It’s been a few years since gamers last saw Raccoon City. The tables have turned, though, as instead of battling Umbrella, players will take to the battlefield as members of the infamous organization. With this new take on the series and changes behind the helm, this could have been a great change of pace for the series, yet sadly falls extremely short.
Things in Raccoon City are going smoothly until the Umbrella Corporation discovers that one of their own, Dr. William Birkin, is planning to sell the G-Virus to the United States government. You join up with a group of the Umbrella Secret Service and are tasked with going into Raccoon City and securing the virus. Of course, things go horribly wrong, one thing leads to another, and now the virus has made its way into the sewer system and infected the entire town. Now your mission dramatically changes, as you are tasked with hunting down any survivors and silencing them before the story is leaked and Umbrella is tied to the town’s issues.
The story in Operation Raccoon City takes place during the 2nd and 3rd games of the series, so you will see aspects of those games popping up during the story and cameo’s from some of the series staples such as Leon Kennedy. It is cool to come at the story from a new angle and influence things such as whether Leon lives or dies.
The game is a third-person squad based shooter from SOCOM: Confrontation developer Slant Six Games. Operation Raccoon City features a main campaign that can be played with a mixture of four online teammates or AI-controlled squadmates. You can select one of six character classes to play as, each with their own abilities. One character has the ability to throw up radar to spot enemies within a set radius while another allows you to heal your teammates. As you level up your character and gain XP, you can purchase new abilities, both passive and active to use in the game. XP can also be used to buy new weapons, ranging from assault rifles to shotguns, with a fair bit of selection.
Split up into chapters, Operation Raccoon City allows you to traverse the landscape of Raccoon City, moving between checkpoints and cutscenes, fighting anything along the way. The cool thing about the campaign is fighting not only the zombies you encounter along the way, but also U.S. soldiers who are also fighting off the zombies. As you move through the levels you will find some of the signature door opening moments that have become staples of the series. There really is nothing like opening a door and having a pack of zombies lunging right at you. Other staples of the series return, such as Green Herbs and anti-virus sprays that magically cure your blood-thirst. If you take too much damage though, you will turn and ravage your fellow teammates until you are put down.
The problem with the campaign is that if you are not playing with human players, it is extremely flawed. Inconsistent teammate AI (hello Shiva!) are found throughout the game. Try to heal your fellow mates only to have them run away; yet try to run through a doorway to escape and watch the same squad members stand still, blocking your path. In fact, for the most part, the AI teammates are best used as meat-shields to keep the major bad guys off your trail. The game also introduces a new cover system where simply running up to the cover forces your player behind it. It rarely works the way you want, as you often take cover when simply trying to run past something, or whatever you have run up to isn’t actually something you can duck behind. What’s even worse, almost 75% of the time, the game has a weird habit of not letting you aim down your cross-hairs unless you are at the exact right spot of the cover.
Another big issue is one we have come to know with the series and its the spotty controls. It is in fact a SOCOM game with zombies, which can be a real issue as your characters turn with the ability of a half-dead terminator, meaning if you get caught in a narrow corridor with a quick opponent, it’s going to get frustrating. One thing is better though, as you are actually able to move and shoot, which adds so much depth to the combat that has been missing for some time in the series. The game also sports rather weak Close Combat. Going in close on zombies is a little fun at first but really lacks impact as your attacks don’t seem to do enough.
Once you get done with the five to six-hour campaign, it might be time to dig into a few of the online modes the game offers. Heroes mode sets you as either one of the games heroes or a member of the U.S.S. As the hero you must survive attacks from fellow players and zombies. Once you die, you spawn as a member of the U.S.S and try to hunt down the next player who assumes the role of hero. Survivor has two teams of four fighting off each other and monsters to try and secure a ride on the lone helicopter in town.
Team battle has two teams of four facing off against each other and zombies, with each kill your team makes adding to your meter. First to fill up the meter is the winner. Last is a mode where two teams of four try to collect vials of the virus and bring it back to base. These vials appear randomly and both teams must fight each other and zombies to secure them.
All of these modes are actually a good deal of fun off the bat but are far too similar as they all are basically two teams facing off against each other and zombies, with some of the conditions having minor changes. Things grow a bit stale as you progress and its very difficult to find other people online to play with. The majority of the people I found online were playing the radiation mode, with the rest being very difficult to find enough people in. What keeps these modes interesting are the inclusion of zombies, as no matter where you go in the multiplayer, you will be getting attacked by something. It creates a beautiful explosion of chaos throughout the maps, which are pulled from the campaign and there are not near enough of them, which adds to the whole getting stale thing.
Graphically and presentation wise, the game is a mixed bag. The animations in the game are severely lacking and there are not enough character models, as you see the same four zombies far too often, making it feel as though this is a town full of twins. The environments are also rather bland and the level design could use a little bit of work, but Raccoon City still feels very much alive… or dead I guess I should say. On the audio front, you get a few characters who sound very believable and some that are down right scary with how bad their lines are, such as the Russian character Spectre, who has some serious issues making a sentence.
After you have cleared the town of zombies, you will find Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City to be a game that leaves so much potential on the table. The chance to see the city from a new perspective is ruined by terrible AI, a wonky cover-system, a distinct lack of memorable moments, and a very short story. In fact, if not for the online experience adding some much-needed spike to the punch, this would be a completely stale and dull game. It is a great idea and should be commended for trying something new with the series. However, after a quick detour into Raccoon City for a weekend, it will be time to move on to something better.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
+/- Interesting online but modes are far too similar, maps are too few.
– New view of Raccoon City is marred by a rather ugly environment.