Resident Evil 6 Hands-on preview Three times the tension

Yesterday, we not only received new details on Resident Evil 6’s four-player co-op mode, but we got our first hands-on with Capcom’s eagerly anticipated sequel. What we played were three totally different takes on the series’ traditional survival horror, as well as the high-octane action of recent games.

As each section ran roughly twenty minutes, we spent nearly an hour diving into the experiences of Leon Kennedy (which we’ve got video of below, and covered at Captivate), Chris Redfield, and Jake Muller. There’s still some work to be done in the polish department, but we’re hoping that some tweaks will set things right before the game’s October 2nd bow.

A few things we noted from the Leon session: the new “shoot from a prone position” feels rather responsive. With an extra button tap to the default RE 180 degree turn, your heroes can drop to the ground and blast away. It was less handy in Leon’s slower, more suspenseful section (which, as someone who wasn’t walking slowly through it for presentation purposes, had some surprise jumpy cheap thrills, like large and loud objects falling around the environment), but useful nonetheless.

RE6 also features a single button for locating your objectives. With a tap, the screen provides a sonar projection of your next checkpoint. It’s a handy twist on Dead Space’s laser trail. Also, instead of the “pause and dive into the briefcase” system of the past two RE games, this sequel boasts an inventory wheel. We were able to browse weapon options and ammo in real-time. It adds a great touch to the tense action. We’re also big fans of the melee feature. We didn’t realize until the end of the Leon demo that he didn’t have much ammo. By the end, we were out of bullets and were kicking in zombie skulls. We’re not sure if it was a deliberate gesture on Capcom’s part to steer us into trying out the feature, but it works well, and we couldn’t resist the idea of running up to creatures and slaying them with hand-to-hand combat.

We also tried out the “teamwork button,” which has been updated from RE5’s “locator button” to include both gratitude (ranging from “thanks a lot!” to “hell yeah!”) and praise (“beautiful!”). Oddly, we can imagine people spamming the button to the detriment of suspense. But that’s another story…

In general, Leon’s section is slower and more methodical than the others. In contrast, the other two are more action packed, for better or worse. Chris’ demo starts in Eastern Europe. He’s drunk out of his mind, and after mouthing off to the bartender, he’s ejected. Just as a brawl is about to break out, Piers Nivans, a BSAA officer, steps in, breaks up the tension, sits Chris down, and provides some backstory for Chris’ boozy guilt. From there the action fast-forwards to China, and Chris takes on a group of J’Avo mutant mercenaries. The action elements here feel even more high tension than Resident Evil 5, and yet, we see elements that we hope Capcom will address before launch. The shooting and movement works well, but the J’Avo intelligence is rather sharp, and frankly, the intensity of gunfights leaves us worried about cover points. The demo just feels a tad too chaotic for the level of action being thrown around. Without cover points, the shooting gallery feels less tactical and more “find and shoot them before you have to use some green herbs.” Hopefully it’s an element that’ll be fine tuned soon.

Jake’s section was much tougher. It introduces the Ustunak, the huge creature that we watched Capcom fight in co-op. The initial section finds Jake and Sherry running away from the creature, and though Jake is a powerful brawler (his melee attacks are the only ones considered a weapon in the inventory wheel, if that gives you any indication), the demo didn’t indicate that any option besides running at the camera, Crash Bandicoot-style, would equate to instant death. The Ustunak battle was designed to be tough, but just as the Chris section needed cover, the Ustunak fight feels tougher than it should, partly because of the level of chaos going around. It’s an early demo, but it definitely points to the areas that we want to see the otherwise stout RE6 address. It’s in dire need of clarification on cover points and elements that other action shooters use. The Leon sections really provide some great tension and evoke the feel of the classic games. The Chris and Jake sections play up the action elements, but they could use some tweaking, since the battles feel too overwhelming for the lack of combat options at hand.

Despite the sense of something slightly missing –talking to other friends and colleague who played, we all agreed that the gameplay is good, but left us wondering “why doesn’t Chris have more cover spots as five mutants are shooting at him?”—Resident Evil 6’s best elements work well. The gameplay additions, like the inventory wheel and sonar directions, help keep you engaged in the action (instead of pausing and micromanaging) and add great flourishes to the RE4/RE5 formula. As long as Capcom makes those aforementioned adjustments, RE6 should offer an exceptionally robust action experience in October.

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