Also On: PS3
Developer: Slant Six Games
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a failed attempt at bringing the horror survival series kicking and screaming into a genre that a lot of fans don’t believe it belongs in, that being a squad focused third person shooter with some heavy online elements. Oh wait, Resident Evil 5 already did this, but with only two people instead of four. And I loved Resident Evil 5, so what the hell went wrong here?
For starters, the setting takes a step back, and intertwines itself poorly with the plot of Resident Evil 2 and 3. You’re not taking on the role of Leon S. Kennedy or Claire Redfield however, instead this is told through the side of Umbrella’s elite division, the U.S.S., who are tasked with containing and eliminating witnesses from Raccoon City.
There are six characters to choose from the in the campaign, with each character representing a particular class, like Assault or Recon. You’ll get an appearance by series favorites like Hunk, and on the other end Leon and Claire, but the fan service is actually pretty light. And that’s kind of a shame because there’s almost no personality coming from the U.S.S. operatives, which makes crafting a story around them kind of a tough thing to do. I found my interest in their mission waning after just two of their overly long campaign missions, and while I stuck through the cut scenes because they’re the best looking thing about the game, I’m disappointed to see how little importance the game has on the Resident Evil canon.
Or maybe I should be joyous, considering how little there is to like here. The squad mechanic means that you’ll either fill out the other roles with players culled from Xbox Live or PSN, or opt to stick with the computer controlled versions. You can create public or private matches, but I had a hell of time finding random people to join with. I imagine the experience is probably better with a full group, co-op tends to be more fun than playing alone in ANY game, but I was stuck playing through a significant portion of the game solo.
The A.I. for your teammates will make you regret that decision though, as they are incredibly brain dead. They’d often be seen running into easily avoidable fire, running around wild out of cover, running into walls (and then continue to run into said wall), and just generally ignoring the events going on around them. I remember a couple instances where I ran through with another live player and upon my death would switch between characters to view events, and catch an A.I. controlled character just chilling rooms back and not doing a damn thing, only to suddenly spring to life.
Because of that, the game can seem overly difficulty when playing solo, but becomes a breeze when the roster is filled with players. Enemy selection is pretty light, and doesn’t do much to introduce new monsters to the series. You’ve got zombies, Crimson Head’s, Hunters, Lickers, and the occasional Tyrant. A small selection of monster types benefits the main Resident Evil games (at least prior to 4), because they’re not being constantly thrown in your face. In a game like Operation Raccoon City though, fighting wave after wave of the same bad guys gets to be a little tedious.
Slant Six does try to change it up by introducing human soldiers into the mix; these are both military and ex-Umbrella soldiers, who definitely pose the biggest threat since they’ll actually shoot back. This is also where Raccoon City’s half-baked cover system comes into play. Cover is performed by pushing yourself up against an object, but only works half of the time. The cover mechanic is so frustrating to effectively use, and will oftentimes cause various problems for you. I’ve entered cover and tried moving to the side, only to remain in the cover animation but have my characters body sticking way outside of the actual cover. Or pressing up against a vehicle for cover and ducking down, only to pop right back up again.
Operation Raccoon City has other technical issues, the biggest offender being an incredibly inconsistent framerate. The game will literally chug at times, with the frames dropping into the single digits, and sometimes for no apparent reason during lulls in the action.
Besides the Campaign there’s a handful of online versus modes. The most interesting of these would be the Heroes mode, which dumps the newly introduced characters of the Campaign in favor of more recognizable names, like Ada Wong, Clair, Leon and others. You’ll play as teams of four, and fight it out on the map using your upgraded stats and abilities which remain persistent between the versus modes and the Campaign.
The only real interesting mechanic for all of the online modes is that each map is still populated with a number of monsters to contend with, instead of just the other team. You’ll also gain experience for kills if you opt to just pop the heads off of zombies in a match, and you can do some interesting things like putting an opponent into a bleed state so that a pack of hungry zombies will swarm them. It certainly helps to make the versus modes feel like less of a waste, but there’s little in the way of different modes here, just a team versus mode, the aforementioned Heroes mode, and a mode that has you capturing virus vials and returning them to your base.
I can’t really suggest picking up Operation Raccoon City to anyone, as it’s just a game that feels remarkably out of place for the franchise it’s supposed to represent. It’s not that I don’t think a team based shooter could work for an RE game, as I’m one of those people that doesn’t mind the action heavy direction the series has taken as of late, but this game lacks a necessary level of polish to pull it off. At the end of the day it’s just not fun to play, does little with the license on hand, and doesn’t evolve the pathos in any meaningful way. It’s downright bland, and filled with mechanics that work just enough to make a passable experience, but do little to stand out against other, better third person shooters available.