I did at least want to give the game a shot before completely blowing it off and boy, I'm glad I did. Operation Raccoon City is a really great change of pace for the series and I'm all about the focus on fast paced action.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 3 [Previewed])
Developer: Slant Six Games, Capcom
Release: March 20, 2012 (US) / TBA (JP, EU)
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City takes place around the events of Resident Evil 2 and 3. This time around, you're playing as the bad guys working as one of six elite Umbrella soldiers (all specializing in different skill sets such as assault, surveillance, stealth, medic and more) known as Delta Team. You'll choose who you want to play as and choose who your three AI co-op buddies will be.
Before the start of a mission, you'll be able to customize your loadout in terms of passive abilities (such as dealing more damage), active abilities (like specialized bullets), your main weapon (shotguns, machine guns, snipers, etc) and the type of secondary pistol you carry. Getting better abilities and weapons will be tied to an XP system reflected by how well you do in levels. You won't be limited to what's in your chosen loadout, as you can find more weapons and grenades in the levels as well.
Once the team was situated, Capcom ran us through the prologue level which begins with Delta Team rendezvousing with the fan favorite Hunk. Umbrella has learned about William Birkin's attempt at selling the G-Virus, so Delta Team was sent in to back up Hunk in the recovery of the virus and we all know how this story goes down from there.
So right about now you're thinking "I don't remember any of these Delta Team guys in the opening cutscenes for Resident Evil 2." The way Operation Raccoon City is set up lets player see a different perspective of how various scenes transpired in the classic games. In this particular case, Delta Team was standing guard outside the entrance of Birkin's lab while Hunk did his thing.
While Capcom wants to make Operation Raccoon City kind of live within the timeline, I think you'd be best thinking this is an alternative timeline story. You'll be facing off against familiar characters, such as G-Birkin, Nemesis, Nicholai Ginovaef and even Chris and Leon. Hell, you can kill Leon apparently if you want to later on in the story, so you're better off not being too concerned with how this fits in the universe.
I would have loved for a proper continuation of the Resident Evil story (so many loose ends!) but I think Operation Raccoon City can live side-by-side with the main series just based on how fun the game is. One key factor in why the game was so fun to me is that everything was just so fluid and seamless. Everything, from being able to move and shoot at the same time to the easiest to use cover mechanic I've seen implemented was splendid.
I find it funny that in a game about zombies I found the Close Quarters Combat system to be the most delightful aspect during my hands-on time. Pressing Circle on the PlayStation 3 controller in succession will cause your character to do all sorts of melee moves in whatever direction you point at. Pressing Circle and then the X button will let you perform a deadly finishing move (such as shoving a grenade in your enemies mouth, slamming their head against a wall, etc) and holding Circle near an enemy will let you use them as a human -- or zombie -- shield.
Yes, you won't be fighting against just zombies and B.O.W.s. There will be plenty of human soldiers you'll come across and there will even be three way battles between your team, enemy humans and T-Virus infected monsters. A cool thing you can do is cause your enemies to bleed out, which will attract zombies to them as if a Boomer from Left 4 Dead had thrown up on them. Enemies can cause you to bleed out too.
Another cool aspect is that your team can really back you up with their individual skill sets, especially when four players are co-oping. For instance, take Bertha, the medic of the team who can cure T-Virus infections. She can also, brace yourself, induce T-Virus infections on you. Why would want to do this? Well for a short duration of time, your entire body except your head is completely invulnerable letting you attack enemies with little worry. Induced players will need to be cured before they eventually turn into a zombie and attack you. There's no real consequence for dying though, as players can be revived (so long as at least one person is still alive.)
You'll probably want to play with other players as the ally AI isn't the greatest. Not horrible, but they did get in the way. The same goes for the enemy AI in regards to humans. Most of the time, enemy soldiers were just standing out in the open or not utilizing cover properly, making them easy targets.
Another downside to Operation Raccoon City is that the graphics aren't up to par with what we've come to expect from the Resident Evil series. The games have always pushed the envelope since the beginning of the series so it was disappointing that the visuals were the run of the mill third-person ho-hum graphics. It certainly won't turn you off, just don't come in expecting what you've come to expect with a Resident Evil.
Really, I think that's the entire theme with Operation Raccoon City. You can't go into this game with preconceived notions of what a Resident Evil game should be. There's even going to be a competitive multiplayer mode for four-versus-four matches, but Capcom didn't go into specifics (although we got a taste of it earlier in the year.) Expect some downloadable content and retailer specific tie-ins for things like weapons and items too.
It's definitely an enjoyable experience and I'm really looking forward to this one come March 20, 2012. And personally, it's going to make up for Resident Evil 5 for me.