E3 2011: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City preview – like Left 4 Dead with spec-ops soldiers

Classic survival horror, on-rails shooter, action-based third-person shooter, broken PS2 online co-op game … the Resident Evil franchise has definitely had a colorful history. But it’s not the only zombie girl at the dance these days, so perhaps it’s no big shock that Operation Raccoon City borrows heavily from another game full of brain-eating undead: Left 4 Dead. However, it isn’t fair to simply write the game off as some sort of cheap imitation. Having gotten some hands-on time with the cooperative campaign, it’s become clear that Operation Raccoon City has some tricks up its sleeve to help set it apart.

The story is a very simple one that takes place between the events of RE 1 and 2. You take on the role of one of the series’ trademark evil corporate empire Umbrella’s elite Delta Squad members and your task is to wipe out any evidence of Umbrella’s involvement in the Raccoon City incident. That’s it. You’re one of the bad guys and there are zombies to shoot.

The campaign supports up to four players or you can wing it by yourself with AI teammates. Currently, there are six operatives for you to choose from (the initial squad of four, plus two recently announced additions). Bertha is the medic and can use her abilities to both cure zombie infections on other players and also supply buffs like increased speed. Vector is the stealthy squad member and can make use of a camouflage ability that essentially makes him invisible to enemies for a short period of time. Spectre rocks a nifty pair of goggles and can switch through different vision modes. Beltway deals in heavy firepower and can lay down mines. The two recently announced squad members are Four Eyes (a scientist who can manipulate enemy movements and even mind-control the tougher zombies) and Lupa, the leader of the squad. Aside from selecting a squad member based upon their special abilities, you can also customize weapon loadouts before the start of a mission.

Our demonstration began by revisiting the starting scene from Resident Evil 2, in which Leon and Claire have just escaped a zombie in the back seat, Leon crashing his squad car into a pole, and a fuel truck barreling into the car and bursting into flame. It’s here, just after Leon and Claire have found safety, that we see the Delta Squad jump onto the scene and start blowing zombies away. The control scheme was basically the same as any other third-person shooter on the market, so it felt natural. The goal was to erase all evidence and survivors, which essentially translated into following the game’s waypoint system from one local to another and murdering countless zombies.

Zombies behave a little differently in ORC than in L4D. First off, they don’t immediately bum-rush you on sight; however, if you take enough damage that your character starts bleeding, all undead in the area will start going ape-shit. Another nifty little aspect of the game is that your squad member can become infected with the T-virus if they are bitten by a zombie. If bitten, your vision gets foggy, your health meter turns blue and will slowly begin to deplete. Succumbing to this will transform you into one of the brainless undead, and you’ll immediately become a threat to your remaining teammates (fans unlucky enough to remember Resident Evil: Outbreak will recall a similar feature in that game).

Aside from the standard-fare zombies, we also ran into Bio-Organic Weapons (i.e. Hunters, Lickers, etc) and American spec-ops who would shoot at both the zombies and us. Capcom is referring to this as their “Triple-Threat.” Players will have to deal with not only crazy yokels wanting to nibble on their brains, but also with bio-monsters and rifle-toting, grenade-throwing soldiers as well. It honestly made for some intense combat situations in which we found ourselves stuck between avoiding sniper fire and warding off entire crowds of zombies. Why American soldiers are opening fire on a small group of humans battling for their lives against a bunch of cannibals goes a little beyond us; but hey, what the hell, right?

Hit detection is nice and accurate; targeting a zombie’s head will cause it to burst like a giant grapefruit and limbs will come flying off if they receive enough damage. Likewise, the special abilities blend into action seamlessly and the cover system is decent, too. Lastly, there’s a brutal melee finisher system - if you choose to get up close and personal with a zombie or enemy soldier, you’ll be prompted with a button press in the middle of your combo to pull off a particularly nasty coup de grace (i.e. shoving your combat knife into a victim’s mouth and then kicking them in the chest to pull it free).

We’re very interested to see how the final version of Operation Raccoon City is going to look when it releases this fall. From what we saw, the addition of special abilities and a third faction made for some really intense instances that required a keen mind and some precise strategy. Look for our full review upon the game’s release.

Jun 13, 2011

Jordan Baughman is a freelance journalist who has written for the likes of GamesRadar and Gamer magazine. With a passion for video games and esports, Baughman has been covering the industry for years now, and even hopped the fence to work as a public relations coordinator for clients that include EA, Capcom, Namco, and more.