Credit where credit is due, Capcom knows how to throw a party. This week, along with Killscreen Magazine, the publisher mixed new games, live music, and an open bar for a potent mix they called Fright Night. Fans and press alike gathered at the Santos Party House in Manhattan to sample Operation Raccoon City, Resident Evil: Revelations, and Dead Rising 2: Off the Record.
Booze and exciting new games are a recipe for positive press, but I was on to their clever ruse. Yeah, okay, I had a couple drinks, but still--all business. I was there to see some games, nothing more!
Efforts toward objectivity aside, Capcom managed to win me over regardless. Operation Raccoon City and Revelations couldn't be more different, but if they have one thing in common, at least from these brief demos, it's quality.
Resident Evil: Revelations
I'm almost afraid to say it, because Revelations is unfinished and anything could change, but this 3DS title seems like a return to the true survival horror of the original Resident Evil. The gameplay is pure Resident Evil 4/5, but this demo was tuned more like the ammo-depriving game that started the series.
In the mere 15 minutes of gameplay I experienced, I ran out of ammo on three occasions. It never got so bad that I was running past monsters, but it was exhilarating to finish a battle with my last bullet and wonder if I'd find more before the next encounter.
This is a side of Resident Evil that, as you'll see with Operation Raccoon City, seemed to be on its way out. I can only hope they maintain the survival horror tone in the final game.
If you've played the last few Resident Evil games, you'll be right at home with the controls. That intentionally restrictive control style still won't be for everyone, but it remains wholly unique, deliberate, and undeniably satisfying.
It's worth mentioning that Revelations might be the best looking game on the 3DS yet. It does a great job of faking the graphical fidelity of its console brothers. In one scene, a mansion dining hall features a waist-deep layer of mist, an impressive effect I didn't think the 3DS was capable of.
Revelations uses the 3DS's bottom screen for inventory, but aside from puzzle moments, largely avoids the touch screen. Instead, its gimmick is a Metroid Prime-esque scanner that reveals helpful items and components for what I can only assume will be some kind of crafting system. Unfortunately, the demo didn't establish what these bits would be used for, but the scanning was handy for scrounging hidden ammo around the environment.
Revelations doesn't seem like it's going to change Resident Evil in any profound way, but it's a solid-looking entry for a beloved series on a handheld in desperate need of some games. If they stick to this demo's survival horror feel, it could be a real treat for long-time fans.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
Now for something completely different. Operation Raccoon City takes place during the events of Resident Evil 2. The demo began in familiar territory, with Claire and Leon getting separated after the truck explosion that opened RE2. From there, you assume control of an Umbrella clean-up crew--a ragtag group of sinister soldiers sent in to kill Leon and anyone else that gets in their way.
What makes that such a departure is clear the second you start playing. As one of four soldiers (This is a 4 player co-op game) you move quickly, never run out of ammo, and can unleash a flurry of CQC maneuvers on crowds of zombies.
You can take cover, sprint, and mow down lickers, hunters, and humans alike with everything from an auto shotgun to a 200 bullet LMG. Where Resident Evil typical restricts your movement and combat options, Operation Raccoon City provides surprisingly versatile controls.
Despite all that, the game manages to be distinctly Resident Evil. Maybe it's the healing herbs and first aid sprays, or the familiar cast of monsters, but entirely different gameplay doesn't make Operation Raccoon City the series' ugly duckling. In fact, part of the charm is the stunning recreation of RE2's locale. The streets and alleyways of the demo area were appropriately dank where they weren't bathed in police car red and blue. I only wished the environment was more destructible, considering the heavy ordnance you're given.
I didn't get to try more than single-player with bots, but the AI seemed to behave as if pretending to be players in an online game. They move around constantly, in that hyperactive way most online teammates do. It wasn't clear how much they were actually helping though, as I still felt like I was doing most of the work.
As an online co-op shooter, Operation Raccoon City seems mechanically solid and visually impressive, if not a bit too straight-forward. The entire demo consisted of clearing a path to the next waypoint. The path of progress seems even more linear than it did in Left 4 Dead. Still, the game does offer its own twists. Running low on health is one problem, bleeding is quite another. Take enough damage to start bleeding and the smell will attract more zombies to you. Get infected without a cure and you'll become zombified, forcing your squad to finish you off.
Like Revelations on 3DS, I wouldn't call this a game-changer. It's in the polish of the presentation and mechanics that both games won me over. If you're looking for a new direction for Resident Evil, Operation Raccoon City is certainly it, but I don't think it's going to feel fresh amongst the rest of the co-op shooters out there. Does that matter? I don't think so. Innovation is always nice, but solid gameplay will still win me over any day.