Its hard to believe that its already been more than fifteen years since Capcom brought us Resident Evil and truly made survival horror games what they are today. Then they did it again by changing things up with Resident Evil 4, so when Operation Raccoon City was announced and touted as a completely different experience, I was excited, hoping that they would have made magic happen once again with this new offering, even though its an offshoot to Resident Evil itself.
Operation Raccoon City is developed by Slant Six Games, whom you know from the Socom series. Ironically, it turns out that Operation Raccoon City feels more like Socom than it does Resident Evil in almost every way. Dont go into this game expecting your standard Resident Evil gameplay, well, you wont even be able to fool yourself otherwise, as this is nothing like Resident Evil in any way aside from the title on the box and how it tries to mesh itself into the already pre-established universe.
I still remember back in 1998 when Resident Evil 2 released and I learned about Raccoon City and the T-virus outbreak. Operation Raccoon City takes place during the events of Resident Evil 2 and even part 3 as well (which you could probably guess from the games title), though keep in mind this story is more of a hypothetical scenario rather than intertwining into the already happened events. Umbrella are the ones responsible for the massive outbreak and sends in a cleanup crew to pull off a massive cover up so that they cannot be implicated in the event. Umbrella sends a team and youre part of the Umbrella Security Services (U.S.S.) to pull this off.
U.S.S. Delta team gets to Raccoon City and meets up with team leader Hunk (whom youll recognize if youre a Resident Evil fan). Their first goal is to stop Dr. Birkin and retrieve the G-virus but are met with opposition along the way, though not the walking dead kind. Mercenaries are blocking your teams path and will be for the remainder of your campaign play through. At times it seems like you fight against more of these mercenaries than actual zombies.
You learn that the T-virus has now leaked out and people are turning into zombies, chasing you wherever you go. I dont want to delve too much more into the story for a few reasons; its short enough to finish in a weekend, and there are a few moments that are better left to surprise, though expect to see some classic characters from the Resident Evil universe. If youve played Resident Evil 2 and 3, you should already have a good idea who these characters are.
While the concept is great, as I admit, seeing the Raccoon City events from the other point of view is quite interesting, Its not done in a way thats interesting or really gives all that might insight into the backend of the mysterious Umbrella corporation. Resident Evil has so much backstory they could have drawn from to put a clever twist on things, but instead youre stuck playing faceless masked characters with no backstory of their own that you wont care about in any way.
The first problem that Operation Raccoon City commits is that it assumes youve played the Resident Evil games, or even simply remember all the minute details of the games over a decade old. If youve not played the games before, there are no explanations for whats going on, whos who, what Umbrella is, or anything else from the very beginning, youre just assumed to know all of this already. It also does this for many of the gameplay elements such as the character selection and their special abilities, the unlock system, and how it all ties together from campaign and multiplayer.
To begin you need to choose your character that you wish to be, though because theres no real backstory on the characters, it may come down to which one you like the look of, or what skills they have (though they need to be unlocked and upgraded). For Assault youve got Lupo, Vector is the Recon class thats able to cloak himself with invisibility or take shape of an enemy, Spectre is the Sniper, Four eyes is the Field Scientist, Beltway is Demolition, and the Medic is Bertha, who can carry extra first-aid sprays and help their team mates in different ways.
Youre granted experience points for completing levels in single and multiplayer. With that XP, you spent it to upgrade skills and abilities for whichever character you like and play the most. The more enemies you kill or objectives you complete, youre graded and given the appropriate amount of XP to level your abilities. Since campaign and multiplayer is a four player cooperative experience, you may be forced to pick a character and class that you dont enjoy or have any abilities spent in if someone else chooses them first. If youre like me and spent all your XP on your favorite character and then someone else already picks them, youre stuck using someone else with zero abilities. This is only the start of the games imbalance though.
Youll constantly be scavenging for ammunition, and not in that scary survival way weve come to know from Resident Evil. This is a shooter game and since the ammunition is so scarce, it becomes very frustrating even from the opening fight. The game also applies a cover based mechanic to hide and survive, but to do so theres no button you need to press; you simply stick to any wall or corner you run into. You can imagine how frustrating this gets when you start to attach to every piece of cover you pass when you arent trying to. Youll feel like Velcro at times since youll stick to everything.
Being that the game is a more shooter based affair, I could forgive it if the shooting mechanics were done right and felt proper. Instead, damage is inconsistent, aiming doesnt feel fluid, and weapons are horribly imbalanced. Sometimes I can headshot with a few bullets no problem, other times Ill unload a clip into a zombie and it barely fazes them. Sadly, melee is sometimes your best option when trying to get through a crowd of zombies. Rather than using your weapons, you can slash your way through a horde of undead with little to no downside, though it will take quite a few slashes of your knife to actually kill an enemy for some reason. This leaves none of the suspense that Resident Evil is supposed to give when a zombie gets close to you. Theres simply no tension and you arent scared of zombies or even the undead dogs like you should be. It just doesnt feel like Resident Evil in any way.
The worst culprit though is easily the unquestionably awful AI, friendly and enemy. If youre playing campaign solo, then there are 3 other team mates with you that act like theyve just had a lobotomy. Squad mates will run into laser trip mines without hesitation, theyll stand out in the open to get shot, run into already cleared rooms, get stuck on objects, and even stand around offering no backup at all as you clear the oncoming waves of zombies. Please, plays the game with friends if youre able to, even random players are better than the AI here. The enemy AI isnt that much better either. Zombies never become a threat unless you get swarmed (though you can melee your way through a crowd no problem), and mercenaries are simple to kill since they just stand there, even while getting shot. If every enemy wasnt such a bullet sponge (really, I need to shoot you in the head ten times?) theyd be no worse than the harmless zombies. Again, play with friends or random people if you play through this, as the AI is completely broken at times and frustrating to no end when you have to keep reviving them.
There is an online versus component as well, though all the issues I talked about before carry over into this experience as well. You have a few different modes to try out like your standard Team Death Match, but theres also a variant of Capture the Flag called Biohazard which can be fun with a proper team. This mode has you searching out G-virus samples that need to be brought back to your base all while trying to get through the crowds of zombies and Lickers. Theres a survival mode and also a Heroes mode which lets you play as notable characters from the Resident Evil universe, for those looking for something a little different.
Each mode is 4 vs. 4 online and versus has you trying to outscore the other team by either killing zombies or players. Regular zombie kills are worth so little points that its hardly worth the ammo, so youre better off trying to find and kill the opposing teams players or the larger infected types. There are severe imbalance issues though with many of the weapons and characters and if someone has a highly leveled character and youre starting out or forced to use someone you have no skills in, you dont have any chance to win at all.
The biggest problem with Operation Raccoon City is its seemingly cash-in of the name. This game doesnt resemble Resident Evil in any way, though it tries to cover that up by being nostalgic and showing you green herbs and characters from the series to mask the bigger issues. Broken AI, a cover system that does what it wants, unbalanced weapons, and many other issues that affect single and multiplayer makes Operation Raccoon City a nightmare at times. Theres very little depth aside from the skill leveling, but even then, its a shallow experience, even for the hardcore of fans since you wont care about the story or its new characters. It has so much potential for an interesting take on the story we all know, but does absolutely nothing with it.
Resident Evil pioneered the survival horror category; this game doesnt even attempt to be in a similar genre. If the box didnt say Resident Evil on it, no one would care about this bland and empty experience, and youll forget about this as quickly as you finish it. If you somehow have three other friends that also bought this, itll be entertaining for a few days, though Id highly recommend waiting until its extremely cheap. If youre eagerly awaiting Resident Evil 6 and deciding whether or not to pick this up to pass the time with, keep waiting.