Resident Evil Operation Raccoon City or REORC, takes a successful franchise and changes up the gameplay to suit a more action slanted audience. All the elements from the franchise remain intact such as familiar faces from the Resident Evil series, the trademark zombies and a few surprises thrown in for good measure. It’s a bit of a risk for Capcom because on one hand fans may enjoy the change of pace with all things familiar; on the other hand, fans might not like the misdirection the game presents. Ultimately, if you’re a gamer looking for an action game that features a heavy slant towards online play, the REORC has all the ingredients you’re looking for.
The game comprises of a solo offering where you get to fight through 7 levels of varying difficulty , with the crux of the matter being that each level is based around events as seen in Resident Evil 2 and 3. So for example, the opening mission has your team of umbrella operatives head into the labs where scientist William Birkin injects himself with the T-virus he’s developed for sale to the highest bidder – following on from an attempt to snag the virus samples for your superiors. If you’re familiar with the Resident Evil 2 story then you’ll know right away that this event is the catalyst which causes the mass viral outbreak in the game’s fictitious setting of Raccoon City.
It’s a neat way of telling a familiar story from a new perspective, and whilst it might not wholly be cannon, serves as a huge slice of fan service for those gamers who enjoyed Resident Evil 2 in 1994. There’s little back story on your squad, and a bit of knowledge of Resident Evil 2 and 3 goes a long way. That said, the lack of details simply suggests a no-nonsense approach allowing you to carry out your objectives without too much head scratching and meaningless drivel to bog you down. In some ways, this lack of characterization is a good thing.
Playing as the bad guys, you get to choose from a handful of operatives at the start of the campaign, or if you feel like changing things up, can simply replay any level with a character of your choice. Each of the six operatives have their own skill sets based on a class system, and are designed to compliment each other when playing as a team. This factor doesn’t really make an impact when playing with the AI but does work when playing online with humans. As you complete levels, you are awarded XP which can be spent on buying better guns, or levelling up a character’s abilities.
The gameplay is basically a third person cover shooter where rather than just let you tear up various zombie forms has you enter a triple threat environment where you’ll face off against human opponents (who are armed with conventional weapons), but also zombies and other creatures from the series who’ll not only attack your team, but the opposition as well. It makes for some interesting dynamics especially as certain weapons can cause opponents to bleed which in turn attracts more zombies towards them and adds a tactical slant to proceedings.
As much as the game’s concept is pretty sound and highly appealing to Resident Evil fans, the execution is little to be desired and in many cases is a bit of a mess. As a result, the technical issues mar what could have been a reasonably solid game. There are numerous issues with the basic gameplay such as very poor hit detection when shooting. An over reactive reticule that’s more suited to a simulation rather than an arcade style game. The cover system is flawed in that, sometimes your character will stick to an invisible surface when moving left or right from within cover out of it. Other times, your character will refuse to pop out and shoot from cover. There are also niggles with the design where characters cannot mantle over low objects or drop down from very low ledges, making for a frustrating experience. Combine these with a number of glitches such as zombies being rendered within view of the player – which looks terrible – and it points to a game which seemingly has not been properly bug tested and is a bit unpolished.
Probably the biggest issue with the single player game is the team AI which is laughable at best. The AI constantly stands in your line of fire and blocks your shots, walks into trip mines, and has very low intelligence with regards to shooting targets . With a squad command interface, these issues could have been prevented, yet there are no such controls granted as the team do as they please. It’s a weak part of the game’s design which seems to have been given low priority. On one hand it’s fair enough solo players can at least play with AI, but when it’s this broken it does leave a sour taste in the mouth especially when games like Mass Effect 3 nail the squad element. As a result, players have to make the best of a bad situation and live with the shortcoming.
REORC is obviously been designed for four player online play where humans fair much better than the AI. In this instance, players who all use mics and communicate are going to get a more rewarding experience from the package. Aside from the single player campaign, there are also various modes for four on four versus play, including the fantasy Heroes mode where some familiar faces from the series are thrown into the mix. The multiplayer has some revised ideas on classic themes and generally work pretty well, although some of the map designs are bit too open leading to an empty rather than tight feeling.
Probably the most interesting mode is the Survivor game type where players survive for a set time, and then attempt to grab one of four seats on the rescue helicopter that lands. With eight players vying for just four seats, it becomes a mad dash to see who can get the seats first. In general the online play is a lot more fun than playing solo and as the game is new there are plenty of players to play with – although that said, some random disconnects do occur for whatever reasons, so be wary.
REORC looks pretty neat and has some excellent locations on offer, from the famous Umbrella labs to a misty park and the derelict Raccoon city streets. There’s some pleasant lighting and graphical touches throughout the game but the biggest thrill is revisiting some of the familiar locations from the past Resident Evil games. The character models are well rendered and animate pretty smoothly, however, sadly there are some frame rate issues in the more open and populated areas, and again, like the other negatives lets the game down further. Some of the details up close are very old school looking, and at times the game does look a bit dated.
The audio is a bit flat and whilst there’s some tense themes when required, the general music layer is rather forgettable. The voice acting does what it sets out to do, but generally there’s nothing stand out rather than the moans of zombies and the constant sound of gunfire.
For solo players, the replay value is as high as you make it, and with several difficulties to play with means that you can keep coming back for more if you so choose to level up and hunt for hidden collectibles to improve your score. There are leaderboards which can be accessed if connected online and some records for your perusal to see how you’ve spent your play time. Sadly there’s nothing more for the lone player, with no extra modes, costume unlockables or anything once the campaign is beaten – all the additional play time is suited to online multiplayer. It’s sad that solo players have to purchase new costumes rather than unlock them, as this would have befitted the traditions of the series. It seems Capcom have simply ignored this fact and would rather fleece fans with downloadable paid for extras.
Resident Evil Operation Raccoon City is a game which feels like a wasted opportunity. Whilst there are the remnants of a solid game here, the poor execution simply lets the game down. If you can ignore the many plaguing gameplay issues, then sure, you’ll have some fun here, but it’s perhaps inexcusable that developer Slant Six can feel like it’s ok to release a game in such a broken and unpolished state which is a shame for such a highly prolific franchise. It almost feels like they have done the bare basics of which Capcom have been quite content with – either that, or the project ran out of budget.
If you’re a fan of Resident Evil, then this is perhaps a must have game to check out, either via purchase or rental. For anyone else, there are much better shooters out there, which means this cannot be fully recommended as it sits on borderline average. If Slant Six had produced a better game, then the recommendations would be flowing, as it stands, only the die hard fans are going to lap this game up and ignore its many shortcomings, the question is, how much of a fan are you?