Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City Is Conflict - Hands-On

By James Hawkins in Hands-on
Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 6:00 pm
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Over the past fifteen years, the Resident Evil franchise has evolved (or, devolved, to some) into an action-based horror franchise. Resident Evil 4 gave players just enough firepower to handle the frequent swathes of enemies. Before that, we were ill-equipped, provided with scant ammunition and limited saves. Resident Evil 5 jumped the fence and made us almost supersoldiers. It was far more action-oriented than any of the previous iterations. And now the upcoming Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is pure action.

This is most clearly exemplified in the new ability for gamers to move and shoot at the same time. It has been long-contested, with fans raging against Capcom's inability to adapt to the changing gameplay features that have become industry standard. But we all knew it was coming. And with that, there goes any remnant of the survival-horror genre that Resident Evil defined and redefined again. In a single move. And Capcom has some dicey ideas for this next one.

The idea of squad-based zombie hunting has been adequately handled by Valve, but third-person, cover-based horror shooters are pretty new to the industry. The characters in Operation Raccoon City are Umbrella Corporation supersoldiers, boasting strengths and weaknesses that, when applied in a squad, make them a dynamic group fighting the zombie horde. The team that is developing the game, Slant Six, has had a lot of experience making the types of games (SOCOM, being their specialty), but they don't have a track record for making great games. And they've got a hell of a road ahead of them to keep up with the Resident Evil franchise.

The combat itself felt fluid, but I could see it totally stagnate as the 500th zombie's head explodes from a flurry of SMG bullets. Slow zombies are pointless enemies when faced with a team of firepower-wielding badasses. There simply isn't enough variety or challenge to lock-in gamers. There may be some tweaks before the game comes out, and with some of that necessary variety added in, however this build of the game needs a lot of work.

That said, there is potential for some enjoyable cooperative play. There are multiple objectives per level, and if Slant Six can really turn up the challenge, it might be a good game to achievement-hound or get drunk and play. Because, honestly, we all need that kind of game.

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But an issue arises here when a third party of characters comes into play, the first and second being Umbrella's officers and the zombies. It is the Raccoon City Police Department, and they are considered the 'enemies' of the game. Capcom has divulged that they want to take a risk with this game -- that the plot will surround a clan of security officers who must hunt down all survivors, and kill them to cover up the outbreak. That includes Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield. And they're willing to possibly retroactively alter the story to allow this.

I can appreciate Capcom's idea of flipping the script and doing something ballsy. But fans of the franchise -- AKA the only people who are going to buy this game -- are not going to respond well to killing characters that they've worked so hard to keep alive over the past 13 years. That said, though, it isn't a death warrant for the game. Capcom is going to have to be very careful in conveying this new story to its loyal, vicious audience. And make sure there's enough actual shit to shoot between moments in narrative to keep us interested.

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