Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Resident Evil 6. Capcom. User Interface

The user interface for Resident Evil 6 is such a shambolic mess; you can’t help but think it was a deliberate sabotage. The item selection/weapon swapping system, assigned to the d-pad, is so confusing and counter-intuitive that even after playing through 80% of the game, I still cannot efficiently swap between weapons in the middle of a heated set piece, which usually consists of accidently selecting a first aid spray, or perhaps a remote bomb, repeatedly, until I again decide that the best strategy is to retreat so I have time to cumbersomely navigate to my item of choice.

The ‘live’ item selection was introduced in Resident Evil 5 to accommodate the newly introduced co-op play, but it was still fairly intuitive, all items were visible at once, and placing items in certain slots would hotkey them to their respective d-pad position. Accessing the inventory without the need to pause gameplay, as was required for all previous instalments, seems to be a natural evolution catering to the impatient, frantic world we live in. However, I can’t help but think the pinnacle of item management was Resident Evil 4’s attaché case. For me it wasn’t just a necessity of item storage, it was a fun mini game all in itself. The feeling of satisfaction I got from ensuring my items were arranged neatly and consistently made me wonder if it was a secret ploy to infect the world with OCD.

Another feature noticeable by its absence in RE6 is the lack of a weapon upgrade system. Instead we are left with skill sets – spending XP on various perks that can be assigned to one of three slots, changing various attributes that can tailor your preferred play style. After completing one campaign, you then have access to 8 different skill sets, allowing you to mix and match your skills in use during gameplay. However, swapping skills in-game requires navigating to the skills menu and locating your chosen skill set, all while gameplay continues running in the background.

This brings me to the core problem I find with RE6’s HUD – I have to learn, very carefully, the layout of my items and skill sets if I ever wish to use them with any level of rapid efficiency. There are many reasons why a game can go wrong, but in my eyes one of the most unforgivable mistakes is a bad user interface, there really is no excuse. I think too much time was spent worrying about the visual aspect, and it does look nice, if a little too Dead Space, but at what cost? One of the worst user interface designs in recent memory? I mean, come on Capcom, you guys influenced most horror games of the last 20 years, where has your confidence gone to influence a generation?

One more problem is the on-screen button prompts for set-pieces. They are not clear in their intention; I know what buttons you want me to press, yes, but timing, sequence? Do I press and hold a button or do I tap it once? Perhaps I should I be spamming the button? This is no more prominent than ‘climbing’ sequences. The first time I encountered one, the button prompts appeared for alternate presses of the triggers. I followed my intuition, based on instinct and how other games did it, to no avail. I tried various timings, again with no success. It got so frustrating that I began to repeat techniques I had already tried, until eventually I checked the internet. (I never check the internet to help me complete tough games, yet here I am checking how to press the buttons!!)

So what did Resident Evil 6 get right with its user interface? Well, as mentioned above, it looks fine. I liked the hotkey assignment of a quick heal. Unfortunately, I think that’s about it. For Resident Evil 7, please fix everything, and bring back the shop so I can upgrade my weapons the correct way.

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