The latest Resident Evil game has arrived and its a BEAST! Now you noticed how I used that name to describe it? Simply put this is a description that is either good or bad as far as slang goes and such is the state of the game within the gaming public.
Operation Raccoon City has been out for approx 3 weeks now and I think its safe to say some of the controversy has died down and players have had a chance to settle into the game and start dissecting it for themselves rather than letting reviewers make that decision for them. Our review of the game comes so far after launch because I wanted to make sure I was not swept up in the emotional rollercoaster of defending the game or hating on it.
For those of you who are scratching their heads at mention of all this controversy and hatred stuff, let me bring you up to speed.
Resident Evil: Operation raccoon city ( hereafter known as ORC) is the newest entry in a long line of Resident Evil games; but unlike past games it is not being developed by the same team as past entries in the numbered franchise ( RE5 being the last game we played). This game was made by a Vancouver based studio called Slant Six; a company responsible for several So Com games on the Playstation platforms. This was red flag number one for many gamers. ORC was designed from the beginning to be a different type of game than other RE titles, a broadening of its core audience in a crazy new experiment by Capcom.
” What if we turned Resident Evil into a 3rd person shooter instead of a survival horror game ?”. Well not wanting to totally alienate their entire franchises loyal following the opted to create a new game with that mantra in the perfectly appropriate setting of Resident Evil 2 and 3’s Raccoon City. A perfect setting for a squad based shooter in the Resident Evil universe…or so you would think.
Taking familiar elements from the aforementioned games and of course a liberal dose of traditional Resident Evil staples such as zombies, Bio Weapons, Green Herbs, moody music, bad dialogue, frustrating controls, limited ammunition supplies and wrapping it up in a wrapper that has the words ” gears of war rejects” and presto you have Operation Raccoon City!
The truth is far from that and what we truly received was a unique game that borrows from similar shooters ( Gears of War, Call of Duty, Army of Two, Ghost Recon) but because this game follows on the footsteps of those games it can never dodge the ” copy cat” designation. That is very sad because ORC is good….not just good…its VERY GOOD!
This review comes on the heals of some epic level bashing at the hands of other media outlets and gaming communities and while I do respect everyone’s opinions I also feel the need to set the record straight on several topics that these other media outlets decided to focus on as negative elements of the game.
Lets talk about the campaign. Its short, sweet and doesn’t win any academy awards for plot or character development. You can play the main story with up to 4 friends co-op or by yourself with AI driven buddies. I chose to play it by myself the first go around and set the difficulty to ” professional” and didn’t look back.
The plot revolves around a group of 4 USS members ( Umbrella Secret service) who have been sent into Raccoon city on the eve of a massive zombie outbreak to retrieve materials from an embedded scientist on site in a lab underneath the city. Everything goes to the shitter and very soon you are playing through the games chapters shooting zombies, destroying incriminating documents and eliminating key characters pulled from past games. All of this plays out in a very fast paced form and story elements are supplied via brief cut scenes and in-game dialogue from you and your squad mates on the fly as you are moving to the next way point.
One thing that did stand out to me during my play time was that the characters do in deed have a personality to them that starts to grow on you as you play.
Slant Six had a genius idea in developing this game. They created a cast of characters in which to live the story through. YOu are not playing as generic grunts and you are not even playing as customized characters that you contributed to. YOu are playing with pre set characters much in the way that Gears of war forces you into the shoes of Marcus and Dom and company. The characters each have different abilities and looks and even have moderate back stories that you can read before you select them. As someone who puts immersion over anything else in a game I can say they nailed this. The witty dialogue in-game only served to cement the feeling that I could relate to these characters. Its worth noting here that even though the game wrapped shortly with the USS characters; Capcom has announced a DLC pack that will flesh out the other cast of characters that opposes our heroes/villains in the games multi player component and the epic cinematic trailer that as released prior to the game ;launching. In essence this doubles the game’s story content but we will have to wait in april to see what this story DLC adds to the overall package of the game.
After spending approx 5 hours blasting through hordes of zombies and terrifying B.O.W’s ( Bio Organic Weapons) you will conclude the game on a little bit of a cliff hanger note but what you will really want to do is jump into the games Multi player component; and this is where this game truly shines and I would even say kicks the shit out of many AAA titles.
I’m going to break this down carefully so that you have a VERY clear idea of what to expect if you decide to buy this game.
Premise: RE:ORC has created a ” Three corner conflict” concept that carries over into all game modes in its multi player suite. Essentially this is that all games you play against another team will have the random element of Zombies or B.O.Ws injected into the proceedings. You may be playing a game of ” Team Attack” and are chasing another player down an alley and all of a sudden the door next to you busts open and a swarm of zombies mob you allowing your target to escape, or better yet he turns around and shoots you and all the zombies around you getting even more points! This element of gameplay is the single most important aspect of RE:ORC and one that raises this game above any of its peers in this genre.
By having this feature the matches begin to take on a very chaotic and tense feeling. There is never a moment where you are not shooting something and combine that with the fact that ammunition is scarce you have a built-in feeling of tension and fear.
Set up :The default game mode in this game is Team Attack. Imagine Team Deathmatch where you are judged on your score counter instead of your kill counter. The objective is to reach a score limit of 4000 points at the end of the match. Either you hit the score limit or time runs out but either way the team with the most points wins. Zombies are worth 10 points with an extra points doled out for headshots and brutal kills ( this games versions of execution moves) , Opposing players are worth 75 points with similar bonuses and the B.O.Ws are worth a varying amount ranging from 25pts to 250 pts ( that is what a Tyrant is worth and if you see one on the map either RUN or make sure you have a grenade launcher with lots of ammo!)
Your strategy is now made up of killing the right mix of enemies to make sure you are contributing to your teams overall score. kill some players and a lot of zombies or farm some zombie kills and let your team mates hunt the other team for the bigger points. This is an amazing experience each and every time you play it.
Remember in the movies when someone gets bit by a zombie and his friends end up killing him to save themselves? Well RE:ORC has not forgotten that element to its horror portion and it has made its way into multi player!
If you get bit by a zombie during a game in multi player there is a chance that you will become infected. Your screen turns hazy and you start to hear your labored breathing; you are turning into a zombie! Your screen will slowly/quickly blur simulating your vision and its health dependant so if ou have hardly any health the transformation will happen sooner than later. your only hope is to find a blue colored antidote on the map somewhere and use it on yourself or have a team-mate spray you with one. If not you will turn and lose control of your character but still be able to see him/her chase after your friends and enemies on the kill cam. It’s a feeling of hopelessness that really makes this game shine in how it draws you into its gameplay.
of the funniest moments in multi player come from hearing your friends screaming at you to” put them down” because they are about to turn into a zombie and don’t have an antidote. It’s a creepy thing to hear in a multi player game but it’s so fitting for this game that it draws you in to its atmosphere.
Other game modes are just as fun and the game even has variations of Capture the Flag and a Horde inspired mode that has you holding out against waves of zombies waiting for a rescue chopper to arrive. Throw in a mode where you can play as iconic characters from the franchises past installments and its safe to say that RE:ORC delivers on variety of modes.
Presentation:The graphics and sound in this game are good! For all of you who have been bred on next generation games and expect bleeding edge graphics in every game you play then I am sorry for you. Gamers who came from a much simpler era of gaming ; namely the 8 bit and 16 bit era, understand that gameplay trumps graphics anyway but that said there is an acceptable level of polish for a game these days. RE:ORC meets and exceeds those minimums. The character models look and animate very well.
Enviroments are well rendered and create a very atmospheric setting for the pending firefight. Dont expect any well-lit maps though as this game is all about the doom and gloom and honestly, have you ever seen a zombie movie that has its best scenes take place in a well-lit alley in the middle of a day?
There is a good variety of zombies on display and some of them are downright creepy. Shooting scantily clad female zombies gives me the goosebumps every time I do it.
Controls/Gameplay: There has been a large amount of controversy on how RE:ORC controls from everyone except the players who learn the layout. ORC doesn’t have ” Tank” Controls like past RE games. YOu can run and shoot, strafe and shoot and even dive out the way from a hail of bullets or a swarming zombie. There is now a cover system and although you wont find yourself using it much ( zombies don’t have guns!!!) the mechanics are not as bad as other reviews make it out to be. Taking cover is a ” sticky” situation, in that you don’t press a button but simply move up against an object and voila! Yes there are the odd times that you will take cover when you don’t want but as you master the system this occurs less often than other people would have you belive. It works well and is functional when you need it.
Overall the controls are tight and respond well when you are in the middle of a hectic firefight. If you take the time to master them and understand that they aren’t supposed to be the same as a game like Gears of War then you are doing yourself a service. I will give you hint however. Learn to ” cover dive” and you will find your life expectancy will grow. If your taking shots from a opposing player learn to dive behind cover just like the guy in the trailer did and you’ll throw off their aim and buy you some time to apply a first aid spray. Dont just keep running and hope you’ll make it behind cover!
Appeal: As is standard these days in shooters you will have an unlock system that rewards players who log massive play time. This takes its shape in the form of a XP system and you then purchase your weapons, skills, and perks via this economy system. There are lots of guns and each character you choose at the beginning of a match has a specific class associated with him/her. Medic, assault, recon,Scientists are all different ways to experience the RE:ORC multi player and the right mix of character/classes is the way to victory for your team. Spend some time learning and playing all the characters because they do all play differently from one another. You will not only bond with a specific character due to their coolness factor but the unique load out as well.
Resident Evil; Operation Raccoon city is a tale of a game that was doomed to be ripped apart before it even hit shelves. It would be like taking Gears of War and turning it into an RPG and expecting there not to be any backlash. Resident Evil games have built a foundation of having a certain type of gameplay and creating a certain type of emotion when you play; neither of which ORC has or has very little of, But that was the point!
This was always going to be a different type of gameplay experience and they modeled the game after specific elements of RE but wanted to craft a unique experience for the player that resided in the RE universe. In that respect they have succeeded in spades but in doing so they have turned an entire industry against them and quite possibly have doomed this game to failure before it even has a chance to succeed
If you have the chance to play the game and experience it for yourself I do not belive you will be disappointed. As long as you are open to new experiences and controls and don’t try to shoe horn it into what you belive should be the standard as far as 3rd person shooter then I belive you will find enjoyment in this title and appreciate its uniqueness in a sea of shooters that play it safe and go with status Quo.
Dwayne” EVO Knight” Morash
Editors note: The EVO Gaming league has recently hosted a 16 player tournament successfully with ORC and the fan feedback was superb. In addition there is a PS3 tournament scheduled for this weekend and a follow-up Xbox ” Survival” Tournament for the end of April. While there are some bugs and balancing issues present the game is entirely playable and super FUN!