All reviews lead to Hell.
I never had any delusions of Grandeur going in to Slant Six's attempt at creating a Resident Evil game stripped away of all the trappings of survival horror, leaving you with a dry-cut third person shooter set during the events of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3. Given their history and the genre, and the way the game was shaping up in all of the trailers, I was certain that it was hardly going to be released to high praise. What I had hoped, however, that my love for the franchise's lore, characters and locations would help bolster my enjoyment with Resident Evil Operation Raccoon City. If anything, my die-hard adoration for the series may have actually deepened the cut.
Operation Raccoon City is a terrible single-player game, it's a highly unbalanced and downright broken competitive multiplayer game, and its only appeal as a cooperative game is through actually laughing along with your mates at just how awfully unrefined, if not bad, everything is.
Most importantly, the focal part of any shooter, the shooting, is a total weak sauce affair offering up a decent selection of guns that all feel like you're shooting toys. Pretty much any and all enemies you encounter (including such iconic Resident Evil nasties like zombies, Lickers, zombie hounds, Hunters, Nemesis and so forth) all take far too many bullets to kill and there's a noticeable lack of feedback when you're shooting something as well. Zombies will lose a few limbs here and there which is nice, but enemies like Lickers and Hunters are seemingly made out of granite as they shrug close to everything you dump into them right off like you're shooting frozen peas at a brick wall. And because everything takes so much ammunition to down, ironically enough (given the complete disparity of survival-horror-ness ORC was aiming for) you'll consequently find yourself running out of ammo a fair amount as well. There are often huge crates filled with infinite ammo to partake from littered throughout the game, and some enemies drop a small cache as well, but still were there moments out in the field where my guns would be completely dry. Grenades are available as well, but they too are laughably weak. They can disperse a crowd easily enough, but it'll take at least two just to kill a single NPC Spec Ops soldier on the normal difficulty.
Should you run out of ammo for your primary weapon, you can fall back on your pistol. But as you'd expect, given how weak the assault rifle & shotguns are to begin with, pistols are nigh useless. Pistols can be used the same way you fire any other weapon, though if you hold the L2 button (which FYI is the button you also use to switch between your two weapons) you'll enter this strange sort of auto-aim mode where your pistol will aim at whatever is closest. Your view is highly restrictive, and if anything it kinda resembles the way shooting was handled back in ye olden days of camera angles and tank controls. Under the context of a fast paced third person shooter, it doesn't improve a pistol's efficiency in the slightest.
There is also a melee attack as well, where your character randomly flails about with his/her knife. It's... actually surprisingly effective, however, and it gets the job done with a crowd of zombies much quicker than any of your weapons. It's kind of embarrassing to take down an entire horde just by mashing on the circle button. If you press the cross button afterwards, then your character will do an execution kill, though there are only 5 different executions (and one is context-sensitive for when you're close by to a wall) and because of how hectic the battles can get, the zombie model can often be knocked out of range (or killed prematurely) and you'll instead see your character jabbing his knife into thin air, or curb-stomping the concrete.
Of course there's also a cover system, though it's the sticky kind that I thought gaming development abandoned after 2007... It's nigh useless anyway and ORC is best played more so as a run n gunner; cover doesn't even actually provide that much cover and there were numerable occasions where I could still get shot from enemies a head of me. Using grenades when you're up against a wall or something similar also constitutes a death-wish, or at least rampant hilarity, as your character instead actually brakes out of cover and throws the grenade at the wall.
Though even if the shooting is an unsatisfying mess, the fact that we're at least getting to revisit so many iconic locations within Raccoon City now from the perspective of a clean-up crew should be able to balance things out a little bit right?.. Believe me, I wish I could say that was so, but the 'narrative' is about as cumbersome and half-hearted as the shooting. Sure, you get to return to Raccoon City and see a few of Resident Evil's most famous settings, but it feels more like you're making a quick tourist stop as you don't get to spend a lot of time in any one area, because of a campaign that takes roughly 4-5 hours at most. Most of the campaign has you in drab laboratories or alleyways, and your time spent in such areas like the R.P.D station in particular are criminally short. The actual design of the campaign is incredibly rote and predictable as well. It primarily goes along with you entering an area, shooting up a load of zombies n stuff (which'll periodically spawn out of monster closets, if not just spawn literally out of thin air), maybe you'll press x on a console, and then you'll repeat. There's little deviation and it instead boils down to following a waypoint everywhere. In fact, combat for a lot of occurrences is optional, as you can just speed through and hit the checkpoint and the game'll move onto the next arena. Using the character Vector, with his invisibility skill, makes it a very viable way to play.
Following through with the concept introduced in the Outbreak games, you can also potentially become a zombie. On occasion, you'll notice that you'll become infected; your movement will slow down, your health will gradually decrease and the screen will become filled in a blue hue. It looks pretty distinctive and it helps insert the impression that your character is fading fast. The only way to remedy this is by using an anti-viral spray, which are dropped fairly frequently (by zombies ironically enough), but you can only carry one--by default anyway. Unfortunately, if you turn, you don't actually get to control the zombified you (unlike in the Outbreak games). Playing with the AI's means it's game over, but when you're with other players, all they have to do is kill you, then you can simply be revived like it was from any other death and you're back in the game. Because there's virtually no consequence, it makes the entire mechanic feel pointless. And witnessing your zombified self lose their arms or even head, only to be good as new once you're revived looks pretty ridiculous.
The narrative that is meant to push you forward is incredibly loose, basically consisting of pieces of fan-service poorly stitched together. You'll see many characters who were present during Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3, but they often play very minor roles within the game and often just outright disappear soon after (to then of course go and do whatever it is they'll do in their RE2/RE3 appearances). It makes it all feel incredibly disjointed. The USS team that you play as, Wolfpack, hold very little personality and the game doesn't exactly go to great lengths to give any sort of additional backstory. Even such infamous characters like Nemesis are given ill-treatment, forced to pose as boring and highly predictable boss battles. Nemesis in particular is no longer the fear-inducing monster that he was in RE3, and is instead just a big, dumb bullet sponge who stands there shooting his minigun.
Operation Raccoon City isn't canon, though it heavily promoted the idea that you can potentially mess around with the fiction in some neat ways - such as killing off key-characters like Leon Kennedy. Given that this is just a silly little spin-off, I was hardly opposed to the idea. Unfortunately, this high-end concept barely reaches off the ground. There's just the ''one'' choice (Yeah, the Leon one they never stopped promoting) that you receive, and because of the highly undeveloped and flimsy narrative that's proceeded it, it barely holds any weight. Though in a similar styling to Streets of Rage (never thought I'd be bringing that up in here), the choice will split up your team and then it's basically a 2 v 2 deathmatch. Only one side also has the annoyingly OP Leon as a friendly NPC. There are two endings as well, depending on who won, but they're both anticlimatic and you don't even get to find out what could have happened down the line if you decided to kill Leon. It just ends and heads to credits, pretty much abolishing the primary pull Slant Six were promoting.
Playing ORC's campaign with some friends is absolutely necessary as the AI for your squad mates rival the stupidity found in the Resident Evil: Outbreak titles, if not more so. Playing on your own, the AI can't revive you, they will constantly be found shooting at walls or running into doors for minutes on end, and while it's genuinely pretty funny just to see what sort of moronic behaviour they'll exhibit next, when it comes to actually relying on a squad to back you up, you're out of luck. Add in some people who are, hopefully, smarter than the AI and you're in for an... improved experience, lets say. For me personally, it was actually a lot of fun playing with some folks laughing at the game, and having someone to talk with can certainly help drown out the tedium.
The multiplayer isn't a whole lot better either. Of course being stuck with the same shoddy and unsatisfying shooting doesn't help, but then you've also got the small selection of by-the-number modes consisting of team deathmatch, a CTF variant where there are multiple G-Virus vials instead of flags, a survival mode, and then there's the Heroes mode, which plays out like any other TDM only you get to play as a select few of the franchise's stalwarts from the RE2 & RE3 era. Unfortunately, what was positioned as having the most potential for such a fanservic-y batch of fan-service, Heroes is undoubtedly the worst mode of the lot. You all play as a Hero to begin with--4 actual heroes and the other 4 as villains--and when you die that hero is scratched off and you have to then play as a regular USS or Echo Six member. The problem is how damn strong the Hero characters are. They can take over around 6 grenade launcher shots (whereas a regular character takes 1) and so many hundreds of bullets before they're downed; it makes sense to have what are essentially V.I.P.'s more durable than your average Tom, Dick and Dee-Ay. But the extent of how much punishment they can withstand is ludicrous, and it results in a lot of attrition as you're just following this guy down hallways as he persistently manages to run away.
The other modes don't fair so much better because, again, the shooting is hardly all that gratifying to play with. Balancing issues are also A-plenty as well, with the melee attack in particular a favourite tactic as the chain never ends, so if you're forced against a wall and the other player is able to start melee'ing you, you're boned unless another player can help you out. Certain weapons are significantly more powerful than others, and you also don't receive any visual feedback when you're close to death; no colour saturation or anything of the kind. Before you know it, you'll find yourself dead on the ground without ever realising that you were near death. You can check your health in the lower right corner, but given how chaotic a lot of matches are, you never have the time when you're locked into strafing stand-off against another player.
Without any reliable dodging maneuver either, a lot of stand-offs between players largely rely on who has the better gun, with such weapons as shotguns given a huge advantage over most with their decimating damage. What's more, while this is a class-based shooter, half of the classes are borderline useless. The Surveillance class in particular has very little going for him since all he really can do is increase his line of sight on the minimap amongst a couple of other equally pointless abilities. Assault Class is the clear winner (and the one most players are clamouring for... Oh, by the way, you can't have multiple members of the same class in the same team. Been building up your Assault that you and everyone else loves so much? Well tough, because that guy picked it first.) with her increased damage resistance and accuracy. The Medic has some use because of her additional first-aid spray supplies, but I never felt a strong sense of dynamic teamwork at play here like out of something from Team Fortress 2, or Killzone. Lag has also been rather prominent during my playtime, and it was cripplingly awful in some occasions. The notion of having a load of B.O.Ws in the midst between you and a group of real players is a refreshing one, but they mostly only act as window dressing for the most part, not really having that much effect on the overall battlefield. In spite of this failed intent at unpredictability, ORC's multiplayer is a very standard affair.
While it may not be surprising given the quality of the rest of the product, glitches and bugs also persist in certain areas as well. There was a particularly prominent one where I wasn't actually able to exit matchmaking (after around 10 minutes of looking for a match) and I had to restart my PS3. There have been times where objects in the world became invisible, which resulted in me accidentally taking cover against what looked to me like thin air quite a lot of times. There'll be occasions where enemies get stuck, or certain checkpoints won't trigger and so on.
And to top it all off, ORC isn't very friendly towards non-Resident Evil folk. While the story is largely inconsequential and doesn't have much of an actual narrative, ORC still expects its players to understand and know just who all of these people are; it expects you to know who Ada Wong is and why she is in the game for literally about 2 minutes before disappearing completely. You're meant to know why Sherry Birkin is very important to Umbrella. Hell, it would probably help if you knew who Umbrella were.
The entire package is like one big collage of random fan-service snippets roughly stapled together. But fan-service for the sake of fan-service can't carry an entire game, especially when the fan-service is as poorly done and mistreated as it is. Operation Raccoon City is a game for nobody. It's a clunky, unrefined and completely generic shooter giving shooter fans little to find in here that they can't find in many other shooters with a much higher degree of quality. It's a poorly told story with no substance and little of the cheesy charm often found from the Resident Evil franchise, leaving series die-hards grasping at straws. It's a complete amalgamation of everything nobody wanted in a Resident Evil shooter.