For the latest installment of the Resident Evil franchise, Capcom entrusted Canadian studio Slant Six Games to merge their SOCOM experience with the Resident Evil universe. Its main goal was to bring cooperative gameplay to the series while providing some adversarial multiplayer modes. In Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, Slant Six has tackled an ambitious project, packing Resident Evil into a Lost Planet style team-based shooter with persistent progression, unique zombie concepts, and online co-op and versus play.
For many gamers Operation Raccoon City will hold some nostalgic moments. The game 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 an elite squad called Wolfpack, who have been hired by the Umbrella Security Service, you are sent to kill any survivors and destroy all evidence that may lead investigators to Umbrella regarding the virus outbreak. During your adventure you will be sent to some very memorable locations and encounter numerous iconic characters and enemies. Some fans may will get a kick out of Slant Six Games’ take on what happened during the time frame of those these two classic Resident Evil games.
It should be noted that this game is classed as non-canon, which makes sense given that you can erase a certain key character in the Resident Evil series. The story idea is a brilliant concept, one that potentially could have shed some more light on these well-known Resident Evil events. Unfortunately, all of this potential is hampered by some strange design choices, poor execution, and lack of polish now and then.
The controls in Operation Raccoon City are mediocre at best. Nothing is conspicuously out of place in the control scheme; however it doesn’t quite feel like it’s been given enough attention. Interestlingly, the game implements an auto-cover mechanic, whereby you stick to any wall you go near. I found it beyond annoying when you venture over to pick up a herb and you end up sticking to a wall. Having auto-cover in a cover-based shooter is a very strange choice, as it constantly interrupts the game flow and interferes with players tactical choices. Blind firing is an enigma in Operation Raccoon City; at times it seems to do absolutely nothing, while other times it would clean an entire room of enemies for me. Along the same line is that enemy damage is somewhat random. I found that sometimes you can unload an entire clip into a Licker’s face and it won’t flinch, while other times a couple of bullets will do the trick.
Something that really bothered me is that your melee attack is massively overpowered. This may be acceptable for a regular shooter, but not for one set in the Resident Evil universe where your knife is supposed to be a last resort to help you avoid an untimely death until you find more ammo. In Operation Raccoon City the knife turns the game into Dynasty Warriors-like experience with zombies, as you can practically slash your way through entire portions of the game, which just feels wrong. I caught myself wondering multiple times if I really was playing a Resident Evil game; however, I do know that this game is not supposed to be that same style as the slow paced adventures that the franchise is known for, so with this in mind, my emotions were mixed.
Although the game’s focus seems aimed at multiplayer, you can play the game in a single player mode. I played through the whole campaign offline on normal, which took me just under five hours. Operation Raccoon City also allows up to four players to play online together and tackle any of the seven missions available in the campaign mode. Given how the game seems to focus on multiplayer, a feature that I feel is sorely missing from the game is the ability to play locally with other people; there’s no split screen mode, so online is your only option.
I have to say that playing solo was not a particularly enjoyable experience since your A.I. companions seem incapable of any sort of intelligent behavior. During the course of my play through, the A.I. did countless things that were downright frustrating. They constantly ignored laser trip mines and ran off without me, so I had to fend for myself as they waited at the door that lead to the next area. Generally they just didn’t feel like squadmates, mainly because they ignored me in times of need as they seemed more focused on their own agendas. Undoubtedly these issues could have been addressed if you were given the ability to issue simple commands to the squad.
Speaking of A.I., the enemy A.I. also suffers from numerous problems as well. For example, during the first mission an enemy dashed from his spawn point and ended taking cover right next to me along with the rest of my squad. I thought, “why the heck would he do this?” This was not the only time this type of thing seemed to happen. It seemed that the enemy soldiers had issues registering what would be even a remotely intelligent maneuver during the course of a firefight. It is pretty much the same situation for any of the classic monsters you’ll encounter. Lickers will occasionally freeze in place, making them easy targets, and crimson headed zombies that should be rushing players will sometimes run off in strange directions doing absolutely nothing. On the bright side, it brings out a good laugh when playing with friends; however, it also pulls the player out of the atmospheric experience that a Resident Evil game should have.
In addition to the regular campaign there are numerous multiplayer game modes available. Zombies and other creatures native to the Resident Evil universe play an interesting role when it comes to the multiplayer games. Merging the two genres 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) aren’t ground breaking ideas, but they are still entertaining. You have to be on the watch for both human players and monsters, which creates a somewhat enjoyable environment. Killing monsters will cause them to drop ammo and herbs, so there is a reward for putting yourself in harm’s way. The Heroes mode gives each team an iconic character from the Resident Evil universe and buffs them up, and each team tries to take out the others iconic character. Survivor mode is where all eight players take on the zombies while making their way to a helicopter to escape. Overall I found the multiplayer modes amusing, and while I was online I did not notice any issues as there was no obvious lag when playing.
Visually, Operation Raccoon City was definitely disappointing to me. When I see the name Resident Evil on a game I tend to expect some fairly good-looking graphics. This was not the case here. Although the screens that we were provided don’t show it, environments are not as detailed as I hoped as I found bland texture work throughout all the maps. The lighting had potential for setting an interesting mood to the locations, but it wasn’t quite there. Characters models were also lacking in detail and poor aliasing was noticeable throughout the game as jagged and rough edges were seen throughout all the different environments. I also found that the framerate was inconsistent depending upon what the action is like on screen, although it never had a terrible impact on the gameplay when it did drop.
The audio holds no surprises for the experienced Resident Evil fans. Generally, it fits the situation at hand with increased volume and intensity when bosses are around. Familiar Resident Evil sound effects are neat to hear, but they almost seem out of place at times in this spin-off. I also found that gun effects did not sound particularly authentic to me as none of the accompanying sounds when discharging your weapon ever seemed quite right. Grenades lacked a much-needed punch to their explosions too. I would have to say that the lackluster and just serviceable audio seems to be on par with the rest of this game.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is going to be disappointing for many fans. It has taken one of the more popular timelines in the series and turned it into an inadequately designed shooter with none of the true qualities of a Resident Evil game. It just seems to lack the refinement and polish that the franchise is so known for and it destroys the Resident Evil mood as the poor A.I. in the single player, the lackluster locations, and the lack of atmosphere or any memorable characters dampens what could have been a great entry into the franchise. That being said, I did manage to have some fun with the multiplayer, particularly the adversarial, so there is indeed some good here. At the end of the day perhaps this title can satisfy a few die-hard fans of the series who can ignore its flaws, but Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is an average title that just can’t stand out against other, better third-person shooters available.