Developers: Slant Six Games, Capcom
Release Date: 03/20/2012
Platform Reviewed: PS3
Time Played: 12 hours
Concept and Execution:
The latest addition to the Resident Evil series, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, takes a drastically different turn from its predecessors. Like the previous games in the series, Operation Raccoon City is still a third-person, over-the-shoulder shooter. This time around, however, the combat tactics are squad-based, and Operation Raccoon City is as far from survival-horror as you can get; it’s a full-blown shooter. Ammunition can now be found around every corner, unlike in other games where the necessity for ammo conservation adds to the thrill of the game. This isn’t even an issue given in Raccoon City, given the fact that your CQC (close quarters combat) is more effective than your guns. The only risk involved in CQC is that, if bitten, you may become infected. This isn’t much of a risk, however, when you encounter more anti-viral sprays than you’ll even know what to do with. If you’re not noticing the trend, I’ll just put it bluntly: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is not a well-balanced game.
Players currently have access to 6 characters on the Umbrella Security Service side (U.S.S. or “Wolfpack”) and another scenario will be made available in April which gives access to 6 characters on the U.S. SPECOPS team. Players pick four members to make up their squad. Each member plays a different role, though, despite the different titles that they’re given, the U.S.S. and SPECOPS characters mirror each other. The characters are broken down as follows:
LUPO/Dee-Ay: Team leader and Assault
FOUR EYES/Shona: Field Scientist
SPECTRE/ Party-girl: Sniper
Wolfpack’s mission in Raccoon City is to destroy any evidence of Umbrella’s involvement in the outbreak of the T-Virus –the virus that has been turning the city’s inhabitants into flesh-eating zombies. The events of Operation Raccoon City roughly follow those of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3, but the game is purported to allow players to change the events of those games, including killing series fan-favorites Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield.
This all sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? If you’re anything like me, it was probably difficult to imagine a scenario in which Slant Six could mess up an amazing concept like this. Well, they were miraculously able to pull it off. Poor game mechanics and sloppy narrative execution (which I’ll cover in the mechanics and atmosphere sections) add up to one of the most disappointing games in recent memory. Thankfully the game’s campaign is mercifully short. It only took me about six or seven hours to complete. This was a huge plus, because by the six hour mark I don’t see how anyone could care what happens at the end.
The multiplayer is clearly meant to be the draw of Operation Raccoon City. Unfortunately it suffers from the same stale mechanics as the solo gameplay. The multiplayer was one of the most marketed aspects of the game. The problem is that, despite being marketed as a multiplayer based game, the multiplayer modes pretty much boil down to the same modes that come with most shooters. Don’t be fooled by their spiffy names; “Team Attack” is a team deathmatch, “Biohazard” is capture the flag, and “Survivors” is (obviously) a survival mode. One of upsides is the ability to play the campaign in public mode. This allows players to drop in to your campaign at any time, taking control of one of your team members. Another plus is that when in private mode, you’re still allowed to invite players from your friends list to play in your campaign.
Also featured is an online “Heroes” mode, in which players choose one of eight classic characters separated into two teams, Heroes and Villains, and then battle zombies, B.O.W.s (Bio-Organic Weapons, such as Nemesis and Tyrant), and each other. This easily could have been the most entertaining part of Operation Raccoon City. Unfortunately, it suffers from the same poor mechanics as the rest of the game. In addition, Slant Six has oddly chosen to limit us to eight characters. The Heroes’ side has Leon Kennedy, Claire Redfield, Jill Valentine, and Carlos Oliveira. The Villains’ side features HUNK, Ada Wong (don’t ask, I don’t know why she’s considered a villain either), Nicholai Zinoviev, and LONE WOLF (who is apparently a legendary helicopter pilot for Umbrella – whoopee). I get the attempt at keeping it “realistic” by only implementing characters that might have been there, but Slant Six missed the mark by not taking the opportunity to include other fan favorites such as Chris Redfield and Albert Wesker.
Concept and Execution Grade: 15/25 (D-)
The clear-cut winner in the race to make Operation Raccoon City a terrible game is its mechanics. As soon as I took control of my character of choice (FOUR EYES, if you’re wondering), I noticed how stiff and slow both camera and character movements were. I immediately turned up the responsiveness, which barely worked. You’re mostly limited to moving forward and backward (slowly) during combat, as simply turning takes an exorbitantly long amount of time. I died multiple times trying to escape at the end of the first level, simply because I couldn’t turn around to run in time. Equally frustrating is that, despite their rigorous training, U.S.S. agents are clearly not prepared for the strenuous task of stepping onto surfaces a couple of inches above or below where they’re standing. Instead, players will often have to run around to the end of an incline, rather than just jump (or step) onto a slightly higher plane.
It’s these sorts of issues that make you feel as if you’re playing a game created by either very lazy or inept developers. In the age of games with cutting-edge movement controls, such as those in the Uncharted series, or even other games within the Resident Evil series, it’s astounding that such little regard has been given to this aspect of a major release. The title feels rushed to release in everything from the player controls to the AI.
I should probably take this moment to make one thing clear – if I refer to the AI throughout the course of this review, I am using the term as loosely as possible; there is nothing intelligent about it. Your squad is often more of a hindrance than it is a help. Team members will often stand in your line of sight. They have no regard for where traps are placed, so they will always run straight through the obvious, bright-red laser trip-mines. (Since when are city plans guarded by trip-mines tied to explosives anyways?)
To sum up Operation Raccoon City’s mechanics, it seems sort of miraculous that the game manages to load in the first place. So, there’s that I guess.
Mechanics Grade: 12/25 (F)
Unfortunately for Operation Raccoon City, the Resident Evil series derives a great deal of its popularity from its atmosphere. As a result, that trademark atmosphere is usually the marker by which every Resident Evil game is judged. For a game touted as one that plays off of that atmosphere as its driving force, Operation Raccoon City falls flat – very flat.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City takes place during the events of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. As such, the player can expect to encounter numerous locations and characters from the series’ history. This in and of itself would be enough to garner bonus points from most fans of the series. Unfortunately, this concept works in theory only. Despite encountering many of the characters and locations from the games, you rarely feel like you’re playing in that setting. The miniscule amount of time you spend in the police station from Resident Evil 2 may be the only moment in the game that you experience the feeling of nostalgia for which most gamers would have picked up this title. One of the problems is that most of the new characters and environments are so bland, especially in contrast to characters and environments from Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3, that encounters with prominent series characters often feel forced and gimmicky.
It becomes obvious very early on that you will be looking at the same environments and textures throughout the entire game. By the second level, it’s hard to get past the fact that you’re even looking at the same two dead bodies littering the floor of every room. Normally I would be critical of a squad-based shooter for being too linear, but in the case of Operation Raccoon City, if it were any more open, it would be impossible not to get lost as everything looks the same.
Atmosphere Grade: 14/25 (F)
Like most Resident Evil games, Operation Raccoon City offers a large amount of unlockable content. Unfortunately, this content is entirely limited to the more boring unlockables that a game can offer: concept art. Lots and lots of concept art. More concept art than you would ever care to see for a game as dull and uninspired as Operation Raccoon City. Don’t get me wrong, concept art can be a great addition when supplemented with other content – or when it’s for a game of which you would actually want to look at pictures. Operation Raccoon City, however, is not that game.
You would think that with the diversity of the characters and the opportunity for nostalgia for fans of the game, that the game would offer a great deal of replayability. Unfortunately, there is ultimately little difference between most of the characters. A field scientist plays similar to an assault character, with only one different active ability, as well as three passive abilities usable at any given time. Most of the purchasable weapons are fairly useless, and as only one can be selected at the beginning of each level, players have little incentive to unlock more than two or three of them. Even the currently available DLC outfits offer very little variety. For only $2.99, you can slightly change the color of your character’s uniform. Whoop-de-doo.
I will give the developers credit in one area in which I’ve often been critical of other developers: the free expansion being offered in April. Given the current trend in the industry of releasing DLC on the release date of games, this would be a huge plus on the part of Slant Six – if Operation Raccoon City were a game I ever wanted to play again.
Operation Raccoon City is a game that I truly, truly wanted to love. Unfortunately, a great concept hampered by poor execution reveals this game to be nothing more than a gimmicky, desperate attempt to pander to the legions of Resident Evil fans.
Entertainment Value Grade: 14/15 (F)