Take one of the most successful horror franchises in the video game world and hand it off to a tactical military game developer and throw in more than enough mediocrity and you have Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. Filled with many great concepts and carried out with good intentions Raccoon City just falls short of being a worthy addition to the Resident Evil franchise. The idea of playing as soldiers trapped in Raccoon City during the T-Virus outbreak is one of the best ideas I have ever heard of for a Resident Evil game. The best part about Raccoon City is that it takes the series back to the beginning and its golden days by taking place during the timeline of the best two games in the franchise.
Raccoon City is easily the best setting for any Resident Evil game and when they put that name right in the title it is hard to imagine how it could possibly go wrong but this is a zombie shooter that hardly relates to anyone. As a hardcore Resident Evil fan I found a few things to latch onto with this game but as a gamer and decent human being I generally felt the fun sucked out of my soul more and more as I continued to play. A squad based multiplayer shooter taking place in the best part of the Resident Evil franchise sounds like a dead ringer for success but only disappoints in the worst possible ways.
The story takes place during the events of Resident Evil 2 and Nemesis and is a sort of alternate take on what happened in Raccoon City. You will see multiple characters from those two titles and will be around for some of the big events but don’t really make any real impact to the overall story. You play as an Umbrella Special Forces unit sent in to clean up the mess of the company. Along the way you run into military soldiers that try to stop you and of course lots and lots of zombies. One thing I will say about Operation Raccoon City is that it does have some great zombie killing and there are plenty here to shoot. One thing that really brings the game down however is that every time you play any of the missions there is never any variety. Every mission is the same every time so you never feel challenged if you are replaying the game because you already know what is going to happen.
This game could have benefitted from a little more variety in enemy placement and combat. One thing to note about this game is that the campaign is extremely short and feels like it has no impact but overall this feels like a multiplayer focused game. There are a few different multiplayer modes and not all of them are that bad. The standard team deathmatch mode is actually pretty fun but the other multiplayer options just feel poorly planned out and tacked on. There is a survival mode which just pits you against zombies and other players until a helicopter arrives and then you have to race to be one of the people to get onboard before it’s full. One thing I wished for was a straight up wave based survival mode but I was left disappointed. The hero and villain mode is interesting where two teams comprised of different heroes and villains from the series battle it out in a deathmatch style level. When a main character dies you are then switched to one of the original characters from the campaign. It honestly just feels like a way to cram more named characters from the franchise into the game and isn’t as fun as the normal team deathmatch.
Operation Raccoon City feels like a standard first person shooter. When you pick it up you will instinctively know how to aim, shoot, and reload however it does have some strange control choices. Switching weapons is done with the L2 button which feels odd and can cause confusion if you are in a mess of a situation. With how similar the controls feel to most other games some of the differences can leave you mixed up especially if you are someone who likes to switch between a lot of different games, you may find yourself accidently throwing grenades or using switching weapons when you don’t mean to. There is a melee system that just feels stiff and pointless.
You can use zombies as a human shield that doesn’t seem to help or you can sit there stabbing them for minutes before they finally go down. When fighting other humans it takes even longer to melee them to death and it is just best to avoid the close confrontations. Herbs and healing items are a returning element from previous Resident Evil games. You can pick up health and anti-viral sprays that are tied to the D-Pad and there are also green herbs that are an instant heal when you pick them up in the environment. There are multiple types of grenades in the game that you can also cycle through using the D-Pad. The game features a cover system but it is not tied to any button and is activated when you automatically walk towards a wall or low object. This is easily the worst idea ever as it more often than not just gets in the way of the game. Not only is the cover system rather useless to begin with, you are constantly jumping behind cover when you don’t mean to and it just becomes irritating.
While the game has competent shooting the damage detection for enemies is just plain awful. Even when your dot sight is on a zombies head it may kill them in one hit or it may not. This can make the game extremely frustrating when you are fighting the stronger enemies and you are unloading full clips into them and it’s not taking them down. One interesting feature is the fact that all of the squad members can be turned into zombies. If you get infected and don’t have an anti-viral spray you will become a zombie and run around trying to kill your team mates unless they kill you first and then revive you. This brings up another big problem I had with the game. There is no consequence for your squad mates dying. I saw one of my team members become a zombie and get face stomped and I just picked him back up. It would have been way better if that when they become a zombie and died they were done for that mission.
The look and atmosphere of the game is actually pretty great. The level design feels perfect for a zombie game of this mold. In fact the levels and music were the best part of the game which is unfortunate. Traveling through the destroyed Raccoon City is actually maneuvered quite well and you really get the sense that you are in an apocalyptic setting. You visit some of the famous locations from the game and they look great but all of them are underused. Playing Resident Evil 2 everyone spends hours in the police station, here you are there for a whole two to three minutes. There are also great looking cutscenes in the game which actually provide decent action scenes and some alternate views of some of the series notable moments.
This is a game that is almost required to play with friends to get the most out of it. I played through the whole campaign solo and with co-op and there is a noticeable difference in how much fun you will have (playing solo would mean slim to no fun.) The competitive multiplayer really isn’t that bad and can add a little more to the lifespan of the game. All of the characters have their own special abilities that you can level up and there are multiple load outs of weapons you can unlock but these basic upgrade abilities barely add any more reason to replay the game. There is just no replay value here unless you really get hooked into the multiplayer but it isn’t likely to grab many people. Hardcore Resident Evil fans may find some interest here as the game does pull from the Resident Evil mythos and monster options very well but it isn’t really worth looking into for those reasons. Filled with generic character stereotypes and poor voice acting this is a game that when you have finished the very short campaign you can very well set aside and never touch again.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is an unfortunate addition to an otherwise great franchise. With this being the second of three Resident Evil games coming out this year it would probably be best to just skip this one entirely unless you are a diehard fan who wants to see every game in the series. This title had a lot of great potential but falls flat on almost every part of its delivery and while it may not do everything wrong what it does right is hardly enough to save this alternate take on a great franchise.