It might have morphed into a lucrative film franchise, but the game that put survival horror on the map is returning to its roots.
Releasing Tuesday, Resident Evil 6 lets gamers fight off undead beasts as multiple characters from the franchise's 15-year history. It's the largest Resident Evil game yet -- and it's gotten a significant push from both publisher Capcom and partners like Microsoft, who put it center stage during its E3 press conference earlier this year. In a holiday season filled with huge names like Halo and Call of Duty, it still manages to stand out.
But something is rotten in the state of Resident Evil, and it's not the corpses. Critics are ripping into the new game like a hungry zombie, calling it poorly paced and poorly executed.
"This is a wannabe action film that resents your interference, and punishes you by forcing one horrible quick-time event after another upon you," writes GameSpot, which gives the game a mere 4.5 out of 10. "There's a place for contextual prompts and cinematic storytelling in video games, but Resident Evil 6 is a mishmash of elements put together without any sense of care or direction. Series faithful might stumble through for the sake of story, and perhaps to appreciate those few moments that recall when Resident Evil was at its peak glory. But this long, poor sequel is the ultimate test of patience for even the most dedicated."
Joystiq is equally unimpressed.
"If every idea had come together without friction, and with the aid of Capcom's top-notch presentation, Resident Evil 6 would have been a tremendous action game," they write in a 2.5/5 review. "Instead, it's a fully-featured, sloppy, frequently frustrating attempt to do well by everyone."
That sentiment is echoed by Polygon in a brutal 4/10 review that calls the games "an oversized behemoth" and "a franchise-diminishing disappointment."
"In the end, Resident Evil 6 resembles one of its grotesque mutations — bloated, out of control, and recklessly trying to consume everything around it," gripe reviewer Philip Kollar.
While dialogue has never been a particularly strong suit in the Resident Evil games, critics say it's especially cringe-worthy this time out. And the pacing is being particularly lambasted.
"I constantly found myself wondering: Is this game in some kind of hurry?" notes 1Up's Jose Otero. "You'd think as much from the intrusive waypoint marker system. … These on-screen markers constantly rob RE6 of tension. … The unfortunate truth is that Capcom hasn't figured out a new way to terrify gamers in the eight years since RE4." They award it a C+.
G4, meanwhile, rips into Capcom's development decisions, giving it a 2.5/5 while saying this installment "completely changes the core gameplay that made the series so great, and instead goes for something that resembles their idea of Uncharted or an over the top action experience. Unfortunately, this means that the rest of the game suffered, leaving a broken shell of a game."
So is it just an unmitigated train wreck? Not if you ask Game Informer, who dole out a whopping 88/100 while calling it "an unhinged, flaming rollercoaster ride" and praising the game's co-op feature. And though IGN's 7.9/10 is tempered by loads of complaints, the site applauds Resident's Evil 6's production values and cleverly integrated storylines.
The game also enjoyed a number of well-attended midnight launch events at retail stores across the country, so perhaps the critical take won't sway consumer interest. But with a current Metacritic average of only 68, it's a rough start to the holiday season for Capcom. That's not quite a death knell, but it's clear this undead franchise isn't what it used to be.