There are two important things to note about Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. Firstly, this is not a ‘traditional’ Resident Evil game; remove the setting and the narrative and there’s no way you’d recognise it as Resident Evil at all.
Secondly, do not play solo. This is a full-blown, class based, third-person shooter with an emphasis on co-op, guns and large quantities of enemies. As with virtually all games of this type, playing lone wolf with AI buddies is a pretty flaccid experience punctuated by explosions of incompetence from your virtual squad.
Prepared for a different kind of Resident Evil? Got three friends to play with? If you answered in the affirmative to both questions, then we can continue.
Operation Raccoon City takes place at various points throughout the narrative of Resident Evil 2 and 3 as the T-virus wreaks havoc on the populace, turning do-gooder citizens into the army of darkness. As a member of the top-secret, special forces grade Umbrella Security Service (USS) you’re tasked with ridding Raccoon City of any evidence that could tie the mega-corporation to the incident.
Conversely, a US Spec Ops team has been deployed to the same area to find out exactly what’s going on. So, not only are you forced to deal with the army of Michael-Jackson-turned-Thrillers roaming the metropolis, you’re going to have to take out the boy scouts as well.
This three way battle is the backbone that ties much of Operation Raccoon City’s gameplay together. Zombies are predictably dumb and only pose much of a risk when encountered in groups of 10 or more, because of your four-person squad. Spec Ops are equally dumb thanks to a shoddy AI but their grasp of fundamental ballistics make them a considerably tougher proposition.
One of the most effective tactics in dealing with situations featuring both sides is to play them off against one another, either through patience or aggression. Sometimes you’ll run around a corner to find Specs Ops troops trying to fend off bloody bastards, which (if you’re careful) gives you an opportunity to sit and watch while you pick off the survivors at the end.
Note that if you’re playing with AI companions, that’ll probably never become a viable option because they’ll blindly run into battle whenever they catch sight of a potential fight.
Alternatively, you can influence the fight for your own gain by employing a few USS tricks of the trade. A shot to a non-vital area of a Spec Ops’ body will sometimes cause them to gush blood, attracting zombies like Hasselhof does Germans. Wait for the undead to get their feast started and a well aimed grenade will take the whole group out. Be aware that the same blood gush can affect you too.
A selection of abilities unique to each playable character (six USS members in all) have also been included in a bid to add a bit of extra depth to the slaughter, but they’re fairly lacklustre and often useless when playing the campaign.
Recon expert Vector can cloak himself in opto-camouflage for a short period of time, but being invisible is not much use given there are usually so many enemies to take out. It is possible to sneak around and flank enemies but popping out of camo and finding yourself on your own is a quick way to die. Field Scientist Four Eyes’ abilities revolve around inducing viruses and using chemical zombie attractants.
Medic Bertha can reduce her (or a teammate’s) damage taken or, among other things, cure a zombie infection. Then there’s Demolitions man Beltway with a taste for various kinds of mines, assault-class Lupo who packs fancy ammo types and Surveillance focused Spectre who is good at spotting enemies.
None of them have much of a personality. None of them are visually interesting. None of them make you care for the story.
Further, and as I said, the bulk of their abilities are not that helpful in campaign mode; many of them seem as though they’ve been designed specifically with the multiplayer modes in mind where advanced tactics are required to beat human players.
The impotence of their abilities means your best bet for success is to pick one of the weapon-focused characters and improve your potential to deal damage quickly. Your weapon prowess comes in especially handy when dealing with tougher zombie types such as lickers, hunters and tyrants – the latter of which can take so much damage that you’d be forgiven for thinking the game is bugged and that they can’t die.
Some of these tougher encounters are made all the more frustrating thanks to the lack of environmental traversal options at your disposal. There’s no way of climbing/vaulting over low pieces of cover such as walls or boxes, leading to many a premature death as you cumbersomely walk around every knee-height obstacle in your way. What’s more the lack of a roll or dodge button means charging tyrants and long-tongued lickers often grab you and deal damage because there’s simply no means of getting out of the way quickly enough.
In the lickers’ case, a tonguing can lead to becoming infected (as can bites from ‘regular’ zombies). To prevent yourself turning into a brainless mound of rotting flesh you need to use an antiviral spray within a strict time limit. If you don’t treat the infection fast enough your screen enters a blue/grey tunnel vision, control is taken away from you and you can only watch as your zombiefied-self attacks your own team.
One of the main reasons to stick together at all times is that sprays treat not only the sprayer but also those around them. This means that if you don’t have antiviral medicine on you it’s possible to stand by a teammate that does and have them use it, the same applies to health sprays. Invariably, getting that level of cooperation from the AI is all but impossible.
Did I mention that you should never play this with AI buddies?
Once the campaign is out of the way/ has become boring/induced nihilism there’s competitive multiplayer to wade into. To a degree, the modes on offer provide some relief from the frustrations of the campaign as higher level thinking and deployment of abilities is usually required to beat someone with an actual brain. The same three-way battle between USS, Spec Ops and zombies remains, with the two player controlled sides taking control of the human groups.
Alongside Team Attack (read: team deathmatch) and Biohazard (read: capture the flag) modes are Heroes and Survivor. Survivor sees two teams attempt to fight their way through zombies to a waiting extraction helicopter. Each team is made up of four players but there are only four seats on the chopper, do you fight as a team to get out or do you make a dash for it by yourself to guarantee a place?
I tend to try and get that guaranteed spot…
Heroes Mode is essentially standard team deathmatch with more recognisable Resident Evil faces replacing the cast of Operation Raccoon City. While it’s nice to play as Leon Kennedy, Claire Redfield, Jill Valentine, Ada Wong and the like, the novelty soon wears thin and does little to enhance gameplay.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City isn’t really Resident Evil as we know it, then. It’s trying to be something else, which is fine in theory, but it doesn’t quite manage to pull it off. The campaign is sloppy, repetitive and devoid of narrative intrigue. When playing as a group of four it’s fun to the same extent that most co-op games are, but there are much better alternatives waiting to take your hard-earned cash.
Unless you’ve got money to burn and an insatiable hunger for all things Umbrella, Raccoon City and T-virus, it’s probably best you steer clear of infection.