To most gamers the name ‘Raccoon City’ conjures up images of a city in chaos, filled with trigger-happy civilians, mercenaries with questionable motives, and of course, flesh-eating zombies. In short, all the things we’ve come to know and love about the Resident Evil series. To someone who has never heard of the Resident Evil games, ‘Raccoon City’ may seem like some sort of sanctuary for nocturnal mammals, and with Slant Six Games’ version of our beloved city, it almost shares more in common with the latter.
You take control of one member of the Umbrella Security Service (USS), a taskforce put in charge of removing all evidence that the Umbrella Corporation has any involvement with the initial outbreak. The premise has great potential to add some interesting and insightful canon to the already established and loved Resident Evil mythology, but sadly the entirety of the game adds nothing, and furthermore at times it even cheapens the pre-established storylines.
Poor design choices and a complete lack of polish takes away everything ‘Resident Evil’ about the game. With an uninteresting atmosphere, the playable characters having zero personality and a backstory summed up within a few sentences, it’s hard for anyone to care about what is going on during your journey through the game’s story arch. With re-used environments and a completely linear layout, you mind-numbingly drudge through one room after another, all looking the same and made up of little more than a hallway and a large central room. At points the only thing that even reminded me that I was playing a Resident Evil game was the occasional mumble of the word ‘Umbrella’. The game’s conclusion itself felt so tacked on and half-baked, when a friend and I completed the game we both were authentically stunned at how anti-climactic and uneventful the game ended and quickly the credits began rolling.
As far as the gameplay goes, imagine if someone took a playable, well-polished, and engaging game and infected it with the G-Virus, leaving behind a stumbling, half-dead version of its former self. Clunky and inconsistent, the gameplay feels more like a half-finished conversion mod for Slant Six’s earlier ‘SOCOM: Confrontation’.
The AI is hopeless, with enemies and squad mates wandering around aimlessly and often walking into walls or repeatedly jumping on and off different objects, and without the option to command your squad members, they become nothing more than zombie bait, which leads to more trouble. When you or your teammates become ‘infected’ and eventually turn into a barely controllable raving-mad zombie (assuming you don’t use anti-viral spray) the non-zombie players will, of course, kill you.
In comparison to the AI-controlled infected, your health once infected is nearly non-existent. The strange thing though, is that even after becoming a zombie and being all but decapitated, you can still be revived, good as new. This turns infection and even death into a lingering annoyance rather than a fear or consequence. The aiming is loose and tedious, with the blind fire mechanic being utterly useless; I personally challenge you to kill anything while in cover and have an average accuracy rating higher than 30%. Enemy damage also seems to be completely random, at times taking five or more headshots to kill a basic zombie, and at other times only taking two. In my opinion any game with traditional zombies that takes more than one well-placed shot to the head to defeat, I consider an atrocity.
There is a levelling system that revolves around each character’s abilities that does carry over into multiplayer. With powers ranging from invisibility to controlling infected, which when fully upgraded can be used to put even Tyrant B.O.Ws under your command, the perks do add some depth to the gameplay. The problem however, is that they are very lacklustre and will more than likely be forgotten after using a few times. With the technological ability to become invisible and even shape-shift into spec-op soldiers, you would think that Umbrella could develop weapons that would take less than twenty rounds to kill even the weakest of enemies.
The multiplayer suffers from the same problems as single player; with most gunfights being won by almost pure luck or use of the extremely overpowered melee attack. The 4v4 online modes contain basic team deathmatch, survival mode, capture the flag, and a ‘Heroes’ mode that allows you to take control of well-known good guys like Leon or Jill, or well-known baddies such as HUNK or Ada Wong. Being a hardcore RE fan, the novelty of playing as established and much-loved characters was the only thing I found worthwhile with my time playing Operation Raccoon City, but much like other subpar sequels, enjoyment should not come only from references to the previous entries.
The Xbox 360 version was also given an extra multiplayer mode titled ‘Nemesis Mode’, released day-one for 320 Microsoft Points or $4.00 (£2.74). Yep, it’s that classic Capcom DLC nickel and diming, even for ‘exclusive’ game modes. The multiplayer, while it may be fun with a few friends, ultimately suffers the same fate as the single player.
In the end, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City disappoints across the boards. Dropping the ball in every aspect, the game turns the tense and extremely atmospheric Raccoon City into a dull and boring experience that feels more like a chore than a journey, only made tolerable by the 4-player co-op mode, ensuring that you don’t have to suffer alone.