Two month early access was granted to Xbox 360 Dragon’s Dogma owners for the official Resident Evil 6 demo on July 3. The full demo pre-installed on the Dragon’s Dogma disc includes campaigns for Leon S. Kennedy, Chris Redfield, and Jake Muller. Each of the characters’ campaigns are fairly unique. Chris is heavily action oriented with his use of heavy weapons much like Resident Evil 5. Jake is a mix of action and survival with his physical prowess. The focus of this review however, is the return of Leon S. Kennedy and the survival horror theme reminiscent of “old school” Resident Evil titles.
On the main menu screen you have your basic campaign, character select, and system options with the new C-Virus theme. The “6” logo still does look like a giraffe is getting some action down there though but I digress. Players have a choice of hosting or joining a co-op game. In a solo run the partner will be AI controlled. Most fans of the franchise will immediately go for Leon. Be warned though that Leon and Helena have the same playstyles with a few exceptions that will be covered later.
The start of the demo takes place on June 2013, nine years after the events of Resident Evil 4. This puts Leon at around 36. Players can tell by his looks, attitude, and the fact that he looks exactly like Dante from Devil May Cry 4. Set at Ivy University in the Tall Oaks community, Leon is accompanied by Division of Security Operations (DSO) agent Helena Harper as they attempt to “apprehend” the President of The United States. Unfortunately, the President is afflicted with the new C-Virus. Now I wonder if Capcom actually put all the letters of the English alphabet in a hat with the exception of G/T and picked out this letter? Anyway, the President is neutralized by Leon when he (El Presidente) tries to attack Helena. With radio support by Ingrid Hunnigan (hot brunette from Resident Evil 4), their main objective is to escape Ivy University.
Immediately I noticed the dark atmosphere of Leon’s campaign which were even more fleshed out by great visuals. Character models, environments, weapons, and enemies are magnificent. The lighting effects in particular contributed a great deal to the horrific atmosphere, be it a moving chandelier or a flash of lightning outside the University. The integration of in-game cutscenes is fluid but there exist a few graphical issues in this demo. In addition to a minor lack in polish, the existence of screen tearing (exemplified above) was prevalent not only in cinema cutscenes but in game as well. I hope that these issues, although not game breaking, will be resolved upon final release.
Resident Evil 6 brings new combat options to players via the myriad controls. Players are able to quick-fire with both triggers, dash in a free-run, dodge, and engage in close quarters combat with AND without contextual button presses. Gone is the high tension, stationary aiming from old Resident Evil titles. Players are also able to switch between left and right aiming positions, the former which Sheva Alomar utilized in Resident Evil 5. The transparent HUD displays important information such as health, magazine/reserve ammo count, and akimbo mode.
Health is divided up into six blocks or segments. There’s no sign of the iconic greed, red, yellow, and blue herbs that characters had been known to eat, spray, and smoke behind the scenes but there is inventory space for a first aid spray. Instead health is restored via health tablets reminiscent of Max Payne’s painkillers. One tablet restores one segment. If you take damage without losing an entire segment then it is automatically replenished relatively quickly. Yes, there is health regeneration in this game. It makes sense for Leon though seeing as his swag alone can heal injuries.
Gameplay in the demo is pretty linear. Complete exploration has been replaced with objective based gameplay complete with waypoints, distance icons, and on-screen priorities. The camera isn’t fixed and can be fully controlled by the player. 180 degree turns still exist but they are complemented by non-contextual free-runs and dodges. Inventory access is real time so weapons and first aid sprays can be accessed on the fly. There is no indication of an unlimited or limited inventory since there are neither (to my knowledge) weapon nor regenerative item pick-ups in the demo.
As for the playstyle and loadout of the characters themselves, Leon and Helena play generally the same with a few exceptions. Helena comes equipped with a pistol and Hydra shotgun from Resident Evil 5. Leon comes equipped with a Heckler & Koch VP70 Handgun w/ laser sight (called the Wing Shooter in the demo). In addition to the handgun is the classic survival knife. This weapon is VERY practical in the demo as it’s able to take out the undead in about four to five slashes. The pistol is wielded without a stock thus rendering it as a normal pistol without burst fire capabilities. Leon is able to dual wield two Wing Shooters and go gung-ho like a hyperactive 12 year old on a Call of Duty server. That seems an impractical approach seeing as ammunition is scarce.
Survival takes precedence over action. The player must use all the tools and skills at their disposal. Gunplay and melee combat are integrated seamlessly. The physics are surprisingly realistic. If Leon kicks a group of enemies they won’t be sent a city away like in RE4. A quick sweep can be used to suppress a close mob while you can neutralize medium ranged targets with well placed headshots and a slew of melee attacks. You can then pick off any stragglers with your survival knife. These are just some of the strategies now that the player has more control and combat options available in a survival horror setting.
Overall, I enjoyed Leon’s campaign. It’s good to see Capcom go back to the survival horror aspect that the original titles had. The slow pace builds and transitions to seamless combat scenarios. The only personal gripes I had were the health regen and the objective based systems. The health regen promoted a third person shooter setting while taking away the feeling of survival. The objective based waypoints gave the feeling of linearity. There didn’t seem to be much possibilities of exploration besides a room or corridor here and there. Hopefully the technical issues such as variable camera complications, screen tear, and polish issues can be resolved when the game is released in October.
The demo will be available from The PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Marketplace on September 5. If you want to see a full playthrough of Leon’s campaign then I highly recommend Maximillian’s HD playthrough below.