The year is 1998 and the proverbial is about to go down in Raccoon City, but not as fans know it.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City sees the player returning to the unlucky city around the events of Resident Evil 2 and 3, this time from the perspective of the nefarious Umbrella Corporation’s Security Service.
Desperate contingency measures are in progress to ensure one William Birkin doesn’t succeed in trading his “perfect” G-virus to the U.S. Government. Of course, it all goes awry, and as a member of a four-person squad, the player descends into the chaos via a first/third-person over-the-shoulder perspective in the franchise’s first outing as a squad-based shooter.
Armed according to each squad member’s speciality, players can choose their character from the traditional domains of assault, explosive expert, medic or stealth. Over the course of seven reasonably long missions, they’ll be fending off hordes of Bio Organic Weapons (BOWs), rival special forces squads, and zombies. And, of course, there’ll be a few familiar faces to mess with along the way.
What’s immediately noticeable about Raccoon City is that it’s a cover shooter, in the sense that refuge can be taken simply by running up against flat surfaces. When this magnetism works, it works fine, but transitioning from point to point across rooms is unnecessarily complicated by not being able to launch over small crates or walls. Having to peel away from every flat surface in the midst of enemy swarms isn’t much joy either. Mass Effect, or Ghost Recon, this ‘aint.
In accordance with the foray into tactical shooting, the inventory system of past Resident Evil games has been replaced with a quick selection for primary and secondary weapons used through the gamepad. The left trigger gives the player a first-person view, though it’s to little avail as the aiming in Raccoon City seems rather amiss. Granted BOWs and zombies are a little more resistant to high-calibre weaponry than your average Joe, but rival Special Forces operatives shouldn’t be able to take two to the head and get back up again. There’s a certain nervous joy about having to watch your ammo count in the horror genre, but not when the bar is artificially raised by stupidity.
Raccoon City is also plagued with a few glitches of the non-genetically engineered variety. Sometimes enemies or the player will get stuck in one spot, unable to be moved or killed. It doesn’t happen often, but the game has also been known to run out of memory at certain points, giving all the textures an eerie blue glow. It may not be the first game to suffer from these issues, but they serve only to further highlight its flaws. Other than that, the textures and environments in this title are all suitably grim. Indeed, if all of Umbrella’s laboratories are that dark it’s no surprise that workplace accidents are so common.
That said, Raccoon City is a lot more enjoyable as a multiplayer title. Singleplayer is a slightly lacklustre affair, in no small part due to the AI. Frequently fellow squad members seem genuinely confused as to where enemy fire is coming from, and while there’s often time during a mid-zombie grapple to stop and revive a fallen comrade, the squad’s designated medic seems unwilling, or unable to reciprocate when she’s needed the most. Reviving squad mates pays off however, as the experience gained in reward is used to purchase and upgrade weapons and gear, such anti-virus sprays that stave off impeding zombie-hood.
Online squad mates are generally more reliable, and more aware of environmental hazards like trip mines, which is helpful. There are four different modes to play around with in addition to Nemesis, which is exclusive to 360. As a King of the Hill variant, Nemesis is traditional deathmatch with the opportunity to take control of a Nemesis BOW and use it to gory effect against rivals. While Team Attack and Biohazard represent team deathmatch and capture the flag under new names, Heroes mode is simply team deathmatch with the opportunity to reprise a few memories by playing as famous faces such as Jill Valentine and Ada Wong.
Survivor mode is akin to Horde mode in Gears of War, players face off against waves of enemies until the rescue helicopter arrives, at which point the lack of extra seats forces the rival squads against each other.
As a spin-off concept, a tactical shooter set in the Resident Evil universe sounds great. Overdue, even. Unfortunately, the reality doesn’t quite live up to lofty expectations. There’s a fair amount of entertainment to be had in the multiplayer modes, especially in Survivor, and fans of the franchise will appreciate the nostalgic reliving of Resident Evil 2 and 3 – alongside the opportunity to meet and play as a few famous faces along the way – but overall the game feels a little undercooked.
It’s a shame because Raccoon City is not entirely unpalatable, most of its flaws seem as though they could have been ironed out, but it’s doubtful whether it can seriously compete on its own merits with comparable titles currently on offer.