When news of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon
City trickled out, gamers were justifiably excited. After all, who wouldn't
want to play a four player, class-based co-op shooter set in the much-beloved
Resident Evil universe? The potential for something special was present from
the start, and many figured it would be akin to Left 4 Dead for the BioHazard
set. Sadly, this isn’t the case. Not only is Raccoon City not in the same
league as Left 4 Dead, it’s not even a decent Resident Evil game.
Both the single- and multiplayer elements of
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City takes place in (you guessed it) Raccoon
City, the burg in which the series' famed virus was first unleashed on the
world all those years ago. Mirroring many of the events in Resident Evil 2, the
campaign follows the exploits of the nefarious Umbrella Corporation's special
ops team, sent in to clean up the mess created by the company's scientists by
whatever means necessary (hint: it involves lots of guns). While the game
includes plenty of knowing nods to Resident Evil fans and a number of cameos by
some familiar faces, the narrative ultimately falls flat due to some confusing
"twists" and one of the most absurdly unexplained endings in recent
memory. If you don't end up asking yourself what just happened at the end of
the campaign's seventh and final mission, it might be because you're too busy
asking why it happened at all.
Raccoon City’s narrative misses the mark on a
number of levels, not the least of which is the fact that it never gives the
player any reason to become even remotely invested emotionally. Your character
and your squad are downright unlikeable, especially when trying to kill the
heroes that we all know and love. It’s odd that the developers didn’t include
an alternate campaign in which players could control the survivors, as a
four-player co-op “remake” of Resident Evil 2 would have been a lot more
enjoyable than the game’s core campaign.
Rather than put the player in the boots of a
single character throughout the story, the developers decided to embrace the
co-op aspect right off the bat, encouraging experimentation by allowing players
to switch between character classes before each mission. Most of the classes
you've come to expect in a modern-day shooter are represented here, including
Assault, Medic, and Recon, each with his or her own uniques skills and weapons.
Some of these (like improved body armor and faster reload speed) are passive,
while abilities like flaming bullets and temporarily unlimited ammo can be
activated after a particular amount of time passes.
It’s a solid enough system, keeping the action
as interesting as you’d like, though we found ourselves focusing mainly on upgrading
our Assault and Medic classes out of personal preference. However, Raccoon
City’s hop-in/hop-out cooperative play penalizes those players that don’t create
a well-rounded group of soldiers, as it’s not uncommon to jump into a game only
to find that the class you spent all that time maxing out has already been
taken by another player. Yes, your team is limited to one of each character
class, so all the XP you spent creating a powerful Assault character means
nothing if another player picked that class first.The game was presumably
designed this way to encourage players not to rely on a single class, but it
ultimately feels like a penalty.
Unfortunately, there are also number of
gameplay elements that feel like they’ve been designed to penalize the player,
simply because they were poorly implemented. Nearly all of these fall under the
same “unfulfilled potential” umbrella that’s covering the entire game, as some of
them could have been quite good with more capable execution. For instance, the game
sports a cover system that barely works and ends up being more of a hindrance
than anything. Taking cover behind objects is easy enough, but moving to an
edge doesn’t allow the player to peek around as in genres standard-setting games like Gears of War.
Instead, you’ll simply pop out of cover entirely or shift around to the side,
leaving you wide open to enemy attacks. Frankly, it’s among the worst
cover systems we’ve played in a video game.
While Raccoon City actually includes two mechanics we've never seen before, neither of them works as well as one would hope. Getting infected by a zombie and needing to use antiviral spray to cure yourself could have made for some intense sequences, but this isn't the case. The fact that zombies virtually ignore you once you're infected means you can basically sprint through the majority of the level until you hit a cutscene, which somehow magically cures what ails you. Then there's the bleeding mechanic. Getting shot by an enemy soldier randomly (We think? Maybe?) causes you to bleed, attracting the nearest horde of zombies. Given the overabundance of green herbs and healing sprays, however, you won't need to take more than a few steps before you're as good as new. Both of these systems could have added some sorely-needed tension and excitement, yet they end up feeling tacked-on. Instead, all of the drama comes from everything else the game gets wrong.
There are also myriad technical missteps. Your
AI-controlled teammates are downright idiotic, frequently committing suicide
when they should be focusing on staying alive. If we had a dollar for every
time a squadmate ran through a corridor full of easily-spotted laser tripwires,
we’d be rich. Hit detection is a major issue too, especially when dealing with
the aforementioned cover system. Frankly, the hunting and pecking to activate objects on the ground is arguably the only thing more frustrating than
seeing your bullets hit an imaginary barrier instead of that peek-a-boo enemy who's out of cover. During one co-op session, we died while trying to heal a
fallen squadmate. Instead of pressing the button to heal, we found ourselves
repeatedly dropping and picking up weapons laying on the ground nearby. This is
one of the rare co-op games that actually doesn’t get better when playing with
friends, as even your best buddies can’t fix the technical problems and design
All of these issues are amplified in the
multiplayer modes. Again, playing against other people while simultaneously
dealing with hordes of AI-controlled zombies should be fun, but it just ends up
feeling more frustrating than anything. Although there are a number of takes on
standard multiplayer modes like Capture the Flag, it’s the new Survivors mode
that anyone playing this game would probably be playing after launch. It’s a solid mode in
theory, as two teams of four must duke it out while waiting for a chopper than
can only hold a total of four players (yes, you’ve got to suspend your narrative
disbelief for this one). However, when the chopper finally does arrive and
players attempt to get on, they’ll find themselves being spammed by grenades
while standing in line.
To make the multiplayer matters worse, Raccoon City commits the cardinal sin of poor map design. The most egregious example is the lack of dynamic spawn points. During several of the matches that we played, our team was pinned in our spawn (a small garage with a single exit) by the enemy team, wasting more than a few lives and generally ruining an already unpleasant experience. Even worse, this was during Survivor matches, in which every death adds precious seconds to your respawn time. Not being able to get to the chopper because you're unable to respawn flat out sucks. The game also doesn't allow for any multi-level traversal, so you'll undoubtedly find yourself unable to jump down even a few feet or navigate obstacles that even a toddler could climb over. We were hoping that multiplayer would help to wash the sour taste of the campaign out of our collective mouths, but this (sadly) wasn't the case.
To say that Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon
City is a hugely missed opportunity is an equally huge understatement. In
theory, it could have been a Resident Evil-themed, third-person Left 4 Dead,
something that would make any zombie-shooter fan salivate with desire. Not only does
Raccoon City not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Valve’s
zombie-killing masterpiece, a number of poor design choices, narrative
missteps, and technical issues combine to make this one of the worst Resident
Evil games to date.
This game was reviewed on Xbox 360 as the lead platform. We also played through sections of the PS3 version to see if there were any distinct differences, and we found no technical shortcomings during our playtime.