Full disclosure: I don’t do Resident Evil. I’m an easy scare, so much so that it took me several days to get through Half Life 2‘s Ravenholm section, not to mention the nights of pure terror that ensued during my fling with Dead Space. I have zero familiarity with the elaborate lore of the RE universe or its canon, except for the occasional glance at the back of a game case here and there. With that load off my chest, it should be pretty clear that the ensuing impressions could be taken with a grain of salt. I’m basing my opinions on this entry in the franchise alone, for better or worse. So, does this new entry play well, keep my attention, have a compelling story, and strike me as fun? Not really.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a cooperative third person shooter that takes players through (apparently) non-canon events which occur around the same time as Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. As part of an Umbrella backed special forces unit, players will find themselves stuck in the middle of a virulent zombie outbreak that is full of monstrous mutants and trigger happy U.S. Spec Ops. The story seemed to hinge on familiarity and nostalgia for previous Resident Evil entries, as the main storyline seemed rather bland but sometimes intersected or hinted at events from other titles. There’s your typical mission going out of control, fraught with deception and the occasional “twist” you can spot from a mile away, which all leads to a couple of distinct “Choose Your Own Endings” that try (and fail) to encourage players to go back and play things out differently.
Raccoon City can be played as a single player venture, but it’s really tedious and pretty much nullifies any point in traveling around with a squad of six unique combat types. The AI is okay, but it soon becomes painfully obvious that the only way you’ll get any enjoyment out of the game is by teaming up in co-op. At least then you can try out different strategies like flanking in order to shake up your enemies and get some variety out of the firefights that ensue. There’s also an intriguingly titled “Raccoon Mode” where twelve players are split into either Umbrella or U.S. Special Forces before being dumped into conflicts littered throughout the storyline. Different classes include marksman, tank, medic, etc, each of which have unique abilities like cloaking, hacking, or utilizing explosives. As you gain EXP, you can level up your characters and boost different skills.
I found the combat to be lackluster, the cover mechanics to be dodgy, and the aiming system stiff. Most fights played out like a poor man’s Mass Effect, with me unintentionally tossing out grenades instead of swapping guns or taking heavy fire because it took too long to get a bead on any sort of target. Environments were pretty well designed, although the textures proved a bit ho-hum while monsters and “scares” were anything but. The game tries to shake things up by having massive mutants occasionally chase you through obstacles courses of steam and flame, while getting pounced on by zombies or mutated dogs triggers a decent enough quick time event but after a while, even these get predictable.
Raccoon City is a decent enough third-person shooter that has most of the trimmings one would expect. The different classes play differently enough to encourage an exploration of different play styles, and while the story is nothing to write home about, it does provide some great excuses to get out there and blow up some zombies. If you have some friends willing to take the ride with you, this game could be a surprising amount of fun, but as is the title struck me as little more than cashing in on a storied franchise. There’s nothing really new to see here. You can move along.