Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Resident Evil 6 - Demo Impressions  


Games: Capcom released the demo for Resident Evil 6 today. What's that? You didn't know, and didn't play it? That's pretty understandable... it's exclusive to 360 owners at the moment, and of that group, only to people who bought a new copy of Dragon’s Dogma.

(The access code was on the back of Dogma’s instruction booklet.)

The happiest giraffe in the world.

First things first, it's confusing as hell to even get to the demo. Here's the process:

1> Insert the Dragon’s Dogma disc into your 360.
2> Hit the guide button on your controller and redeem the code.
3> Start Dragon’s Dogma and then update it.
4> Restart Dragon’s Dogma and there will be an option for RE6 on the main menu.
5> Select that option, and the actual download will begin.

So, after going through all that, what's it like? Got you covered. Essentially, the game is another two-person cooperative jam, and the demo is split into three parts.

The first section is apparently the "creepy" zone, and it stars Leon and newcomer Helena. The game opens with Leon capping the zombified president of the United States, and then the two of them try to make their way out of the White House. Along the way, they meet a father looking for his daughter and help him. The two civilians are infected, of course. On the way out, there is a brief "surprise" attack and then a quick battle to escape a parking garage.

Helena and Leon
I'm not going to beat around the bush, this part straight-up sucked. It's pretty clear that Capcom was going for suspense, but it only ended up boring as the characters walk down dark hallways with nothing happening, and control was frequently altered or taken away in service to dialogue and cutscenes. For example, I couldn't figure out how to run or reload my gun, only to realize that those actions were disabled during certain scenes. This whole bit was immersion-breaking at every turn.

The second section is the "action" zone, and stars Chris and brand-new punk Piers. This scene takes place in a bar, with Chris apparently suffering from amnesia and drinking himself to the point of being a complete dickhead. Piers drags him back to the BSAA and the demo immediately segues into what appears to be the rooftops of a city in Asia. A bunch of thugs in porcelain masks show up, and the shooting begins. Once they take some damage, they morph into half-human monsters. Meat-moths, anyone?

Chris and Piers
This segment will be immediately familiar to anyone who's played the last couple of Resident Evils, but there’s a lot wrong with it. For starters, the camera is WAY too close to the action, and it's extremely difficult to tell what's going on. Also, in this section I wanted to take cover behind some objects, and apparently ducking down is either not in the game, or I just couldn't figure out how to do it. It was also bizarre to find out that melee attacks seem to be more powerful than guns. I was getting overrun trying to take enemies down with bullets, only to find that they couldn't stand up to a few punches and kicks.

The final segment was the “boss fight” slice, and paired Sherry with newcomer Jake. The two of them are in some sort of Russians sewer being chased by a huge Nemesis-like monster called Ustanak. His right arm is a mechanical contraption that appears to drill into the humans it catches, and he basically looks pretty pee-pants terrifying. After a Crash Bandicoot “run towards the camera” segment, our heroes end up in a large, open warehouse area and must take the beast down.

Jake, Ustanak, and Sherry
This boss battle was very similar to several others that have been in recent installments, and was equally irritating. My partner and I felt totally underpowered as we pumped round after round into it with no apparent effect. I tried the old "lure him near the exploding barrel" trick, and that didn't seem to do anything, either. During this time, Russian mutant thugs kept showing up to be easily dispatched -- clearly there to make sure that we didn't run out of ammo. Honestly, I didn't finish this section. I got killed three times in a row, and throwing myself up against this HP wall of a monster with no clue whether I was on the right track or not wasn't very engaging.  After the third death, I just quit the demo.

Random notes: 

>After selecting the single player option, I was quite disappointed to see that there is no pause. The active player ducks down and looks at their smartphone to bring up a menu on screen, but the action continues on in real time. Quite frankly, such a decision is pure crap in singleplayer mode. Do. Not. Like.

>The control setup feels extremely clunky and cumbersome. The left bumper is devoted entirely to a "go here" function which brings up a giant arrow telling the player which way to go when they inevitably get turned around. Dodging requires moving the stick, holding a trigger, and pushing a button at the same time, and I often couldn't predict which direction I would dodge.

>I ran out of ammo in all three of the demo scenarios, and trying to navigate the cross-key menu to switch to another gun or to figure out how the hell to heal (it's the right bumper to use heal capsules) really distracted me from what was happening on-screen and was an unnecessary layer of stuff to navigate, especially since there's no pause. I guess Capcom is trying to instill a sense of tension with inventory management, but it just felt awkward and difficult to use. Granted, a lot of that is unfamiliarity with a brand-new system, but still...

Overall, I can't say that what I saw in the demo was very encouraging. 

Of course, it's just a demo and the final product will likely be different in many ways, but the basic design and logic of what we got here are a worrisome -- the controls and camera, most of all. The challenge in playing a game shouldn't be battling the menu system or trying to dodge when it's needed. I will definitely still give the game a chance, but after this demo and the distasteful experience of Operation Raccoon City, I can't help but think that this series is mutating in the wrong direction.


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