E3 2011: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City Hands-On Preview – Panic in the Streets!
Written Sunday, June 19, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
For many, Resident Evil 2 was really the highlight of the Resident Evil franchise. It had everything, from replayable A and B scenarios, weapon attachments and claustrophobic laboratories to gigantic G-virus infected mutants and legions of shambling zombies. So, the chance to revisit that timeline will be an incredibly welcome one for fans of both Resident Evil 2 and 3, which both take place amid the same pivotal T-virus outbreak (yes, there's a T and G virus) in the heart of Raccoon City. Operation Raccoon City offers an alternative 'what if?' scenario though, so if you're outraged at the idea of Resident Evil becoming an all-out action-oriented shooter, then our advice is to separate it from the rest of the canon and just enjoy the ride. Like we did with The Walking Dead TV series and graphic novel. As far as we were concerned, one was better than the other, but both were worthwhile in their own right. That's how we've chosen to look at Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City.
Still, it was with some trepidation that we picked up the controller and selected a member of the crack Umbrella clean-up team, sent in to deal with the Raccoon City outbreak and sweep it under the rug, lest it get out to the world at large. The team is made up of six different operatives, each representing a certain class. So, Bertha is the medic, Spectre is the lithe sharpshooting surveillance class, Vector is the stealthy recon type, Four-Eyes is the smart scientist and Beltway is the chunky demolitions expert. We chose Lupo, the team leader and assault class jumping straight into a game of four-player co-op with Vector, Beltway and Bertha at our side.
Like Resident Evil 2, we're dropped straight into the middle of the action on that dark street that fans of the 1998 game will instantly recall. Littered with abandoned, smashed up police cars and other debris, surrounded by blazing fires, the street environment is instantly familiar, but feels completely fresh viewed from a third-person perspective. Bizarrely, playing Operation Raccoon City as a straight-up action game doesn't feel nearly as jarring as we thought it would. In fact, it almost feels like a natural progression given the evolutions that Resident Evil 4 and 5 have brought to the series in recent years. Besides, it's not nearly as fast-paced as some similar games in the genre, so lining up headshots is still all part and parcel of the gameplay and survival still plays its part. Caught out in the middle of the streets, zombies pour in from every conceivable angle, so although you're packing a sub machine gun, a pistol and grenades, as well as an abundance of ammunition, the sheer number of enemies seem to balance it all out, even for four-players.
Pumping clip after clip of bullets into the relentless undead, we're reminded that we actually need to start moving through the level, so we break off from the team to get the shutters to an off-street garage opened. Raising the steel shutters, we open the route for the team, and we can begin to progress. As we pile into the garage and the shutters slowly roll shut, zombies crawl underneath the gap to get to us, expending even more of our precious ammo in the process. As if that wasn't enough, we then get Lickers dropping from ventilation shafts on the ceiling, providing yet another challenge as they crawl along the ceiling and walls, lashing out with their long, prehensile tongues and swiping with their huge claws. They're as nasty as they ever were in Resi 2, briefly transporting us back to that first cut-scene when a Licker fell from the police station ceiling, with its exposed brain and copious drool dripping from its toothy grin.
Brilliantly, you can switch between your primary weapon, your pistol and combat knife in a snap, making you look achingly cool when you're holding out your Beretta with its laser sight, popping zombie heads with professional precision. The camera even zooms out and shifts to the side slightly to give you a better view of what you're doing while wielding the pistol, which sounds odd, but actually works rather well. Back to the hands-on demo, and we're still stuck in the parking garage, while the rest of the team has forged ahead. Gathering some herbs, first aid sprays and ammo, we get pre-occupied killing more Lickers and zombies, then decide to regroup with the team. As we exit back onto the street on the other side of the block, the fires seem to be raging even more intensely and the undead seem to have escalated in numbers, as a couple of fierce, scaly Hunters join their ranks. It gets increasingly tense as we use the sub machine gun's ACOG scope to pop some more undead cranium and the ammo begins to run low. Suddenly, the Spec Ops arrive and suddenly the game transforms into a three-way conflict between virus-addled bio-organic weapons, our Umbrella team and the Spec Ops troopers.
As the team gets away from us, our lagging behind is duly punished as we're outnumbered by zombies, bitten and shot. Lupo is bleeding now, as it clearly states on the screen's HUD, which means that we look like an even more tempting meal for the flesh-eating hordes. And so, with a lack of help from the team and insurmountable odds, we learn a valuable lesson as Lupo is unceremoniously savaged amid a nasty blood frenzy. Thankfully, you're able to respawn and as it happens, we're fortunately nearing the demo's conclusion. Just a little further down the street, a cut-scene kicks in and the terrifying Tyrant-esque Mr. X – as previously seen in Resident Evil 2's B scenarios - drops in to finish proceedings on a cliffhanger.
We admit to having as many reservations as any self-respecting Resident Evil fan when Capcom first announced Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, and with SOCOM dev Slant Six Games building the game, we weren't particularly inspired. But having had some hands-on time with it, we're feeling slightly more positive about its prospects. We're still unsure about the new direction and we're dubious about the alternative timeline, which involves killing Leon S. Kennedy at some point, but we'd all do well to remember that this isn't Resident Evil 6 and nor is it strictly part of the set in stone Resident Evil canon. With this in mind, we think we'll be able to enjoy Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City at face value, as a Resident Evil action title that will transport us back to one of our favourite Resident Evil games in the series with a brand new perspective, and we don't see how that could be considered a bad thing.
We'll be able to find out for sure whether Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City actually is a bad or a good thing when it launches in winter 2011.