Resident Evil’s popularity has allowed it to survive through the years across multiple platforms and evolutions. When Capcom announced Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City last year, the decision raised a few eyebrows from the franchise faithful. Could the series’ hallmark survival-horror translate to a game focused entirely on action? Would the alternate history story make sense in the grand scheme of Resident Evil’s narrative? Even though there were plenty of questions surrounding the game, there was definitely potential in a squad-based shooter set in the world of Resident Evil. That potential is squandered though, as Slant Six completely drops the ball, delivering a game that just doesn’t live up to its forbearers.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City takes place during the Raccoon City outbreak of Resident Evil 2. Put in the shoes of an Umbrella special ops team, you’ll have to help clean up the mess left behind by Umbrella’s scientists. Along the way you’ll run into some familiar faces, but the retelling of events lacks any real weight. Resident Evil’s long and complex narrative is rendered virtually meaningless in the story, as this detour provides an alternate history to the events that occurred in Raccoon City. It could have been an interesting story had there been any real meat to it, but ORC’s plot consists mainly of moving from one location to another to either destroy or recover any evidence of Umbrella’s wrongdoing. None of the characters are memorable, and no moment will stick out in your memory with any sort of positive feeling. What makes it even worse is the final crux of the story, where you have the decision to drastically alter the Resident Evil timeline, falls completely flat due to poor execution.
"Squad-based shooter mechanics should have translated really well to the Resident Evil formula, and could have expanded the series beyond the lone-wolf style of earlier entries. It’s just too bad that the poor AI, lack of a satisfying story mode, and dated graphics got in the way."
Of course, a poor narrative can be forgiven if there’s some strong gameplay to back it up. Unfortunately, there’s nothing remotely interesting about Operation Raccoon City’s mechanics. Though the game is squad-based, there are no commands to give your teammates without three other humans. The computer will basically follow you around, shoot enemies, and certain characters will even heal you from time to time. The combat is as run-of-the-mill as can be, and there aren’t many surprises in store for anybody who has played at least one shooter before. You can unlock special abilities and weapons by purchasing them with experience you’ve earned playing through missions, but these perks have little effect on the campaign and are more suited for the competitive multiplayer component.
Players can become infected by the virus, which will turn them into a zombie unless given an antidote. There’s a slight feeling of panic when you or a teammate becomes infected, but the zombie aspect really doesn’t add a whole lot to the group dynamic. Additionally, there may be a time when enough damage has been inflicted on you that you’ll begin to bleed, thus drawing the attention of the masses of zombie citizens directly to you. Again, there’s brief surge of adrenaline when you realize that you’re the guest of honor at an all-they-can-eat zombie buffet, but the bleed out is only temporary. Since ammo and health are so plentiful during the story, there’s very little reason to worry about whether or not you’ll be able to make it through to the next chapter.
The biggest adversary you’ll encounter when playing Operation Raccoon City is the incredibly vapid AI. Computer teammates cannot be counted on to help you in the least. They’ll frequently get in your way, become incapacitated, or not follow you as you try to complete objectives. Luckily, the enemy AI is just as terrible. You expect zombies to be brain dead, but you’ll also encounter some of the dumbest military forces in the world during your quest to cover up the zombie outbreak. Terrible teammate AI isn’t anything new for the Resident Evil franchise, but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. Considering the entire point of the game is the squad-based dynamic, it’s particularly annoying to find that you’ll often be left to your own devices when facing off against the endless mobs of undead.
One bright spot in the game is the online competitive play. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City’s multiplayer is highly enjoyable, and almost makes up for the dismal offline content. There are a handful of different game types to play, ranging from straight up deathmatch and capture the flag variants, to more unique modes like Heroes and Survivor. Heroes pits two squads of four against each other, with every player starting off as one of the game’s star players like Leon or Ada Wong. Once all four heroes from one team have been killed, the game is over. You’ll keep spawning if you happen to die, but you don’t get to come back as one of the iconic characters any more. Survivor will have you battling it out with another squad while you wait for a helicopter to extract you from the warzone. There are four seats available, but any mixing and matching of teams is allowed. While it might benefit you and your team to work together, any alliances are quickly thrown out the window once the chopper lands. It’s easily the most fun mode in the entire game, and is a great way to find out who your friends really are.
Though previous Resident Evil titles have been rather impressive from a presentation standpoint, Operation Raccoon City leaves much to be desired. Non-playable character models look really bad, and the small handful of different zombies that you’ll encounter way too frequently is shameful. Judging by the amount of uniformed zombies in the game, Raccoon City had the world’s largest police force before the invasion hit. It’s truly amazing Leon was the only cop to make it out alive. Locations in the game, even the ones from earlier games that you get to revisit, look rather generic and uninspired. To be fair, there are only so many different ways to render an alleyway with a flaming truck, some garbage piles, and dilapidated buildings.
Slant Six had an opportunity to make their mark on the Resident Evil franchise. Unfortunately, the lasting impression they left is a disappointing one. Squad-based shooter mechanics should have translated really well to the Resident Evil formula, and could have expanded the series beyond the lone-wolf style of earlier entries. It’s just too bad that the poor AI, lack of a satisfying story mode, and dated graphics got in the way. What we’re left with is merely another average shooter in a market populated with games that do what ORC does way better. Resident Evil deserved better, and so did its fans.
Release date : 2012-03-20
Publisher : Capcom
Developer : Slant Six Games
Gameplay : Survival Horror
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