Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is the Resident Evil game you always dream of playing when you've got a zombie horde outside and only two bullets left in the chamber. Gone is the resource management, the constat prioritizing of flight over fight. In its place is a squad-based third-person shooter from Slant Six Games, the makers of SOCOM: Confrontation.
As we learned at Captivate last week, there are two ways to play Operation Raccoon City. The one you've likely already heard about is the competitive multiplayer mode, in which two well-armed squads of four square off in a zombie-ridden Raccoon City, circa Resident Evil 2. There's also a cooperative campaign, one which bears at least a passing resemblance to Valve's Left 4 Dead games.
"The setting is described right there in the title," producer Masachika Kawata told G4 (through a tanslator) in an exclusive interview. "This is Raccoon City after it has been completely decimated by the T-virus. So everyone in the city has mostly been turned into zombies. It's not a very happy place to be."
In the demo we saw, a team of Umbrella Security Service agents work their way through Raccoon City's trashed streets as they hunt for a target, one Leon Kennedy. Along the way, zombies and the occasional BOW (bio-organic weapon) pop up to harass them. There are always plenty of bullets to go around -- the assault rifle, for example, starts with almost 400 rounds in reserve -- so the trick is instead to work together as a team to keep the zombies at bay as you move from point A to point B. In this case, point B turned out to be a safehouse-like garage filled with healing green herbs and an ammo crate.
The multiplayer portion of the game pits the USS team against a U.S. military Special Ops squad. Producer Masachika Kawata laid it all out pretty clearly in an exclusive interview with G4. "If it were just those two sides, it would be a fairly traditional multiplayer experience. However, we've got this third faction which is basically the city itself and all the zombies and monsters that are populating it," he said through a translator.
"Normally, they're not really such a huge threat to the USS and Spec Ops with all their gear and special abilities. They can really take [these zombies] out at a normal pace. However, when you can use them to help you defeat the enemy, it really puts a new spin on the game and on the strategy."
Using the zombies against your opponents is indeed a key component in taking on other players online in Operation Raccoon City. All characters have a health bar, but if too much damage is taken too quickly, the affected character starts to hemhorrage. When you're in this state, which lasts maybe 10 or 15 seconds (unless more damage is taken), the screen takes on a deep red hue and all nearby zombies rush to attack with more aggressiveness than they normally display. If you manage to put an opposing player into a hemhorrage state and a zombie then kills him/her, it is worth a hefty 20 points.
The USS team is comprised of four characters, each with a particular focus designed to aid the squad as a whole. The weapons loadout and character skill being used can be tweaked with each respawn, but the range of skills available to each character varies by what their function is in the context of the larger group.
Spectre, for example, is your recon soldier. One of his abilities is Active Camouflage, which renders him invisible (Predator-style) for a short amount of time. Alternatively, players could opt to equip his Mimicry skill. Using this, Spectre can assume the identity of a downed enemy with a simple button press. Joining Spectre are Bertha, the team medic with an equippable performance-boosting Adrenaline Shot, Beltway, a mine-toting heavy weapons expert, and Vector, who provides on-the-ground support with his enhanced minimap and ability to use various vision modes.
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Complementing the action is the game's control scheme, which departs significantly from every other Resident Evil game you've ever played. With Slant Six handling the heavy development work, how your characters move and feel unsurprisingly has a lot in common with SOCOM. There's even a context-based cover system, complete with the option of leaning out slightly to fire blindly.
"The controls of the game are completely different from what you are used to in the Resident Evil series," Kawata said. "This is a true third-person shooter and the controls reflect that. It's much more fast-paced action than you're used to from Resident Evil."
Joining the zombies in the game's so-called "third faction" are BOWs (Bio-Organic Weapons), the Resident Evil equivalent of special-class zombies. They'll appear throughout the game in the campaign and competitive online modes both, and they have some nasty surprises. Hunters are the only ones we got to see in action during our demo -- and they soak up a LOT of bullets -- but we also spotted a Tyrant in the game's new trailer.
There's more to be revealed, and Kawata even noted that the Hunters we saw don't even factor into the events of Resident Evil 2. Players can infer what forthcoming announcements might bring. "If you're a fan of the series, then you'll know that there were other BOWs that were in Raccoon City at this time that we haven't talked about yet," Kawata said. "I think you can look forward to hearing more about that stuff at future events."
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The initial teaser trailer ended with a shot of Leon Kennedy arriving in Raccoon City. He's not a playable character in this game, but his presence has guided the design of the game in a few key ways. One, really. The mantra around the office as Operation Raccoon City comes together is: "Kill Leon."
"The development staff really took that away and ran with it," Kawata said. "They even did some concept art, like Leon with his throat slashed. Some pretty wild stuff, I don't know if we're going to be able to release all of it."
"That theme of 'Kill Leon,' that's not something you could ever do in a numbered Resident Evil game. It's one of those things where this is just a chance to try some new, crazy stuff that we wouldn't necessarily be able to do in another Resident Evil title."