Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City certainly isn't Left 4 Dead, but I wouldn't blame you for confusing the two. ORC is, after all, a four player co-op zombie shooter, featuring a variety of zombie types that largely resemble what both Left 4 Dead games featured before it (a large tank-like zombie, a zombie who scurries on the ceiling and reels you in with his tongue, etc.).

In fact, other than a third-person perspective and a Resident Evil landmark setting, I was getting some serious déja vu playing ORC. Except for one crucial point: it wasn't quite as fun as Left 4 Dead. My hands-on demo opened with a crucial choice. Which class to play? Each of the game's six classes lends its own ability to the mix. I chose the stealth class, a shotgun, and headed into the fray, invisibility camo in-tow. As detailed in the game's reveal, ORC has three competing factions: Zombies ("bio-organic weapons"), United States "elite soldiers," and your team, the Umbrella Security Service. If that weren't enough, Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield are running all over town, reliving past Resident Evil stories.

Despite all the story trappings of Resident Evil, almost none of it comes across in the actual gameplay. Sure, a cutscene that rolled before I started shooting showed Leon running away from my team of Umbrella's best marauders, but what happened afterward felt entirely out of place for an RE title. I aimed my shotgun at a zombies face, and I fired. And I kept firing for the rest of the preview. Dozens if not hundreds of rounds of limitless ammo poured into the seething masses of zombies -- sorry, sorry, "bio-organic weapons" -- out of my shotgun, which I later swapped for an automatic to the same result.


Outside of a handful of checkpoint-activated cutscenes, the rest of the preview was myself and my team charging barrel-end-first through the aforementioned hordes of zombie types. That is, of course, until my team ran into the third faction: US soldiers. Rather than stupidly charging into my bullets, these guys chose to hang out on rooftops and behind cover.

Which isn't to say they were any smarter than the zombies, just that they had to be chased down rather than chasing me down. And though they're part of the main concept of ORC, they seemed more out of place than anything else. Their mission is to clean up Raccoon City, so they're hanging out on rooftops firing sniper bullets at the last remaining humans in town? Huh?

Mechanically speaking, ORC is serviceable, if not unexciting. It felt a lot like controlling a poor facsimile of a SOCOM character -- not exactly surprising considering the developer worked on some not-so-well-received SOCOM titles before ORC. With a tentative Q4 2011 release scheduled for Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, I'm holding out hope that Capcom keeps this one in the oven a little longer.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.