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E3 2011: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City

by Andrew Yoon, Jun 15, 2011 7:00am PDT

QUICKTAKE: The Resident Evil franchise has always had its quirks -- from cheesy dialogue, awkward controls, to a limited inventory system -- and those quirks have been able to prevent it from undergoing "just another zombie game" syndrome. Developer Slant Six's new multiplayer-focused Operation Raccoon City, however, sheds all the charm the series is known for. This is, unfortunately, "just another zombie game."

THE DEMO: There are a lot of zombies to fight, and not much ammo. I took control of Vector, one of six playable characters in the game's "Umbrella Security Service" team you can choose from. Armed with a submachine gun, I mowed down dozens of the mindless zombies, going in for melee attacks whenever possible. After a few minutes of mindless shooting, a PR representative told me that I had to open a garage door. (There was no indication that was my objective.)

After clearing the garage of more zombies, I entered a more open area, with snipers and other government agents. I had to take care of lickers, zombies and human enemies. After a few minutes of fighting, the demo ended.

DETAILS: Operation Raccoon City wasn't particularly bad. But it also wasn't particularly memorable. Zombies don't actually make for very interesting enemies, especially when you're as agile and well-equipped as the game's USS. Instead of feeling any semblance of fear, I was presented with a rather boring shooting gallery, one where no one fights back. Even going in for a melee kill wasn't much fun; seeing the same canned animation each time was far less satisfying than the many contextual kills offered in both Resident Evil 4 and 5.

The gameplay felt as lifeless as the enemies that inhibit it. The third-person shooting was functional, but not particularly inventive. Beyond my initial inability to discern where to go, (some dialogue or objective markers would be very helpful, guys!) I never felt a sense of peril. Sure, you could die, but so long as your teammates survived, you'd just spawn again. Raccoon City's "gimmick" is that you can become infected by a zombie, and if you don't have any serum to fight it off, you'll lose control of your character and start attacking them. It's an interesting concept, perhaps, but it's a bit too easy to treat, not actually very threatening, and not very mysterious at all. There must be dozens of other ways to make this threat actually feel like one.

Left 4 Dead keep you on edge constantly, by featuring an AI "director" that varies the difficulty, based on your success. It also reminded you of your mortality, and it encouraged team work. The single-player Resident Evil games force you to be strategic about your ammo and target specific body parts to have any chance for survival. Operation Raccoon City doesn't bother to have a unique flair of its own.

I felt like I was playing a generic shooter that just happened to have the Resident Evil franchise painted on it. It's a shame too, because I think telling Resident Evil 2's story from the perspective of "the other side" has so much potential. Unfortunately, that potential is being squandered by a development team that has proven incapable of handling large franchises.

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