Did you know that the Resident Evil franchise is now fifteen years old? It hardly seems that long ago that we were running from zombie dogs in a mansion, but since then we’ve seen four canon sequels, a few spin-offs of mixed quality and even some crappy arcade games. Now we look forward to a new generation of RE, spearheaded by the upcoming Operation Racoon City.
Rather than proceed with the Resident Evil time-line, Operation Racoon City seeks to further elaborate upon the events of Resident Evil’s past. It is thus that its decision to take place alongside the events of Resident Evils 2 and 3, arguably the best games in the series, will be exciting to franchise afficianados.
Operation Racoon City focuses on the Umbrella Security Service, who are sent in amongst the T-virus outbreak in the city to wipe out evidence of Umbrella’s activities. They will need to hunt down leads and silence survivors and witnesses, all whilst members of a special operations task force are attempting to uncover information regarding Umbrella’s involvement in the virus outbreak. Though the story will be largely comprised of events we’ve already witnessed in RE2 and 3, the opposed split narratives could set up interesting scenarios.
Possibly the most intriguing narrative mechanic that Operation Racoon City has thrown up is that it allows the player to break from Resident Evil canon. Fans of the series know well that protagonist Leon Kennedy survives the T-virus outbreak in the city, but the game may well involve hunting him down to cover up Umbrella’s tracks. At least that’s what the most recent trailer for the game has shown (see above). Indeed it has been mentioned that in ORC you will be able to rewrite history. Does that mean we can expect a non-linear story with multiple endings? It would certainly make for an interesting Resident Evil experience and it would capitalise well on how the game intends to alter and subvert the Resident Evil plot arc.
In terms of gameplay, ORC adopts an over the shoulder cam that is reminiscent of Resident Evil 5, but game producer Masachika Kawata has promised a “much more fast-paced action based game than what you’re used to in the Resident Evil series.” Advancing on the weapon upgrade and progression systems of RE4 and 5, the game will supposedly offer an experience point system where XP can be used to unlock new weapons and skills.
These skills will have a huge impact upon gameplay, most notably in the game’s four player co-op mode. The best addition made in the semi-recent Resident Evil 5 was the inclusion of two player co-op, and ORC looks set to take that timeless tradition and double it. If you find yourself having trouble with the hordes of undead, you can call in a friend or three. Let’s just hope that, as in RE5, they do the right thing and include some form of split-screen co-op as well. You have a choice of four characters: Vector, Spectre, Beltway, and Bertha. Each character has their own special skill that only they can use, meaning you’ll have to work together to get the most out of your team’s powers.
Though each character’s unique skills haven’t been confirmed the trailer does alight upon the issue. Vector looks like he has some kind of stealth cloak he can activate. Spectre scouts his enemies out at one point in the trailer with thermal vision, an ability that could be unique to him. Beltway is shown handling explosives and Bertha seems to have a sprinting ability. She is also shown activating some kind of flashing device in the trailer at 1:14, though it isn’t immediately apparent what this is. Other new features that show up in the trailer include a more advanced looking melee system, along with the ability to take enemies as a human shield. Though this probably won’t do much good against the terrors of the T-Virus, it will be necessary to keep yourself protected against the cross-fire of the spec ops forces that will attempt to hinder your mission.
The enemy variety looks set to soar on account of, not just your armed human adversaries but also, with a large selection of BOWs entering the fold. The trailer shows the “non-discriminating” BOWs being deployed by Umbrella to attempt to aid in the mission, but they seem quick to attack Umbrella employees and spec ops agents alike. The standard zombies, along with giant lizards and a Tyrant popping up, make the game look like a genuine challenge. Let’s just hope zombie dogs also get a look in.
What might really benefit from this assortment of Racoon City native issues is the competitive multiplayer. The game will supposedly sport more conventional versus modes, which makes sense considering the scenario match up of the spec ops versus the USS. With all kinds of BOWs loose amongst the crossfire between the two teams, the multiplayer modes in ORC could be absolute mayhem. Let’s just hope they do a better job than the mediocre versus mode we saw in Resident Evil 5.
Not content with being just another Resident Evil spin-off, Operation Racoon City is using its non-canon status in an interesting way. With its series breaking narratives and fast-paced gameplay, it could be a real winner. The game is set for a winter release date, but more information and gameplay footage is likely to surface at this year’s E3 in June. Stay with us for more info on Operation Racoon City as it comes to light.