You're reading Reaction Time, a weekly column that claims to examine recent events, games and trends in the industry, but is really just looking for an excuse to use the word "zeitgeist." It debuts on Fridays in Engadget's digital magazine, Distro.
Resident Evil 6 has been illuminating. A surprising number of critics are ready to cast the game into a bonfire, and some incredulous fans wish the reviewers would join it. There's a perceptible feeling of disbelief amongst everyone involved, as if such a big, glossy production - with hundreds of developers behind it – could never lead to divided, divisive opinions.
It's happened before, of course, with Assassin's Creed in 2007. But that game landed on different expectations, its future as a franchise uncertain. The historical action game won fans and detractors in almost equal numbers at first, and went on to become one of Ubisoft's most powerful and most nurtured franchises. Players expect Assassin's Creed 3 to maintain the upward curve of quality, and the game's familiar mechanics and motifs make a massive critical failure almost unthinkable.
Therein lies the deceptive assumption of "AAA" games. With enough history, fan feedback, financial support and developers, we expect a well-tuned machine to emerge every time. There's a balance in the dialogue between players and creators, however, and Resident Evil 6 is a good (or bad, depending on your viewpoint) example of what happens when one drowns out the other. I couldn't even tell you if fans demanded too much, or if Capcom was too intent on placating them, to the point of ignoring its own design expertise.