Security in Umbrella Corporationâ€™s underground research facility has failed. A deadly virus has turned the citizens of Raccoon City into vicious zombies. As a member of Umbrellaâ€™s security force, the USS, itâ€™s up to you to destroy all the evidence and kill any witnesses that may implicate Umbrella Corporation.
In Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, Slant Six Games - the developers behind the last few SOCOM games - have tried to bring the survival horror franchise into the world of squad-based online multiplayer. While it could have been great - with rubbish AI, a short disjointed story, and by-the-numbers online - itâ€™s not. The best option might be, as anyone who has been caught in a zombie apocalypse knows, shoot it in the head and move on.
However, if you are a big fan of the series, the campaign has a lot of promise. You make up the four member Wolfpack, from six different USS soldiers. There is demolition expert Beltway, scientist Four Eyes, as well as the typical soldier, sniper, medic, and recon specialist. Each character has two passive abilities like blast resistant armour, as well an active ability that you can equip. Four Eyes, the scientist, can shoot darts into zombies that make them attack their own, while Lupo, the squad leader, has flame rounds. While it all works well enough, and all the abilities can be upgraded a couple of levels, itâ€™s typical and uninspired stuff.
Far more inspired, is the way the characters look. If Umbrella wasnâ€™t in the viral pandemic causing business, they could do a great trade in black leather and gas masks. Dressed in black, tooled up with grenades, knives, a couple of guns, and each with their own unique gas mask, the members of Umbrellaâ€™s Wolfpack look badass. But, as bad as they seem, the brevity of the story leaves no room for character development.
Compared to previous Resident Evils, the shortness of the campaign is very disappointing. There are no big set pieces and no shocking revelations. Thereâ€™s no megalomaniacal bad guy, just the faceless voice of Umbrella over the comms. Although it weaves in and out of the events of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, the members of the Wolfpack are never more than faceless Umbrella henchmen, the same henchmen that have died in their hundreds in previous Resident Evil games.
And, if there is anything in Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, there is a lot of dying. If you thought that Resident Evil 5 was a step too far away from the survival horror genre, Operation Raccoon City leaves it in its dust. Weapons and ammo are plentiful, and even if you run out, slashing away with your knife will cut a path through most zombie packs.
While your AI controlled team stands around shooting into the walls or wandering into your field of fire, it doesnâ€™t matter because you can shoot through them at the attacking zombies. Add to this the almost continuous fire fights with Special Ops forces, and you have a game thatâ€™s all about blasting your way into, and out of, trouble.
Which is why fans of Resident Evil games might react negatively against Raccoon City. Thereâ€™s all the promise of a unique look into the origins of Resident Evil, being able to revisit some iconic locations, and the return of familiar characters. But, apart from the appearance of characters like Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield, what you get is a game that couldnâ€™t be less like the Resident Evils of the past.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is an online multiplayer shooter, like all the other online shooters out there. Or rather, like the average online shooters out there. For a start, there are a number of little things that just donâ€™t work. Firstly, everythingâ€™s so dark and you canâ€™t climb - or even step - over anything. Not being able to see whatâ€™s on the ground blocking your escape when youâ€™re being pounded by the giant lizard-like Hunters or eaten by frenzied Crimson Heads (think of the infected in 28 Days Later rather than The Walking Dead), does not make for enjoyable gaming.
But, if all you want to do is go online, load up a shotgun, and start collecting kills, then Operation Raccoon City might do. There are four online game modes, including the standard team deathmatch and capture the flag, for a maximum of eight players. These however only allow you to compete as USS or Special Ops soldiers. If you want to play as the familiar Resident Evil characters, you have to play Hero mode, a last man standing game where the last to be killed wins the game for their team.
Although you can play as classic Resident Evil characters like Leon, Jill Valentine, and Carlos Oliveira, and use the same weapons and abilities you have unlocked in the story mode, there is very little difference between the characters aside from their skins. Which makes the fact that you canâ€™t use all of them in all the game modes very annoying.
And talking of annoying. The grenades take an age to equip and throw. Considering that chucking a grenade the moment before I die has been the only thing to get me close to a positive kill / death ratio through the years, this is a major concern.
But, is it really all that bad? Yes and no. Iâ€™m a big fan of Resident Evil and Operation Raccoon City is not a Resident Evil. It doesnâ€™t feel like one and sure doesnâ€™t play like one. Also, with the number of excellent online shooters out there, the fact that Raccoon City isnâ€™t even a good online game, is really disappointing.
Still, when your game franchise has been going sixteen years there will be ups and downs. Itâ€™s not as if there hasnâ€™t been some dodgy Resident Evil product in the past. So, at worst weâ€™ll have to wait for Resident Evil 6.
At best though, the characters look great, you get to revisit Raccoon City and some familiar characters, and you get to fight Nemesis again. And Iâ€™ll play any game twice where you can stand in the middle of a train-yard, firing flame rounds out of a heavy machine gun at a hundred screaming, flesh-eating zombies.