Resident Evil 6 preview - Hands-on with the first hours of all three campaigns

Resident Evil 6 is one of the most anticipated sequels of the year, the next entry in one of the biggest franchises in gaming history. To date we’ve seen an incredible amount of RE6's settings and characters. We’ve met classic stars like Leon and Chris, old enemies like Ada Wong, and new characters like Jake and Helena. We’ve seen so much, yet so many questions remain about the massive game. Now we’ve at least had some time with a near final version of the first two chapters of each of the three campaigns, and while we may not know how it ends, we at least can be satisfied with knowing how it starts.

The game begins with several bangs, as massive explosions toss Leon Kennedy and his partner Helena Harper into a car. They slowly recover their bearings, and it's revealed that they’re trapped in the destroyed Chinese city shown in past trailers for the game. After only moments to introduce the controls, you’re thrown into a crazy sequence of cinematic moments. You dodge falling planes, collapsing streets, do your best to fly a helicopter while shooting a zombie at the same time, and ultimately crash land. It’s an exciting start, though with many more quick time events than we’re used to in Resident Evil. QTEs were numerous in the demo, though we aren't sure if that's for the best or not.

Once the prologue is complete you start with any of the three campaigns, and it seemed only fitting to first continue with Leon and Helena. After a surprise outbreak in a small US town and killing the zombified President of the United States, the two federal agents are trapped in a city riddled with undead. Soon they're teaming up with a ragtag group of survivors that don’t do a great job of surviving, and ultimately the two end up at a church which Helena says holds the secret to the infection. By the end of the second chapter that secret isn’t uncovered, but dozens of undead and Ada Wong are. Overall the pacing of the Leon areas felt the most familiar to the series, but updated with current gaming concepts in mind.

Next were the Chris Redfield chapters, featuring a mildly amnesiac, guilt ridden Chris that’s pushed to confront the death of his squad and return to saving lives with the BSAA. Here Chris and his partner Piers faced the J’avo, the shape shifting, terrorist cell that's purposefully infected with the C-Virus. The virus causes damaged limbs to regrow in dangerous, ghastly ways. Chris’ sections felt the most brainless. The majority of his story was based around clearing out a room of monsters, opening a door, then killing the next room full of monsters. Also, strangely, Chris’ punches are usually more reliable than his bullets, leading players to often settle for melee damage over the using up ammo with less reliable shots.

Finally, we came to the Jake Mueller stages. The new hero of the series, a man that teams up with Sherry Birken, the now-adult girl from RE2. Jake is a snarky tough guy that seems to be only interested in earning money for his troubles, though he has moments of compassion that are counter to his supposed lineage as Albert Wesker’s son. Jake’s stages are a new touch for the series, with a bigger focus on cinematic action and hand-to-hand combat, mildly reminiscent of the Uncharted series. Of course, the hulking creature chasing Jake and Sherry fits in with RE history, as the unstoppable, perhaps unkillable Ustanak is continually chasing the two like a latter day Nemesis. Also, in Jake’s section we got our first taste of how the campaigns intersect when Chris and his team make an appearance in a longish sequence.

Overall it was pleasantly surprising how long it took to play through the start of the three stories. In a world where 10 hour campaigns are becoming the norm, we spent at least that long on beginning the plots of the three leads. There are still some strange balancing and control hitches that may take some getting used to or hopefully be adjusted by the time it ships October 2, but so far Resident Evil 6 at least seems massive enough to earn its blockbuster hype, even if the gameplay hasn’t totally proven itself yet.

Henry Gilbert

Henry Gilbert is a former GamesRadar+ Editor, having spent seven years at the site helping to navigate our readers through the PS3 and Xbox 360 generation. Henry is now following another passion of his besides video games, working as the producer and podcast cohost of the popular Talking Simpsons and What a Cartoon podcasts.