Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City|
When I was first approached to do the review for Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City I was admittedly a bit hesitant; even reluctant at first. I am familiar with the zombie franchise, both the games and the movies, but I certainly couldn’t imagine a game that would appeal to my taste for military and strategy shooters, that is until I did a bit of investigating and learned that this latest installment was dealing with the zombie apocalypse from the perspective of an elite team of Special Forces operatives sent in to the city to cleanse it from all undead…and any surviving witnesses.
Your four-person team, codenamed Wolfpack, is a mix and match assortment of deadly bad asses, each with customizable weapons and gear and unique skill sets that you can purchase and equip prior to each mission. If you choose to play the game alone the rest of your team will be controlled by some merely average AI that will occasionally kill something, but more often than not, just distracts them until you can fire the final kill shot. It’s obvious, even from the setup screens, that Slant Six was expecting you to play with up to three other people and after playing both ways I can say online co-op is truly the only way to play. Solo gamers will manage to work a few hours of frustrating fun from the experience, but coming from a Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon past, AI is no substitute for human strategy and teamwork.
Each character has a special class ability like a medic, engineer, soldier, or stealth recon, and the game gives you plenty of potential to exploit these skills, both alone and collaboratively. You’ll earn XP during the missions that can be used to purchase new class skills. Interestingly enough, I earned enough XP on my very first mission to fully unlock all the skills for my recon guy. So much for continued motivation – now my only choice was which one (and only one) skill I would take into each of the following missions. It also helps if you are playing with friends who are all in agreement of character classes since teams cannot duplicate characters.
Most of the game will find you in relentless cover-shooting combat as you scramble around levels killing seemingly endless waves of “bad guys” that can range from zombies to innocent civilians to police and even other soldiers. You’ll need to constantly acquire more ammo as well as securing bits of Intel along with grabbing every healing and anti-viral spray you can collect and even munching on some instant-use healing herbs. Medics can heal you in battle but there is no way to really summon their aid – you just have to be near them and injured and hope the AI has the foresight to heal you. Another clever concept is your ability to contract the virus and actually turn into a zombie yourself if you are unable to administer the anti-virus before your health slips completely away. Once you’ve joined the ranks of the undead you will turn on your former teammates with the same ferocity equal to that of your enemy.
There are some crazy mutant boss fights, many of which you merely run away from in the beginning using some quick button-tap or analog stick commands. Overall, the controls are okay but nowhere near what I’m used to in more serious tactical shooters. You stick to cover without trying, often when you don’t want to, and you can just as easily break from cover when you really only wanted to peek around the corner. Aiming and firing is easy enough, again more for fun than realism, but switching from primary to secondary weapons was glitchy at times. There is even a melee combat system with a few limited combat moves and some brutal executions.
What Operation Raccoon City lacks in polished gameplay it more than makes up for in style and presentation, whether you are running down a long corridor dodging flaming pipes as a giant mutant lumbers after you, or being trapped in a dark room with these giant tongue creatures crawling out of the walls and ceiling. The gameplay is always exciting and tense, and it’s reflected in some of the humorous and frantic online chatter I’ve heard over the past few days playing with my squad. We are usually quite calm and collected in our multiplayer games, so you can’t help but laugh when a 30-year veteran soldier screams like a girl over Xbox Live that he just got jumped by a German Shepard or an undead cop leading a pack of zombies just burst through a door. In all my years of online gaming I've never heard anything close to, "Johnny got bit...Johnny got bit...he attacked me...I had to put him down...I'm sorry Johnny...
It’s no surprise Operation Raccoon City is a dark game as it helps promote the sense of unknown dangers lurking in the shadows. I kept asking myself why nobody on this team had a pair of night vision goggles. If I have an invisibility cloak my recon guy should be able to see in the dark. The darkness makes it all too easy to spot glowing pick-ups like weapons, ammo, and herbs, however the hidden data bits blend really well into the background and often, you won’t know there is something to get until the on-screen prompt appears. The story and voice acting is okay; about the same quality you’d expect from a zombie movie, and there are some good weapon effects, explosions, and creepy environmental noises. The music is already above average, treading the line between a military shooter and a horror movie.
As much as I am opposed to split-screen gaming I was surprised there was no local co-op for this game. It’s either solo or head online for co-op or any of the interesting competitive modes like Deathmatch, Domination, and CTF, all with a zombie or viral spin. There is also a Heroes mode that lets you play as classic Resident Evil characters. Sadly, there isn't a lot of people out there playing, so it's hard for pick-up matches. I had to coerce a few of my friends into renting this title just to help me out with the co-op portion of the review.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a game I would have never considered and even after playing it for a week now I probably still wouldn’t go out of my way to buy. There are simply better co-op tactical shooters out there and with Ghost Recon on the way…well, Capcom was wise to release this when they did. Fans of the Resident Evil franchise may enjoy this next-gen look at an earlier classic, but as a serious shooter and tactical gamer, a spooky atmosphere doesn’t make up for shallow and repetitive combat mechanics and glitched controls. Not to mention most of your fun relies on the participation of two or three other people. Give it a rental or wait for the inevitable price drop.