A multitude of enemy types forces you to strategize on-the-fly, and the many segments where you search for keycards are never too time-consuming. That being said, RE6 has numerous design flaws, the worst offender being the many quick-time-events.

QTE's are a relic of the PS2 era, where mapping a complicated on-screen action into a singular button press was still allowed.  But games, and gamer's expectations, have changed, and Capcom should have disavowed this last-gen relic. Instead, they embraced it with open arms, granting gamers a slew of frustrating encounters.  Wiggling a joystick doesn't make for a terrifying zombie apocalypse, and Capcom should have cut the QTE's in the beta build.

Other smaller problems abound. The camera isn't half bad, but it hugs too closely to the character, making it easy to get blindsided by flanking enemies. Several setpieces start up without warning, and you'll die because of it.  And there never seems to be enough ammo.

The worst migraine-inducers are the result of different concepts that don't work together.  If you're mortally wounded, your buddy can revive you, but the game frequently separates the two of you onto different platforms, meaning you'll be lying on the ground without hope of rescue, just waiting to get murdered in some horrifically degrading way.  If you are fortunate enough to get revived, you'll go back into the fray without any added health and an empty stamina meter.  Couple this with a lack of ammo, and you may find yourself actually being useless.

But all its faults can't keep RE6 from rising to great heights. The storyline is intricate and engrossing, and several moments, such as Leon dragging his wounded partner through the zombie-infested streets of China and Chris's desperate battle of attrition with an invisible snake, bullseye the game's target of being both action and terror.  The sound effects are spine-tinglingly realistic and grant satisfaction to every zombie head smashed.

The voice acting is simply phenomenal; while Leon, Chris, and Jake all fall under the "macho tough guy" stereotype, each has well-crafted personalities that develop as the story moves along. The dialogue is handled so perfectly that I never once laughed when the characters mentioned the awkwardly named Raccoon City.  And as I played, I found myself hoping that Leon would save the day, the Chris would overcome his fear and guilt, and that Sherry and Jake would make it out of their latest predicament.  Perhaps I'm just an emotional pushover, but I see this as RE6's greatest accomplishment.

The graphics serve as a visual metaphor for the game as a whole.  The cutscenes and some in-game images look mouth-wateringly good, while distant or close-up objects have blurry and jagged textures.  But most of the time, the game looks just one notch short of its AAA brethren like Arkham City.

The amount of fun you'll have in RE6 is largely dependent on how you play it.  Play cautiously, search carefully, and conserve ammo, and the annoyances will be kept at a tolerable level.  For every undeserved curveball thrown my way, this game had something valuable waiting in store.  Resident Evil 6 is the first game in five years that I rented but did not buy, but I'm keeping the demo on my PS3, so I'll never forget the bittersweet memories of this latest zombie apocalypse.

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