Yeah, it’s me with another post about zombies. Yawn, yawn bloody yawn. I just can’t get enough of the buggers, you see. Shambling about as they do, hunting for the next trace of human flesh to gnaw on.. aren’t they just adorable? Aww..
Fellow zombie enthusiasts can today feast their eyes on some new footage of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. First revealed last month alongside a slew of other new announcements, REORC (I know, sorry in advance for the terrible acronym) now has it’s first full fat trailer, featuring the odd snippet of gameplay and an introduction to some of the games primary characters.
Exciting? Unfortunately not. At the risk of being bitten, I’m even going to stick my neck out here and say that this trailer sucks. You can have a look yourself after the break, and as a bonus I’ll also string together some of my own opinions about why I think it sucks. Lucky you.
So, without further ado, here’s the trailer:
Now here’s my problem with it.
1.) It’s Not a Looker.
Traditionally, Resident Evil games have always done OK for themselves in terms of visual presentation. The original game pushed boundaries back in 1996 and subsequent releases have always been able to hold their own relative to the available technology of the time. By comparison, REORC looks pretty lacking for a shooter released five years into the current generation. It’s not terrible, but it’s not exactly great either. I certainly wouldn’t leap to suggest that this was any better looking than 2009’s Resident Evil 5. Screenshots have shown some pretty rough textures and there’s a sort of grainy effect which I don’t think is doing the visuals any favors at the moment. To be honest, it looks a little below par, particularly given what’s being achieved by other studio’s at this point in the current console cycle.
2.) The Animation.
Not only am I totally underwhelmed by the visuals on display so far, there’s also some pretty poor use of animations. Case in point? Check out the scene where the player kicks forward a zombie, in turn making another zombie explode into several pieces. Not only does kicking forward a zombie look ridiculous, but it never even makes contact with the one which explodes right next to him. I’m not even sure kicking one zombie into another would actually trigger any sort of explosion anyway, but the fact that the two don’t even make contact in this instance is pretty sloppy. Also, take a look at the bloke running over the proximity mine a few seconds later. I make a more convincing job of collapsing when I fall into bed at night. He looks less like the victim of an explosion and more like someone who got lost staggering home from the pub after ten beers, collapsing into a pile of dustbins and garbage sacks in the alleyway behind a XXX theatre.
3.) Kill Leon Kennedy? Do I Have To?
For me, Resident Evil has never been interesting because of the characters you get to play. What gives Resident Evil character is the locations and the freaks who inhabit them. The Spencer Mansion, Raccoon City, Mr. X, Tyrants, Zombies, William Burkin, Wesker and Nemesis. These are the reasons I have played and enjoyed the Resident Evil franchise for the last fifteen years, not because of Chris or Claire Redfield or Jill Valentine. The single exception to this rule however (other than the criminally underused Barry Burton) is Leon Kennedy, who appears to be the only universally likable character in the entire franchise. So what happens in REORC? You get the opportunity to kill him. Not only is this total nonsense from a narrative perspective (which I’ll get to shortly), but it also seems like a pretty cheap way of forcing unnecessary interaction with recognisable characters in an attempt try and flesh out the experience or make it appear more authentic. I’m not sure if Im prepared to buy it, personally.
4.) I Know It’s Not Canon, But Don’t Take The Piss.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City isn’t canon with the rest of the Resident Evil lore. I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it. REORC might be intentionally setting up a “what if?” alternative scenario, but I’m not sure if this gives it the license to take this many liberties with the established story. From what we’ve seen from the minutes worth of footage so far and the scraps of info divulged to the press, we know that Leon Kennedy not only battles with the Umbrella Delta Team, but also potentially dies as a result; two events that cancel out everything we already know about both Resident Evil 2 and 4. Alternative history is one thing, but it’s not something I can ever take seriously when the end result essentially wipes out the two best games in the entire series.
5.) Vectre, Spectre, Bertha and Beltway.
Yes, you read right. Those are the names of the Umbrella operatives you’ll be controlling. From the looks of things, every stereotype you could possibly think of is here in abundance, including terrible character design, a class system (recon, heavy, surveillance blah blah blah) and a dodgy German/Russian accent. Ooo, Biological Veapons!
What’s also annoying is the presence of a stealth suit. What is this, Crysis? Metal Gear? As far as I’m aware, there’s absolutely no evidence of stealth abilities anywhere else in the entire Resident Evil fiction, either in the games prior to or several years after the events of the 1998 Raccoon City outbreak. Yet here we have Umbrella operatives wearing it as if it were a rain coat. This might seem like a trivial gripe (especially in a fictional story about zombies which is equally as ridiculous in all manner of other ways), but it’s one that’s grating on me. Particularly as I’m sure the only explanation for the use of a stealth suit will probably just be “Well we’re Umbrella! Duh!”, and that’s bullshit.
6.) Zombie Meat Shields.
Oh please. The first three games in the Resident Evil series built their reputation on the fear created by being surrounded by the walking dead. Raccoon City is an urban location brought to total and utter destruction due to the outbreak. Everything we’ve played so far tells us that zombies are a dangerous enemy to be taken for granted at ones peril. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City on the other hand now features the use of zombie meat shields. So giving them a big hug, basically. Why wouldn’t they chew on your arm? Why would you even attempt it? Wouldn’t a decomposing corpse also disintegrate relatively quickly under anything other than handgun fire? What an absolutely terrible idea on all counts.
7.) It Looks Like SOCOM.
Consider any skepticism you had about SOCOM developers Slant Six fully justified. REORC looks more like a re-skin than I ever expected it to and I don’t think that’s a particularly good thing. Create a check list of modern third person shooter conventions and you’ll be able to tick them all off here. Diving behind wrecked vehicles? Enemies popping in and out of cover? A “Wow! Look how fast I am!” haze around your characters when they sprint? Check, check and check. Resident Evil 5 received a heap of valid criticism from series veterans for the amount of balls out action it wedged into the latter parts of the game, but that looks like a slow paced cakewalk compared to REORC. From the trailer and a select few hands on impressions elsewhere, this certainly looks like the fastest, most action filled take on the series so far.
What’s important to remember at this point – especially for fickle, stubborn and stuck in their ways Resident Evil traditionalists like me – is that Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City isn’t yet the finished the article. With months until release and a summer full of trade shows to demo at, there’s plenty of time for Slant Six to potentially sort out things such as the visual quality and the animations. This is certainly a very different way to experience the Resident Evil franchise, hence it’s spin off status and none-canon story, but what concerns me more is how Slant Six can stack up against the competition to make REORC stand out. As a squad based zombie shooter, comparisons with Left 4 Dead are obvious and easy to draw, while it’s launch window puts it in direct competition with Gears of War 3 and Uncharted 3 in the third person shooter market. Whether Slant Six can step up from a middling SOCOM series and deliver to compete with such established franchises remains to be seen, but I’m not particularly hopeful after watching this opening gameplay trailer. I suspect that Slant Six may be relying on fan service alone to make their product stand out from the crowd, which could be a dangerous game to play.
Although an interesting concept, Operation Raccoon City currently looks like a project in need of some polish. As a fan of the series I’ll continue to monitor it’s progress, but other than nostalgia for the characters and locations showcased so far, I hold out little hope that we’ll get a worthwhile experience at the end of it.
Prove me wrong, Slant Six. Please?
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