Over 16 years, Resident Evil has moved far from its fixed camera angles - and set new standards on the way. Resident Evil 4's semi-free camera, pivoting on a third-person shoulder, did no less than reinvent the action genre, and it's no shock to see a similar system at the heart of Resident Evil 6. What is surprising about this latest entry is how much it wants that control back.
Somewhere in Capcom HQ is a dog-eared box set of 24, on top of a pile of Call of Duty and Uncharted games. Resident Evil 6 carries on elements of what began as a horror series, but its focus is overwhelmingly on delivering a western-style cinematic spectacular. Planes will crash, buildings will collapse - and if you see a ship, the chances are it will sink or get blown up.
It's a game that moves forward at a breathless pace, and the second surprise is just how much of it there is. Capcom may have exaggerated the degree to which the four individual campaigns differ, but each of them is six to seven hours long - and on top of that you've got Mercenaries and Agent Hunt modes. Resident Evil 6 offers serious value for money; the question is whether this is the kind of value you want. With hour upon hour of campaign firefights punctuated by high-octane action sequences, Resident Evil 6 is under huge pressure to keep upping the ante, and sometimes it falls flat.
JUMPING THE SHARK
A moment in Leon's campaign captures everything right and wrong about Resi 6's approach (WARNING: skip the next few paras if you're afraid of spoilers).
You come across a monster shark. The thing is first seen at a distance, a brief glimpse enough to make the waist-high water terrifying, before a few minutes later you're forced to dive into an underwater network of tunnels. Coming up for air switches to a cramped camera view of the two agents' heads (no way to see what's below), and, when diving down, the screen is obscured with bubbles for a lingering second.
The shark sequence is the scariest in the game... but then things get ludicrous...
It's the single scariest sequence in Resi 6, which has a few jumps but is far from a scary game. Every angle and visual trick seems to mess with the imagination while holding back the encounter you know must be coming. And then the shark strikes from below, and things get ludicrous: it swims off with Helena cradled delicately in its giant jaws, and Leon holding on to its back. This thing you've been terrified of turns out to have teeth made of rubber, and over a few minutes of QTEs, Resi 6 basically has you fist-fighting it before finishing things off with a 35-year-old exploding barrel stamped "Jaws."