Operation Raccoon City isn't all that exciting to play alone.
2012 started off so bright for the Resident Evil franchise. In February, gamers were treated to the great Resident Evil: Revelations, a game that managed to bring tension and atmosphere back to the series, something that I felt was lost in Resident Evil 5. Then you had the exceptional trailer for Resident Evil 6. It’s causing some hype in the gaming community at the moment, gaining record preorders for the series. Right now the second Resident Evil game of the year has arrived. This one is a little different because the Japanese aren’t the developers of this title. As an alternative, Capcom is letting the Canadian Studio, Slant Six Games, merge its Socom experience with the Resident Evil I.P to bring cooperative gameplay once again to the series. Operation Raccoon City is a pure action third-person shooter with basic cover mechanics that’s regrettably not as good as I would have hoped for.
Taking a trip down nostalgia lane, Operation Raccoon City takes place in Raccoon City during the events of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Taking control of one of the six mercenaries from Wolfpack hired by the Umbrella Security Service, you’re sent to kill any survivors and destroy all evidence leading to Umbrella about the virus outbreak. You’ll visit memorable locations, characters and enemies and see Slant Six Games’ take on what happened during the time frame of those two classic games and in some cases change history, a twist fans might get a kick out of. It should be noted that this game is classed as non-canon, which makes sense since you can erase a certain key character (you’ve probably all heard about who that is by now).
This new Resident Evil title is fixated on giving people a multiplayer experience. The game allows up to four players to play online together for any of the seven missions available in the campaign mode. A feature that I feel is sorely missing is the ability to play this game locally; there’s no split screen mode, so online is your only option. It’s also a bad experience to play the campaign on your own since your A.I companions lack any sort of intelligent behaviour. I played through the whole campaign on normal first – which took me just under five hours – to get a feeling for the single player for the review. During the course of this playthrough, the A.I partners did countless things that were laughable. They constantly ignored laser trip mines, ran off without me so I had to fend for myself as they waited at the door that leads to the next area and generally didn’t feel like squad mates, mainly because they ignored me in times of need and went off doing their own agendas. Having no control over the squad members is a sin. You could undoubtedly counter some of the problems if you had some commands over them.
Enemy A.I also suffers problems as well. Crimson Head zombies for instance will sometimes run at you, only to then seemingly get confused and run after someone else. It’s pretty much the same situation for any of the classic monsters you’ll encounter, with only human enemies showing some sort of intellect in the game, and even then they sometimes don’t register anyone or ignore you for team mates that are less of a threat than you, even when you’re standing right next to them. It’s not just how they behave as well, but a general lack of polish creeps in too. The Lickers, a staple enemy from Resident Evil 2, can claim all over the walls and roofs, but sometimes they will just freeze on the spot and not do anything, like a rabbit lit up with car headlights, making them easy pickings for the player. Sure it’s a laugh when it happens, but it pulls you out of the sense of suspense and that’s something you don’t want to happen in a Resident Evil title.
The problems with the partner A.I is removed when you play the campaign with other people online, making the game more fun and less frustrating. Each member of the Wolfpack team represents a style of class. Lupo, the leader of the squad, is assault. Vector is Recon and Bertha is the medic. Everyone one has five specialised abilities that can be upgraded with experience points you earn from taking part in a campaign level. Any of the classes can use any weapon in the game, with the stronger gear needing to be unlocked through experience points. Characters are limited to carrying a pistol and a main weapon, usually some sort of shotgun, machinegun or sniper rifle. Shooting weapons feels good, which reflects the knowledge the development team built with the Socom games; however, occasionally the damage seems off, with soldiers randomly taking in whole clips, or going down with 5 or 6 bullets.
Going behind cover is done automatically – you just need to walk up to an object and the character will attach. This can be fussy as the game will attach you to the cover even when you didn’t want to, only because you were close to the object while moving. Bizarrely, you can’t hop over cover either; it’s a bare bone mechanic here.
Ammo is never uncommon as you can find boxes of it lying around, or switch a weapon on the floor for another one. One thing that seems pointless is the melee attack. It does next to no damage, taking way too many swings to kill zombies. I was expecting some head decapitations or arm chop offs, but it hardly ever happens with the knife as it feels like it was designed to push zombies off you instead of killing them. If a team member falls, you can resurrect them by holding down a button next to them. Problems crop up if you are trying to bring back someone who is close to an item pick up as it uses the same button. More often than not, this results in you picking up the item instead of resurrecting the player, which is frustrating when you’re in haste escaping from bio-organic weapons. Team mates can also bleed (causes zombies to aim for the person bleeding) or become infected, which sounds cool on paper, but in practice you don’t get any fun out of it. When you turn into a zombie, the game takes control and you just watch what goes on screen. Apart from the initial shock of seeing a team member rushing for you, the feature is somewhat worthless. Once you’ve shot them down, you can resurrect them back to humans again.
It might seem like I am on a bit of a downer with this game, but the campaign isn’t all that exciting to play. It consists of doing the same objective mostly throughout all seven missions. There are four difficulty settings, but going on the harder settings didn’t keep me as absorbed or in fear for zombies as what Left 4 Dead did. The way the game feels and handles gives me a reason to call this a Socom game with a Resident Evil skin. There is no sense of atmosphere in the game. Personally, I found the multiplayer aspect the more interesting side to Operation Raccoon City.
Zombies and other Umbrella hellish creations play an interesting role when it comes to the multiplayer. Merging them creates a different take on the typical versus matches. Modes like Team Attack (team deathmatch) and Biohazard (capturing single object and bringing it to a base) are filled with monsters that have a taste for you. You have to be alert for human players and these monsters, creating a hectic arena where you have to be alert at all times. It keeps the action going at a constant rate, so there’s never any downtime, which in my eyes is great for keeping your attention. Killing these monsters will also drop ammo and herbs, so there is a reward for protecting yourself from them. Heroes mode gives each team a star character from the Resident Evil universe and buffs them up; the aim is for the other team to kill them to win. Survivor is all eight players taking on the zombies while making their way to a helicopter to escape. The modes are amusing, and online didn’t seem to suffer from any problems; lag didn’t seem to be that obvious when playing.
Visually, Raccoon City is a bit on the plain side. Environments aren’t greatly detailed, with bland texture work throughout all the maps. Nothing stands out in the game – well, except the poor aliasing that’s a bit of a sore thumb on the game. No doubt the PC version will sort that out when it hits in May, but, on the 360 version, the evidence of aliasing is clear as day. Framerate can be up and down, depending what action is going on screen, although it never had an impact on the gameplay when it happened.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is going to be disappointing for fans. It’s taken one of the most popular timelines in the series and turned it into a shooter with no atmosphere. The merge of Socom gameplay with the lack of refinement and polish removes the Resident Evilmood, feeling more like an average third-person shooter trying to get into the skin of Resident Evil. Somehow the cool sounding concept of Operation Raccoon City was lost in transition from paper to game. There’s some fun to be had with it, but it’s few and far between the dissatisfaction that crops in. Ultimately, what we ended up getting is an uninspired campaign with some entertaining multiplayer, though that’s not something that I expect from a franchise as big as Resident Evil.