Capcom’s two experiments with a multiplayer-centric Resident Evil haven’t been terribly successful. The first Outbreak sold well, but the reviews weren’t all that great and its sequel sold half as well, essentially killing the series until Operation Raccoon City came along. Unfortunately, ORC doesn’t really share much with the Outbreak series outside of four-player co-op. Read on for what I’d like to see Capcom do with the next multiplayer Resident Evil, whether it ends up being the long-requested Outbreak File #3 or an Operation Raccoon City sequel.
In Outbreak, you’re an infected survivor. You have an expiration date and even the smallest mistake can bring your inevitable demise even closer. This is a neat idea, because it forces you to be cautious and aware that you’re not immortal, and that’s important for a survival horror game.
On the opposite end of this is Operation Raccoon City, which rewards you for being reckless and going in guns blazing. It arms you to the teeth with powerful weapons, grenades, and special abilities, and then on top of that your allies (excluding AI partners) can revive you as soon as you go down. There’s literally no penalty for dying, and that’s a serious problem.
Presently, there’s actually a place for both of these takes on Resident Evil. Outbreak pleases the longtime fans who are nostalgic for the old days when puzzles, horror, and atmosphere were all trademarks of the series. ORC is more easily accessible to newcomers, because it’s a simpler, mindless romp through a post-apocalyptic world that replaces survival horror with action and an emphasis on teamwork. Essentially, you don’t need to be a fan of the series to enjoy ORC.
You might not want to hear it, but as games like Resident Evil 5 and Operation Raccoon City continue to be sell bigger than ever, Capcom’s going to continue to pump them out. So let’s embrace it and use our ability as a very vocal fan base to see if we can’t help Capcom make these games better, rather than bitch and moan about how “Resident Evil is dead,” because it isn’t. In fact, it’s bigger than ever, and that’s actually a very good thing.
Let’s start things off with my favorite of the two: Outbreak. For starters, let’s shorten the title a bit.
There we go. Resident Evil: OUT3REAK. You know they’re going to do that, so we may as well embrace it. Only this time around, we’re rebelling against the man by swapping the B with a 3, rather than the E, like what F.3.A.R. did. This could mark the beginning of a revolution for video game titles. Viva La Revolución!
If we’re going to have two separate–and wildly different–approaches to multiplayer focused Resident Evil, then the two need to be as different as possible. That means a lot of puzzles that actually require teamwork to solve. The only thing OUT3REAK should have in common with ORC is the excellent matchmaking system. It’s very easy to find a game, invite friends, or play with a party in ORC, so something along those lines needs to find its way into this.
I think the nostalgic romps through locations seen in past entries should stay with this spin-off, primarily because it just felt weird returning to the Raccoon City Police Department with assault rifles and three friends, but also because fans of the series are going to flock to this. Leave the new locales for the game, in this case, ORC2, which appeals to people that haven’t necessarily experienced a Resident Evil title.
One thing I’d really like to see added in an Outbreak sequel is something they teased us with already. In the first two you could find supplies, like wood planks and a nail gun, and it gave you the choice to use the nail gun as a weapon or to use it to barricade a door. This is fantastic, and it’s something I feel could be explored more.
Imagine the classic campaign offered in the first two games and another Black Ops-style zombie mode where you’re simply trying to survive. It would be like Mercenaries without the annoying time limit and instead of scouring the environment in search of those weird glowing timers to smack you’re looking for the best place to set up your defense.
This would open up new possibilities for the characters as well, giving each character another special trait to make them play more uniquely. Finding a way to combine each character’s unique skill sets, like George’s medical background and David’s carpentry skills–though I’m not necessarily saying Capcom should bring back the original cast, I’d much prefer some new faces. A character like David could craft some sort of makeshift healing station that George could use to treat wounds. This would make each character play differently as well as give players something to set them apart from their comrades.
Also, no Hunters. Hunter fights have sucked in literally every Resident Evil. Moths, too. If I never have to fight another of those again I will die a very happy nerd.
Satisfied? I sure am. Now let’s move on to Operation Raccoon City.
That’s right, we’re dropping “Operation Raccoon City” to focus on something exponentially more interesting: the S.T.A.R.S.
For starters, the lame ass you’re-the-bad-guy perspective needs to be dropped, because that didn’t work at all in ORC. I can’t name a single bad guy–not including bad things, like Nemesis–that isn’t comically evil. The USS team in ORC didn’t have a single interesting character because it felt like they were all trying their hardest to see who could be the most evil. Get rid of all that. I want to be a member of the S.T.A.R.S. because they’re one of the most recognizable things from the Resident Evil universe.
I’d also like this to take place at the very beginning of the outbreak, just before all hell breaks loose. I want to be work alongside the RPD and my fellow S.T.A.R.S. members to try and stop an apocalypse that we as fans of the series already know doesn’t end well for the citizens of Raccoon City. But I still want to try. I want to help groups of survivors, find supplies for safe houses, build/reinforce barricades and do everything I can to save the city. Fans know Raccoon City is fucked and it’ll even say it in the title: “The Fall of Raccoon City”, but I think playing on the team that pretty much every RE fan loves–the S.T.A.R.S.–and at a crucial point in the Resident Evil fiction will make this more appealing to fans of the series without losing the accessibility for newcomers looking for to scratch that zombie itch.
I’m sure most of you will disagree with this, but I think Slant Six should develop it. The problem with experiments like this is if a developer makes a risky move with a proven franchise and that move doesn’t necessarily pay in full, they’re immediately taken off the series. Konami has been making this mistake with Silent Hill for years now, having a different developer craft every new installment since The Room. Give Vatra a chance to work on another Silent Hill–for the unfamiliar, they developed Downpour–and see how much better it is. Same goes for Slant Six and an ORC sequel, unless Capcom wants to develop this internally, which I fully support.
Obviously, a lot went wrong with Operation Raccoon City. The multiplayer is unbalanced, the campaign is scary short, the weapons feel like about as dangerous as a squirt gun and about as accurate, many of the guns are totally useless, the characters are laughable (Party Girl? Really?), and the boss fights aren’t just uninspired, they’re actually stolen from past games. That’s not everything, but those are some of the worst offenders. The most fun I had playing that game came when I was exploring the mostly empty streets of Raccoon City. Sadly, only about a fourth of the game is actually set in the city streets, with the rest taking place below it or inside its cramped buildings.
In the fantastic launch trailer the characters were used well. Each member of the USS had a very specific skill set: Bertha’s mad machete skills made her an intimidating foe up close and Specter fired at some cops from rooftops while Beltway went ahead of the group to stop them with a well-placed trip mine. The in-game action was decidedly less interesting since I was rarely more than a few feet from the rest of the group at any given time. There were no rooftops for a sniper to make use of, no branching paths for a demolitions expert to place a mine, none of that made it into the game.
Gone was all that potential, lost in the time between the release of the trailer and the game. Instead we were left with a solid, if uninspired and incredibly unpolished squad shooter where it didn’t really matter what class you chose because they all play so similarly to each other. Your executions function much the same way, the melee moves are nearly indistinguishable from one another, anyone can wield any gun they like, and a startling majority of the special skills weren’t all that special. I can hold a few extra antiviral sprays? Thanks? Or I can run 15% faster than everyone else? I suppose that’s useful if we’re being chased by something big and I want to outrun my teammates.
While we’re on the subject of big things that like to chase you, the bosses in this game are horrible. There are two encounters with Nemesis that have you pumping lead into his remarkably bullet-resistant coat for 20 minutes before he falls down. Two. This boss sucked the first time, why would I want to do it again?
And Birkin? Don’t get me started. He chases you during your first encounter, then during the Spec Ops missions you set him on fire until he gets angry enough to kill himself. That’s weak. The bosses in Operation Raccoon City are more endurance tests than boss encounters, and that’s a shame for a series that’s brought us some fantastic bosses.
I’d also like to be able to vault over cover, because the fact that you can’t is fucking stupid.
Oh and did I mention no Hunters? Seriously. I’d rather get slapped on the ass by a Tyrant than pinned against a wall and awkwardly dry humped by a Hunter (again).
Capcom has two different games that cater to two very different audiences. The good thing for Capcom is both audiences are big, or at least they’re large enough to warrant each of these series. Outbreak will never be a multi-million seller, but on something like Xbox Live Arcade or PSN it could be successful. Don’t be afraid to push boundaries with your series, Capcom. Remedy surprised us all when they made an all-new Alan Wake for XBLA, and it paid off. OUT3REAK on arcade could be big too, especially since it has a much larger audience than Alan Wake. As for Operation Raccoon City, with a few big tweaks I could see it turning into a series worth the Resident Evil name. Sure, the first outing was more than a little disappointing, but that only leaves even more room for improvement.
What about you, dear reader? Are you a proud member of Team Outbreak, or Team Operation Raccoon City, and what would you like to see from these two spin-offs?