Capcom has been doing a lot of soul-searching for its Resident Evil survival horror series as of late, with the action-heavy fifth instalment paving the way for similar approaches on the newly-released Revelations and upcoming RE6. It?s no surprise then, that Slant Six has been hard at work on a spinoff that's action-focused from the very start. And ironically, it feels like the most faithful entry in years.
It probably has a lot to do with the fact that Operation Raccoon City
is deeply rooted in the franchise?s golden days. Taking place between the events of Resident Evil 2
and Resident Evil 3
, and after the populace of Raccoon City has been infected by the T-Virus outbreak, the story centres on two factions fighting for survival - the Spec Ops team, who are called out to investigate the disaster and uncover Umbrella?s role in the incident; and Umbrella?s own Security Service.
In a curious twist, this squad-based third-person co-op shooter sees you in the role of the latter team. The shady Umbrella Security Service is on a mission to cover up and destroy all evidence of its organisation?s involvement in the T-Virus incident, at any cost. And it feels quite satisfying to be playing the bad guy - it adds a whole new dimension to the Resident Evil 2
storyline, and ultimately it just feels cool to be controlling a badass mercenary.
The majority of your time will be spent doing the usual third-person co-op shooter stuff - run down corridors, see enemies (in this case, the classic zombies), take cover, shoot from cover, move from cover to cover, revive team mates, kill all enemies, unlock path to next room, repeat. The environments are sure to evoke a heavy dose of nostalgia however, as will the varied range of baddies - from Lickers to Tyrants and other frightening BOWs.
Objectives are generally quite interesting as well, ranging from recon to assassination and - gulp - even locating and repairing the Nemesis project from Resident Evil 3
. In this particular mission, in a stage some four levels into the campaign, you?re presented with some interesting challenges as a team - recovering parts of a key, with fragments dotted in various places in the vicinity. With hordes of enemies everywhere, do you split the team into groups of two, go it alone or all together?
One thing that is very noticeable the second you start playing the game is the controls. Naturally tailored to suit the nuances of a sometimes fast-paced shooter rather than a survival horror, you?d be forgiven for thinking you?d be playing Gears of War
if you had a blindfold on (not that you'd do all that well...).
Having said that, with Capcom insisting on implementing artificially clunky controls in Resident Evil 5
, this control scheme feels quite fluid and strangely refreshing in comparison. You actually feel like you can run away from incoming threats instead of wrestling the controller (or, sigh, pressing down on the stick and pressing B to turn because that?s the only way you?ll get anywhere with any urgency).
There are some concerns with Operation Raccoon City
- having only played the campaign with three other human-controlled characters, I wasn?t able to see the intelligence of any potential computer-controlled co-op AI. A second thought was that, despite the nostalgia that the Resident Evil 2
homages induce, the stages could turn out to be quite forgettable. With more time on the game, we should be able to find out if those concerns turn out to be justified.