How We Got Here
I can hear the mob outside my door already, but there’s something that we as fans need to understand about Resident Evil 6: the series was destined to have such an installment. All roads lead to here, whether you like it or not, an honestly the franchise was better off for it.
Let’s dial back a bit, shall we? What set us on this path? Well, one could argue that it started all the way back in 1998.
A City on Fire
Not long after we found ourselves in the seclusion of the Arklay Mountains, we saw the true horrors the T-Virus was capable of producing. It turned a metropolis into a smoking crater, and all in just over a week.
This grand scale may have been a strong theme throughout the game, but we don’t see very much of this threat coming out in gameplay. Yes, our opponents grew more varied and vicious, but we were still confined to small rooms, fighting through a few enemies at a time. The danger increased, and the world changed, but the game stayed generally the same.
With this heavy on our minds, the question then becomes “How could it ever get worse than this?” The fact is, no series can grow without changing the stakes.
We played as survivors who beat the odds a number of times, but the odds often were slow, shambling dead. That’s no small feat, and there were creatures such as Lickers and Tyrants as well. However, the point still remains that the fourth installment was going to challenge the hero in entirely new ways.
A New Kind of Horror
While some find Resident Evil 4 to be contentious, its impact is undeniable. Replacing the plodding, dragging steps of the undead with the feverish speed of living, breathing enemies. What once would have been a simple walk through a village, perhaps filled with the undead, became a true test of mettle.
This upward trend in both violence and thrill set 4 apart as a white-knuckle ride that was vastly removed from the slow approach of earlier installments. One could plan meticulously and outmaneuver the unintelligent hordes, though human enemies proved much more cunning and fierce. Their capacity for slaughter has no rival, and to face them meant gripping onto life with both hands.
This frenetic combat is a fresh breath of air for the franchise, but it also has certain expectations. For future games to truly terrorize us, they would have to once again up the ante for our unwitting protagonists.
Death in the Scorching Heat
The next installment is a lot more contentious. Resident Evil 5 tends to be the source of heated debate, but I find it to be wonderful. That’s a conversation for another article, however.
That aside, the story of 5 propelled another franchise hero into a fight they were never going to be ready for. The parasitic origins that began in 4 continues to grow here, as well as the enigmatic genesis of the T-Virus. Not only did it pit us against grotesque, monstrous terrors, we also stared down the barrel of the true smoking gun of the series.
The Stairway to the Sun flower is perhaps a slightly forgettable facet of the storyline of 5, but its impact on the series as a whole is undeniable. The virus whose shadow the heroes all lived in for over a decade now had its true beginning revealed: an ancient virus hidden in the pedals of an underground flower.
We even saw the end of the primary antagonist of the last 13 years, Albert Wesker. Some find his end to be insulting, and that’s a fair assessment. I find it to be pretty on par for the series. He went out fighting, that’s for damn sure.
So after that, only one storyline that had yet been truly wrapped up, something that people continually seem to forget. The entirety of the Resident Evil series was based upon a two-part fiction: the undying strength of Umbrella, and the mysterious forces who use their weapons for harm.
In the wake of the Kijuju Autonomous Zone Incident, the vacuum left by Wesker and TRICELL guaranteed an uproar. Leaving only one (arguably) villainous character left to combat.
The Woman in Red
This second undercurrent that runs throughout the history of Resident Evil is intrinsically tied to the femme fatale herself, Ada Wong. A woman whose motivations are cloudy from the jump, being left without an ending for her narrative would have been truly irritating. Her close ties to the T-Virus, bioterrorism, and Leon couldn’t possibly be left unconcluded.
The problem then arises in how this new narrative could possibly play out. Remember, the series had successfully escalated up until this point, throwing the player into new, terrifying encounters. To bring the Umbrella saga to a reasonable end, the scale would have to be truly enormous.
Not only that, but there was a hell of a lot of characters that could use their own true conclusion.
Leon was last seen on a wave racer, but his tie to Ada meant that her conclusion would also be his. He was absolutely necessary, and getting some kind of closure for him was sure to please.
Other old friends
Chris’ narrative almost entirely ran its course by the end of 5. However, he also presents a good outlet to explore the psychological effects of a life dedicated to fighting bioterrorism (a narrative that is visibly continued in 7, but again, a conversation for another article).
The surprising narrative thread that gets picked up third in 6 is that of Sherry Birkin. Her blood tie to the series’ beginnings, as well as her role as a living antidote, meant that her tale could continue at any time. In fact, it was surprising that she had been left untouched for so long.
The best part about choosing her for the third story in 6 is that it also presented an interesting opportunity for her partner. The choice to have her acquaintance be the son of Wesker was wildly unpopular, but this choice is also an extremely thematic one.
It was always leading here
Remember that Wesker and Birkin were close companions at Umbrella long ago. Their DNA runs through the series, even when their children aren’t present. This duo tackles something the other two stories don’t; the sins of the father. The circumstances of your family and the legacy you find yourself inheriting makes your life harder. Your implication in the crimes of someone you might not even know is something many of us can never truly understand. To me, that makes for an honestly compelling narrative thread.
This combination of factors all lead to an experience that, while admittedly is messy at times, honestly feels like the true climax. The culmination of all of the parts that make Resident Evil 6 what it is. The horror is still present, though less in some campaigns than others. The intrigue drags us through from the very beginning, making us question how much Ada truly did in all the past installments.
We see all of the plotlines come crashing together right here. T-Virus strains, Plagas, and the shadowy forces surrounding all of the awful things we saw in the past all lead to this moment: a city burning down because of the simple ambitions of simple men.
At the end of the day…
It’s not perfect, and the gameplay isn’t award-winning in any way. Though to act like Resident Evil 6 came out of left field, is simply incorrect. All the most important elements boil down to their strongest, most pure forms. The escalation that’s been going on from day one runs its natural course into an outbreak unlike any before.
This unstoppable ride to a true, final conclusion for a story that began humbly in a little mansion in the woods is a compelling one.
I’m truly happy to say that 6 delivers on that conclusion.