|System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC|
|Dev: Slant Six Games|
|Release: March 20, 2012|
|Players: 1-4 (Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language|
by Adam Dodd
Back in 2004, Capcom introduced us to Resident Evil's Outbreak series. Sure, it had its flaws—the multiplayer features were limited and the controls were pretty awful—but despite these issues, the series still gained a substantial following. Fans have been hungering for a third Outbreak game for the better part of a decade, and next year they'll finally get it. Well, sort of.
Operation Raccoon City includes the same eerie atmosphere, zombies, and cooperative gameplay as the Outbreak series, but there are several things that make it stand apart. First off, instead of playing as one of the good guys, this time you're a member of the Umbrella Security Service, or U.S.S., who have been dispatched to clean up Umbrella's mess in Raccoon City. Your mission is to sever all ties that link the corporation to the tragedy in Raccoon City. To do this, you and your team will have to destroy evidence, dispose of witnesses, and even take out familiar protagonists from past Resident Evil games along the way.
The U.S.S. is made up of six playable members, each different from the next in their responsibilities, skills, and equipment. Vector is the silent and deadly type who uses his cloaking ability to do recon for the team. Beltway is the archetypal tank character, complete with bulky armor and proficiency with explosive weapons. Bertha—the soldier who looks like a dominatrix—is the team's medic. She can heal injured squad mates and use anti-viral sprays to slow the progress of the infection, which acts much like it did in Outbreak as your infection level grows over time. The fourth member of the U.S.S. is Spectre, the team's resident sniper and surveillance expert. The other two characters are a little less inspired: Four Eyes, the squad scientist who can reprogram B.O.W.s, and Lupo, who acts as both the team leader and the assault weapons guru.
For less social gamers, there's a single-player story you can play through, but the real meat of the game is the cooperative campaign that can be played with up to four people who work together to survive in a zombie-infested Raccoon City. Naturally, your mission isn't that simple, as B.O.W.s have been let loose upon the city and the elite US Special Ops task force is also out there with the singular goal of taking you and your team down.
To make sure the game retains the series' trademark suspense and dreadful atmosphere, many familiar, albeit ugly, faces will be returning. Hunters, Lickers, Dogs, Tyrants, and even Nemesis will make appearances, alongside the shambling undead that made the franchise so iconic in the first place. To survive in this incredibly dangerous place you'll need to work together, so it's a good thing your skills and equipment have been designed to aid your comrades while also helping you stand apart from the rest of the team.
While the zombies, setting, and many familiar characters and enemies may have returned, Operation Raccoon City is a decidedly different approach to the franchise than both the main series and the Outbreak spin-offs. It again favors action and teamwork over forcing you to solve puzzles or fight to survive with limited health or ammunition. You're more of a powerhouse than you've ever been before. With four players mowing down enemies at once it'll be interesting to see how Slant Six keeps things interesting and challenging over the long haul.
While the game promises the opportunity to alter the Resident Evil timeline, including how the Raccoon City outbreak played out, there are a few longstanding questions that will be answered as well, including UBCS operative Nicholai Ginovaef's true intentions. The darker story stems from the U.S.S. objective to completely remove Umbrella's involvement in the outbreak. You're not just fighting to survive and reveal the truth about what happened in Raccoon City, now you're playing for the other team.
There will also be an online competitive multiplayer mode that pits players against both each other and waves of undead. You needn't worry about this turning out like Resident Evil 5's horrendous Versus mode, since this game was built from the ground up to be a squad-based shooter, whereas RE5 tried to straddle the line between horror and action, with all the poor controls the series is infamous for. Fans will be happy to hear you can strafe and perform executions to quickly remove enemies that stray too far into your personal bubble.
Overall, Operation Raccoon City looks to be shaping up quite nicely. It looks great, the combat so far seems pretty solid, and the idea of messing with the Resident Evil timeline by offing established heroes like Jill Valentine or Leon Kennedy is more than a little intriguing. The only question that remains is whether or not this will end up feeling like a Resident Evil game or an installment in the SOCOM series with a zombified coat of paint splashed over it.
CCC Contributing Writer