Resident Evil 6 is almost here and fans, regardless of whether they own Dragon’s Dogma or not, have been given the chance to play individual sections from each of the game’s three initial campaigns thanks to a second demo released on September 18th. It’s fair to say that the reception of the previous demo was far from positive, so fans were understandably sceptical as to whether the overall game had been improved between then and now. Gameplay footage released since the first demo has hinted that Capcom has listened to feedback and fixed what was broken but now the opportunity has arisen for players to really see these changes on show, it’s not wrong to say that this demo has a lot riding on it. Let’s see how it works out.
Set in a University located in Tall Oaks, Leon S Kennedy’s playable sections begin with him putting a bullet between a zombie-President’s eyes. After receiving a call from Ingrid Hunnigan (last seen in Resident Evil 4), the pair have their next destination and immediately begin to head towards it.
Leon and his partner soon begin to make their way through the university itself, slowly creeping down the buildings long corridors which are taken up mostly by shadows and dim lights on the ceiling’s. Capcom have certainly nailed the atmosphere in this section as the map is simply terrifying; there’s a constant feeling of dread as zombies could literally appear out of nowhere, and they often do. They might be slow but this section rarely throws just one enemy at the player; one portion had Leon and Helena fending off about twenty or thirty zombies in a tense and bloody corridor shootout.
When the section does open up, the pair find themselves in the University’s garden where stalls fill the grass and tables filled with party food are dotted in random locations. From this, it’s clear that whenever the zombie outbreak hit, it wasn’t just a normal day at the campus. In fact, the whole demo constantly reminds players that the world of Resident Evil 6 wasn't always filled with the undead: zombies have been designed to look like both students and teachers, some still wearing the backpacks they were wearing when they originally died. Books and pens still litter the tables in the classrooms as if everyone had to evacuate mid-lesson. Some zombies even have axes and bottles sticking out of them, suggesting that the University students weren’t prepared to go down without a fight.
The section culminates with a set-piece where Leon and Helena escape the campus by police car. Whilst this part wasn’t as intense as it was trying to be, it was nonetheless exciting and definitely ended the demo on a high.
When compared to Leon’s, Chris’ campaign is certainly more action orientated, clearly taking a note from Resident Evil 5’s unexpected focus on action instead of scares. Set in Edonia, the level tasks Chris with making his way through the streets after his convoy is attacked. Immediately before the cut-scene ends, it’s clear that Leon and Chris’ sections are very different and that’s a good thing. However, it wasn’t quite as good as the previous campaign and that was a shame.
The more action-orientated focus was a nice change of tone and will definitely stop the game from feeling repetitive, but the level on offer here wasn’t quite as exciting as it potentially could have been. Shooting felt too clumsy, with a very small number of shots actually hitting enemies, even if the target was placed directly on them. Because of this, it forces players to get in close and use the game’s melee feature and as good as this part is, it feels too much like an easy way out of sticky situations, situations that would previously have been completed by precise aiming and serious running skills.
However, whilst the demo isn’t perfect, it does have some great stand-out moments, A standout section includes Chris and his partner Piers fighting off against a huge monster that looks surprising like the creature in the monster movie, Cloverfield. Running madly whilst shooting at both the behemoth and “human” enemies is actually pretty exciting and the fact that the enemy isn’t killed suggests that it is far from the last time we’ll see its ugly face.
The demo ends with Chris and his team fighting off waves of enemies whilst a fellow soldier primes bombs on a train carriage blocking the path. With foes mutating into pretty hideous creatures, it’s not long before the encounter becomes both tense and exciting as ammo slowly begins to deplete: it was easily the most exciting part of the demo.
If Leon’s level was the best of the demo and Chris’ was the most disappointing, then Jake’s is without a doubt the strangest. There’s no secret as to Jake’s identity and whilst the level on offer here doesn’t exactly reference this revelation much, there’s no doubt that it will be a massive part of the game’s rather large story (judging by the trailer at least).
Set in China, Jake and his partner Sherry Birkin must work their way through wave after wave of enemies until they reach their goal at the end of the street. Hardly the most exciting and original set-up for a level but we don’t know what happens before and after this section: for all we know, what’s at the end of the street could be incredibly important and judging by the way the section concludes, it very possibly could be.
Jake’s gameplay certainly isn’t the tense and slow type that Leon’s was (at least not in this portion) and is leaning more towards Chris’ over-the-top, action-orientated tone. It’s fair to say though, that the action in Jake’s demo is overall better than that in Chris’. There’s a much closer focus on melee combat for Jake, even going so far to allow the player to equip no weapon and instead use their hands. It certainly makes for an interesting change from the gameplay on offer in the other two sections but it just feels slightly out of place however this may change when the game is released and we’re using it for much longer periods of time.
Jake’s level also makes good use of the enemies ability to mutate: at least five foes in this level transform into a pretty grotesque lizard-like monster that crawl about incredibly fast and throws out some kind of poisonous gas at the player. It’s certainly interesting to watch them change and the sudden twist of pace, from pop-and-shoot to a more run-and-gun feel is sure to force players to never keep their guard down.
Resident Evil 6 is certainly looking good. The graphics look great and the three campaigns don’t feel as jarring as they could easily have done. Shooting, for the most part, is great, even with the ability to move and shoot at the same time does feel slightly out of place: it’s certainly a welcome change but it just doesn’t suit the Resident Evil gameplay. And the sudden focus on melee in all of the campaigns (more in one of them, though) is a peculiar choice but it surprisingly fits in well with everything else going on.
The latest instalment in the series is making some pretty risky decisions: it’s moving further and further away from the survival-horror genre and towards a third-person shooter. Despite this, the game is looking good. It is only a matter of weeks away now so it’s very unlikely that Capcom have the time to listen to player feedback like they did with the Dragon’s Dogma demo but if Resident Evil 6 is released in this state then it will certainly be good, if not great, but it definitely won’t be a current-generation masterpiece like Resident Evil 4 was for the GameCube and PlayStation 2. That’s not saying that it won’t be a lot of fun, which the demo certainly is. Roll on October 2nd.