Developer: Slant Six Games / Publisher: Capcom / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $59.99 / ESRB: Mature [Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language]
Playing Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is like sleeping with a prostitute. It sounds awesome in theory, but once you get there it’s really awkward and full of bugs.
There’s a functional third-person shooter in this game, but there’s so many little problems dragging the game down, why would you bother?
Conceptually, Operation Raccoon City sounds great. In the game’s main campaign, you play as a four-man Umbrella Security Service team that does Umbrella’s bidding through the events of Resident Evil 2 and 3. Fashioned after Left 4 Dead, you can play with AI or three other humans (though notably not split-screen). You can shoot a bunch of zombies and see the events of past Resident Evils from a new perspective. What’s not to like, right?
Problem is, for a series that’s all about zombies, you spend an awful lot of time shooting not-zombies. Droves of generic spec ops soldiers are a more common enemy, with zombies mostly relegated to a nuisance aside from the heftier enemies like Hunters and Lickers.
To top it off, the game’s story ends up being more of an alternate version of events rather than a retelling. Even though Resident Evil’s story has never been serious business, series fans won’t enjoy the liberal tinkering that Raccoon City takes with the game’s canon.
You’ll notice some problems with Raccoon City the first few seconds you play it. First off, the camera is extremely sluggish, even on the max sensitivity. Cover mechanics are a little funky too — I like the fact that you snap to cover just by walking into a wall, but you have no control over how you aim around the cover. I hit a lot of instances where I could only fire into level geometry because I was wrapping around cover at a funky angle.
Aside from that, the game is riddled with weird annoying glitches. It’s extremely difficult to revive downed players, not because of zombies, but because player corpses will just disappear, making it impossible to find that mythical sweet spot where the revive prompt appears.
The AI is amusingly broken too; they’ll frequently run into mines or stand in fire until they die. To the AI’s credit, they’ll actually shoot at enemies and do a decent job not dying, but excellent partners they ain’t.
Looking at the game’s mechanics, you can see what the developers were aiming for — a shooter in which zombies are an unpredictable wildcard and smart players could utilize their behavior. Zombies are drawn to sound, and certain guns are more likely to make a character bleed, which attracts a horde of crazed zombies. Some classes even have abilities that directly alter zombie behavior, such as a pheromone bomb that draws zombies to a particular location.
In practice though, these mechanics don’t change the game in a meaningful way. If you make an enemy bleed, you’re already shooting at him… you can just shoot him to death and be done with it. Same goes for the pheromone bombs, it could just as well be an explosive grenade and be far more immediate.
The infection mechanic is a perfect example of this. If a zombie bites you, you can catch the zombie infection which causes your life to tick down. If you die while infected, you transform into a mindless zombie and attack your teammates. Sounds awesome, but in practice if someone gets infected, you can just blast them in the face and revive them immediately. That’s Raccoon City in a nutshell – cool ideas but they fall apart in practice.
In an attempt to provide gameplay variety, you can pick from different classes which come with different abilities. These abilities are diverse and actually useful when used properly, like activating incendiary ammo that cuts through zombies way quicker than normal ammo.
Aside from that you can unlock guns and equipment with the experience you earn in matches, but once you have a good arsenal there’s not a lot of reason to keep unlocking equipment aside from the fact that there’s nothing else to spend experience on.
With a disappointing campaign and lacking progression mechanics, I’d hoped that multiplayer would harness the game’s potential, but it falls flat in the same way the campaign does. Nearly every mode in the game boils down to team vs. team third person shooting, with some zombies thrown in to no real effect.
Team Battle is just team deathmatch, Heroes is team deathmatch without respawns, Survival is team deathmatch with a race for a helicopter at the end of the match, and Biohazard is a capture-the-flag-esque game in which you have to grab a virus sample from the middle of the map and run it back to your capture point.
That sounds decent, and the game isn’t outright broken, but the Resident Evil side doesn’t have much an impact on how you play and what you do. In most circumstances, you could take all the zombies off the map and play games that are roughly identical.
I did have a few circumstances where zombies would swarm an enemy for me, or I’d be tied down attacking a hunter when I got ambushed, but these occurrences happen too rarely to define the experience. What you have at the end of the day is a clunky shooter that doesn’t give you a lot of reasons to keep playing.
This game is dark, and I don’t mean that in a thematic or racial way. Every map is incredibly black, to the point that it’s difficult to tell where to go. Ammo pickups and health items are hard to see too, which makes the scout class extremely useful since it’ll place icons on the minimap for you.
The developers might’ve wanted to create a spooky and dangerous atmosphere, but in a game that plays so run-and-gun, it’s just annoying. The parts of the game you can see look decent, and it’s pretty cool to see some of the more recognizable areas of Resident Evil 2 and 3 in full 3D like the Raccoon City Police Department or the city streets themselves.
Other environments like the Umbrella research facility are bland and boring, filled with bleak lighting and sterile hallways. Ultimately, like the rest of the game, the visuals are decent but unremarkable.
Operation Raccoon City is not wanting for cool ideas and ambition, but cool ideas don’t create a new game experience by themselves. It’s a clunky, glitchy third-person shooter that just happens to have zombies in it. You can do better, so you might as well.