RE6

Jake Muller and Sherry Birkin escape from the Ustanek in "Resident Evil 6."

"Resident Evil 6" is a strange monster of a game.

If you play it like any previous game in Capcom's horror-turned-action series, it's a bloated bore. Totaling about 30 hours in length, it's twice as long as "Resident Evil 5" and five times the length of the first "Resident Evil."

Campaigns for Leon Kennedy, Chris Redfield, new guy Jake Muller and Ada Wong, the first three with co-op partners and the last solo, center on a global zombie outbreak as Neo-Umbrella's C-Virus infects America, eastern Europe and China. Each campaign intersects with the others at various points, so those 30 hours contain a lot of "didn't I kill this guy?" moments. And the fact that several bosses emerge from apparent defeat for a rematch only adds to the redundancy.

In fact, "Resident Evil 6" might as well be exhibit A in the case against that fool's notion that more hours mean more quality. The game's campaigns settle early into a tiresome structure: Find yourself surrounded by bad guys, put about 10 rounds into each of them, and move on to the next room populated by more bad guys. You do this for, again, 30 hours.

Marginally fun shooting isn't all there is, though. A couple stealth sequences, particularly femme fatale Ada's, manage to be halfway suspenseful. All but one of the campaigns also toss in some bland vehicular action, be it atop a snowmobile or in the cockpit of a fighter jet or helicopter.

And there's a whole lot of confounding quick-time events, which include all the ingredients that have soured many players on the concept. The on-screen button prompts are tiny, the time you have to press the button is even tinier, and failure often sends you back to a checkpoint that requires a few minutes of play to even return to the QTE.

So at the climax of a rail track showdown with a staggering chainsaw-armed creature, Ada gets into some sort of scripted struggle with it. I can't be more specific about the struggle, because I was too busy watching the QTE prompt. It requires you to wiggle the left analog stick so fast that I failed about 15 times, each one forcing me to fight the thing for two minutes before returning to the fatal moment. Finally, when the prompt appeared, I palmed the stick with my right hand and shook it like I was trying to scrub crusted cheese off a dinner plate. That, at last, delivered me from this looping hellhole.

Speaking of which, checkpoints and saving are another problem in "Resident Evil 6." The typewriter save system, dispensed in "5," is still gone in favor of well-placed checkpoints. But now, not every checkpoint actually saves the game — just the ones that say "saving." The sooner you realize this, the fewer 20-minute blocks you'll be forced to replay. And you can't even pause the game if you don't figure out that it's an option you have to turn on. I understand this default setting is a concession to the online co-op and intersecting campaigns, but I'd also like to take a bathroom break when I need one.

Just as problematic as all this is what "6" doesn't have. In all 30 hours, I counted just two remotely challenging puzzles. Even "4" and "5" managed more than a few amid their move from survival horror toward third-person action. There are also no genuine frights. You can gingerly dodge the swipes of the chainsaw J'avo I mentioned earlier; fighting him doesn't deliver the kind of dread inspired by the claustrophobic encounters with his Ganado and Majini counterparts in "4" and "5."

Because it relocates in-game documents as a menu item, "6" also lacks in its story the kind of mythological depth that made every prior "Resident Evil" a peelable onion of backstabbing, power-grabbing and god-playing. As a result, the events of "6" just feel glib. Every one of these flat heroes — Leon, Chris and Jake are basically American action hero badass Nos. 1, 2 and 3 — speaks in unfunny quips and cliches as America and China break out in mass zombie fever.

There is one really good thing about "Resident Evil 6," though. The new online Agent Hunt mode allows you to drop into another player's game as a zombie or J'avo and, well, hunt. It's brainless but bite-sized fun, and the only part of "6" that shouldn't be rebuilt from the ground up for "7."

But maybe "7" isn't the direction "Resident Evil" should take next. With both its action and its horror weaker than ever, its story being outright absurd at this point, and its fellow '90s game franchises doing the same thing, maybe it's time for a reboot.

Otherwise, to borrow the latest game's own tagline, there may be "no hope left" for "Resident Evil."

Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at drwilcox, or find him on PSN or Xbox Live under the name davewiththeid.

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Features editor for The Citizen.