Fresh off the presses of Capcom comes the next installment in the iconic Resident Evil franchise: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. This time, the reins were passed to Slant Six Games, formerly of the SOCOM series. Though much of the game feels like a Resident Evil title, there are some distinct differences in style and gameplay that may have traditional Resident Evil fans a little upset. However, what it lacks in traditional Resident Evil story line elements, it makes up for in a new multiplayer system that allows you to play with up to four people. Unfortunately, other issues come into play that bring down an otherwise promising title. It is a shame, because there are a number of good ideas that could breathe fresh life into a hallowed franchise.
The story starts off in none other than Raccoon City. The T-virus has escaped, and the Umbrella Corporation has started their cover up. Umbrella sends in a team of elite soldiers to destroy all evidence of the outbreak and eliminate any survivors. You take on the role of an Umbrella Security soldier, and it’s up to you to carry out your orders and discover what is really going on in Raccoon City. The plot is simple enough, and it is actually one of the better points of the game. Raccoon City takes place during the events of Resident Evil 2, so you get a unique perspective on a classic game. Unfortunately, the game starts to suffer from issues early on, so getting to that story is going to take a lot of time and patience. Even when you do, it doesn’t give you the payoff you’ve been hoping for. You never learn why Umbrella does what it does, which is what people were looking for in this game.
One of the hallmarks of this franchise is its atmosphere, and almost every game drew from this feature. From the long, dark corridors to the survival-horror aspects, atmosphere is what makes a Resident Evil game what it is. However, this game is completely lacking in those respects. There is almost no tension to the story, and it fails to keep you engaged at all. Sure, you play in a number of familiar locations that will get your mind racing, but this game just fails to execute. In addition to the overarching problems, there are plenty of issues in the details. For example, this game is extremely dark, so navigating the levels is difficult. Most areas are lit solely with flaming barrels, so if you stray too far from them, you will have trouble seeing the rest of the environment. This becomes especially frustrating when you are getting swarmed with zombies. More often than not, you’ll get attacked without ever seeing the zombie approach. When you consider that power-ups are scarce, this becomes a difficult gameplay element to overcome.
The main focus of this title is shooting, and there will be plenty of opportunity to do so; however, no matter which weapon you choose, they all feel relatively the same. Enemies rarely react to your gunfire, whether you use an assault rifle, submachine gun, or heavy pistol. In addition to the awkward feel to the weapons, most enemies take a lot of damage to kill. In other Resident Evil games, zombies would take just a few shots to put down. In Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, enemies can take as much as a full clip to kill. This becomes incredibly frustrating to deal with when you are trying to take out a mob of enemies.
Ammunition is scarce in this title, and it amplifies the problem of enemies taking a lot of bullets to kill. To refill your ammunition, you will need to find ammo boxes, which are usually found at checkpoints. Unfortunately, getting to the checkpoints before you run out of ammunition rarely happens. You will often find yourself scavenging other weapons and using the melee system quite a bit. Usually, there is nothing wrong with scavenging, but when you spend your XP on building up a weapon just to have to leave it halfway through a stage seems inefficient.
You may end up wanting to use the melee system anyways, considering that it is very powerful. After a knife combo is finished, it will all but kill whatever you are chopping up, even some of the stronger enemies. This is the best way to save ammo and get the job done; however, the system requires you to get extremely close to the enemy before you are able to attack, so there is always a split second where enemies can sneak an attack in on you. Getting that close to execute a combo is clumsy, and getting it to hit what you want is especially difficult. Even worse than the clumsy mechanics of the melee system is the fact that attacks do so much damage that they instantly pull you out of the game, a cardinal sin of gaming.
The AI in this game is especially poor. You cannot control them at all, and the AI ends up doing strange things instead of being helpful. More often than not, the AI will stick on objects, preventing them from following you. When they aren’t getting stuck in the environment, they are running into cleared-out rooms, walking into mines, or killing themselves in some fashion or another. You then have to find them and revive them to move forward. They also lack the ability to revive you, even if you are standing next to a teammate when you go down. If you choose to play this game without friends, don’t count on the AI to help you in any meaningful way. It is incredibly frustrating and one of the worst parts of the game.
Finally, the cover system is a joke. It is quite easy to get into cover whenever you want to; simply run into the cover you want, press forward on the stick, and you’ll automatically get into your cover stance. The problem comes in when you want to move while in cover. When you press the stick too far to the left or right while in cover, you will wrap around the outside of the cover, exposing yourself and leaving you at the mercy of your enemies. Most games allow you to jump out of cover if you get too close to the boundary, and this is what should have happened in this game. Being forced to the side of your cover will surely cause your demise on more than one occasion.
As much as Raccoon City fails, it still manages to bring some new and interesting ideas to the Resident Evil universe. The ability to play with up to four of your friends works well and is a lot of fun. Resident Evil 5 still remains the best co-op experience in the franchise, but this game does make a valiant effort. The competitive modes are fun, but the issues from the single-player campaign leak over into this mode, as well. Sure, you can play an 8-on-8 match with actual people, but with poor AI, frustrating mechanics, and overall poor level design, it just isn’t worth the effort.
Overall, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a big disappointment. The Resident Evil universe has such a rich history of compelling stories and interesting characters, but unfortunately, this game fails to capitalize on that. There was potential for a game that would make the series and the fans proud; instead, what we got was an under-realized, poorly executed game that wasted an excellent opportunity to get some burning Resident Evil storyline questions answered. For that, we cannot recommend this game for anyone, especially for those fans that have been waiting for a game with this premise. We know it sounds great, but it just doesn’t deliver on its promises.
This review is based off a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City by Capcom and Slant Six Games