If you still haven’t decided whether or not you should drop your hard-earned cash to get Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City then fear not, because Uncle Adam is here to soothe away your doubt. Now that all ten missions of the Spec Ops campaign have been released, I’ll be covering those in this review as well. Won’t you come with me on this adventure? I’ll be your HUNK if you’ll be my Party Girl.
The Baby Factor: If a watered down version of Gears of War was genetically engineered by the Umbrella Corporation until it wasn’t all that polished or entertaining, Operation Raccoon City would be the result.
To start things off, there’s something you should know about Operation Raccoon City. If you’re going into this looking to get your Outbreak fix, this is not going to scratch that itch. ORC is an action-centric squad shooter that just happens to have characters, locations and enemies that will be familiar to fans of the series. Essentially all of the horror, puzzles, and subtlety have been replaced by explosions and Hunters. Fuck, there are a lot of Hunters in this game.
It’s obvious there are a few Resident Evil fans at developer Slant Six. The game is brimming with great nods to past Resident Evils, like the typewriters and the Samurai Edge pistol. For the most part, the enemy roster remains largely unchanged. The only addition being the parasite, which can attach itself to zombies and in the Spec Ops DLC, something much larger. Unfortunately, they’re more of an annoyance than anything else. The rest are familiar, if not a little grotesque, faces that include Hunters, zombies, Crimson Heads, Hunters, Nemesis, Tyrant, Hunters, and Lickers. I learned two things while playing this game: the first lesson learned is Hunters suck and I don’t ever want to fight another, and Lickers are crazy annoying after their tongue range has been quadrupled.
The boss fights are one of the worst things about the USS campaign, which comes with the game. They’ve turned Birkin into a mindless, brutish idiot who beats anything and everything with his metal pipe. There’s also a painfully slow “chase sequence” where you need to out-walk Birkin. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the boss fights actually manage the impressive feat of getting much, much worse when you have to defeat Nicholai Ginovaef. The entirety of this fight consists of you and your team hurling dozens of grenades through windows as Nicholai snipes at you.
The bosses in the Spec Ops DLC get substantially better. Nemesis makes a few appearances throughout both campaigns, but I couldn’t get past his horrible voice. One of the things the Resident Evil: Apocalypse film–that’s the second film in the series for those who lost count after the fourth film–did right is Nemesis. Sure, he had a Gatling gun instead of his tentacle hand, which has also reappeared in ORC, but his voice was fantastic. I wish they would’ve copied and pasted his voice into ORC so its excessive dorkiness wouldn’t have been so distracting. Birkin also makes a brief appearance in one of the Spec Ops missions, but the best parts come in the final two missions. Like the USS campaign, the Spec Ops story is told over ten missions. The second to last boss fight has you and your team fighting through a veritable horde of Tyrants and that fight only barely overshadows the final fight in terms of shit-out-your-spine awesomeness.
Operation Raccoon City has some light RPG elements, in that there are character classes, an experience system, upgradeable skills, and even “loot,” if you will, that comes in the form of guns you can find and unlock. It’s unfortunate that you can’t upgrade your weapons, because you would think that’d be a given for this sort of title, especially since it’s been a focus of the last two installments in the main series.
I ranted about this in my Resident Evil wish list, but the classes in this game weren’t used as well as they could’ve been. In the launch trailer we see Spectre, the team’s marksman, firing at cops while chasing them from rooftops. We also see Beltway go ahead of the group to plant a mine, Four Eyes does some field research, etc. Each squad member has a very specific set of skills and the environments look tailored to suit their strengths. Then you get in-game and you realize it’s almost entirely linear, excluding the fantastic sections that take place on the streets of Raccoon City. There really should’ve been more of those.
There’s also the issue of the Spec Ops and USS team members sharing identical skill sets. I get it, they have the same classes, but would it have been that difficult to tweak them a bit so it doesn’t feel like you’re playing the exact same characters? The only plus side to this is all the progress you make with your level, arsenal of weapons and skills carries over to the Spec Ops characters.
This is a shooter, so something it needs to do well is the shooting, right? You would think that’d be the case, but it isn’t. I’m not exaggerating when I say that at least 80% of the weapons in the game are entirely useless. What makes this a little more nonsensical is you can buy some of the best weapons in the game after just a few missions, so I have to ask, what’s the point of the other guns? Filler? To make it look like we have options when we clearly don’t?
It might sound like I hate this game, but I really don’t, so let’s move on to some of the things I liked–no, wait, I have a few more issues to go through first, but I’ll make them quick. You can’t vault over cover, there’s no flashlight, AI players can’t revive you, and the competitive multiplayer is horribly unbalanced. Now let’s climb out of this dark hole of criticism and move on to the thing I liked the most.
Operation Raccoon City does DLC well, and when I say that I’m not only referring to the great idea of giving us a ton of cooperative missions. The co-op is easily the best thing about the game since the competitive multiplayer is awful, so it was a smart idea to focus on expanding the co-op. What makes this even better is the Spec Ops missions are far superior to the USS story. The characters aren’t comically evil–though they’re still forgettable–the bosses are more entertaining, and the missions are more cleverly designed. If you’re going to get this game, I implore you to purchase the Spec Ops DLC, because they’re the best thing about this game.
This game is plagued by a startling number of poor design decisions and a few visual issues like a handful of very red environments that might make you think there’s something wrong with your TV. It can be frustrating, but it can also be rewarding. It can be forgettable, but it’s always entertaining. The competitive multiplayer is awful, but the co-op is good, mindless fun. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the best thing: you can curb stomp a zombie and watch as its fully intact brain plops out.
The Final Word: This is difficult to recommend even to fans of the series. It’s unpolished, unbalanced, and decidedly unfinished. There’s fun to be had, but you have to dig deep.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City.