Head2Head – Should Resident Evil 6 be an Action Game?
- Resident Evil
Welcome to Head2Head, a Made2Game feature that sees two of our contributers lock horns over a particular gaming subject. Today James B and Mick F argue for and against Resident Evil 6's large focus on action over the series' roots as a calm and careful survival horror.
Resident Evil 6 is popping up left right and centre at the minute, with a new trailer delivering fan pleasing name drops and the demo being used to entice people into buying Dragon's Dogma (which shouldn't be why you buy that game by the way, as our Dragon's Dogma preview details).
However there's one inescapable truth about Resident Evil 6 – it's action packed. Well, action bulging may be a more apt term. Leon fights off hordes of icky zomboids with new scavenging melee skills and Max Payne rivalling gun dives. Chris tackles gun toting Umbrealla sorts in China with a full-on cover system. And new-boy Wesker Jr. gets up close and personal with some funky mutations, using CQC skills to batter anything drooling for a nibble.
It's relentless, in a word, and here at Made2Game it's caused a clear divide in anticipation. So it's here in Head2Head that the two most opposed present their arguments for and against Resident Evil 6's mutation into a more conventional action game.
For Resident Evil 6 as an action game - Mick F
I love bombast.
I have to be completely honest about that before I even voice my argument. Big explosions, OTT set-pieces, ridiculous, physics-defying special effects – they're enough to make me at least play a game, and often enough to make me stay with it to the end. But that's not to say I advocate style over substance. I need story, too; context, coherence.
Stern looking bald man, hapless looking female. Ah Capcom, don't let anyone tell you you can't do characterisation. Popcorn gaming at its finest.
I never got too worked up over the Resident Evil games— Wait! Before you start hurling stones and constructing a crucifix, I should clarify that I loved – absolutely loved – the first three titles. I loved them because, at the time, they were survival horror. They were scary, intriguing, exciting and, above all, original.
But this is 2012, not 1999, and things have changed. For the same reason that Silent Hill terrified me, but Silent Hill: Downpour (You can read my Silent Hill: Downpour review here) bored me to tears, Resi needs to adapt – or at the very least show that it's capable of adapting.
For instance, there's a big fuss because you can now move and shoot... Really? It's upsetting people that trained government agents can run and pull a trigger at the same time? Oh, and there's a "cover mechanic", so it must be a "Gears of War clone"! Twaddle. If I was standing before a bunch of flesh-eating zombies intent on tearing me apart, I'd be bloody thankful for the option to run and shoot, or get behind some solid cover.
Years ago, restricted movement while you fired at zombies was A) a way to ramp up the tension, B) partly necessitated by the technology of the time, and C) new and interesting, as everything about Resi was then. Nowadays, it makes no sense whatsoever. Resident Evil 5 proved that much – yes, the fans lapped it up, as fans will, but anyone coming in fresh wondered what the hell was going on and why burly old Chris Redfield was happy to get gnawed on while he lined up a shot.
When you boil it down survival is all about adapting to emergent situations. Resident Evil 6's gameplay variations deliver just that.
To many people, Resident Evil 4 is the best console game EVER, and even playing it now it's easy to see why it's so celebrated. It took a formula that was becoming old and switched it up a little, adding over the shoulder gunplay and blockbuster set-pieces. Resident Evil 5, however, was less well received and, frankly, if 6 was looking like more plodding exploration and static, over-the-shoulder blasting, it would be torn down by as many people as are currently bemoaning the change of direction.
Things have to evolve, and evolution in a medium like this means upsetting the puritanical fans who worship what has gone before. Resident Evil 6 is offering updated (not copycat) 3rd Person gaming in a more realistic way, shown via three separate campaigns while maintaining a (refined) co-op and AI partner element, all wrapped up in the Resi universe we know and love – even uniting two of the series' most influential protagonists in an action-packed, 30-hour story worthy of their ass-kicking, virus-battling talents – and able to stand alongside the action games of today.
Because that's what Resi has been since the camera first swung over Leon's shoulder, even before Chris and Sheeva indulged in a high speed chase on a machine-gun-equipped jeep: an action franchise, and one that felt staid and slow because of a conflict of design choices.
I, for one (and I probably am the only one) am glad they went this way and accepted that survival horror is getting old, and bombast is where it’s at.
It's called progress, people. Can't stand in the way of it.
Against Resident Evil 6 as an action game – James B
Fear. The groan of an overworked water pipe in an ancient block of flats. The floorboard that unexpectedly creaks under foot. The wind whistling an alien tune on a raven black night.
Terror is an interesting concept, and one that has felt eternally at home in video games. It's about raising the heartbeat and pushing the player's sanity with a mind test build on a bedrock of tension. The success of a survival horror is in the surviving, they're what create that unease and that fear of rounding the next corner.
It's the bits when a player has to stop and think 'will I need this?' 'Should I use that?' 'Can I afford to use bullets on this goon?' 'I really don't want to die now'. It's this overpowering element of thought that defines a survival horror game, and it creates a tension that, so far, Resident Evil 6's action direction seems to lack.
To better understand the issue, we must employ science.
Is that a waypoint marker we spy? Half of Resident Evil, and more recently Resident Evil Revelations, success as a horror title was in letting us get lost.
The human body has two ways of reacting to a stressful situation – short term and long term fight or flight. Short term deck or dash is employed when the body sees something really nasty that it knows needs sorting out as soon as possible, cue a huge injection of action prompting adrenaline to launch the body into an appropriate action.
Long term spar or sprint is different. When exposed to an extended period of stress the brain takes a different tact and starts releasing a hormone called Cortisol. Cortisol starts gathering extra energy from all over the body and turning off excess processes, such as that pesky immune system, so the body is prepared for the long haul. By speeding up metabolism and slowing down bodily functions, your brain shell is ready to push through the long haul without needing to stop for such irritating activities as eating and pissing. That said, you're more likely to get a cold.
Anyway, science lesson over. The point I want to make is that classic survival horror games, your Resi, Silent Hill, Clock Tower, Project Zero and Amnesia, manage to create a mix of these differing stressful situations. Considering what items to carry and creeping around an unknown grimy locale, that's long-term stress playing on your mind, and then those big enemy confrontations, those snap judgements, they're unexpected, instant, adrenaline generating moments of panic before your body relaxes back into the Cortisol state.
Two gun toting special agents versus one rotting ex-valet man? A tad unfair...
Action games? Well, action games, through their straightforward, linear designs, lack that necessary ebb and flow to create a difference. The problem with this? The constant action becomes the Cortisol producing norm, the player becomes used to riding that wave of action, and things become less frightening as a result. Sure, puss filled monsters can still be gross but like a Grindhouse exploitation flick you become numb to the grotesque excess and the brain just sees the never ending hordes as kill, kill, kill, don't die, don't die, kill, kill, raaaaaaaargh. Oh I died. No matter, I'll appear five seconds ago. Kill, kill, kill.
Tension, the foundation of fear, demands pacing, restraint, and a constant fear of failure. One creepy corridor between swathes of enemies doesn't make something scary, and something that isn't scary shouldn't inherit the Resident Evil name. Resi 4 had a balance and nuanced mechanics around which to conduct its bum tightening scenarios, but this Resi, with its reactive combat and generic cover shootouts, seems to be undermining thought-provoking vulnerability in the name of accessible shock and awe. I don't want to be Dante in amongst the C Virus hordes, I want to be cautious and careful, flopsey haired Leon, picking my shots and making my supplies last.
What I'm trying to say in my huge, messy, science-y way, is that constant action erodes fear, and something that isn't even slightly scary is not Resident Evil. Not in my book. No matter how pig flavoured the dialogue is.
Even Chris and Olly Murs are sad to see the franchise go how it has, but that rent needs paying somehow.
So those are our two arguments. One side says that action is good for Resi, like David Bowie you've got to change and mould yourself to suit the current state of your medium. The other laments the franchises departure from mansion trawles and rubbish controls, claiming that an action focus derails the ideals of the Resi formula. Who do you agree with? Sound off in the comments below and you could be featured in next week's H2H roundup.
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