Quick Take: Resident Evil goes the squad route with mixed results.
Back in the 1980s, Marvel Comics had a series called Damage Control. In the series, Damage Control referred to the guys who cleaned up the collateral messes left by the Hulk, Spider-Man and Thor. Those shattered buildings, those injured bystanders; it was Damage Control that took care of them while the hero went on to the next conflict and the next villain.
In Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (ORC), Capcom and developer Slant Six Games have given us the video game equivalent of Damage Control. ORC follows the exploits of a team of eastern European soldiers sent into Raccoon City during the events of Resident Evil 2 and 3. The team’s job is to destroy all evidence of what the Umbrella Corporation was working on prior to and during the events of the first three Resident Evil games.
Within the course of the game, the player is treated to battles with the G-Virus-infected William Birkin, multiple versions of the Tyrant, and of course, the Nemesis from RE3. It’s a virtual Resident Evil Greatest Hits, from back when Resident Evil was still about survival and horror, and less about shooting everything that moves. Though, in this game, everything that moves should be shot.
Also included for the first time in a Resident Evil game is the possibility of becoming infected by a zombie or a monster. If your character is bit or takes enough damage and doesn’t have any antiviral spray on hand, you will eventually turn into a monster yourself. It adds a level of tension, and later panic, as dying affects your end score and XP.
Left 4 Dead used the “zombie mode” first, but ORC does it within the realm of the Resident Evil universe, which is a welcome addition, especially since the locale (Raccoon City) has been used to the point of ridiculousness, and anything new should be applauded.
There are six “characters” to choose from, each with a unique skill set (demolition, medic, assault, etc.). These characters, with names like Vector, Spectre, and Lupo (?), spew one-liners as they go from mission to mission cleaning up the mess left by Umbrella and by the STARS team.
There are a ton of weapons to use in the game, and ammo, for the most part, is plentiful. There is also a melee component for in-your-face attacking, but pressing the melee button actually sends the characters into pre-scripted move set/dance that if you miss your target, can open you up to severe damage and possible infection. Use only when necessary.
Operation Raccoon City uses a four-player team at all times and the execution resembles the Left 4 Dead games more so than Capcom’s previous (and far superior) Resident Evil: Outbreak. The player takes his or her character and plays each chapter of the story campaign, and if played in a online public setting, up to three friends or strangers can jump in and take control of the other three to assist.
Matchmaking is done on the fly with no rhyme or reason (skill sets and player levels are not taken into account), and player-characters can pop in and out of chapters at will. To be fair, there is a quick match option in the main Campaign menu that will assign you into a game in progress, and you can always bug out if you don’t like the level, or your companions.
This creates confusion and competition, as there are collectable pieces of data that are not shared between members of the group. Whoever finds them gets them, and certain players will hunt for data during a firefight, leaving their comrades to handle the heavy lifting. Because of this, the game works best when a solid group of four, whether friends or strangers play together. Knowing the tendencies of the people around you can mean the difference between success and death.
XP is collected as the game forges ahead, which not only raises levels, but can be used to purchase new weapons and skills to make the character stronger. XP is awarded for kills, completion time, items collected, etc. There is also a grading system that grades your progress after each level. There is no way to customize the look of your character (without buying DLC outfits), which would have been a great addition, but the XP system works to make the game fun to play.
Multiplayer is the key to enjoying Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City as the main campaign is short. And I mean short. There are seven chapters that range from 20 minutes to 40 minutes in length. The entire campaign can be cleared by a good team in under four hours.
The game also has a versus mode that offers team attack; a biohazard mode (think capture the flag, but with G-virus samples); Heroes mode, in which players take control of the heroes of the series, such as Jill Valentine and Leon S. Kennedy, and then puts them against other players in a free for all (deathmatch); and a survivor mode, which is like Horde mode as you have to survive until a rescue chopper can pick you up and take you to safety.
The graphics in ORC are oftentimes gorgeous, and the environments are well put together, if not overused. While most gamers may have walked these streets, the police station, and the hospital many times before, ORC offers a new perspective to the entire Raccoon City epidemic.
The sound effects are done well, and the voice acting is solid, though it is never explained why each character is of Eastern European descent. The one-liners could be varied more, as hearing, “Cover me while I reload” in a thick accent gets old quick.
Other than the length of the game, there are also issues with the AI, both friendly and enemy. When playing solo and private, the computer takes over my three teammates and instead of having my back, it feels like I’m living in a Monty Python skit.
I’ve seen my team stand perfectly still and fire rounds straight into the ground in front of them. I’ve experienced them deciding to stop moving, which prevented me from opening the door to proceed to the next room (for some reason, the team must remain together for doors to work). I won’t even get into then running into my line of sight while I am firing and stopping, or worse, bumping into me while I am aiming down my sights, which causes me to miss.
The enemy doesn’t fare much better. I’ve seen them run at me, stop, turn around, and stand there, letting me shoot the crap out of their backs. And I’ve seen enemies run towards a grenade, all while shouting, “Take Cover!” I have actually laughed out loud (and yelled as well) at the ludicrousness of the computer-controlled characters. As I said before, getting a group together in multiplayer is the key to this game.
Adding salt to the A.I. wound, ORC has its fair share of glitches. There have been times when my team and I had to commit mass group suicide because a door would not open, or the next beacon never showed up. I’ve found myself stuck in the weirdest places. At one point early on, I inadvertently rode on the back of G-Virus Birkin and could look down at my team (as they stood in front of each other and shot into the ground). Needless to say, the game has some bugs.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is one of those games that is a great idea on paper and falters in the execution. The game is painfully short, and only truly works when you have a solid team of humans playing with you online.
When you do have that team on and cooking, the game comes alive and is exhilarating to play. Slant Six and Capcom could have balanced out the difference between these two experiences, and made the game a solid hit.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City feels like a game in which a sequel or sequels (along with a few bug-fixing patches) would be infinitely better than this first installment.
Buy Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City on Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 at Amazon.com (March 20, 2012 release date).