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RIP, survival horror

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Entertainment,Ryan Vogt

The folks over at Capcom have reacted to the lukewarm reception of "Resident Evil 5" in a curious way: take out the stuff people like, and double down on what they don't.

You still have an annoying computer-controlled companion who's more a watchdog than a sidekick, shooting enemies you can't even see yet, making you feel far too safe in an experience billed as "survival horror." The focus is tilted even further toward pure action, with melee attacks so powerful, you could practically put away your guns and roundhouse kick your way through the entire game. A million other annoyances abound, like the addition of a radar dot that appears onscreen at all times to tell you which direction your next destination is, and how far you are from it. Nothing inspires fear like being told you're 8 meters from a save point.

Instead of one long adventure, like its predecessors, the game is split into four medium-size segments, in which you control four characters, each with a different fighting style. These range from a segment that mystifyingly apes "Gears of War," with its focus on popping out from behind cover to shoot people, to a jaunt through a zombie-infested Chinese city with our old friend Leon Kennedy. Leon's segment is the best, with thrilling lighting effects and freaky images, like a zombie president who looks like George H.W. Bush and a Leon Kennedy who has mysteriously turned blond since we last saw him, in "Resident Evil 4." That's not all that's changed since "Resident Evil 4."

Series creator Shinji Mikami made "Resident Evil 4" a watershed game with an innovation that sounds minor but made all the difference: He tied the movements of the camera to the movements of your character. The camera was fixed over your character's shoulder, so if he pivoted left, the camera pivoted exactly with him. You could look up, down, left or right, but at no greater angles than an actual human neck could achieve. To gamers used to rotating the view in any direction they want, free of their character's perspective, this can feel restrictive, but it immerses you deeper in your character's predicament. The keynote of horror is being able to imagine yourself in the protagonist's situation. Being able to see no more than your protagonist could made for a claustrophobic, panic-inducing experience that set this 2005 game apart as the definitive masterpiece of the 2000s.

'Resident Evil 6'
System: PS3, Xbox 360
Price: $59.99
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

"Resident Evil 6's" greatest crime, then, is to untether your view from your character's, switching to a system where the left joystick controls movement and the right stick controls the camera -- the exact approach Mikami defied. This splits your focus between moving your character and moving the camera, gives you a headache because you're constantly adjusting the view, and removes you from your character's predicament. Mikami left Capcom after "Resident Evil 4," and this decision on the camera is sad proof that the folks he left behind have lost their way without him.

It's not the worst "Resident Evil" -- look to March's "Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City" for that -- but it's the worst numbered entry, and represents something that would have been unimaginable to series fans a few years ago: that there's such a thing as "Resident Evil 6," and it doesn't matter.

rvogt@washingtonexaminer.com

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