Game Rant's Curt Hutson reviews Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
Operation Raccoon City provides a different take on the Resident Evil series by offering a team-based shooter, and while the game couldn't have asked for a better set of ingredients to create a unique and exciting perspective during a popular period in the series, Operation Raccoon City lacks in just about every departement, most notably the chilling atmosphere the series is known for - leaving the only real scares coming from its atrocious gameplay.
It's hard to think of an easier formula than allowing players to take on the role of a bad guy working behind the scenes during the events of Resident Evil 2 & 3, a favorite era for fans. In this case, that role is an Umbrella Security Service, who are deployed to gather virus samples and inadvertently set the famous events in Raccoon City into motion. The majority of the game is then cleaning up after Umbrella by destroying evidence of their involvement. The foundation for a fantastic game was there, but the execution left a lot to be desired.
Being a team-based shooter, companions are crucial to progressing and surviving. However, in ORC, teammates do little to contribute - little may be putting it mildly, they do practically nothing. The AI of teammates is possibly some of the worst imaginable. The ability to control or direct them would have been a plausible solution, but it is nonexistent, and even the most rudimentary tasks prove difficult to them. When they aren't providing backup, they are running into walls, fire, tripwire mines or finding new and creative ways to get themselves killed. Even when they are around for the action, they don't really contribute. When the game is built around a team-based dynamic, it's impossible to let this slide. Levels are exceedingly long as well, so that frustration has plenty of time to fester.
The enemy AI is no different. Regardless of the enemy, they all act like mindless zombies, which is fine for the actual zombies, but when dealing with "human" opponents, it's downright embarrassing. BOWs, which are supposed to be ultimate killing machines, often wander around, occasionally confronting the player, only to turn around and wander some more. Capcom's famous franchise is filled with some truly fearsome creatures, but they feel a lot less fearsome with the brain of a gerbil.
Taking on some more modern shooter elements, Operation Raccoon City includes an auto-cover system that allows players to stick to walls when they make contact. If that evokes images of characters sticking to practically everything in and out of combat, that would be accurate. Even when cover could be useful, it rarely is. Most times it's hard to tell what is cover and what isn't, other times it's easier to just run up to something and shoot it in the face.
A huge part of the game deals with gunplay, which players can purchase or pickup around the game. Gun stats are displayed before setting out so picking the right one is a breeze before jumping into a mission. Buying a stronger gun with high stats should logically direct a player to think it would perform better in combat - unfortunately that isn't the case when shoddy aiming is a factor. On top of flailing about, hoping any bullet lands, the strength of a weapon isn't consistant. Sometimes several clips will be unloaded into an enemy with nary an effect, other times just a couple of bullets will do the trick and they'll keel over before a player has a chance to care about what it was they were shooting. Melee is also confusing and extremely inaccurate. For an attack that deals with things right in front of the players' face, it sure misses a lot.
All of the Resident Evil atmosphere and tension the series is known for is missing in this installment. Stopping to take in creepy details and slowly edging around corners in anticipation for big scares is gone. ORC doesn't even feel like a Resident Evil game, aside from all of the zombies and the mention of Umbrella every so often (a company that is hardly even explored in a game built around being within their ranks). Opportunities to learn secrets and explore the history of the mysterious organization is wasted.
On top of a flat and depthless world, the Umbrella Security Service characters themselves are bland and uninteresting. Besides a short bio at the beginning that doesn't go beyond their combat training and whether they are sociopaths or not, hardly anything is revealed. The characters barely interact with each other outside of briefly mentioning objectives. With no story arcs or the most minuscule hints of personality, they are portrayed as mindless robots of the Umbrella Corporation - but I suppose they do that description justice in how they play. There is more character development in the game's cinematic trailer than the game itself.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a game that most will not want to play alone. Not because it's particularly terrifying, but because it's practically impossible. Multi-player and Co-op modes aren't anything to write home about, and it's nice that they were included at all, but any chance to play with another human being is a welcomed reprieve from the irritating AI.
The four multi-player modes can support up to eight players. Heroes mode allows players to play favorite past characters, such as Leon, Claire and the like, in a four-on-four team match. There is the standard capture the flag variation called Biohazard (where players capture virus samples), a survivor mode (which is pretty self-explanatory - survive until extraction), and Team Attack (which is the game's version of a deathmatch - where scoring the most kills earns players a win). There isn't a lot that separates the multi-player experience from the standard fare packaged in with any game wanting to provide muli-player for the sake of multi-player. Some creative choices might have put some interesting spins on these classics, but like the main game, it's severely lacking in that department - as well as suffering from the same gameplay issues.
Overall, ORC provides an extremely lackluster experience. With so much in the Resident Evil series to draw inspiration from, it's a wonder why it felt like the developers were scrambling for creativity. Any attempt to bring the series in a unique direction was squandered with atrocious AI, uninspired locations and its complete lack of memorable characters or any real story. Operation Raccoon City is a shooter that completely misses its mark and hits the player squarely in the head in an attempt to make them brain dead enough to not notice its many flaws.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is available now for the PS3 and Xbox 360. Game Rant played the Xbox 360 version for this review.