Review by SuperPhillip

"An Unnecessary Evil"

Resident Evil 6 is due out in October of this year. So as that game could be seen as the main course, titles like the completely lacking in marketing from Capcom Resident Evil: Revelations, and the subject of this review, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, could be considered the appetizers. From Slant Six, the team behind the most recent installments of the SOCOM series, the developer lends their squad game expertise to this famed survival-horror franchise. Is this operation a success or a failure?

Operation Raccoon City serves as a non-canonical "what if" scenario for the events of Resident Evil 2, one of the most popular entries of the series. Raccoon City has been engulfed by the T-Virus, an infection that spreads to each host, whether human or animal, and turns them into either a zombie or a ravenous beast. You play as a member of the U.S.S. (Umbrella Security Service) with the task of eliminating any evidence of Umbrella's role in the unprecedented outbreak by any means necessary in a procedure known as Operation Raccoon City. The series's trademark cheesiness is noticeably absent from this game, so a different tone is definitely felt. It's not for the better either. Dry, boring dialogue, dull exchanges, and characters you probably won't care for litter the story elements of the game. Thankfully, the five hour campaign mode means you won't have to suffer through it for long.

At the beginning of each of the game's handful of missions you choose from one of four members of the U.S.S. to play as. Each squad member has its own set of skills that can be purchased via experience points (or XP), earned through playing either Campaign or Versus mode. Some skills can cloak your player to slip past dangerous foes while others can add incendiary rounds to your shots for a limited amount of time. You can even boost your defense to bullets by several percentage points. Nearly every ability can be leveled up by paying some XP for it.

The game's levels are pretty much linear affairs. You are constantly moving from waypoint to waypoint while mowing down corridors full of enemies such as special OPS humans, zombies, hunters, lickers and crimson heads. Occasionally you will find yourself running from a boss or scurrying around an arena in search of three items to advance, but for the most part, you will be blasting away at foes. Unlike the entry of the series Operation Raccoon City is based off of, there is an ample amount of ammo scattered around the levels either dropped by enemy soldiers or resting comfortably in crates.

As I stated there are not many missions to play through-- perhaps six or seven. However, there are some feats to accomplish outside of just progressing through each level. Each mission holds various data that are hidden well within each stage as well as security cameras that need to be destroyed. These are optional, but they give you XP that adds up. Additionally, there are multiple difficulties to try out. Professional is the most challenging, offering enemies that take more bullets (as if they weren't already bullet sponges on Casual) and foes that deal more damage. At the end of each level you are awarded a letter grade depending on your performance. You get graded on how long it took you to finish the level, how many enemies you defeated, how many times you died, and how many items (data and cameras) you discovered. Getting an S rank is the ultimate goal, but really, the game isn't entertaining enough to stick with this feat.

One reason for this is because playing alone is way harder than playing with other friends or total strangers. Alone you have to work with partner AI that is about as brain-dead as the zombies you are fending off. They will constantly stand in your way, sit still while you are being assaulted, and will die on a minutely basis on harder modes. With human partners you can work as a unit, take foes out together, and pass through levels in a faster pace. You can opt to start a Private match or Public, meaning players can hop online to your game at any moment.

With the threat of infected zombies comes the threat of being infected yourself. When infected, you must inject yourself with an antidote or face becoming a zombie. As a zombie you lose all control and must become killed by your teammate(s) or let some time pass to recover. Another of what I am going to call "status ailments" comes from being shot a lot. You, a partner, or an enemy can bleed out a lot causing a blood frenzy. The scent of blood will summon dozens of zombies to the location of the person bleeding out. Who needs to shoot foes yourself when you can get an army of flesh-eaters to do it for you?

Aside from the campaign, there is Versus mode which delivers an abundance of copy-and-pasted modes from other titles. There are four main modes to select from including Team Attack, Biohazard, Heroes, and Survivor. Team Attack pits two teams against one another to score points through killing the numerous creatures that prowl the battlefield as well as players on the other team. The team that meets the target score or has the most points when time runs out wins. Biohazard is pretty much a Capture the Flag scenario. You collect samples of a virus, and you run them back to your zone. Meanwhile, Heroes puts players in the roles of various heroic and villain characters from Resident Evil 2. The team that destroys all of the adversary's characters is the victor. Finally, Survivor focuses on two teams working as one to endure wave after wave of enemies up until a helicopter rescues them. The modes aren't the most creative, but they offer a distraction from the campaign. Though, to be fair, with the gameplay of Operation Raccoon City, many won't find a reason to come back to multiplayer.

One reason is just how sloppy the game feels. Shooting feels off completely. Guns feel like they shoot B.B.s instead of powerful rounds. Even when an enemy is shot it doesn't look like they are hurting too much from it. It gets hard to tell whether you've damaged them or not. Then comes melee which feels unwieldy and hard to aim at the right foe. Another problem comes from the cover system. Most games assign a button for you to press to hide behind cover. In Operation Raccoon City's case, all you do is run up cover to defend yourself against attacks. This can be problematic when the game doesn't let you do this for whatever crummy reason, or you are simply trying to run away and your character relentlessly hides behind cover instead of continuing to scamper away.

But by far the most obnoxious fault to the gameplay is the lack of invincibility frames for your character. When you are smacked to the ground by an assault, you can incessantly be attacked by foes, never being allowed to come to your feet because you keep on being hit. I oftentimes went from full health to death because of this cheap tactic. Needless to say, this was quite infuriating. Then there's graphical glitches like your squad mates flying in circles when they die and game crashes. Sloppy almost seems like an understatement to sum up my experience with the gameplay of Operation Raccoon City.

At least for all the faults of the game (and there are many as you've just witnessed), Operation Raccoon City at least looks like what a Resident Evil game should resemble. Dark, foreboding passageways, steam rising from streets, fog bellowing up in cemeteries, fire ravaging city blocks, and zombies who certainly look the part of bloodthirsty savages. Not all of these sights are without problems, however, as the framerate can chug to low levels within the game. Then comes the sound which can crackle one's speakers during loud explosions. At least the music fills the player with a sense of tension, even if the game lacks many scares. The voice work is all right, I guess, but it often feels stilted and forced.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is an obvious attempt at cashing in on the franchise by Capcom. All this game is is SOCOM with a Resident Evil finish. It is a shame that the lion's share of marketing dollars went towards this game and not the definitely superior Resident Evil: Revelations, a game that deserved sales no matter how much Capcom sent it out to die. No amount of awesome ambiance can give Operation Raccoon City a recommendation. It plays bad, it feels bad, and it is bad.

[SuperPhillip Says: 4.25/10]


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 04/18/12, Updated 04/19/12

Game Release: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (US, 03/20/12)


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