Capcom treats us to another dramatic shift from traditional Resident Evil gameplay with Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. Playing as Umbrella operatives killing zombies and soldiers alike, the game is a pretty solid zombie romp.
- Nostalgia abounds as you slaughter lickers, tyrants and more
- Astoundingly good multiplayer will keep you busy
- Fun to play from the Umbrella Corporation's perspective
- Awkward button mapping hinders smooth gameplay
- Campaign gets off to a slow lumbering start
- No splitscreen seems like an anachronism these days
Resident Evil: Raccoon City Review:
The Resident Evil series has become a staple in video games for making consistently inventive and impressive games. When the set camera of past iterations became tired, Capcom marched out Resident Evil 4, which to this day remains among the best reviewed titles of all time. So, when Capcom announced a squad-based game closer to a traditional shooter I was hopeful that they would once again strike gold. Instead of hitting gold, with Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, Capcom has dug up something more like lapis lazuli—a pretty title that will have fans drooling, but may lack general appeal.
Sympathy for the Devil
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City takes place during the initial outbreak in Raccoon City. Instead of telling the story from the perspective of woe-begotten victims of Umbrella Corporation’s hubris, we get to see the outbreak from Umbrella’s point of view. You play as an elite team of soldiers who are sent to clean up the mess (and I do mean elite. Following Umbrella’s inevitable betrayal of your squad, you begin to spitefully slaughter their bioweapons wholesale. Showing a readout with the body count you’ve amassed, Umbrella finally begins to reconsider their decision).
What this means is that you are tasked with killing damn near everything in the game; soldiers, cops, bioweapons, and of course, zombies. We are treated to every zombie type and special zombie type from all of the first few games, along with a few new ones. There is something stunningly terrifying about seeing a Tyrant for the first time with next-gen graphics. The game gets off to a slow start, only picking up during the third or fourth chapter—I felt like I was playing a JRPG, waiting for it to get better. Thankfully it does.
What really makes Raccoon City a standout zombie title is the fact that you’re constantly switching tactics between contemporary warfare to urban warfare to zombie warfare. Nothing is quite as cool as shooting a spec ops soldier dead, only to have him reanimate as a zombie and rush your cover. Unfortunately, one of the emphasized features of the game, melee combat, is lacking. If you get caught in a scrum of zombies, the three canned animations for melee not only will not free you, it will likely result in an infection.
Oh, did I not mention that death isn’t the worst fate you can suffer? No, if you spend too much face time with the game’s zombies, there’s a good chance you’ll contract their version of mono. Depending on how healthy you are, you have a few seconds to administer an anti-virus before you have to watch your character transform and attack your previous squad mates.
Who am I? I don’t know.
For those who played Resident Evil 4 and 5, the gameplay will feel at once familiar and foreign. The over-the-shoulder third-person perspective remains the same, but beyond that, it’s an entirely different game. Gone is the hoarding and item collection of past games, along with the slower, more methodical combat. Raccoon City feels more like a traditional third person shooter than a Resident Evil title, which has its ups and downs.
From the jump it’s clear that Raccoon City does not care to be considered survival horror. Your character can run and gun like any other third-person shooter and for the most part, movement is pretty smooth. The game utilizes a button-less cover system which can be frustrating at times. In one instance while searching an insanely dark library for something, I kept running into bookshelves, but instead of just bouncing off, my character took cover behind them, making a simple task a humiliating ordeal.
One minor issue that caused major annoyance is the button mapping. By making the action button the same button for diving, when running toward a health item or ammo during a battle, your character may just flop on his face instead of picking it up. In fact, in the middle of an intense multiplayer match I watched my teammate dive instead of picking up a health pack—immediately succumbing to a mob of zombies. The weirdest part is that during no point in the game did I feel this diving function would have been useful or cool. Further, the button for switching weapons is fickle and for some reason the same button used to turn around quickly. Again, I didn’t see the purpose of this function and found my character looking like a general jackass when trying to do something basic.
A Pleasant Surprise
After finishing the single player campaign, I dragged ass over to the multiplayer with some seriously low expectations. I can’t think of a single Resident Evil game with a solid multiplayer element so I wasn’t hopeful. Indeed, I was still perturbed by the lack of splitscreen co-op in the campaign. It seemed like a regression after Resident Evil 5. But no matter, because the multiplayer in Raccoon City is some of the most fun I’ve had online in months; and there were probably only 20 people playing at the time.
Your level and equipment carry over from the campaign to multiplayer and vice versa, which was awesome because I benefited from battling through the single player. The different match types were nothing particularly inventive (capture the flag, kill the leader, and a Left 4 Dead-style survivor mode), but they are inherently cool because you play all of them amidst a slew of bloodthirsty zombies. And nothing is scarier than thinking your teammate is coming to help you out—only to have them sink their teeth into your neck. The only notable oddity in the multiplayer is the use of health packs instead of regenerating health. Though it seems out-of-place and dated, I found that in a few cases it evened the playing field. No matter how good a player is, the bullets or zombies will kill him sooner or later.
A Weird Trip Back to Your Childhood
Raccoon City is a game amid an identity crisis, trying to retain elements from past titles while using traditional third person shooter elements. Using a health-pack system—where regenerating health may be better—using a spotty cover system, introducing a middling melee system; all of these things bring Raccoon City down. However, the decision to simplify weapon loadouts and inventory is appreciated and intuitive. Ultimately, the result is a pedestrian title with the power of the Resident Evil series behind it.
However, with a kickass multiplayer, mixed zombie/contemporary warfare, and a high-definition view of Raccoon City’s infection, the game holds its own. Raccoon City is a pretty rough introduction to the Resident Evil universe, but it’s likely a necessary addition to any serious fan’s collection.
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Editor's Note: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City was reviewed using an Xbox 360 copy of the game; however, we also played the PS3 version, and found no differences. If further investigation reveals any differences between the 360 edition and the PS3 edition of the game, this review will be updated to reflect those differences.