CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The "Resident Evil" franchise has been constantly evolving since its debut on the PlayStation more than a decade ago. What began as a slow, spooky stroll through a creepy, zombie-invested mansion in the original "Resident Evil" had transformed into a bombastic action game full of explosive set-piece moments for "Resident Evil 5."
That evolution has continued in the newly released "Resident Evil 6," a title that combines the deliberate pacing of "Resident Evil 4," the over-the-top action of "Resident Evil 5" and the kind frightening moments that had me jumping out of my seat throughout the first three games. And while this merging of styles and ideas does lead to some minor issues, "Resident Evil 6" remains an ambitious game that stands as a worthy addition to the franchise.
With three separate-yet-intertwined campaigns and six playable characters - plus a fourth campaign featuring fan-favorite Ada Wong unlocked upon completing the main story -- "Resident Evil 6" is by far the biggest game in the series. Bigger doesn't always mean better, but "Resident Evil 6" gets it right for the most part.
Each of the three primary campaigns seems geared toward a certain portion of the "Resident Evil" fan base, from Leon and Helena's escape from a zombie-invested town (reminiscent of the series' earliest titles) to Chris and Piers' bullet-filled quest for revenge (think "Resident Evil 5"-type action). Jake and Sherry's attempt to deliver a cure for the virus mixes elements of the other two campaigns, but their battles against the seemingly unstoppable Ustanak provided some of the game's most exciting moments. Campaigns can be played as either the hero or sidekick, and the experience changes depending on who you choose. Also, if playing alone your AI partner does a very respectable job of holding their own in combat and saving your butt with a timely revive.
These unique campaigns, which can be played solo or with a friend online or via split-screen, are tied together by an overarching story that I actually found surprisingly entertaining and told through some of the best-looking cutscenes I've seen in a long time. The times in which the stories overlap offer different perspectives on some of the game's memorable moments as you'll be repeating the same situations as different characters, which helped to maintain the story's overall continuity but also contributed to a certain "been-there, done-that" vibe. Clocking in at more than 30 hours, though, the multiple campaigns of "Resident Evil 6" pack quite a bang for your buck.
Speaking of bang, you'll be blasting countless zombies and other horrific creatures throughout the course of the story. While shooting is such a central part of "Resident Evil 6," it is also the aspect of the game that caused me the most frustration. Enemies are extremely difficult to take down, soaking up bullets like meaty sponges. Not even head shots were guaranteed to stop a zombie with one bullet. Collecting skill points, earned by defeating enemies or discovered by smashing crates and boxes, allows you to purchase upgrades that can make you a more efficient killing machine, and mixing in melee attacks seemed to be the most effective way to dispatch my attackers. But sluggish controls and some rather loose hit detection made attempting melee attacks a risky proposition, especially in a crowd.
Graphically "Resident Evil 6" is a mixed bag. While character models and cutscenes are gorgeous, the environments lack detail and many of the animations are stiff. Of course, these rigid character movements have been a part of "Resident Evil" from the beginning, so it's almost expected at this point. The audio presentation is likewise worthy of praise, especially the voice-over work. For a series known for its share of campy dialogue, "Resident Evil 6" does its best to play it straight and the narration reflects this.
In addition to the campaign, "Resident Evil 6" offers a pair of multiplayer modes. Mercenaries allows you to team up with a friend and eliminate waves of enemies and Agent Hunt lets you join another player's campaign game and wreak havoc as a monster. While these modes are fun for a short while, the real attraction here is the campaign.