This is not Resident Evil, this is a third person cover based shooter that has had a Resident Evil theme applied. It may say Resident Evil on the box but the game has more in common with Metal Gear Solid 4 played as an action game and Gears Of War than previous Resident Evil titles.[drop]Six characters are available, allowing you to choose a team member which you control and three other AI (or co-op) team members. Each character has a different set of skills and I picked Beltway, the thug-like demolitions man for my main character with Lupo (assault class), Bertha (medic) and Four Eyes (scientist) as back up. The remaining members of the team are Vector (recon), who has a neat cloaking device, and Spectre, the teams’ surveillance expert.
The game launches with a small cutscene which is rendered in real time so it can reflect who you have selected for your team, different characters will have alternate lines of dialogue potentially adding a fair amount of replay value to the game.
There are two types of enemies in the game, those infected with the virus, and goons employed by Umbrella. The zombie AI could do with a tweak as I watched one try and run through a wall for about a minute (perhaps they need more braaaaaiinnss?) but the human opponents seem to be quite sensible, ducking for cover when needed. The AI of your team mates also requires some attention so they take note of how you are playing – a couple of times I found myself alone in a room fending off waves of zombies whilst my three AI team mates had run off to attack a different group of undead.
The zombies are pure cannon fodder and shuffle helpfully into your gun sights, but if you are injured and start bleeding then they will pick up the scent and start running en mass towards you. You can use this to your advantage by wounding the enemy soldiers and letting the undead have an early lunch, a cunning tactic but it’s usually much quicker just to gun down everyone yourself.
The groundbreaking concept of running and shooting finally makes it to the Resident Evil franchise and your character is pretty nifty with his (or her) fists. Each team member has a special melee finishing move, one of which involves stuffing a live grenade down a zombie’s throat, perfect for that moment when you decide that your uniform could do with more entrails.
At the end of the level, the Lickers make an appearance and another sequence finds an infected William Birkin chasing the team down a corridor. As a set piece this works very well, the building is gradually collapsing around you and every few moments you have to stop dashing for the exit to take a few shots at the mutated Birkin beast to slow him down.[drop2]Upon completion of a mission, you are ranked and any experience points that you have gained can be traded in for character upgrades or weapons which, once unlocked, are available to your whole team. Extra XP can be gained from completing side missions, finding the stuffed raccoon hidden in each level or picking up floppy discs, CDs and hard drives.
Resident Evil: Raccoon City is shaping up to be a solid third person shooter. With the help of the beta early next year, they should be able to polish off any niggling AI problems. What they wont be able to fix is the glaring clash between the original Resident Evil titles (the game is set between Evils 2 and 3) and modern games.
No one questioned why green herbs were scattered across a city in 1998, but today having little green pot plants as health pick ups just looks wrong. Likewise some of the characters now feel very dated – Hunk makes an appearance and whilst that name may have been acceptable back then it’s now quite laughable, especially when he’s nowhere near as beefy as 5’s Chris Redfield.
If you like fast paced shooters with perks, co-op and zombies then Raccoon City is worth keeping an eye on, just don’t expect the traditional Resident Evil.