Returning to Racoon City is not a new theme for Resident Evil. But what if you´re siding with the bad guys instead and must work to clear up the good name of The Umbrella Corporation? Nicholas King finds out first hand when he revisits the ghastly town.
When Capcom first announced RE:ORC, I was struck with absolute glee. I had always longed for a co-op zombie killing experience, unlike the one that the Outbreak series offered, where you played as survivors trying to escape the ill-fated Racoon City.
With how Capcom has worked on expanding the plot for the Resident Evil (RE) series - by introducing new members to the recurring cast and enriching the game´s lore - it seemed inevitable for the developers to create a new addition to the popular zombie shooter/action-adventure.
RE:ORC offers that and a little more as the game focuses on Umbrellaâ€™s misdoings in Racoon City and how it contributes to the company´s demise as told in subsequent RE games.
Capcom´s launch trailer for RE:ORC definitely captivated its intended audience!
Indeed, as more news, videos and screen shots poured in I became ecstatic: an all-star, Resident Evil ´What-If´ storyline - that takes place alongside the events of Resident Evil 2 and 3 - with a third-person view, four-player online co-op gameplay.
Even better was the fact that, in this game, I was no longer the hunted, but the hunter.
Three-way pitched battles - who is on whose side?
While zombie related titles have been around since the dawn of time for videogaming, RE:ORC has the twist I had always hoped to see for the series, given its expansive take on the outbreaks.
Now that the game is out and I have clocked in more than 50 hours of gameplay, Iâ€™m going to have to say RE:ORC is a real gem that is unpolished as it is a little rough around the edges.
In RE:ORC you play as one of six Umbrella Security Service (USS) shadow operatives, whose role is to erase traces of mega-pharmaceutical Umbrella Corporation´s involvement with the outbreak.
Distancing itself from other zombie infested games with similar concepts, such as Valve´s Left 4 Dead franchise, each of the six characters have specific roles: Lupo for assault, Bertha as the group´s healer, explosives expert Beltway, stealth assassin Vector, all-seeing surveillance Spectre, and biochemical specialist Four Eyes.
Their unique set of skills make it highly critical when you are selecting the right members of your 4-man team. As each has a specific role, your choice could really make or break your gaming experience.
Further exploration of the game, both in campaign and the multiplayer modes, will unveil a near complete line-up of protagonists and antagonists of events that follow.
And for those asking, yes they are all in the game too: Leon Kennedy, Claire Redfield, Jill Valentine, Carlos Oliviera, Ada Wong, HUNK and Nikolai Ginovaef. This isn´t counting the appearance of familiar and new non-playable characters that make a cameo in the game.
Heroes Mode Multiplayer that showcase all the primary characters of RE that are playable in the multiplayer mode of RE:ORC!
You will square-off against the series´ more iconic fodders: the grunt-type zombies, Hunters, zombie Dobermans, Lickers, the hulking stalking Tyrants as well as the ever popular Nemesis from Resident Evil 3.
There will also be moments where you must face government forces who are trying to contain the outbreak and go up against hugger-type creatures that seen to be drawn straight from the Aliens movie series.
Like the previous games in the series, there are items to collected, the rare ones requiring some tricky searching, in each section of the game. Finding these items - be it game bonuses, health and power-up support items, documents or artifacts - contributes to your overall score and rank after completing each mission scenario.
The awarded score after each completed mission will be tallied and re-evaluated as experience points. This will not only level up your personal rank but also be used to purchase newer weapons and skills for your six operatives.
While you won´t essentially be hulking and overpowered, such tactics are a necessity if you are to effectively make use of your characters´ abilities, latent potential and special skills.
Capcom´s choice of selecting Slant Six Games - the developer for the more recent SOCOM series for the PlayStation 3 and Portable PlayStation - to carry out RE:ORC´s development is a rather intriguing one.
For such a popular and highly anticipated title, they seem to have made the mistake of selecting a developer whose track record is mostly average at best. In fact, in keeping with the not-too-good reputation, the game development experienced a few bad episodes that nearly caused it to never be released.
Playing on the side of the series´ antagonist does give the game a fresh perspective as it opens up new facets of the repetitive plot that had been reused in all the older games in the series. The additional twists to the game, the team-play concept and the new characters mesh rather well with each other, making RE:ORC a highly addictive game that properly enhance the RE back-story. It is unfortunate that its potential seems to be highly under-utilised.
As a whole, the game offers a fine mix of total action and part time strategy, which works well with the given premises. And with its gaming experience heavily geared towards playing with friends online, you can expect a single player mode that seems rather lacking since items fetch quests are streamlined and puzzle solving has been removed completely from this mode.
Thankfully the RE:ORC storyline pretty much follows the older series in terms of length and pacing. While that is a real plus for RE fans, casual gamers or those new to the series may feel the single player campaign will be rather short. Even so, the shallow plot and shoddy dialogue of the game makes playing through the storyline a pretty gaudy affair.
As the plot is mostly linear, exploration flexibility is limited to the map´s setup, which guides you from point A to B with almost no chance of getting lost.
With the game´s six maps, which are further complemented with an additional six that are made available through the game´s downloadable content feature, which allows you to play from the government´s special operatives side, using fixed enemy spawn points, you´ll pretty much rely on the multiplayer experience for gaming longevity.
The other modes of RE:ORC offer, more or less, more of the franchise´s tried and true. If you´re looking for pure action in a game that has no frills, then this is it. For those who want the standard RE affair, with in-depth story that is populated with a rich backstory, then prepare to be disappointed. This further degrades the shallow story-plot and does lay waste to the effort the developers have placed on the game design and system.
Even the graphics of RE:ORC feels a little dated and rough as it feels more like playing a PS2 game on high definition. The stages, some of which are paying homage to the previous games, have been simplified to suit the gamesâ€™ new approach.
This works both ways. The over simplicity has caused some of the key locations in the game to be reduced from their glorious former self. Thankfully, it gives more room for fast pace, action-oriented exploration. Even character models also feel dated and unrefined.
Experience and Improvise
RE:ORC´s game AI is quite shallow in terms of strategy, but what it lacks is made up by the sheer number of enemies that are being spawned everywhere. What makes the gameplay hard is not a more efficient and deadly AI but in the large quantities of enemies that are thrown at you. It doesnâ€™t help that the zombies can take more hits when the difficulty bar is raised.
Your AI partner on the other hand, known to be equally as efficient, may get stuck at certain points of the game and will only be able to move after they have been killed and revived, or be recalled to your character when you reached a new checkpoint.
These shortcomings do not make RE:ORC a bad game. Far from it, the game´s shortfalls will make you treat it seriously, especially when you have a zombie horde to fend off and micro-manage a team at the same time. There may be even firefights that can turn into a three-way battle. Sounds fun? Somewhat for sure and the excitement is amped up with the added realism. The anxiety rises when you realise that you have to be totally prepared for moments when the ammo runs out. Many such moments occurred during my time with the game and I had to improvise.
This means managing your ammo, materials, and medicine ratio, the critical timings in using them, making use of your character´s skills, knowing where the items and enemies are, and where you should be going. Swishing your combat knife will get you killed quicker than taking cover.
Multiplayer isn´t just a gimmick either as you will be forced to rely on your partners - both player-based or AI-operated. Indeed, the presence of your AI buddies, while not top notch, will help ease the tension.
Collectibles are not spared as well in this age of game rewards. There is a fair share of goodies to look for to help you gain more experience points but the data materials - littered and hidden throughout each chapter´s map - are limited during each play-through, so sharing evenly between friends is essential for everyone to get the most out of the rewards given.
By the end of it the reward you gain for playing efficiently is well worth the effort as you can power-up your characters as well as attain newer and more powerful arsenals that can assist you in your next foray.
Score: 7/10 Verdict: If you love to kill zombies, are into first-person shooters and looking for some no nonsense strategy gameplay then don´t let RE:ORCs shortcomings stop you from experiencing the game.
It is unfortunate that while RE:ORC is fun, addictive - if I haven´t said it enough times - and innovative, it suffers greatly in presentation. This alone can turn away many who had considered playing the game.
Combat and team work takes centre stage here and the game is immensely unforgiving to reckless gaming. On the plus side, it is a satisfyingly rewarding process when you come out of a chapter with that feel-good-feeling that you were an amazing teammate.