Game: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
Developer: Slant Six Games
Available on: PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360 (Reviewed on PlayStation 3)
With Resident Evil 6 recently announced and looking very exciting, and Resident Evil: Chronicles HD coming this Summer, fans of the series are spoilt for choice this year; indeed, 2012 is looking like the year of Resident Evil. However, Operation Raccoon City isn’t really a traditional Resident Evil game. Sure, there are zombies, but the closest comparison to any other game would be to the Left4Dead series. Fundamentally an online game, just how has Slant Six’s Third Person Shooter turned out?
STORY: Set between Resident Evil 2 and 3, in the main campaign you’ll be tasked with going into Raccoon City as an elite force of U.S.S. soldiers, to cleanse the situation; to eradicate all evidence of the T-Virus. A first in the series, Operation Raccoon City sees you play as the bad guys, you’ll find out secrets that were alluded to in the previous games but never actually unearthed. You’ll see characters like Dr. Birkin and the outrageously hard soldier that is only known as Hunk. You’ll get to rewrite parts of the lesser known canon and experience locations like Dr. Birkin’s lab, or the sewers below the city.
GRAPHICS: Operation Raccoon City is a funny one visually, at times it looks crisp and clean, but then an odd looking texture will appear and look a little out of place. It’s an incredibly difficult task to create a visually unique art-style for what amounts to generic soldiers to gun down, but at least the zombies don’t appear to repeat themselves. Sure, you’ll see the traditional “cop” zombie a few times, but overall it’s not that noticeable. In terms of the B.O.Ws, they look as horrifying as ever, in fact, Operation Raccoon City reminded me just how much I bloody hate Lickers; the bastards.
SOUND: Voice acting has never been the strongest point of the Resident Evil series, just ask Barry Burton if you don’t believe me. So don’t expect BAFTA award winning acting here, expect cheesy delivery. It may sound like a critique, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from the series, and it delivers in that respect, it’s all a bit of fun really.
The soundtrack is serviceable for the most part, and sound effects are fine too. There’s nothing incredible about the audio in Operation Raccoon City, but considering the game is designed to be played online, you’ll have a headset in one ear anyway.
GAMEPLAY: At its heart, what we’ve got here is a cover based Third Person Shooter. Taking cues from its peers, snapping into cover is as simple as approaching it, the game does the rest. That might sound like it could be very frustrating, but it never is. Very rarely will you find yourself accidentally going into cover, which is great.
There are six characters to choose from, and each have their own unique abilities and skills. Akin to a game like Battlefield 3, you’ll have your medic, your tank, etc. I can’t stress enough how important it is to play this game with friends (or to be honest, random other online players if you have to), because the offline AI really isn’t all that great. Expect them to throw flash bang grenades into the ceiling above you, or to use stealth and walk right in front of the line of fire, that kind of thing.
Each of the characters not only have their own abilities, but they are all upgradeable too. For example, the medic class (Bertha) is able to automatically start with a first aid spray (which you can heal yourself and others with) but can upgrade the ability to allow her to start with 2, or to be able to hold more than 2 if you collect them from the levels. These upgrades are unlocked by using XP that you gain as you progress, levelling up your persistent overall ranking and then spending that XP on the upgrades. Weapons are also behind the unlock barrier, but only the super-powerful ones are expensive. It’s also worth noting that although each character is class-based, you can pick up or unlock any weapon, so if you prefer to play as the Sniper-class for his perks, you can still choose to start each level with a shotgun if you wish.
In terms of controls, it plays out much like any other Third Person Shooter, but there are features like the auto-aim (on PlayStation 3, hold down the L2 trigger) which is an interesting feature, but one that I couldn’t find too much use for. Grenades, Perks and First Aid Sprays are all accessible via the D-Pad, as well as another addition to the gameplay, which makes for an interesting inclusion; anti-viral sprays. When you find these, they are mapped to “down” on the D-Pad, when used they remove the infection you can catch from enemies, which will eventually turn you into a zombie, forcing you to turn on your fellow soldiers.
The most important thing about a shooter though, is how the actual shooting feels. Sadly, some of the enemies are bullet-sponges, to a ridiculous degree. While you may be dropped with half a clip of an automatic weapon, expect to have to unload a full clip, and sometimes more, to drop a soldier. Worse yet, headshots don’t always seem to register, with some enemies taking more than one. It’s a very odd problem – and one I sincerely hope is addressed post-release – that seems almost exclusive to the human enemies in the game. As is traditional in a Resi game, when a zombie appears you’ll want to pull out the handgun and pop their dead-head right off, which is easy and gives an incredible sense of satisfaction. Yet trying to pop a soldier’s head is inconsistent and frustrating.
MULTIPLAYER: There’s actually a really good amount of modes available in Operation Raccoon City, allowing for all manner of play-styles. As you’d expect, there’s a traditional death match, but there’s far more fun to be had in modes like Survival. This is a 4 Vs. 4 mode that can go all manner of ways, because while you are taking on your opposition, the zombies and B.O.W’s are roaming the streets too. The ultimate goal is to reach the helicopter and escape, but how you do it is open to interpretation, and is crazy fun; a true triple-threat.
Biohazard mode is another, more traditional, mode, which involves collecting G-Virus samples to either incriminate Umbrella or find a cure. A version of capture the flag, if you will. Heroes mode is all about the key figures in the Raccoon City zombie outbreak and will see them go up against one another. There really is plenty of fun to be had in the Operation Raccoon City multiplayer.
LONGEVITY: The campaign has seven missions to go through, taking roughly 35-45 minutes each. That said, if you’re playing with three friends, you could potentially power through the levels quicker, but there are plenty of hidden logs and XP bonuses to find in all the level maps, meaning that replayability is high as you are also graded at the end of every level.
While you do level up a persistent rank, each character has 5-6 unlockable and upgradeable abilities, meaning that unless you are the kind of player that staunchly sticks with one class, there’s plenty of abilities to explore and experiment with. Add in the multiplayer aspects and you’ve a game that is as long as you want it to be, especially with the first DLC pack already confirmed as being free for all.
VERDICT: Let us make one thing abundantly clear, Operation Raccoon City is designed and intended to be played with friends online. If you are the most hardcore of Resident Evil fan, you might find the time period that it takes place in to be intriguing enough to jump in for the single player, but you’ll be missing out on the real meat of the game, which is using your combined skills to take on the onslaught of zombies, B.O.Ws and soldiers.
When Operation Raccoon City works, it exudes that typical Resident Evil feeling we all know and love, but when it falls flat it feels like a generic Third Person Shooter, which is a real shame as with a little more work (and perhaps patches and updates will address some of the issues) this could have been a superb title.