“Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City” is one of those games that has a great concept, but fails to live up to its potential. The fellas over at Slant Six (developers of PSP “SOCOM” games) have delivered an action title that merges the multiplayer gameplay of “Left 4 Dead” with the third-person mechanics of “Gears of War”. The fact that it is a side story set during the events of “Resident Evil 2″ makes it a rather interesting experiment. However, it is nowhere as good as any of the “Gears” or “Left 4 Dead” entries, and feels rather generic at times. That being said, as a casual fan of the RE series, I sort of liked it.
One of the exciting aspects of ORC is its premise. In it, a Black Ops-like team of Umbrella (evil corporation) operatives are sent into the hot zone of a viral outbreak. Thier assignment is to dispose any evidence that would link the company to the catostrophe. Designs for each of the highly-skilled soldiers that make up the group are extremely stylistic. Visually, they reminded me of the antagonists found in the “Metal Gear Solid” and “Killzone” games. And while “Raccoon City” contains contemporary action designs, it is also very retro. So if you’re a fan of 1998′s “Resident Evil 2″, then you’ll delight in seeing many of that game’s classic villians return. Some of the sound-effects and overall look of RE 2 are also replicated in this latest entry. But the biggest criticism of the game is that it lacks the classic gameplay of “Resident Evil”.
The first three RE games were strictly survival horror titles. They were slow-paced games that placed an emphasis on exploration and puzzle solving. In order to win, you’d have to conserve ammo and use your wits during tricky situations. “Operation Raccoon City” is the exact opposite; it is an arcade-like action game. Your main goal is to point and shoot at any opposing threat. The campaign’s levels are fairly linear as you travel from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ while fighting all sorts of zombies and icky creatures. There’s a large variety of firearms to use(seven weapon classes in all) and each character’s unique abilities can be upgraded as you gain experience points. But while aiming feels nice and tight, some of the design decisions are just oddly pointless. For instance, due to the limited ammo you’re solider carries, you constantly need to find ammo crates scattered across the map. And while your teammates can be turned into zombies, they’ll respawn as good as you new as soon as you kill them. Also, there are too many firefights with enemy soliders. This is a “Resident Evil” game, yet there are times when I felt like I was playing Slant Six’s latest “SOCOM” title.
Despite its missteps, the campaign can be fun when playing with three other people online. At the end of the game’s seven levels, you’ll be ranked with a performance evalution that results in a grade. The better the grade, the more points you earn. And as you progress, you’ll unlock additional weapons, artwork and tactical abilities. The group of soldiers consist of Lupo (team leader), Bertha (medic), Beltway (demolitions expert), Vector (recon operative), Four Eyes (scientist) and Spectre (marksman). Each of their various special abilities (Bertha can heal teammates, Beltway plants bombs, etc.) adds a little variety to the game’s chaotic nature. But the Versus modes aren’t as exciting as I hoped for. Team Battle is basically Team Deathmatch in which a team wins by earning a pre-set number of kills. Biohazard plays like Capture the Flag; teams win by being the first to find and store four samples. In Survivor, your team must scramble to find a chopper’s position to escape the hotzone. And in Heroes mode, you are given the task to eliminate four good guys from the “Resident Evil” universe. The first team to do so wins. Zombies and creatures featured in the campaign are also present in the Versus modes.
“Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City” isn’ t the high point in the series. It’s far from it. This is a game that has received mainly negative reviews due to lackluster A.I., bugs and less than exciting gameplay. However, if you’re like me, you’ll probably won’t nitpick too much. The game has a great premise, looks great and is good fun when you’re playing online with others. It may not have the finesse of “Left 4 Dead” or “Gears of War”, but if you like the “Resident Evil” universe and team-based action games, then it’s worth a look. I’ll give it 3 stars out of 5.