So far, 2012 has been a great year for games with co-op that feature villainous protagonists parading around with guns that do bad stuff to everything that gets in the way. First came Syndicate, and now comes Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. But considering the majority opinion is against RE:ORC in just about every way... this game must have been made just for me. I can't decide if that's awesome or creepy. I've had a lot of fun with campaign (and the two versus games I played), probably due to my particular tastes and expectations for the Resident Evil series. Finally, finally, you get to play as Team Umbrella. Finally.
This doesn't make it the best game ever. Let me make that disclaimer here before I get started. I think this is an odd little game that hits me in all the right spots. Maybe I've been desensitized by all of Skyrim's problems. Or maybe I'm willing to put up with a lot to live out my dream of playing as the bad guys in the midst of a zombie crisis.
So thanks Slant Six Games. I'm sure your bottom line appreciates it.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (Third Person Zombie Chaos: The Game)
One of my all time greatest desires for the Resident Evil series was for HUNK to get his own game where he fights monsters and zombies on the payroll of Umbrella and nearly gets killed doing it. The closest I could ever get was the insanely hard bonus mission in Resident Evil 2 and the Mercenaries game in Resident Evil 4. It's really the only reason why I put any time at all into that mode. Score attacks aren't really my cup of tea. But if I was going to have the opportunity to play as a dude in a gas mask and snap tons of not-zombie necks, then sign me up. So I was pretty excited to hear about the premise of RE:ORC where you play as a team of gas masked killers on the payroll of Umbrella. It's not quite HUNK-gets-his-own-game, but this is probably as close as I'm ever going to get.
And I suppose it would be hard to explain the appeal if you aren't familiar with the series. While HUNK has a really dumb name, he has a cool look and by series standards is just about as persistent and lucky as any of the major cast. Even as a villain, he's a dude scraping by the skin of his teeth and putting up with ridiculous shit without a one-liner or grunt to the contrary. The cast of ORC is a lot more chatty but I still enjoyed their color. Especially Bertha and Beltway. They aren't super memorable, but they get the job done. At the very least they look cool. I'm pretty sure Bertha uses a hacksaw as her knife. That's not bad in my book.
Not Actually Resident Evil, but a Neat Application of It
Having played most of the core Resident Evil games from Zero to 5 (I even dabbled with Outbreak) I can say with some certainty that this game has little to do with that style or tone. This should come as no surprise to anyone keeping up with its development. It's almost a little unfair saddling it with that title. Think Halo Wars in relation to Halo. Or Battalion Wars in relation to Advance Wars. It's not scary (although RE really hasn't been all that scary since 2 or 3 in my opinion) and it plays fast and loose with the events of RE2 and 3. Not that I'd ever get all up in arms about Resident Evil fiction... but it almost becomes a museum tour of callbacks. Remember when the copter air dropped that Tyrant in RE2? Remember when that asshole Nicholai acted like an asshole in RE3? Remember Nemesis? The RE movies? Zombies? In a way, this game has no "4 Itchy Tasty" moment. They do have Crimson Head enemies... and I feel like I have to give them credit for that.
On the other hand, using the Resident Evil name does give them an excuse to throw zombies and B.O.W.s in the middle of a gunfight. It's more about putting on Resident Evil dressing than putting in soul, but it's one of my favorite scenarios ever when you have a three way free-for-all. Everyone hates everyone and it's bedlam all the time. The only part of the original Halo I really enjoyed was the Covenant vs. Flood levels. There's a Terran mission in StarCraft: Brood War I played over and over again for that reason. And most of ORC is like that. It's fantastic. I feel like more games should arbitrarily throw in Lickers to spice things up. Or if there was a Call of Duty where an asshole with a grenade launcher could get mauled by a Hunter or jumped by a Bandersnatch. ORC knows how to keep things hectic and is not afraid to throw tons and tons of dudes at you. It's certainly more frantic than normal RE games could ever manage. There are more than a few cases where running is your best option not because the plot demands it, but because hanging around is a really bad idea.
With that in mind, it creates this impossible equation where if you haven't been keeping up with Resident Evil there's not a whole lot to get out of it. The campaign especially. But if you have been a fan of this series for a long time, it's probably not what you're looking for. It's not impossible you would enjoy it, but unlikely.
Fun for the Whole Massacre
To compliment the sheer chaos between guys who want to shoot you and monsters that want to eat you are the various abilities of the Umbrella Security Service crew. While the main mission of the game involves destroying evidence of Umbrella's involvement in the whole Raccoon City turning into zombies thing, I found the most fun pitting zombies against US Government soldiers and various abominations. The lady known as Four Eyes can throw what is basically zombie bait causing nearby undead to swarm a hapless target. It's extra fun to compliment this with a grenade and makes for some excellent crowd control. Doctor Bertha is the medic, and while it's not the most glamorous job, carrying a shit ton of First Aid Sprays (even spawning with one) is seriously useful. Her little anti-virus shot also helps with infection and does a ton of damage to T-Virus mutations. Lupo has incendiary rounds, Beltway tosses sticky grenades... there's something for everyone. Even within a single character they have three abilities to choose from.
I also enjoyed the healthy selection of weapons. Shotguns are a lot of fun in this game as they shred zombies nicely. I can almost hold down an entire crowd single handedly with the Riot Gun if not for the mean reload time. Submachine guns are solid, assault rifles reliable if not for their small ammo reserves. While ammunition management isn't really a thing in this game, scrambling for bullets on the battlefield is. The pistol is never neglected for long in a tight spot. The only real oversight for weapons is the lack of a Rocket Launcher. For every Resident Evil game that hinged on the use of an RPG at the finale, it's pretty disappointing there's never a moment in the game where you can use one. The Grenade Launcher is about as explosive you can get. There's also a flamethrower... but it's terrible. It doesn't help that I've been spoiled rotten by Syndicate's awesome Thermite Gun. That thing should be the model of all future flamethrowers. Remember it, video game industry!
Also, people have plenty to say about the shooting. I didn't really notice anything (or mind it) from what I've played. It doesn't feel any worse than say Mass Effect or Uncharted. It's certainly not the worst shooting I've ever seen before. I can hit guys in the face just fine and hit targets at range with the handgun if I have to. That's good enough for me. Of course, I've never been an especially picky person if that counts for anything.
The Experiment Requires More Testing
The biggest bummer I've found is that boss battles take forever in this game. And unlike more modern Resident Evil games, there's no option to buy a Rocket Launcher to speed things up. The worst example is a sniper fight where you have to play whack-a-mole with an asshole in a bunch of windows. He loves tossing grenades. A lot of grenades. Other bosses take mountains and mountains of bullets. I get that maybe they're trying to demonstrate just how tough these monsters are... but come on. The game's fearless attitude about piling it on comes back to bite it in another battle where you fight two bullet sponges- at the same damn time. Not even Albert Wesker in RE5 soaks up the kind of damage these guys take. It would almost be funny if it wasn't so ridiculous. Luckily there aren't many in the game.
A few odds and ends also stick out where I imagine broke the experience for a lot of people. The cover system is... let's say... It's admirable they tried to take a button out of that equation... but it's way too touchy and I never truly know if I'm hiding or not. I've also played way too much Gears of War and it feels crazy you can't mantle over cover. Early on I got into this loop of trying to jump kick dudes on the other side of barriers before I remembered I was playing a different game. Reviving teammates is also funky, because the heart monitor that lets you know they're down doesn't stick with their body. Corpses tend to slide a bit when they fall so sometimes there is a fair amount of looking around. Picking up guns on accident is also an unfortunate problem and I wish there was some priority on saving your team. I never thought I'd miss regenerating health like I do in this game.
And yes, if you can't get friends together, the bots are dumb. Really, walking into trip mines is probably the worst of it. It's kind of funny first few times, especially if it's the explosive expert Beltway. They at least make great distractions and take damage pretty well. One of my drone buddies lasted surprisingly long sandwiched between a mess of zombies and a B.O.W. On occasion they even heal me. If maybe they were reworked to watch where they're standing/walking or at least keep their damn heads down, they wouldn't be any more noticeable than other gangs of CPUs that hang around and let you do all the work. If that doesn't sound like something you can handle, you probably won't be able to stomach this game for very long.
Proceeding with the Mission
I like Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. But if I had to use the GiantBomb scoring system I would probably give it a 3/5. Judging from word of mouth, the majority of people would be less kind. Way less kind. Personally this game gives me a lot of what I've wanted out of the Resident Evil series even if it's not a traditional entry. It has a good selection of weapons. It has the monsters I've come to dread/admire over the years. It's got a really satisfying move where you stab dudes in the face. It's got a great feeling of chaos. And I can finally play as Umbrella guys in gas masks. It's not HUNK, but I'll take it.
I also find it hard to hate a game where you can take a zombie hostage and use it as a meat shield. I feel like that speaks volumes about the U.S.S. crew. They just don't give a fuck. They see this shit everyday working for Umbrella. If they have to use a zombie meat shield, then so be it. Plus, it's pretty funny.