Zombies have been around in games for a while now, and it’s after more than two decades that the gaming is recognizing it as a cliché. However, there is one clear exception, which is undoubtedly the most well-known zombie game series in history: Resident Evil.
‘It won’t be long before this series bites the dust, no sir.’ That’s a line I’ve heard in many variants a number of times as the series has progressed. However, a good thing or not, Resident Evil still remains, being a very alive part of the horror action-adventure genre.
However, the new Resident Evil seems to defy all that is iconic to the series. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City combines the tactical squad based action gameplay that comes from Slant Six Games (developer of SOCOM) and the rest of the stuff that comes from Capcom.
It shouldn’t be surprising to oneself if an eyebrow is raised – this is certainly a rather large deviation from what we understand of the series – some of the RE worshippers might even call it ‘blasphemous’. Actually, it’s all cool if it gives a thrilling new experience. But does it?
In Operation Raccoon City, you will be controlling a squad of the Umbrella Security Service, performing the dirtiest and most unethical of jobs like eliminating evidence of illegal activities in Umbrella, mercilessly killing survivors that may be potential eye-witnesses to the disaster in Raccoon City, and fighting against the Special Operations team that attempts to unveil the deeds of the company. To put it simply, you’re the bad guys; and yes, this game is set in between Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.
There are six operatives in the Umbrella Security Service (USS), of which 3 have cheesy names; Vector, Beltway, Spectre, Four Eyes, Lupo and Bertha, each controllable and each with his/her own unique skills.
Vector is the team’s recon specialist with a cloaking ability, Beltway is an explosives specialist, Bertha is the team medic, Spectre is the surveillance class and sharpshooter, Four Eyes is a scientist with the ability to program the bio-organic weapons, and Lupo is an Assault class/Team Leader. In short, there is nothing similar in-terms of gameplay between this game and the other Resident Evil games.
Everything seems acceptable here, but the in-depth scrutiny of the title reveals a few rather big disappointments. The AI is extremely stupid – you’d expect that from a zombie, but not your partners, who tend behave in an almost pitiful manner, many times completely ignoring the enemies or becoming a source of intrusion in your progression, which makes them end up looking more like fancy cosplay models rather than useful hardcore operatives.
As if your teammates being amazingly incompetent wasn’t bad enough, the enemies are much worse – not the zombies; forget the zombies – this is the ‘good guys’ (who you’ll shooting throughout a large portion of the game) I’m talking about. Most of the times they won’t notice your existence – yes, it is slightly dark, but that’s no excuse of not being able to see a distinct Umbrella enemy two feet away from your face. Moreover, these brainless punks don’t die, and don’t really try too much to kill you either.
Ok, forget the AI, at least there is the interesting squad based customization and weaponry that will offer some interesting gameplay, which is what is being claimed by Capcom (I was just about to write Umbrella) and Slant Six Games. Well, that isn’t true either. The squad based system is mainstream, in the sense that it is quite similar to that of SOCOM, a trait that shouldn’t be too surprising for a developer that hasn’t experimented too much with genres.
Then there are the more expected hitches that make potentially good ideas look oh-so-forgettable. The camera angles aren’t too good – a serious issue for a third person game, and the quick time animations tend to assume that everyone is Samurai Jack on speed.
It’s not all bad news though. The game still has the ‘Capcom’ part of it, and though the human enemies are just fancy replacements of bulls-eye with a lot of sustenance, there are probably more than just a few intriguing missions and scenarios that make you yell ‘oh ****!’.
Even the simple SOCOM styled squad based play in a world that is much harsher and darker is captivating, despite being acquainted to. The cover-based system works well most of the times, and though it gives a Gears of War feeling, it has its own distinct pace that sets it apart from other such conventions.
There’s no telling how this game will be when it comes to the west in March. I’m expecting a few translation errors (and iconic feature of the RE games) and maybe a bit of unrest because of the new formula, but nothing can really be concluded right now except that gamers shouldn’t try to find the signature RE aspects in this game, and not to expect it to be Resident Evil 6, because it isn’t.