Some people might say that Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a natural progression for the franchise. With each new release Resident Evil has become more action orientated, so an out-and-out shooter was inevitable. Does it actually work, though? Well: yes and no.
Set in Raccoon City, the Umbrella Corporation learns that one of its top scientists, Dr. William Birkin, is planning to sell the experimental ‘G-Virus’ to the US Government. You form part of a team of Umbrella Security Service soldiers who have been ordered to enter Birkin’s lab and secure the only known sample of the virus.
Things don’t go to plan though, and Birkin ends up injecting himself with the virus, which mutates him into a huge creature. During the ensuing battle the deadly ‘t-Virus’ is leaked into the sewers, before spreading throughout Raccoon City and infecting the population. Your team has a new mission: eliminate survivors so that no one can tie Umbrella to the outbreak. Yes, you’re the bad guy.
It’s important to note that the game takes place during the events of Resident Evil 2 and 3, with elements from those games cropping up in the narrative. As you play you’re given what-if moments, such as whether or not you kill Leon Kennedy, which will certainly add an extra dimension for die-hard fans of the series.[drop2]A third person shooter, the main campaign can be played with up to four players, which can be a mixture of online partners and AI bots. There are six character classes to choose from, all of which have unique abilities.
“Four Eyes”, for example, has an ability that can actually make creatures fight for you, whilst “Beltway” can lay laser trip-mines. All the abilities can be bought, and then upgraded, by earning XP. XP is also useful for unlocking weapons, of which there are many, spanning different classes such as rifles, machine guns and shotguns.
Split up into several chapters, the main campaign sees you traverse the environment to a checkpoint, trigger an event before moving on to the next checkpoint. Whilst this may sound a bit boring, what makes the game stand out is the Resident Evil universe. For example, moving between checkpoint A and B might involve gunning your way through a horde of zombies, a pack of Hunters, or a Tyrant (or perhaps all three).
One of the most heart-stopping moments in the game was walking through the city and hearing a primordial scream in the distance; knowing that sooner or later I was going to run into whatever made that noise.
There’s also a risk of infection from zombie bites, and once infected you have a short amount of time before turning into a zombie and attacking your team-mates. Luckily the old Resident Evil stalwarts are on hand, such as the anti-virus, green herb and a myriad of grenade types. You can’t pick up too many of these items at once, but always make sure you have one of everything. You can also revive downed team-mates, although this leaves you vulnerable for a few seconds.
The infected aren’t your only worry, however. The US Special Ops are on the ground and not too happy with you, so expect plenty of resistance from them.
The Special Ops team aren’t just an opponent though, they can also serve as rather useful bait. Wounding one so that he bleeds will attract every zombie in the area, leaving you relatively untroubled. What? We’re the bad guys, it’s our job to be nasty!
To complement the third person perspective, Capcom have introduced a cover system. Just running towards a relevant object, such as a pillar, will see your character snap to it. From there you can either blind fire, or use the shoulder buttons to look down the iron-sights for a more accurate shot.
In all honesty it needs some work, and comes nowhere close to rivalling the cover system in games such as Gears of War. The main problem is identifying what can actually be used as cover; at times you’ll run up to something and be left standing as your character refuses to snap to it. Other times, for reasons unknown, the game wouldn’t let me aim down the sights whilst in cover.
Melee combat, or “CQC” as it’s known, is also incredibly weak, with no sense of impact when attack an opponent. In fact, this can be said of a lot of the ranged weapons too. Playing a game with Aran and Blair, the comment was made that the guns felt like pea-shooters. Shooting zombies is fine, as they react by exploding into a shower of blood and entrails, but shooting the bigger creatures yields no reaction whatsoever; not even a bit of recoil.
Graphically it’s all a bit flat, too. Animations are stiff and there only seems to be a couple of character models for the zombies. Obviously I’m not suggesting every zombie be different, but it’s hard to take things seriously when you mow down an entire wave of what looks like the same person.
When you’re done with the main campaign, which should be about five to six hours at the very most (depending on the difficulty level), there are a number of online multiplayer modes to choose from. The first thing you’ll notice is that whilst the modes have different names, they all boil down to “your team, versus another team, versus zombies”.
Heroes mode sees you play as, or against a team of favourites like Leon, Jill, and HUNK. If you’re a hero you simply have to survive attacks from both the U.S.S and the legions of creatures milling about. Heroes don’t respawn, and if you get killed you’ll be placed on the U.S.S team to hunt down your former team-mates.[drop]Survivor sees your team face off against another team whilst fending off creatures and waiting for a helicopter to arrive. The kicker is that once it does turn up there isn’t enough room for everyone, so cue a big fight for space.
Then there’s a team battle that, wait for it, sees your team face off against another team whilst fending off creatures. The difference this time is that every kill your team makes, be it creature or opposing team, gets added to a meter at the top. The first team to fill their meter wins.
The final mode has you collecting vials, but unfortunately during the many hours trying the game, their didn’t seem to be anyone playing to try the mode out with.
Whilst they may not be all that varied, the online modes are fairly enjoyable. The addition of creatures really does spice things up; no matter what part of the map you’re on there’s always something trying to kill you. Speaking of maps, they are taken from the main campaign and there aren’t nearly enough of them, which may well be the biggest issue people will have with this game. You’ll see it all pretty quickly and then want something new.
For the most part the online experience was smooth enough, although the team battle seemed to suffer quite badly from a number of problems. One had me suddenly moving to other parts of the map, whilst another saw me respawn without being able to see my character – all I could see was my team-mates on their player cams. The opposing team also seemed to be glitching to various parts of the map, making it impossible to keep track of them (needless to say they could quite easily see us).
- A solid shooting system.
- A fair amount to unlock and upgrade.
- The chance to explore Resident Evil through the eyes of the bad guys.
- The Creatures really add an interesting dimension.
- Looks bland.
- Weak melee.
- Cover system needs work.
- Some online problems experienced.
- Not enough multiplayer maps.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is by no means a bad game. The chance to face off against Resident Evil favourites such as Nemesis is a really interesting idea, and the constant threat of zombies will always have you on edge. Saying that, I can see the multiplayer modes becoming repetitive fairly quickly. Whilst differing slightly, the modes on offer are too similar, and all play out on the same handful of maps.
If Capcom supports this game like Zipper did with MAG I can see it turning out to be something rather good. It’s just not quite there yet.