‘Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City’ Hands-On Preview – ‘SOCOM’ Embalmed

When the first trailer for “Resident Evil: Raccoon City” was released, it gave fans a pretty clear idea of what Capcom was going for. You know that slow-paced, lonely survival horror game you’re so used to playing? Well, we’re adding a lot more bullets. And while many trailers can be misleading, that the one for “Raccoon City” painted exactly the same impression as the one I got after playing it for a half-hour. It’s a multiplayer action game set in the Resident Evil universe, pure and simple.

While the trailer was telling, the fact that Capcom teamed with “SOCOM” developer, Slant Six Games, proved to be more so. “Resident Evil: Raccoon City” feels exactly like a “SOCOM” game, from the controls to the animations to the passive cover system. It’s “SOCOM” if “SOCOM” had zombies.

“Raccoon City” is split in two parts. There’s a co-op campaign that will walk you through story-driven missions and there’s adversarial multiplayer, which is more about crushing the other team into oblivion. The campaign wasn’t hands-on at this Capcom event, but a brief hands-off demo was shown and it appeared to follow a similar pacing and flow to “Left 4 Dead.” You and your three squad mates cruise around the ruined streets of Raccoon City, occasionally having to fend off hordes and the plucky actions of a rookie cop.

The brief demonstration of the campaign wasn’t enough for me to determine just how much weight there was there, but the adversarial mode was playable. In this mode, two teams of four duke it out, attempting to kill the other squad. What keeps things interesting is the constant threat of the zombie hordes. If you’re shot but not killed, there’s a possibility you’ll start bleeding out, which causes any nearby zombies to beeline right towards you. You’ll also have to face special zombies, like hunters, who have a preference for going after whoever’s at the top of the leaderboards.

While killing zombies earns points, you’ll earn considerably more points by shooting human enemies and having the zombies gobble them up afterwards. It almost makes the map feel like it’s packed with groaning proximity mines, ready to nosh on anything nearby that happens to have a scrape.

The two opposing squads of four are basically identical and feature specialized classes with different abilities. You’ve got the medic (healer, natch), recon expert (cloaking), demolitions expert (mines) and surveillance (thermal vision). These powers can be activated whenever, but are on a timer and require time to charge back up once they’re used. As you play, more powers and weapons are unlocked, similar to “Black Ops,” though the current loadout options are considerably smaller in “Raccoon City.”

Truth be told, I came away from “Raccoon City” with the impression that there was still a lot of work to be done. At present, it doesn’t feel like much more than a reskinned “SOCOM” with zombies. If you’re not a big fan of “SOCOM,” you’re probably going to experience the same problems in “RE:RC,” namely the stilted controls and loose aiming mechanics. I’m really hoping Capcom and Slant Six pay extra attention to the campaign mode, as that’s an area that fans could really dig into, giving them a different angle on the events of “Resident Evil 2″ and “3.” I’d also like to see a bit more innovation on the multiplayer side so that “RE:RC” can stand out on its own rather than resting on the laurels of “If ’Resident Evil’ and ’SOCOM’ had a baby.” Thankfully there’s still plenty of time to right the ship with this one, as it’s not planned for release until later this year.