Review: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City

It’s been a bumper year for Resident Evil fans, with the well received Revelations out a couple months ago and the 6th installment of the main franchise out in November. General opinion on those two games are polarised with the contrast between a traditional and modern style of gameplay, Revelations having received positive attention from the first unveiling. So with Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, the most different type of game the series has ever seen, is it a worthy addition to the classic franchise, or a mediocre game re-skinned in familiar Resi stylings to boost sales?

The game is co-developed by Slant Six Games and Capcom, with the former having only made three SOCOM games (two being PSP releases), all of which were released to mixed reviews. Upon loading up RE:ORC, I just couldn’t get it out of my head that this is simply going to be another SOCOM but dressed up in T-Virus stained clothing, with classic Resident Evil features shoe-horned into the game in order to differentiate it from the other games on the market.

After 15 minutes, my fears wear confirmed.

The good news is that despite the hugely different take on the series, it does feel like you’re playing something part of the Resident Evil universe. Set between Resident Evil 2 and 3 and featuring Leon Kennedy, Hunk and Nemesis with green herbs to heal yourself, there is certainly a familiar look to the game.

The campaign includes seven campaign levels that can be played by yourself with AI partners, or with three friends. You get to choose from six Umbrella Security Service (U.S.S.) characters, all with their own unique skill sets and moves. Although RE:ORC is designed to be played with four humans players, I always start games like this with just the AI as not everyone can or wants to play online (and also whilst I get used to the controls so I don’t get shouted at!). Therefore the co-op AI needs to be up to scratch but sadly it is very broken here. At best the AI are running way ahead of the pack isolating themselves and taking on zombies and special forces hand-to-hand, taking a severe beating in the process. At worse, and it’s more obvious and problematic during set-pieces, is when your co-op AI doesn’t progress forward, instead lagging behind and getting themselves killed. You in turn die when you try to rescue them. There is nothing more infuriating than constantly repeating a section as a direct result of the co-op AI’s actions and there is nothing you can do about it other than hoping that next time your AI buddy does what they are supposed to.

Fortunately rubbish AI isn't out of place in a shuffling, brain-dead zombie.

The enemy AI, both human and creatures are no better. The humans certainly don’t act like special forces as they don’t take advantage of their surroundings making them easy targets. The zombies are okay as they are supposed to be brain-dead, but the BOWs are similar to the humans in the way they just hang about in the open, standing next to you and not attacking. This combination between dodgy AI and bodies like sponges, is exacerbated by far too many full-on gunfights. If you only fought the normal shuffling zombies, the mechanics of the game would hold their ground, but taking on rooms packed full with enemies it just falls apart.

And before you start having a go at me saying “you’re supposed to be playing with human partners, not AI!” I’m just going to say this. When the campaign is played with human partners, the game does play better but it’s no more fun. And the only reason it’s better is that there is 50% less AI messing up the game. The story is interesting though, giving you a unique perspective on the events and allowing you to change the course of history at special moments.

To encourage replaying the game, a upgrade tree has been included, where you can unlock better guns, ammo upgrade and body armour. Unfortunately you don’t fancy playing the game over again due to all the technical issues and lack of unpredictability that the AI Director in Left 4 Dead manages to do very well.

Thankfully multiplayer is better but it’s partly due to the minimal amount of AI present. You get to choose from an additional six characters from the United States Special Ops team, again with different classes like the USS. Matchtypes available to you include: Team Attack, basically a deathmatch mode; Biohazard, where you need to collect all the samples of the G-Virus; Heroes, where you protect famous faces from the series, whilst killing the other team’s heroes and Survivor, where your squad races the opposing team to the last helicopter leaving the city to escape the hell-hole.

The best part of the multiplayer is the unique triple threat of humans soldiers, shuffling zombies and BOWs. Slant Six have done really well here and offered up something completely different. You are kept on your toes at all times as when you’ve just gunned down some opposing soldier, you can get munched on by a zombie and become infected, eventually causing you to snack on your former teammates’ flesh.

Play as classic characters in Heroes mode.

Sadly I must bring up the fact that some of the same issues in the campaign have crept in here too. Again it’s far too difficult to kill people when they’re absorbing bullets like the T-1000. Granted, we don’t want Call of Duty’s almost instant kills, but it just wasn’t as fun as it could be. I’m sure with some balancing, versus gameplay could be much improved and I hope it will be addressed post launch. And although the monsters don’t present themselves as prominently as in the campaign, you still witness the dodgy AI.

Despite standing on its own legs in terms of overall looks and design (but you can’t give Slant Six too much credit for this, after all they’ve just borrowed the Resident Evil paintbrush from Capcom), the comparisons to Left 4 Dead can’t be ignored. A band of four humans taking on zombies with special zombies thrown into the mix. Fortunately the game looks and plays differently enough not to be considered an inferior Left 4 Dead wannabe and I’ll give Slant Six an A for effort, especially for their unique three-way multiplayer. Despite the different genre, they haven’t simply re-skinned some generic game as a lot of thought has gone into this and I do feel that they have been successful in using the Resident Evil license. Unfortunately the game is an inferior product across the board and when it comes to 4-player co-op zombie slaying, with Valve have left Slant Six Games for dead.

5/10

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is out on 23 March 2012 on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and on PC on the 18 May 2012. You can buy the game from our online store.

 

Author: Martyn Newton

Overlord of PopBucket and a gamer from a very young age with earliest memories including Theme Park, Detroit (look it up), Sim City, Championship Manager 2, The Lion King and Command & Conquer.

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