Dev: Slant Six
Resident Evil Raccoon City Reviewed
Resident Evil isn’t the game series it once was. What started out as slow paced horror has ratcheted up to cater for a more action hungry audience. It’s no bad thing, and I don’t think any of the series’ identity has been lost in the process. That was before Capcom decided to outsource this title, Operation Raccoon City, to Canada based developer Slant Six Games.
On paper, there’s nothing wrong with what Slant Six has set out to do. The game takes place in an alternative timeline and slots a new story into the events that took place in Resident Evil 2 and 3. In a fun twist, you play as a member of the Umbrella Security Service (U.S.S.), which is basically a hit squad tasked with wiping out all evidence of Umbrella’s involvement with the T-Virus outbreak which has turned virtually everyone into a zombie and left Raccoon City in ruins.
It’s a cool setup but the campaign mode, running short at barely four hours, doesn’t do much with the material. During the six core missions you’ll bump into characters like Nicholai Zinoviev and Leon Kennedy. You’ll also face off against zombies and other recognisable monsters from the Resident Evil universe. But many of these character encounters end with them simply doing a disappearing act and the set piece encounters with big beasties are pretty much all underwhelming.
On the story side of things, worse still are the original characters thought up for this expedition into Hell. The U.S.S. team couldn’t be more uninspired. They’re all typically black-leather clad, gas mask wearing, militant hard-asses. That goes for the male and female members of the group. Their dialogue is trite, their interactions are boring and despite cool looking designs on a few of them, they’re just so forgettable. I can’t even remember their names.
Another huge stumbling block is the control scheme and feel of the action in general. This game, at its least manic, is still very busy. You’ll regularly find yourselves in the middle of fights between zombies, the military, and various B.O.W. creatures and the engine can throw a large number of these at you. So why is it so hard to pick up weapons, ammo and various other gadgets that make the game playable? I’d find myself having to reposition over items constantly because there simply isn’t enough leeway on item collection.
The weapons themselves lack punch and whilst they do tend to shred zombies to pieces, with satisfyingly gory results, it just looks and feels totally wrong to see enemy soldiers absorb entire clips of gunfire without flinching. There’s a melee attack system which feels impractical and puts you into situations where you’re completely stuck and can’t fight your way out. If a teammate gets knocked down, you can pull them back up but can’t position yourself properly to receive the prompt to do so. Grenades are impossible to judge. The game feels sloppy all the time.
Worst of all, enjoying Operation Raccoon City is next to impossible if you play it alone. The game features some of the most inept artificial intelligence I have ever seen. I lost count of the number of times I watched allies run directly into trip mines only to burn to death. If one is knocked down they won’t ever revive each other. They regularly get in your line of sight and you can’t shoot through them. They have a death wish and their only use in any combat situation is that of a walking target; something to take the heat off of you for a few moments.
Luckily, the game is designed to be played with other people and when you’re in the muck with three others it’s actually sort of fun and gives off a real “Left 4 Dead” vibe. The campaign may be short but it’s designed to be played repeatedly, on multiple difficulties, with different characters, abilities and weapons. It won’t change the fact that the game is sloppily executed in nearly all areas but it does make the thing playable.
Complimenting the campaign is a raft of multiplayer modes and Operation Raccoon City shines here, even if it’s not that brightly. Multiplayer is team based and the maps are also full of zombies that hamper both sides. I think the highlight is a mode called “Survival” in which two teams of four battles each other for control of an extraction point. If you die your respawn timer increases, the idea being that you don’t want to be out of the fight for long when the chopper arrives. By the same token, you’re encouraged to fight and kill the opposing team so that their respawns timer gives you a better chance of escaping. This is just one of a handful of modes and online performance holds up well.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon city is a game that isn’t entirely short on ideas but fails to realize any of them particularly well. There is a distinct lack of finesse to the whole experience and, unfortunately, it will be remembered as a low point for the series. It’s one of the worst Resident Evil titles we’ve had and, when you see what Capcom looks set to achieve with the sixth game, and what was recently achieved with the 3DS outing, it only exemplifies just how shambling this entry really is.