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Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City hands-on preview

Not long ago, our sister magazineOXMrevealed Operation Raccoon City as a third-person shooter that takes place in the ravaged Raccoon City seen in RE2 and RE3. But instead of controlling a hapless RCPD officer caught in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, you’re part of a team of Umbrella specialists sent in to clean up the mess their company accidentally started. That means killing not just zombies, but also anyone who’s survived, including innocent bystanders and wayward cops – specifically one Leon Kennedy, who could escape and tell the world exactly what went down in Raccoon City.

Above: Not messing around

The mission involves four Umbrella operatives: Vector, a stealth expert and protégé of Hunk who can mimic enemy abilities; Specter, surveillance soldier with infrared and sonar-based tracking abilities; Bertha, the team medic who can also give teammates an adrenaline boost that increases accuracy; and Beltway, a demolitions expert. In addition to their unique abilities, each can equip a custom loadout of weapons ranging from pistols to shotguns to rifles. Again, these four are the best Umbrella has to offer, able to use their special abilities alongside a customizable loadout of the usual firearms (shotguns, rifles etc).

The focus on shooting, special abilities and co-op interaction is decidedly atypical for the RE universe; there’s no conserving ammo, no turning with your tail between your legs, just balls-out violence against a sea of shambling undead. Yes, that does mean you can move and shoot at the same time, something even the action-heavy RE5 didn’t support.

We only caught a brief glimpse of the main game, which follows the Umbrella team as they enter Raccoon City on a search and destroy mission. Most of the time there’s little suspense; the crack team cuts through zombies as if they were nothing, using plentiful ammo and brutal close-quarters moves (like Gears-style curb stomps) to sweep the streets clean. It’s not nonstop action though – the quartet will still find themselves in a dark alley, or suddenly quiet part of town, suggesting something big (and bad) is about to go down.

That’s when we saw the imposingMr. Xdrop from the sky and calmly walk toward the team as it fired a hail of bullets at him, with no effect. Fade to black, demo over. We hope there are several moments like this, ones that highlight iconic enemies in a way that makes them frightening even when you’re armed to the teeth. Granted, the focus is more on action than horror, but we still need to feel tension and apprehension when facing a monster like Tyrant or Nemesis (who’s so far MIA).

Above: Mr. X appears in all his stoic glory, ready to crush some bones

As for the “kill Leon” angle, developer Slant Six has said it’s not re-writing RE canon. However, the mission we saw made specific mention of Leon, and we did see a cutscene suggesting Leon takes a bullet to the face. So what gives? Apparently there’s a canon way through the campaign, and then there’s the possibility to alter the storyline and, just maybe, kill Leon. Slant Six said that path is more “fan service” than true outcome.

This demo (and pieces of the new trailer) suggests Operation Raccoon City will indeed be a completely different experience from earlier games, but will still retain the general Resident Evil vibe; even with guns blazing, running through Raccoon City with zombies up to your eyeballs while you chase Leon Kennedy is a scenario that’s uniquely Resident Evil. All this, however, relates to the main game which is 1-4 players, each taking control of one of the four Umbrella specialists. Our hands-on time was entirely with the 4-on-4 multiplayer, which we’ll detail on the next page…