I could not resist the allure of the Capcom booth on Saturday. Of all the Japanese game developers, Capcom has to be my favorite… or at least, it was my favorite. While the company still puts out a lot of excellent titles, they also seem to be straining too hard to imitate the Western market and handling their own properties incorrectly. So it was with caution that I approached a pair of games at their PAX booth. I walked away pleased, but not excited.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
The conditions for Raccoon City were not ideal. The game system wasn’t networked with the others, and I only got to play a portion of the solo/co-op campaign. It’s pretty clear that the game is intnded for multiplayer. As it is, I gave it my best shot.
Turns out it’s actually pretty fun. I can see where comparisons with Left 4 Dead come in, as misleading as they are. The only real similarity is that it’s a shooting game with zombies in it. Comparisons pretty much should end there. This is probably going to be what throws a lot of folks off, as it gives the impression that you play in a sort of co-operative run-and-gun. Then next thing you know you’re turning a corner and a sniper’s laser sights are pointed between your eyes while military are taking cover behind some cars to the side.
The more accurate comparison to be made is the co-operative mode of Turok 2008, where at any time dinosaurs would show up and start wrecking everyone’s day. Raccoon City is really a mix and match shooting styles between run-and-gun and more tactical combat. The two are frequently subverting each other, forcing the player to keep on their toes and adapt to new situations. It creates a pretty solid foundation of gameplay.
Yet to have strong gameplay you also need functional mechanics. Something about the game’s hit detection seemed wonky, or at least not appropriately responsive on the part of the foe. When one of your shots accurately hit, the crosshair would light up orange and give you appropriate feedback. Yet the enemies didn’t always react. Shots to the head wouldn’t seem to phase them, be they hunter or zombie. It’s not a constant problem, but it happens often enough that any player will notice it after a while. The issue is if you get used to it or simply cannot stand it.
The game evidently has cover controls, if Google is to be believed. Evidently all you’re supposed to do is approach a surface and you stick to it. Normally I’d chew the game out for this horrible, horrible design choice as it creates ample opportunity to latch onto cover when you’d rather be fleeing in abject terror. Yet not once do I recall walking into cover during the demo, even though there were plenty of times I was approaching surfaces in search of, well, a way to hop over them. It could be there was a lot of information that wasn’t clearly presented in what small portion of the game that I had played, but it certainly felt my maneuvering options were limited.
So you have a game whose basic premise, a modern tactical shooter with zombies and monsters thrown into the middle, is pretty damn awesome, yet is also held down by some wonky mechanics. The game’s difficulty is bound to upset some as well, as the game seems intent on challenging you enough that you’ll probably die on occasion. Then again, the fact that it respawns you right back into action is bound to piss others off as not being difficult enough. For what it’s worth, it is my opinion that the instant respawn offsets any potentially annoying deaths, and thus the game’s difficulty is just right.
This also highlights the inescapable fact that the game is clearly meant to be played with friends online. This means you have to take a fun yet flawed game and not only convince yourself to buy it at $60, but to convince three other friends to do so as well. That’s a pretty tall order.
There’s a lot to like about this game. The mix of gameplay styles gives it plenty of flavor, having to fend off infections or hordes of zombies drawn to an open wound amps up the excitement, and there’s always fun to be had in four player co-op. But the iffy reaction times from foes, wonky cover mechanics and frustration from dropping a flash bang when you weren’t aware you ran out of frags (and the game decided to switch right over without telling you because clearly that’s what every successful shooting game has done these past five years amirite?).
I’ll be getting Operation Raccoon City eventually, but it makes too many demands of me, as a player, to justify the full $60 price tag. There’s now way I’m going to pay that, or bother trying to convince any of my friends of the same.
My first reaction upon seeing the initial trailers for Dragon’s Dogma gave the impression it would be four-player online co-op. Yet another dream game to cross off my list, supposedly. Turns out that’s not the case. Capcom seems intent on shoving co-op into an otherwise single-player game like Resident Evil, yet leaves it out of a game that seems built for it.
So I picked up the controller and did my best to ignore the whispering voice in the back of my mind chanting “this would be better with co-op” over and over.
The thing is, there really isn’t much to say about the game. The demo was long enough to get a player used to some of the basic mechanics, but that’s it. It’s like those free samples at a market. Oh, so this is what a single bite of your chicken tastes like? It is adequate, but it is no meal, nor does it inform me of how it tastes when prepared with a variety of different herbs and spices.
The game has combat. You combat peoples by pressing the buttons. When you press the buttons stuff happens.
Okay, I’ll be serious now for a moment. I actually liked the game, it just seemed as if there was a lot left to be desired. If I wasn’t in such a hurry I might have actually thought to ask some questions about the game (assuming there were any actual Capcom developers there). The game doesn’t have an obvious combo system, for example, but there was definitely one pattern of button mashings that allowed the light and heavy attacks to blend best. Would you unlock more combos as you leveled up in the game? Or do separate weapons have separate combos? Or maybe it was just a coincidence I had stumbled upon?
Does Dragon’s Dogma contain a class system, in fact? Can you rotate your party companions at different locations, as the demo suggests might be possible? Do you ever get more complex commands for them?
These questions may already be answered elsewhere, but I’ve been making a point not to indulge in too much hype these days. So my knowledge of the game is very little, and only when reflecting on what I played is it all the more apparent.
All I can really think to say of the game is that it is functional and I liked it. The only thing that truly stood out is the ability to grab…well, a lot of different things. You can grab enemies and hold them for your allies to stab (and vice versa will occur as well), you can pick up explosives or random items about the environment and throw them at foes (as will your allies), and most of all, being able to grab onto a rather large Chimera, climb up to his snake tail and start hacking and slashing at it.
I think this is what made me feel the game would be worth a purchase. This was one of the more interesting boss fights in a long time simply because it’s the sort of confrontation I’ve always wanted. I’m not sitting there hacking and slashing at the damn thing’s feet the whole time, or skipped through a cut-scene or quick-time event in order to reach the next brightly colored weak spot. I instead get to jump on its back to avoid the beast’s claws and fangs while hacking at it.
My only complaint is that the fight lasted a bit too long. By time the snake tail and goat head were defeated, it was nothing more than climbing up on its back and hacking at it to avoid getting hit. I had no idea if I could command my allies to use specific attacks or spells. At most I could request assistance or healing by hitting the “Help” button.
I liked what I played and will be buying it day one, but I don’t really know what to expect out of it. All I can say is it’s a fantasy RPG that has some pretty good combat.
Better than any Bethesda game, at least.