It was a bit strange when Capcom announced a new squad based Resident Evil, in development by Slant 6 Games, who worked on the fairly disappointing SOCOM: Confrontation. While it was a completely new step for the franchise, our time with the game here at PAX proved that it might just be the best step they have taken in a while.
In the game you return to Raccoon City, the place where things really got out of hand in Resident Evil 2, only this time you are playing on the side of Umbrella. This particular operation takes place between the events of the 2nd and 3rd Resident Evil games. Our hands on with the game revealed very little about the story, except that it will feature plenty of recognizable characters of the series that can die in the game and the fact that you will be playing as the bad guys this time around.
We played the campaign, which puts you into a squad of four, with five different classes to choose from. This mode is playable both online with friends or by yourself, with computer AI taking over as your squad mates. These classes shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with shooters, as you have a medic class, scout type class, and so on. Once you select your character class, you are then able to select your own ability to use. For me, I picked the medic because I like to heal and then was given the choice between an adrenaline boost or the ability to stop infection in a friendly player. These were my only two choices but you will have around nine to choose from at the launch of the game. Next up is the option to select your weapon and it was good to see that the options here were vast, giving each player plenty to choose from. Once all that is selected, it is time to ready up and play the game.
Right away, you will see the stamp of Slant 6 and SOCOM, as the over the shoulder shooting plays very familiar. We started in a section of the town and moved our way through, killing zombies that came out left and right. Teamwork was key here as you covered each others backs in an effort to make your way through. Each player gets a main weapon and sidearm, plus grenades, and melee attacks. All of these worked great, especially the melee attacks, which after one strike, enabled you to pull off a deadly finishing move, which was very stylish. While the game will allow you to take and fire from cover, you will want to keep moving as zombies come from everywhere, making it a safer bet to just to strafe around and shoot/melee everything. If all else fails, you can grab a zombie and use it as a meat shield. During your fight, make sure to check the ground for ammo and in typical Resident Evil fashion, healing herbs.
Zombies come in many different forms, from your normal walkers, to ones that crawl around ceilings, or charge into you. Learning the tendencies of these different zombies and how best to combat them as a group is something you will want to try to grasp in order to make it out alive. Don’t expect the zombies to just walk on over, as some will run, and others will climb along the walls. However zombies are not the only things you will need to watch out for, as you will swap bullets with the US Spec Ops. However, once we got things sorted out in the demo, Umbrella decided to drop some nasty monsters on the ground who had no ability to differentiate friend or foe.
One thing we did not get to experience in the demo that Capcom told us about, was when you bleed out, you are supposed to turn into a zombie while you wait for your respawn to the team. When this happens, you are free to try and kill your ex-teammates or do the honorable thing and bite a bullet. This little touch was explained to us as a great way to have fun while waiting to respawn. On the topic of bleeding out though, you will want to watch out for this as zombies will hone in on the player who is losing a lot of blood, and they will start to swarm.
One of the major gripes of recent Resident Evil games is that the scare factor has gone away and at first glance you may think Operation Raccoon City will continue that trend, but the game had a few parts with zombies jumping out to get you or swarming around you, providing for plenty of scary moments. No, it’s not going to be like Resident Evil 1 or 2, where you couldn’t play the game in the dark, but it was enough at times to actually make me jump on stage (but don’t tell anyone!). One of the aspects of the game that was thankfully not scary was the camera, which never hindered you from escaping an enemy or moving around the environment.
Things are looking good for Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City and the new style of gameplay it is bringing to the series. The combat and classes are well-balanced, and the squad play is solid, making for a very fun co-op game. If Slant 6 Games can avoid the early release bugs that plagued their last effort, this will be a game worth keeping an eye on.