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My name is Wayne Chamberlain and I'm a geek daddy who is into Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, books, movies, video games and talking to creative people about their work in these mediums. And that's what you'll find here, along with news, previews and reviews. I'm a journalist, an editor and co-host of the Star Wars Book Report podcast. So come on in and feel free to geek out in a fun, friendly environment.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Zombie shooters invade consoles, handhelds

I admit, I’m a man with a broad scope when it comes to genre appreciation.
Entertainment-wise, I love a good zombie flick. Gaming-wise, shooters are my go-to choice for fun.
Combining the two should produce great results. But not always.
There have been some good ones – the Left 4 Dead franchise and even the old Resident Evil: Dead Aim PlayStation 2 title come to mind.
So, I had high hopes when I popped in Capcom’s latest zombie shooter, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, available on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. And things went south in a hurry.
Plot-wise is where ORC shines brightest. It’s September 1998 and you are a member of a four-person assault team working for the Umbrella Corporation. This is the group responsible for developing the zombie-creating T-Virus, which has turned the citizens of Raccoon City into brain-hungry creatures. The fact you’re working for the bad guys, blasting your way through seven co-op missions that can be played online or offline, is an interesting concept for the RE franchise. You’re tasked with eliminating key witnesses and evidence that tie Umbrella to the outbreak.
You’ll visit come iconic locations and meet up with some classic RE characters during the game, including a young male cop who you’re tasked with killing.
Where ORC falls apart is in telling the story and the actual gameplay itself. There’s not a huge amount of character development. Granted, you can play as one of six different agents who have special skills, but the storyline could have included more character revelation and moments. I know there’s not a lot of story and character development in Left 4 Dead, but a story-driven gaming nut can dream, right?
And the mechanics of playing ORC are cumbersome at best and downright frustrating at worst. Trying to manoeuvre and shoot in some of the locations is an exercise in patience. The aiming mechanics are awkward, as is the lack of precision targeting when chucking grenades. As such, the game feels sloppily designed when compared to other co-op shooters.
Offline play is also frustrated by the poor AI of your non-player-controlled squadmates. They lack tactics and basic intelligence. I know the bad guys are supposed to be stupid or clumsy or arrogant, but this is beyond frustrating given the fact not everyone wants to play online with other people.
Overall, the voice acting is solid, led by Nika Futterman, who is best known as the voice of Asajj Ventress on Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series. But there’s a lot more that could have been done with the characters and the gameplay needed to be tightened up in a big way. Great concept. Poorly executed.
The score: 2.5 stars out of 5. Rated M.
Here’s a quick look at some other sports titles currently available:
* The Walking Dead: Episode One (360, PS3; Telltale Games): The first of a five-part series of downloadable titles based on Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels, you play as Lee Everett, a convict who gets a second chance at life at the end of the world. The story and character development in this game is outstanding and the action, while occasionally uneven, is engaging as you battle zombies and deal with other characters and some truly emotional, almost gut-wrenching scenes. If you’re a fan of the graphic novels, the TV series or intelligent games featuring hordes of zombies, this is a no-brainer. Play it today.
The score: 5 stars. Rated M.
* Resident Evil: Revelations (Nintendo 3DS; Capcom): Set during the time between Resident Evil 4 and RE5, this story takes place on an abandoned cruise ship (remember Dead Aim?). It’s a good shooter that makes good use of the handheld’s 3D capabilities. It’s quite atmospheric, especially if you play in the dark with headphones on. Handheld games have certainly come a long way and this is one of the best genre titles you’ll find out there.
The score: 4 stars. Rated M.

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