Preview: Team up or die in Raccoon City

June 18, 2011

When it first appeared on the PlayStation, the Resident Evil series was about exploration and scares. As the years have passed, the series has changed into more of a third-person shooter. Resident Evil 4 and 5 exemplify this transformation into more of a shooter than a survival-horror game. Now, Operation Raccoon City takes the biggest step toward third-person shooter territory ever, while not neglecting the past.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City takes place between Resident Evil 1 and 2, with quite a twist on the standard story. Instead of being a hero, you’re an employee of Umbrella Corporation, a black-ops specialist sent into the city to eradicate and cover up the zombie outbreak.

Very little of the story was shown at E3, with the majority of the experience being dedicated to the new action and controls. It controls like a full shooter now, much like SOCOM or Ghost Recon. No more stopping to shoot or clumsy controls. This is a very welcome change because the action was nonstop during the gameplay segment we played at E3. It is built from the ground up as a four-player cooperative campaign. When playing by yourself, 3 AI partners will fill out your team, though as usual, having human players is vastly preferable. There are four characters for players to choose from, all of whom have different ways of playing: Vector, the stealthy recon character; Bertha, the medic; Beltway, the demo and tank; and Spectre, a choice we didn’t get the chance to see.

Zombies and bio-organic weapons aren’t the only things to fear in Raccoon City. The national government has learned of the situation and sent in some spec-ops teams of their own. This creates some three-way fighting at times, though the zombies get the worst of it. You can even use the zombies against these troops. If you hurt a human enough, they’ll start to bleed out. At this point, all the zombies nearby will start swarming him until the person either dies or gets healed.

The co-op, as far as we could tell, blends seamlessly with the single player campaign. You can play through it either by yourself or with up to three others, and it seemed to benefit considerably from the addition of more players to the co-op game. There will also be some 4-vs-4 multiplayer modes, with one team the Umbrella Special Forces and the other side the US Spec Ops.

While it is a significant departure from the standard Resident Evil gameplay, the universe and feel of the game is the series’ trademark. Capcom is hoping this is enough to sway die-hard fans into giving it a try, and we’re inclined to agree. Operation Raccoon City is scheduled for release late this year on the Xbox 360 and PS3.