A game full of potential brought down by terrible execution
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City starts out in the umbrella labs trying to retrieve the G-virus from one William Birkin. At this point the game is taking place just before the start of Resident Evil 2 and you will actually see some of that opening cutscene near the middle of the game. Your team meets up with fan favorite Hunk to try extract the virus but of course things don't go as planned and all hell breaks loose. From this point on its Wolfpack all for themselves as they try to cover up Umbrellas tracks for this nasty outbreak that they caused. On paper, this is an incredible idea, playing as the villain trying to erase all proof of Umbrellas involvement, unfortunately for the most part the story is barely there and everything you do just seems kinda irrelevant and doesn't tie too much into the other games stories that its working with. For hardcore fans, you may notice tiny things like "hey thats why there is no power in Raccoon city" but thats about as much satisfaction as you get outta that stuff. During the story you run into a few people that are well known through the series like Leon, Claire, and Ada as well as some BOW's like Lickers, Hunters, Nemesis as well as Mr. X. However the boss fights attached to a few of these characters are absolutely AWFUL. You literally put thousands of rounds into them with little feedback on if your doing anything, and they take a very long time to finish. Bottom line is they are just boring.
Now the story isn't all bad but mostly cause of nostalgia. Walking down a hallway with Moonlight Sonata playing or entering R.P.D sent chills down my spine just kinda seeing all that stuff again, and most of it was recreated pretty damn well. Hell they even had the typewriter in the lobby of the police department. There is a point in the story that the focus is mainly on catching Claire and Leon and that brings you to all these iconic locations, but this is near the end of the game and probably only an hour or long. As they promised, there is a point that you can kill Leon, but the ending battle is extremely contrived and a bit silly. Still, to me, the fact that I could kill Leon was kind of interesting and cool. On the other hand, this leads to a laughably horrible ending, its like they forgot to add the rest of the game in. It just ends abruptly, and credits, game over. The game took me just over 6 hours to beat but you could easily jump back in with friends and go through it again.
At this point I have made this game sound awful, but there is some fun to be had in Raccoon City. You take control of one of Wolfpacks members, there are 5 total. Each has their own unique abilities and strategies that make the game surprisingly deep in the leveling department. Powers range from going cloak to spreading pheramones that cause the undead to crazily spring on enemy spec ops. Most of them are fun to play around as and on top of that there are a ton of weapons to unlock. Gameplay wise the shooting needs some getting used too, the guns become extremely inaccurate if you hold down the trigger for more than a second, which makes holding off the zombie hordes a pain. This may sound like a "realistic touch" but what it really does is annoy the hell out of you that you can't hit a target 5 feet away from you. Once you adjust and buy better weapons it feels good enough to where you will have fun with it. However, there is a strange problem with ammo or lack there of. There are lots of ammo boxes spread around to refill your ammo but man do you run out quickly. I had countless times where I had to rely on my pistol for a long time because I burned through my primary guns ammo so quickly. Like I said there are a good amount of crates to get ammo but I don't understand why they just didn't let you carry more.
On a positive note, I think the way the deal with side-arms and melee is really unique and effective, if you know how to use it. At anytime you can simply press and hold the L2 button and it instantly pulls up your pistol. But holding down the button actually gives you a 360 degree control over it and you basically can push the right stick in the direction you wanna shoot or just let it auto-aim while you pull down R1 to fire. I found it extremely helpful when getting backed into corners and it was quick and responsive. Of course you can also just tap L2 to equip the pistol and aim as you please. Melee is handled almost the same way, pound on circle and push the left stick where you want to swing. What makes this interesting is the follow-up moves you can do. After staggering an enemy you can press X to do a basic execution which always kills its target. You can hit triangle to do a character specific move which tends to have further benefits. For example, the scientist can stab a target and inject those pheramones directly in causing a huge riot of the undead and can really take the pressure off of you. Lastly and probably my favorite is by holding down circle after staggering an enemy, you can take them as a meat shield (or execute a spec ops member). Now I understand a zombie as a meat shield sounds stupid but let me explain. I had an experience where I took a meat shield, killed a spec ops member and then kicked the zombie into another spec ops, this caused the zombie to knock over the spec ops guy and the zombie continued to eat his brains while I watched, pretty fucking cool!
Now back to a negative, the auto-cover isn't very good, to be short about it is it doesn't take cover where you think it should and even prevents you sometimes from shooting. It sucks. While you do get used to it after awhile it still doesn't change the fact that 80% of the time a grenade thrown from cover is gonna bounce right back to you. Enemies are also a pain because they are huge bullet sponges. The ones I really have a problem with are the hunters and human opponents (especially human opponents). They just take way too much ammo (like half a clip for humans, maybe more) and the hunters can constantly knock you down making it hard to even get a few shots off. Honestly, I tried my best to just avoid these hunter fights all together.
There are few mechanics in the game that go under two categories, intersting and cool or interesting and annoying. One that I think is interesting and cool is the bleeding mechanic. On occasion your character or enemies may start to bleed which causes a blood frenzy among the undead. While it is counter productive for you to be bleeding, hitting an enemy solider just enough so they start to bleed and attract zombies is awesome. It is a pretty good strategy and is rather satisfying to see played out. On the downside (or upside?) you get to see these soliders transformer into flesh eaters and sprint at you. Which brings me to my intersting yet annoying mechanic. You can now be infected at any time, to cure it you either need an antiviral spray (which seem to be rather abundent) or a constant stream of green herbs and first aid sprays. On the upside this causes zombies to not pay attention as much to you so you can kinda sneak around but on the downside it happens all to often (especially near the end of the game) If you don't get an antiviral spray you turn into a zombie! You watch as your character tries to take down your friends as they shoot you and your arms and legs tear off. And once they down you guess what.... they just revive you and its over. Yeah, thats it. There is no real punishment for getting infected, like having to wait for the next checkpoint or something, its just a dumb mechanic that again had potential but fell flat. Button prompts are an issue, there is way too much reliance on the X button to pick up stuff as well as revive your comrades. In fact, reviving fellow umbrella soliders almost never works the first time you press it, whether you pick up a different gun instead or it just doesn't trigger. Also the A.I is terrible!!!! It actually seems like the enemy A.I is better than the friendly which is utter nonsense. I have seen them walk right into tripmines, run into already cleared rooms, run right next to THE RED BARRELS AND SHOOT THEM. I have even been killed by my own A.I teammate. Its actually pretty funny to watch, especially since this is supposed to be Umbrellas elite task force! Of course even joining up with random people on the internet or friends instantly fixes this problem.
Presentation wise, Raccoon City looks pretty good. Characters look pretty good (except for the Leon model in my opinion) and there is some atmosphere to it. Running into the RPD and down the same street as Leon did in RE 2 are kind of a thrill. On the downside, sound design is pretty awful, and its not because of the voice acting even thought that isnt great either. The guns dont really have a punch and the grenade explosions look and sound fucking awful, just awful, and it doesn't help that fire looks pretty bad as well. But overall, I would say it does kind of have an RE atmosphere to it, some of the lighting looks pretty nice and characters animate pretty well and zombies come apart nicely.
Lastly, competitive mulitplayer is also in the game and I actually had a decent time with it. There are 4 modes, 2 are based on just standard team deathmatch and CTF. The last two are actually kinda neat. One involves two teams trying to secure a helipad and board it, oh and it only has 4 seats ( 8 players in a match) so you better get there quick. Its a bit janky but there is some good fun it it. Heroes is the last mode and that consists of everyone starting as an Iconic Resident Evil character. As they die you then turn into the generic soliders and its your goal to kill all the heores on the oppising side. While this is fun the heroes have WAY to much health and it can drag the game on for a long time. Apparently there is another mode on the 360 but since this is the ps3 version I won't comment on that. There have been some connection issues, especially trying to join random co op games, but inviting works fine and I'm sure it will get sorted out in the future.
Overall, it may sound like I hated the game as many critics did, but I can honestly say I had a good time with the game. Some stuff is silly and dumb but there were some genuinely thrilling moments in Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. While it really doesn't do much to expand the universe that 2 created so well, it isn't really offensive to the cannon. At $60 it is a hard sell, even for hardcore RE fans like me but with that purchase you do get some great "blasts from the pasts" that did put a smile on my face. If you are a person just looking for a 4 player co op game and have no connection to RE, I wouldn't even recommend this game at $40. But if you are a fan of the fiction and cant get enough of it you may want to pick it up at $40 or give it a rent first. This game isn't for everyone but there is a good time to be had if you enjoy the Resident Evil world.