Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City Review
Written : Tuesday, March 20, 2012
By: Lee Abrahams
The original Resident Evil was the game that made me shed my love of Nintendo and shell out for a PlayStation. The controls were clunky (no auto aim!), the puzzles were ridiculous and the dialogue... Oh, that sweet, sweet dialogue. Suffice it to say that being a master of lockpicking has now gone down in gaming lore. Fast forward a few years and the survival horror genre is on the wane a bit, with the series having peaked with Resident Evil 4 and now being in danger of stagnating slightly. A change of direction may well be needed, and what better why to go about it than revisiting some of the glory years?
Operation Raccoon City (ORC for short) takes place in the hectic events chronicled after the original mansion incident when the zombie outbreak spread into Raccoon City. Covering some of the same ground and enemies as Resident Evil 2 and 3, this is certainly a much different game in both style and tone. Certainly it seems to owe more to run and gun shooters like Lost Planet than it does to its own zombified forebears, as you take on the role of a team of operatives in a bid to cover up Umbrella's nefarious activities in the city. Along the way you will be tasked with tracking down series regulars, while pummelling a variety of bio-organic weapons via bucketloads of firepower.
"Nemesis looks happy to see you."
Taking control of the Umbrella Security Service unit, Wolfpack, immediately had me searching for some kind of Bradley Cooper/Zach Galifianakis reference only to be left disappointed. Instead you have a team of dubious operatives each with their own unique abilities. As you mow down enemies, snatch vital data and uncover ancient secrets, in the form of Raccoon statues (seriously) you will earn XP which you can then use to unlock new abilities and weapons. Some skills are more suited to use online in the various Versus modes rather than in the campaign, which makes certain characters a bit useless at first glance, but all of them have a few innate abilities that can be turned to your advantage.
Obviously the emphasis is on co-op play, which makes a lot of sense considering that if you rely on AI team mates they are as much use as a chocolate fireguard. These guys will run into walls, never pick up healing items, are incapable of reviving each other and will shoot at enemies in the area you just left rather than the ones right in front of you. It makes having a four-man team feel more like a one person struggle, with you fighting your own inept colleagues as much as you fight the enemies. It doesn’t help matters when the cover system is so hit and miss either, with your character at times sticking to thin air while at others being unable to take cover behind a solid wall. Obviously get a few people to hop in a game with you and things pick up, as well as becoming much easier too, so that is certainly the way to go. While the game is certainly easier to manage in co-op, it doesn’t necessarily get any better as the core gameplay problems cannot merely be overlooked thanks to some well-placed banter with your friends.
The main problem is just how linear and generic the game is. While you seem to have an overall goal, it never really strays from running from A to B while blowing apart anything in your way. The controls are decent but not spectacular and the sheer randomness of your foes movements makes using precision weapons like the pistols and sniper rifles almost ridiculously hard. Instead it's much easier just to pick up the nearest machine gun and blow chunks from everything in sight, the fact that ammo is almost limitless and most enemies die in a few hits means you never have to worry too much about strategy. In fact for a game built around four player co-op there is remarkably little in the way of co-op elements, and you often just end up standing in a row trading shots with enemies from afar. Most areas are so confined that it merely turns into a shootout until all of your enemies are dead, followed by players scrounging for items then moving onto the next area. Then rinse and repeat until the game is done.
"Shoot him. A lot. Then some more."
Even when you feel that the game is going to move up a gear, thanks to the introduction of series regulars like Leon or Ada Wong, or foes like the Nemesis, it still never seems to happen. Most boss fights are simply a case of unloading all of your ammo, then finding the handily located infinite re-supply box and doing so again and again until they drop. While the change in style has certainly made for a more frenetic game, it has taken away any sense of tension or survival. Equipment and healing products are so plentiful that it is a bit of a shock if you actually die, though the fact you can be turned into a zombie and then turn on your own team is quite a humorous addition. With such a weak story to fall back on it seems like the game has a reliance on nostalgia to get you through, as familiar locales and villains pop up to remind you how great the original games were back in the day.
The team-based action does at least transfer well to the online arena, with four different match types for your gaming pleasure. Team Attack is the closest thing to deathmatch in the mix, with Biohazard being a capture the flag variant that sees you swiping G-virus samples, Heroes sees two teams taking on the personas of Resident Evil stalwarts in a fight to the death while Survival has players fighting over who gets to escape the city. All of the modes are littered with zombie, licker and hunter foes as well as the opposing Spec Ops team to fend off, so it can make for an interesting battle to the death. Though the differences between modes feel minimal, and it is easy to revert to racking up zombie and enemy kills for quick XP rather than focusing on the task at hand.
Unfortunately, as well as the modes being rather similar it seems that certain character classes are brutally overpowered once you max their skills out. Fancy fighting an enemy who can turn invisible and not appear on the radar? Or how about one that takes 30% less bullet damage while dishing out the same amount extra in return? Seem unbalanced? Well it often is, and players that have spent the time accruing experience both online and off can dismantle their rivals in short order thanks to a superior set of abilities and high powered weapons.
"Stop, or this already dead zombie gets it. Erm..."
Slogging through the main campaign will not take you too long, especially with a few buddies, and should see you net plenty of achievements along the way for campaign progression as well as killing certain enemies and so on. There are also a bunch of points tied into unlocking all of the abilities and weapons, so expect a bit of a grind if you want to get it all done but as you will be expected to S rank all the missions on at least Veteran you’ll be playing this game a lot anyway, right? The multiplayer achievements encourage you to dip your toe into the various modes, while not being too taxing or time consuming, so at least you can expect to get everything done with some perseverance. If only there had been a few more interesting tasks, this list would have been fairly decent. Instead it feels much like most of the game – a straight line from start to finish with not an awful lot to see along the way.
Operation Raccoon City doesn’t feel like a traditional Resident Evil title, which is not necessarily a bad thing as the series was due to be freshened up, but it seems like too much has been lost along the way. The decision to make the game a co-op affair is always welcome, but it takes away the series' trademark sense of tension and careful item balancing. Instead you get an average and straightforward shooter with simplistic and often annoying cover mechanics, not to mention AI team mates that are shockingly bad. The story is paper thin at best and none of the characters are overly engaging, so barring the odd sense of nostalgia from visiting a few time-honoured locations, there's not much here for ardent fans. Even the online sections feel unwieldy and amazingly unbalanced, so there is no saving grace. I could say That Resident Evil: ORC is better in co-op, but then so is any game, and there are certainly much better examples of the genre right now that offer a far deeper and more varied experience. This feels like an opportunity wasted, as the Wolfpack is likely to go out with a whimper rather than a roar.
Decent voicework, decent soundtrack, decent monsters. All fairly well done without being exceptional.
A glossy sheen seems to overlay everything, but most of the environments and even character models are rather bland. The CGI is also pretty poor considering the series' heritage, and characters and enemies often get stuck on walls for no apparent reason.
Aim at enemies and fire, then repeat in ever area you come across. Throw in some irritating AI plus far too many items, and you have a game that is frustrating on your own and far too easy in co-op. Even the boss battles offer just another bullet sponge to shoot at until it’s over.
A bog standard shooter, with a few interesting ideas that never seem to make up for the obvious failings. If this is the direction the series is headed in then fans are in for a major letdown.
A manageable list if you can slog through the grind required to S rank each level and unlock all the weapons. A few more interesting tasks would have been nice though.
A limp and generic single-player is aided by a multiplayer offering with a few good ideas, but on the whole Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City doesn’t feel like a game that will provide enough entertainment to justify you shelling out. In fact if you can't get enough buddies together to form a squad for both the campaign and versus arenas, then you're probably better off giving this game a wide berth like you would the T-virus. A real shame.