Resident Evil 6: 11 important changes that make it play unlike any Resident Evil you've seen before

Resident Evil 6 hands Under-resourced and up against it

Resident Evil 6 is not like any Resident Evil youve played before. On first glance it looks familiar enough. Maybe even overly so. But Resident Evil 6 actually works very, very differently.

It's a game made up of myriad changes, tweaks and additions compared to the previous games, and in truth theres a hell of a lot going on under the hood that wont be immediately apparent. It takes a while to come to really understand how this new iteration of Resi works, but once you do, it all starts to make a great deal of sense. Here are the big differences you should prepare for, based on a long, intensive plumbing of the latest preview code.

It's now much more fluid and frantic

Although superficially its gameplay doesnt look like much of a change compared to the overhaul Resident Evil 4 brought to the series, Resident Evil 6s central gameplay flow is actually rather different from that of its predecessors. It doesnt generally drop back to the traditionally slow, non-shooty pace of the early games (though it certainly has quiet, creepy patches), Resi 6 does aim to create a new kind of horror through a fast, utterly in-your-face sense of panic and uncertainty.

On the surface its the same blend of over-the-shoulder third-person shooting and melee, but the way it all operates and feels is much more immediate and affecting. And thats thanks to a whole lot of changes. Specifically

Handling is more organic, characters are more vulnerable

In Resident Evils 4 and 5, even when using the latter games more modern twin-stick controls, you were essentially operating a big meaty tank, both stiff of movement and lumbering of pace. Resident Evil 6s protagonists however, have been dosed with a good strong shot of Nathan Drakes DNA. The effect is a slicker, quicker sense of movement and inertia along with a more more flowing independence between character and camera control. But before you start imagining a cast of overly-nimble bullet-ninjas, theres something you need to consider. The pay-off is that theyre less precise in their movements, and certainly much less stable. In fact they feel altogether more human compared to their old walking-turret-style selves.

Run too fast through a room of obstacles and dead bodies, and Leon in particular is likely to stall and stumble as he bumps and trips through the environment. You wont come across anything as extreme as Uncharted 3s overcooked wall-stroking simulator physics, but stubbing your toe hard on a recently dropped zombie brings about an instant drop in inertia thats incredibly jarring and more than a bit panic-inducing when fighting through a tricky spot. And spontaneous knock-downs are far more frequent now, even when playing as the muscle-mountain that is Chris Redfield.

Forget recent Resis stoic handling, and prepare to feel a lot more vulnerable.

Killing is now an inexact science

Although the last two Resident Evils could be tense and oppressive games at times, you could generally rely on your characters combat abilities. Their movement might have been stiff, but their aiming was true and predictable. And once you learned the rules of timing and spatial navigation, the crowd-controlling gameplay loop of using a crippling knee-shot to access a power-melee hit became a reliable and powerful way to dominate the space around you. In Resident Evil 6 though, things are much less certain. It all comes back to that more organic feel.

Aiming and shooting are much less reliable. Aiming feels floatier than before, and firing a shot imparts a more detrimental recoil that will at times throw your targeting off considerably more than youd expect. This stuff can eventually be tweaked as you level up your characters in between chapters, but its a slow process. And besides, only a couple of the many perks even relate to aiming, meaning that theres every chance youll prioritise something else. Theres also a new limited-access quick-shot move, executed by pulling both triggers simultaneously. Its an instant shot intended for panic-defence when being over-run, and roughly homes in on the nearest enemy, but its nowhere near a guaranteed hit. Though the fact that it even exists should tell you a lot about the direction Resident Evil 6 is going in.

And while melee attacks can now be performed on the fly without needing to be unlocked by dropping an enemy to their knees (a quick pull of the right trigger without aiming your weapon will now unleash a beatdown), youll generally need to be closer than before in order to be effective, and your instability makes things a lot less sure. In fact screw it, melee is so different and such a big deal this time that it deserves its own section of this feature

Hand-to-hand is as important (and nuanced) as bullet-to-face

Once triggered, Resident Evil 4 and 5s melee attacks were a nigh-guaranteed hit, almost operating as a QTE cutscene. In Resident Evil 6, if your positioning, your angle of attack, and the enemys defensive posturing (yep, even that of zombies) arent in tune, youll have to keep pounding away in order to get any kind of meaningful result. And pounding away is not advised too often, as although free to use at any time, efficient execution of Resident Evil 6s new melee system hinges on the games new stamina bar. Blindly wail on enemies too often and it will quickly drop. Bottom it out and youll end up with meting out the same ineffective toe-pokes you deal when youre on the verge of death.

So forget melee and just use guns, right? Wrong. Resident Evil 6s combat system is built very much around a 50/50 combination of risky up-close physical attacks and semi-long range shooting. That 'semi-long range' bit is important to note, because the maximum effective distance of firearms seems to have dropped a bit as a result of the mechanical changes listed earlier. And thats before you even get into the lessened ammo supply. Where the last two Resis were about staying on the outside of the pack and using staunch crowd-control tactics to shepherd your prey into manageable groups, Resi 6 forces you to get stuck right in, using a seat-of-the-pants combination of melee and shooting to push back and put down the swarming hordes around you. How seat-of-the-pants does it get? Well

It gets VERY seat-of-the-pants

Its amazing how fast a situation you thought you had under control can absolutely swamp you in Resident Evil 6. A few zombies in the distance? No problem. Youll pick them off before they get anywhere near you, right? Maybe not.

What if your unreliable aim causes you to miss a few too many times, and your lack of ammo forces you to stop pulling the trigger before you completely run out? What if you decide you can ignore the standard zombies at the back as long as you barrel in on the undead SWAT guy with the body armour before he causes too much of a problem? What if he proves harder to beat down than you thought, and manages to knock you on your arse? What if your slow recovery puts him right on top of you by the time youve got yourself focused, and forces you to crawl backward and use up another valuable bullet in an attempt to slow him down? What if by the time youve created a couple of extra feet of distance and got yourself upright again youve been backed into an alley, and the other zombies have caught up?

Suddenly that no problem is a massive problem, and youre improvising reluctant quick-shots to open up melees in every direction, as you get pinned further and further back into the corner. Eventually youre frantically flailing and stamping and ducking and weaving just to make any attempt to bludgeon the stinking horror around you down to the ground. And even once you have, keeping it down isnt easy. Where Resident Evil 4 and 5s ground takedowns were a pretty much guaranteed QTE kerb stomp, if you come in at the wrong angle in Resident Evil 6, or your writhing target writhes the wrong way at the last minute, youll end up uselessly stamping chest or arm and leaving that flimsy cranium unburst.

And that stamina gauge is going to go down every single time you do.

And as for some enemy-specific detail

Zombies are now a serious handful

Given that zombies were swapped out for the more combat-ready Ganados when Resident Evil went the action route in Resi 4, youd expect the old putrefying connoisseurs of brain buffet to be a fairly useless adversary this time around. Not so. Because while Resident Evil 6s general game-flow already brings multitudinous ways in which a bad situation can rapidly turn into a bloody horrific one, the standalone zombies themselves have gone through a bunch of smart changes.

First up, theyre just tougher to kill than youd expect. They can soak up a lot of body shots before going down, and even the noble head shot isnt that effective. Often it will just blow half of a zombs cranium off, leaving it with just enough to keep shambling towards you. It can often take two, sometimes even three lead/skull interface scenarios before a zombie will finally drop, and thats if you even manage to land a clean shot in the first place. Zombies will often hang their heads downwards, making a silhouette thats hard to decipher quickly enough to get an accurate cranium-popper out of the chamber before they get too close.

They also lurch around from side-to side like weightier Ganados, making matters even more frenzied when youre trying to pick off a few of them. Oh, and did I mention theyll sometimes jump straight at you from a distance, with barely any warning? Its not a regular thing, but thats part of the problem. Not happening frequently enough to become a standardised tactic, youll rarely ever be expecting it.

But its not just the zombies that are interestingly different.

The J'avo are clever and insanely aggressive

The new enemies that turn up at the start of Chris and Jakes campaigns at first look like yet another Ganado reskin. But theyre not. Theyre way more intelligent, far faster, and blisteringly aggressive. In fact in their normal humanoid state theyre able to use firearms and bladed weapons like an organised military force. And make no mistake; theyll come charging right up into your face in order to do so every single chance they get.

That gameplay description I mentioned on the seat-of-the-pants page? Imagine that sort of intensity while sprinting around the cramped corridors of an indoor marketplace, with seven or eight intelligent monsters swinging machetes, firing automatic weapons, and spontaneously gaining huge red whipping tentacle arms which double-up as bone-shields. And you wont have that much more ammo than you had against the zombies. Things are balanced by the fact that headshots are incredibly effective against them, almost always dropping them in one hit (until they start imitating the Ganados in other ways, anyway). But given the Javos' pace and blitzkrieg approach, youll have to develop a zen-like control of the fight in order to make those shots land.

Oh, and you might have noticed that I referenced their normal humanoid state up there in that first paragraph. As well as being capable soldiers, these guys are prone to spontaneous bounds of total metamorphosis, mutating into new forms which mash together disparate enemy types and behaviour patterns that you will not have encountered in combination before. Ever fought a spider that could use a machine gun? No? Might want to get ready for that.

Chris' campaign fully embraces a proper, free-flowing shooter vibe

While Leons campaign punctuates the combat intensity with long, atmospheric puzzly periods pulled straight out of Resident Evil 4, Chris story completely embraces the hardcore action-bastard angle tentatively played with in Resident Evil 5. And thats absolutely fine. A large proportion of Resident Evil 5s failings came about as a result of the games identity crisis. It was a game rooted in its predecessors gameplay model, yet one making confused, half-hearted reaches towards the world of western third-person shooters. Tonally and mechanically it was a bit of an inconsistent mish-mash as a result.

By separating Resident Evil 6 into three standalone campaigns, Capcom has been able to properly embrace full-on action in Chris story without hampering the vibe of the whole game. And it has seriously embraced it. Aside from the obvious changes to enemy behaviour, the level design is very, very different. In fact it frequently feels more like an FPS in terms of architectural layout, made up of sprawling networks of inter-connected corridors, branching routes through environments and plentiful, densely structured mini-sandbox arenas to encourage smart, adaptable use of space.

It absolutely isnt the Gears of War clone many have been expecting. The fast, fluid combat model and often very open level design offer a much more organic and free-flowing experience for those who truly take advantage of the full possibilities. Flanking, rushing down, architectural cover, plain old running away Its all possible on the fly in Chris campaign, and the experience is all the better for finally committing to the balls-out approach with such ludicrously gleeful fervour.

QTEs are smarter, more intimate, and more affecting

Its a modern Resident Evil game. There are QTEs. But like everything in Resident Evil 6, while on first glance they appear to be business as usual, in practice the button-prompt action is very different this time. As already discussed, the enemy-execution QTEs are not the cut-and-dried insta-kills they used to be, but theres a similar refinement to a lot of the stand-out set-piece versions too. This stuff isnt about hammering a button to punch a rock or run away from a giant robo-statue. Its more layered and intimate than that.

You might, for instance, be over-run by zombies, and find yourself struggling to force back and barricade the door. Rather than giving you a "Mash to push door" prompt, the game will switch to a special close-up camera angle, from which you'll one-handedly struggle to shoot back the grasping hands and leering faces that splay around the half-open doorway before you lose control of the situation. It's a smartly directed and very tense way of dropping in a cinematic mini set-piece while maintaining immersion and control.

A bigger, more stand-out instance of this approach occurs when Leon makes it to an abandoned car after escaping a street teeming with far too many zombies to engage. A QTE begins as huge swathes of the undead catch up with him and start to envelop the vehicle, hammering on doors and cracking windows. Press A to lock the door, then pull a trigger to drive off ? No. Instead you have to use an analogue stick to manually look around the car to find where the key is hidden, hitting a button to check each possible hiding spot in turn. If you're unlucky then by the time it turns up the zombies are almost through the windscreen. And with the whole thing playing out through a near Leons-eye-view camera angle, the sense of claustrophobia, panic and impending doom are immense.

And speaking of abandoned cars

Being amongst civilisation makes a big difference

Its amazing what a difference a bit of ambient scene-setting can make to a game. Previous Resident Evils have generally played out in isolated locations populated by barely anything that didnt want to kill you. Even the Raccoon City-set Resident Evil 2 and Nemesis were largely deserted zombie-fests. While Resident Evil 6 does play out in a variety of monster-filled wildernesses, it also takes the opposite approach. This is a game about the world going to hell around you, and youll see a lot of that happening first-hand. The opening hours of Leons campaign in particular are packed with run-ins with screaming crowds, terrified survivors, and otherwise instances of being forced nose-to-nose with a humanity on the brink.

Youll stumble upon a group trying desperately to stay alive during an on-going battle at a petrol station, and help them push back the tide. Youll group together for a little while and try to help each other stay alive, despite the best efforts of the monsters and the more selfish humans blighting the place. Youll narrowly duck out of the way of crashing cars as terrified drivers spin out of control in the road. Youll meet lone survivors just long enough to see them make the one mistake that will reduce them to corpse food. Youll engage in long battles of attrition outside fortified buildings, as the people holed up inside argue over whether to help you or keep the hatches battened down for their own safety.

Of course, the usual array of abandoned underground labs, atmospheric gothic architecture, and dark, lonely survival is present and correct too, but being exposed to the human face of Resident Evils apocalyptic horror makes all of it immensely more affecting.

You're under-resourced and up against it

Not strictly a new thing for Resident Evil, this one, but definitely a welcome semi-return to old ways. You wont generally find yourself nervously creeping down corridors clutching a single bullet for dear life like in the series very early days, but you will frequently find that what you thought was a plentiful ammo supply has disappeared in no time at all. And youll often end up exploring every square inch of a boss battle arena with empty pockets, scrabbling for anything you can get your hands on while trying very hard not to get turned into meat-jam in the process.

Its the same deal with health boosts too. Herbs seem less plentiful than they have been in the last couple of games, and have to be turned into useable health pills before they can do you any good. This is performed via a simple manual crafting system. Its a one-button job, but the menu comes up as a transparent overlay and does not pause the in-game action when you use it. Stay on top of managing your supplies, or die trying to manufacture a new pill supply while being clawed by ravenous cadavers. Your choice. With a segmented health bar this time as well, and a one pill = one block recovery ratio, you can very plausibly expect to fight through whole sections of the game staying deliberately just one health unit above critical in order to ration your supplies. And in a game as intense as this, thats rather an exciting thing to have to do.

David Houghton
Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.