Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
Slant Six Games
March 20, 2012 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
May 18, 2012 (PC)
While available for several platforms, this review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
If there’s one series that has scared the living shit out of gamers across the globe, it’s Resident Evil. Since 1996, Resident Evil has nearly always focused on some kind of horror. While the earlier games focused on the same basic gameplay, the fourth game switched things up with its over-the-shoulder perspective (And bag-wearing, chainsaw-wielding Spaniards), and the fifth game focused more on action than horror. Now, Capcom and Slant Six Games have released Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, a game meant to return to the series’ original setting, but with an all-out action twist. Does gaming’s biggest survival horror franchise mix well with third-person shooting, or is it best left with its “fight only when necessary” approach?
Operation Raccoon City takes place during what is arguably the series’ most important event: the initial Raccoon City outbreak. As such, the game runs parallel to the events of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, but don’t expect everything to be how you remember it. You take on the role of one of six Umbrella Security Service agents who have been sent by the company to eliminate all evidence of Umbrella’s involvement, be it through destroying records or killing survivors who have discovered too much. This is where the game diverges from the well-established plot of previous entries, as you run into well-known characters from the series (Leon Kennedy, Claire Redfield, Jill Valentine, and Ada Wong, to name a few). The game lets you see what would have happened if Umbrella really had sent in a clean-up team whose goal was to kill any and every person they came across.
While I found the plot to be very interesting in theory, in practice, it isn’t executed particularly well. There is no over-reaching plot line, as the only thing the U.S.S. members even think about is the current mission objective. While a bit of a plot does come towards the end of the game, with the characters figuring out how they’re going to be leaving the city, it isn’t entirely resolved in either of the game’s endings. Additionally, there is no character development whatsoever, even for fan-favorites; familiar characters usually don’t stay on-screen for more than a few seconds, and when they do, you’re fighting them. I feel that the story is the worst part in the game, and something that Slant Six and Capcom should have spent much more time building up.
Speaking of fighting, the game’s combat is one thing it excels at. While the game is a third-person shooter, with more in common with Gears of War than with Resident Evil 5, it has some of the most polished gameplay I’ve seen from such a game. Controls feel responsive, weapons always feel powerful, and aiming is typically accurate. One thing I really like about the combat is that you will occasionally have three-way battles; not only will you have to fight against zombies, but you’ll also have to watch out for Spec. Ops members sent from the United States government. The game occasionally even brings a fourth side to the fight, with players trying to kill a Tyrant or bring down the Nemesis. These battles can require a fair amount of alertness, as if you simply focus on shooting a soldier, a zombie could grab you from behind, or the “boss” could smash / shoot you to bits. With all that said, however, it’s obvious that the game was made to be played with friends. Teammate AI is so bad that it’s laughable– there were numerous occasions where my allies simply ran into crossfire from either team, or stood still in a fire. The game is still enjoyable if you’re on your own, but if at all possible, get a friend to play with you.
As with any zombie game, atmosphere is important, and luckily, is something that Slant Six nailed. As you roam the streets of Raccoon City, you will come across burning buildings, abandoned cars with lights still on, freshly-killed humans– signs that give credence to the fact that the city was overrun by zombies mere hours ago (You know, as if the dozens of zombies standing around weren’t enough evidence). While some textures can be a bit underwhelming, character models are, for the most part, detailed and look fantastic. I say “for the most part” because the developers did… something to returning characters. In particular, Leon and Claire simply look odd and different in-game than how they are in cinematics and previous games. Overall, though, the visuals in the game look alright.
The game’s sound, on the other hand, isn’t quite as good as it could be. The music is a bit hit-or-miss, with the only particularly good piece that I can think of being the music that plays on the main menu (Though it is pretty catchy). In addition, the voice acting is generally good for the U.S.S. operatives, but for everyone else, it can be atrocious. Christian Lanz’s role as Leon is nowhere near as convincing as Paul Mercier’s was in Resident Evil 4, and whoever voiced the Nemesis, cheers: you made me laugh for a good half-minute.
When the game’s campaign is over, there’s still much more to do. While the game does feature collectibles that you can find throughout the campaign’s levels, the biggest things that’ll keep you coming back are the multiplayer modes. The game allows up to eight players to fight each other in a variety of modes. These modes include: Team Attack, which is your standard Team Deathmatch mode; Biohazard, a Resident Evil-style take on Capture the Flag with players trying to recover G-virus samples; Survivor, where players must hold out for several minutes until a rescue copter arrives to carry up to four people off to safety; and Heroes, which sees players starting out as fan-favorite characters– while players can respawn after dying, they can only respawn as more generic characters, and when all of the “heroes” on one team are dead, the other team wins. While they’ve all been seen in other games in some way, shape, or form, they feel unique in Operation Raccoon City, as the campaign’s “desolate city” atmosphere carries over to the multiplayer. Even the three-way battles are present, with zombies and B.O.W.s roaming the various streets and buildings. After completing a match, you earn experience points; these points can be spent on new weapons and character-specific abilities, such as invisibility and increased running speeds. If you’re a fan of competitive multiplayer modes, this game’s got you covered.
As fun as the overall gameplay is, however, it should definitely be noted that it is brought down a bit by glitches and bugs. Most of the time, I didn’t run into any game-breaking problems, and I had a blast. However, there were occasions where couldn’t help but shake my head at Capcom’s apparent decision to rush the game to release. The biggest glitch I came across on all modes was an annoying sound-clipping issue that occurred when too many sounds were playing at once. In multiplayer, however, glitches get worse– the game can lag badly no matter how good your connection is, and there have been several instances where the game would freeze for a second every few moments until the end of the match.
Overall, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a fun take on the series’ original zombie outbreak. The campaign is fun, though it is coupled with a badly-executed story, and the multiplayer modes, while occasionally bug-ridden, are very addicting. If you’re a fan of shooters, zombies, and/or shooting zombies, then I recommend trying out this game. However, if you’re a Resident Evil fan, don’t expect the fanservice to be perfect.
Exciting and fun gameplay.
Badly executed story and fanservice.
Downright terrible AI.
Sound is far from good.
Very annoying glitches.