Wednesday, March 21, 2012

30 Min Playtest:Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City

As Megabits’ resident Resident Evil fan, it naturally falls to me to review Operation Raccoon City, which is funny, as it feels like the sort of game that should really have fallen into the hands of a fan of Team Fortress.

There’s no avoiding the fact that this is essentially a class-based shooter that has burrowed parasite-like under the dessicated skin of everyone’s favourite survival horror franchise. It’s a sound strategy really. Gamers are fickle when it comes to class based shooters: for every Team Fortress 2 there’s a shamefully disregarded Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. When it comes to team based co-op shooters, the big story of recent years has been Valve's zombie apocalypso Left 4 Dead series. If you were at Capcom then it’s a no-brainer to gene-splice your new class-based mechanics with your existing zombie infested franchise and see what shambles out of the lab.

That’s not to say that the whole thing is a cynical exercise that will leave Resident Evil fans feeling empty and mistreated. No, that would be Resident Evil 5. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City provides some genuine thrills for fans of the series. Within minutes of starting the game you’ll find yourself on the flipside of the scene that started the third act of Resident Evil 2. Our first crack at multiplayer popped us into a map so full of Resi 3 nostalgia that we instantly started swearing at that b*stard rusted crank whilst looking out for the implacable Nemesis.

These successful and enjoyable evocations of the series high points are incorporated almost seamlessly into an action packed multiplayer game that combines a rock solid co-op campaign with some great multi-player modes in which you battle other players and NPC zombies simultaneously-it reminded us a lot of the classic George Romero ‘Dead’ trilogy (as with the other George, we’re choosing to ignore the three recent travesties with which he’s chosen to defile his reputation) in the sense that the zombies might get you, but in all likelihood it’ll be a humans fault if they do.

The actual gameplay is often surprisingly similar to that of classic Resi games. Don’t worry, there aren’t any ridiculously complex puzzles or awkward tank style controls, but you do have a combat knife to earn you breathing room, and you’ll find that your targets can soak up an enormous quantity of bullets, which gives you that traditional Resi feeling of being underpowered and low on ammo. Characters move smoothly but slowly, but the aiming mechanism is swift and responsive, which means you’ll often be forced to endure the other classic Resi fear: popping bullets into an approaching enemy, unable to get away and desperately hoping you can kill it before it kills you.

This is all pretty good, and we’ve really been enjoying it, but there is a caveat. Playing solo is dull and tiresome. Now a lot of people will tell you that multiplayer is what's important in modern gaming, and as long as a game is fun to play with friends, then it’s a success. This is tripe. Sorry, but it is.

If you genuinely enjoy the company of you friends then any game is fun to play with them. Monopoly. Travel Scrabble. Bass Fishing. If you’re going to charge me forty quid for a game, however, then it needs to justify that price by being fun in its own right rather than relying on my friend list to bring the joy. Your game has got to be good when my friends are on holiday. It’s got to be good when I’m dealing with 3AM insomnia. It’s got to be good when I’ve been drunkenly abusive and they’ve all stopped talking to me. Unfortunately, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is only good when all your friends are present, plugged in and playing alongside you. The rest of the time, it’s fairly flat and uninspired. We’re going to give it a continue for now, because we’ve had some real fun with it, but we’ve got a feeling that it’s living on borrowed time.