Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City Review

Capcom has been trying to shoehorn multiplayer into the Resident Evil franchise for a decade. It started with the overly ambitious Outbreak games, which had tech demands beyond what the PlayStation 2 could muster. Resident Evil 5 shackled players with an AI dope who could also become a partner when playing cooperative multiplayer, but its use of online play in the “Mercenaries” minigame was the first real inkling of an effective multiplayer mode. Just recently, the 3DS had some excellent multiplayer minigames as well, but the series has never successfully let gamers join a group of fellow zombie killers for a lengthy cooperative campaign in the Resident Evil universe until Operation Raccoon City.

ORC tries to blend the new with the old: slick, tactical, team-based combat from the SOCOM developer combined with classic Resident Evil settings and enemies. It’s even set in the same time and place that Resident Evil 2 and 3 took place, and this is clearly an attempt to inspire some nostalgia in hardcore fans.

I fall into the category of “long-time Resident Evil fan,” and played through RE 2 and 3 avidly, well over a decade ago. Yet I didn’t feel any sort of fondness when I found myself seeing familiar faces like Hunk, Ada, Leon, and Claire. It’s been so long since I first explored Raccoon City that I only had a mild reaction of “Hey it’s that gun shop,” or “I remember that typewriter.” The vaguely familiar locations just weren’t enough to elicit the emotional response that I assume the developers were looking for.

Given that Resident Evil 2 came out fourteen years ago, many players will have to judge ORC based solely on its own merits. As a single-player experience, it’s downright awful.  As a squad-based game, matters edge towards enjoyment. Players can choose one of six agents of the evil Umbrella Corporation. The computer will then take control of three other agents to join the assault on not only zombie monsters, but also government Spec Op agents who are out to bring down Umbrella.

While this is a great idea for a game, execution is lacking. Put simply, the AI is as dumb as a bucket of wet socks.

Players have three nearby idiots who will draw the enemy’s fire. The zombies are… well, they’re zombies, so don’t expect much from them tactically, however the human opponents aren’t too bright either. There’s a cover system, and the Spec Ops enemies will usually take cover to fire, but they often end up wandering around the battlefield.

As if to compensate for the bad AI, all of the enemies are extremely bullet-resistant. There’s a system of weak spots, namely headshots, but remember how, in Resident Evil 2, players would have to empty a clip from your handgun to kill a Licker? Now they’ll need to empty two magazines from an assault rifle to make a dent. Ordinary zombies are resilient too, and even the humans can take a couple of bullets to the head without going down. This hits a farcical extreme during boss encounters.

The characters do become somewhat deadlier as the game progresses; there’s an experience system, and each of the six specialists has their own set of abilities that can be leveled up. These powers range from passive perks that increase reload time or enhance damage resistance to some fancy powers like incendiary bullets or the ability to control zombies. Experience points can also be cashed in to buy better guns.

Players can (and damn well should) play the entire campaign in multiplayer mode. It has a drop-in drop-out mechanic that helps with the terrible AI. The drawback is that only one person can play each character, so players might find that the character they’ve been leveling up has already been taken, forcing them to play as someone else who might not be leveled up.

When actual human minds are controlling the characters, it’s easy to concentrate fire on weak spots, flank enemies, and deploy special powers in a way that makes the game actually fun. Hunters still remain standing after a couple hundred rounds, but with everyone working together it’s much less frustrating.

Aside from the co-op campaign, there’s a Versus Mode, which is the most enjoyable feature of the game. Here, two teams of players face off against each other in what is much like any other head-to-head shooter, but the battlefield is full of monsters out to kill anyone on either side. The typical competitive killing takes on a different flavor when you can just mind your own business and wait for your enemy to get swarmed by zombies, then open fire for an easy kill.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is an acceptable co-op shooter, but plan on playing it exclusively as an online experience. Fans looking to relive the old days of Resident Evil 2 should just pop their dusty disks in their dusty consoles for another trip to the RPD Police Station. Nostalgia is not to be found here; neither is noteworthy squad-based shooting.


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Author: Charles Battersby View all posts by
Charles is a proud contributor to the 'Node and also writes for Player Affinity, Default Prime, The Indie Game Magazine, and is a Special Agent for the U.S. Department of Electronic Entertainment.

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