Resident Evil has a special place in my heart. I think it does for everyone who vividly recalls the impact the original title had on the gaming world. But when a game comes along that barely reminds us of the iconic franchise, and remains little more than a flawed, generic squad shooter with a few minor thrills and chills…well, we get disappointed fast. The bottom line is that unless you play Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City with friends, you’re not going to be happy.
And even then, I can’t guarantee you’ll enjoy the multiplayer experience. But let’s start at the beginning, with the visual presentation that exemplifies the term “mediocre.” There’s nothing egregiously bad (besides some obvious anti-aliasing and other technical issues that we should’ve left in the past), but there’s nothing especially impressive, either. The maps all sort of blend together and despite some decent enemy design, animations are lacking and special effects are barely average. All in all, not exactly an eye-opening adventure.
The sound isn’t any better, as the voices range between poor and merely okay and the soundtrack is repetitive and uninteresting. The effects also occupy that same “boring tier” by being only mildly effective. The weapon fire is especially disappointing, as most all firearms lack that satisfying crispness; these guns just sound dull…a fitting adjective for the entire game, really. The technical presentation leaves a lot to be desired although I suppose there’s nothing critically wrong with either the graphics or audio. It’s just really bland.
One of the reasons I was interested in Operation Raccoon City is the intriguing story concept. In the past, players have always battled against the evil Umbrella Corporation but in this game, you play as an Umbrella operative. That alone has plenty of potential and would allow fans to see the flip side of multiple familiar situations. But instead of taking advantage of the opportunity, we just get a bunch of faceless characters and a predictable plot that involves a leaked virus and Umbrella setting out to silence any survivors and anyone else who gets in their way.
Franchise buffs should know the story takes place between Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis , so you might see a plot line you recognize. Leon Kennedy even makes an appearance, and you actually have a little control over Leon’s fate, too. But beyond that…I mean, who cares? There are six distinct character classes, each with their own unique abilities. As you play, you’ll earn experience that can be used to purchase new weapons and of course, it’s best to spend wisely.
The other potentially cool part about this whole situation is that Umbrella is basically independent; it’s a company that does things for its own reasons. Therefore, your enemies aren’t only the mutated freaks (and survivors that will turn into mutated freaks), but also the US Army. However, I’m still not entirely clear why . I think I get it but even if you were trying to cover your own ass, why make an enemy of the army? Don’t you have essentially the same basic goal? Kill anything that might kill others? I was always hazy on this story aspect.
But let’s leave the story and lame-o presentation behind. The gameplay itself isn’t terrible but it just reeks of – I’ll say it again – mediocrity. There aren’t enough animations so the movements of both your allies and foes appear plastic and robotic, and the repetitive, uninspired map design takes you right out of the experience. The AI is erratic, as your allies aren’t too bad (they’re quick with the First Aid Spray, usually), but your enemies are just plain stupid. Even when they’re in cover, you can still hit them, and most times, they’ll just stand around waiting to die.
The more aggressive, non-human opponents are more of a challenge, but that’s when the clunky controls get in the way. Although there are no tank controls with which to contend ( that would’ve been disastrous in a fast-paced squad-based shooter), you still aren’t agile enough. It takes too long to get up and run if something is chasing you, and although the camera typically keeps up, I really don’t like the little momentum tweak. It’s when you go to move the camera and it starts a little slow but the longer you hold it down, the faster it goes.
Plus, the cover mechanic, obviously designed to be more streamlined than other shooters, just doesn’t work right. There is no cover button; you just run up to an obstacle or barrier and the character is supposed to automatically duck behind it. Well, this doesn’t always work, as there were multiple times when I had to press against the obstacle more than once. Furthermore, the CQC (Close Quarters Combat…did they steal that from MGS?) is slow and quite unsatisfying.
Obviously, this game was created almost for the express purpose of multiplayer. That annoys me, even if the multiplayer is great. But the multiplayer is not great; it’s merely okay. It’s certainly better than the boring, frustrating 6-hour campaign, though, so as I suggested in the intro, make sure you’ve got some willing friends. There’s Heroes Mode, where the designated Hero must survive against a swarm of zombies and human enemies. Once he’s down, he becomes one of the attackers and goes after the next “Hero.”
Team battle features two four-player teams fighting each other and monsters; the first team to reach a certain kill total wins. Lastly, there’s Survivor, which also boasts two four-player teams, but this time, your goal is to get the hell out of Dodge: A helicopter is waiting and the first team to make it wins. Now, these all sound significantly different from each other, but they’re really not. They can be very entertaining – I don’t want to imply that no fun can be had – but it all just boils down to generic third-person shooting, which wears thin fast.
There’s some strategy involved but not enough to really make you think, and there’s no denying the other problems, which of course don’t disappear in multiplayer. But at least you can play with humans, which are way better than the AI the game provides, and in each mode, there’s always something happening. There’s never a shortage of action and that might be good enough for some multiplayer aficionados. The controls are functional, and you don’t have to worry about characters you really don’t care about and a few irritating monster encounters.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is just blain boring to me. There’s nothing here I want to return to. The game can be fun with other people, there are a few patented Resident Evil scares, and the controls work fine (provided you’re willing to put up with some clunkiness). But everything else about it is really…I dunno, “meh.” I don’t know about you, but I like to be enthusiastic, even excited about my games and unfortunately, this one didn’t invoke any such feelings.
The Good: Interesting take on the classic RE story. Control is decent. Ally AI isn’t too bad. Multiplayer can be fun.
The Bad: Boring, uninspired presentation. Lackluster technical elements. Devs don’t take advantage of the story twist. Can feel clunky and slow. Online modes seem too similar. Campaign is just a waste of time.
The Ugly: “…why does everything I do, offline or online, fall under the category, ‘walk around and shoot stuff?’”