Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City

Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360

When I first heard about Operation Raccoon City last year, I was pumped. Playing as Umbrella in the aftermath of the Raccoon City outbreak and fighting the heroes I’ve played as sounded like an awesome concept.

Unfortunately, what sounded cool in concept has fallen flat in execution.

I really wanted to like this game. And I did, at first. But ORC very quickly falls into a monotonous rut that it never really gets out of and becomes the one thing a video game shouldn’t: boring.

The story (and there’s really not much of one) is simple: you play as a member of the Umbrella Security Service’s Delta Team, codenamed “Wolfpack” who are dispatched in the wake of Resident Evil 2’s Raccoon City T-virus outbreak. You’ll start in the Umbrella Lab where William Birkin is attempting to take the G-Virus and sell it to the military. Following HUNK, Wolfpack travels through the lab and ends up in a confrontation with the mutated Birkin. After being chased throughout the facility, HUNK pushes you out the door and you move on. Odd. After that, the story structure completely collapses. The team’s goal is usually to kill survivors, destroy evidence of Umbrella’s involvement, etc. For the most part, the missions make sense and were exactly what I expected to do as a cleanup crew. However, very quickly you’ll realize that’s pretty much all you’re doing. The six team members all have different specialties, such as Beltway (Demolition), Bertha (Medic) or the guy I stuck with, Vector (Reconnaissance); however, there’s no camaraderie between teammates, no back stories save for the paragraph in the character selection screen. You’re quite literally going from place to place in order to help Umbrella. Some people might not have a problem with that; I do. I expected more narration from a game with the Resident Evil brand. Are these characters so indoctrinated by Umbrella that they honestly don’t have a problem gunning down U.S. military forces? I guess I shouldn’t have said one of their goals was to kill survivors; you won’t see anyone alive aside from your team and the military. I realize it’s a city-wide outbreak, but surely other people have survived. Why not have the U.S.S. encounter a refuge of survivors and let the player choose whether to spare them or kill them? Umbrella doesn’t seem to have a problem leaving Wolfpack out to dry, so why should Wolfpack care if they completely follow orders? It doesn’t make sense. The ending is just as terrible. Without spoiling anything, there is an instance of morality that could have been really well done; instead, if fails miserably and the choice is made without any reason. Well, I shouldn’t say that; the audio in my final cut scene didn’t work, despite my reloading it over and over again. So I basically don’t know what happens. There aren’t any credits to signify you’re done, you simply return to the character selection screen with the very first mission reloaded and ready to go.

Right from the get-go, you can tell the game was designed for multiplayer co-op. The pre-game lobby allows you to choose your character (and what characters the A.I. will play as) and even has a countdown before launching the game. I realize you want people to play the game together, but it’s clear developer Slant Six Games gave the multiplayer more thought than the single-player.

Usually I stay clear from multiplayer games. I don’t have the need to compete with other players. Co-op games are usually the farthest I’ll go and only if the game is worth it. In ORC, multiplayer is almost a necessity and not in a good way. The A.I. that governs your team offline is downright broken. More than once I had characters stuck in the environment, shooting at walls, or simply standing still and not doing anything. Not to mention the fact that they’ll charge into any situation and die needlessly, waiting for you to revive them. Online, all players are needed to advance to the next area. Offline, you can run through and open the door or push the switch allowing you into the next area and have your team magically spawn beside you, healed and ready to go.

ORC is a third-person shooter with a cover system, a radical departure from traditional Resident Evil games. A red flag went up in my mind when I read it was a “snap-to” cover system without a button press. I feared getting snagged on any piece of the environment while just trying to run through. Thankfully, this didn’t happen all too often. In fact, I found I had to force the game to acknowledge I was in a prime cover location. Throughout the campaign, you’ll take on various enemies from zombies to U.S. Special Ops to the various B.O.W.’s that have been unleashed. A neat aspect of gameplay is the infection system. If you or your teammates are swarmed or attacked by zombies, you have a greater chance of becoming infected. If this happens, you need to use an Anti-viral Spray, or succumb and turn into a zombie yourself. It adds a sense of intensity and urgency to keep the undead away from you. I would say “you and your team”, but if they become undead, all you need to do is kill them and revive them. They’ll get up, infection free and ready to go. WTF? Why would I waste my Anti-viral Spray on a squadmate when I can cap him in the head and pick him right back up? Another issue that pops up is ammunition. In an ironic (and I’m sure unintended) similarity with other RE games, you will run out of ammo constantly in this game, resorting to your pistol more often than not. The pistol has a Quick Draw function that occurs by holding either L2 or the Left Trigger. In this mode, the game becomes a stick shooter, with your character firing in the direction the right stick is pushed. It works well enough and can be used when surrounded by zombies, but your pistol is so weak and the auto-targeting won’t go for the head so it becomes almost trivial. The ammo problem might work if this was a survival horror Resident Evil, but this is a cover-based action romp. It’s hit and miss. There are times when you’ll have to resort to your melee attack as both of your weapons are empty, yet other instances when you can stand right beside a giant crate full of ammo and keep refilling yourself over and over. If you swap weapons with a fallen soldier, you’ll get full ammo for that weapon. If he had the assault rifle, and I’m using it, why do I need to pick up his gun? Can’t I just get the ammo for my own? It’s just another head-scratching design choice.

I’ve ripped on this game pretty hard even after telling you I enjoyed it for awhile. When you first get into the fray, the game does look good and play well. Slant Six clearly did their homework when it comes to Resident Evil lore and locations. Even though the story isn’t canon, they still take a lot of Resident Evil 2/3 into consideration and you’ll travel through some familiar places while shooting at familiar faces. My biggest problem is just the execution. There are a ton of great ideas in ORC, but rarely do they come across as anything but contrived and weak. For example, you’ll collect data disks that can be turned into various laptops for XP rewards and concept art, but why can’t I read some of them? I’d love to see different anecdotes from people, as Resident Evil games past have done. I also found out halfway through the game that there are hidden cameras you can destroy for XP bonuses (supposedly to prevent people from knowing Umbrella was involved). That’s great, but no one told me that at the start of the game and I’m not about to trek back to the first mission and start searching. After the third or fourth mission, you’ll start to get bored of all the mindless killing and traveling from point A to B.

The soundtrack is largely forgettable, though the sound effects work well enough (even if I did have a few instances where my gunfire wouldn’t register). You’ll even hear a few familiar ones such as the item pickup noise from RE: 4 & 5. The voice acting is average, although the characters don’t speak much. It’s nice to see that different characters have different accents, as Umbrella is an international corporation; it’s just too bad they don’t say anything worthwhile.

At the end of the day, this is a Resident Evil game in name, characters and “story” only; the gameplay mechanics are completely unfitting and the poor design choices just bog it down even further. If you have three friends that love Resident Evil (or three friends that don’t mind mowing down zombies and running from place to place), convince them to pick up a copy and you might be able to enjoy yourselves. But for lone wolves like myself, you can play far better Resident Evil games (and far better cover shooters) without this boring mess.