PS3 Review

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City

Showing how not to make a co-op zombie shooter.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a confused beast of a game. Diverging away from the traditional Resident Evil style, Operation Raccoon City focuses on co-operative squad based shooting rather than scares and creepiness. Thanks to this shift in focus, it suffers greatly and feels all too much like a typical co-op shooter than a true Resident Evil game.

To be fair to Operation Raccoon City and Slant Six's vision, this is far from the first time that Resident Evil has deviated from its regular path. Survivor, Outbreak and The Umbrella Chronicles have all famously tried something different. All but the Umbrella Chronicles have failed with spectacular style. The Resident Evil series is all too entwined with the Survival Horror genre to overwhelmingly succeed at other genres.

While Operation Raccoon City was never going to succeed at offering frights galore, it could have still succeeded at providing something different and memorable for Resident Evil fans. Instead, it'll just make them pine for the olden days in a way that Final Fantasy fans have been feeling for years.

Slant Six is most famous for the SOCOM series of games. This will be immediately noticeable to all as that's almost precisely what Operation Raccoon City is, just with a zombie skin.

Set alongside Resident Evil 2 and 3, Operation Raccoon City gives players the chance of playing the bad guys. This is a smart move. Far too rarely do we get the chance to play the 'other' side, even despite the massacring ways of some of the most squeaky clean action heroes out there. What's not so smart is that the characters involved offer very little personality throughout the game, until the final seconds where they show a glimmer of intelligence. These final minutes also provide the main moment within the game that will make it almost worth avid fans' time: a precious cameo that I'm deliberately avoiding spoiling.

Starting out, players get to choose from one of six Umbrella agents: Vector, Beltway, Lupo, Spectre, Bertha and Four Eyes. Each offer unique skills which, in theory, make the game more interesting. Vector can cloak himself, while Bertha can reduce the team's damage and Four Eyes can manipulate the zombies. These skills are gradually unlocked through a rudimentary experience based system. This form of levelling up also transfers to the online side of the game. It's promising stuff but the skills are rarely of much use and there's nothing in the personality of the characters to differentiate them.

Operation Raccoon City is aimed at the online multiplayer market, encouraging players to form together rather than play the campaign alone. Of course, like any other co-op game, it's immensely more enjoyable with friends and they will more than makes up for the lack of personalities within. That shouldn't give Operation Raccoon City carte blanche to not bother though. This especially feels the case with the friendly AI. It's pretty poor, albeit hilarious.

Friendly AI in any game is never flawless but here, the AI controlled characters will happily stand in fires repeatedly, even after being revived once. They will hold onto their First Aid Sprays, never using them no matter how desperate the situation. Ultimately, they have less intelligence than a dimwitted lemming, inches away from a cliff.

Steer away from playing alone, it's really not worth it. Playing with friends may still not hide the flaws of the rest of the game, but at least there will be some fun to be had, however short lived.

You see, Operation Raccoon City only comprises of seven levels. The first one, besides being the dullest, is also only around 30 minutes long. The entire game will only take around 5-6 hours to complete. On the plus side, it makes each level an ideal session to gather four people to play but, with little reason to return, value for money is low.

On Normal mode, Operation Raccoon City is pretty unchallenging so I'd strongly recommend bumping up the difficulty level. There's one memorable difficulty spike in the form of facing up against two tyrants, which quickly turns into a tedious battle of attrition, but other than that, it's a metaphorical walk in the zombie and enemy soldier filled park.

This battle did bring to light how clumsy the control system is, however. Diving out of the way of a charging enemy is a now essential sequence in any modern third person shooter, but it's awkwardly implemented here. Instead of requiring one tap of a button, players have to start sprinting by holding down one of the sticks then tapping X. The resulting dive is cumbersome and slow to recover from. It's the kind of dive that's understandable in the traditional Resident Evil world but jars awkwardly with this more fast paced version. Ducking behind cover is similarly awkward with a surprising amount of surfaces not reacting how one would expect. Something that you'll only discover just when you need cover most.

There are hints of innovation in there. Throughout Operation Raccoon City, players come up against both human and undead opposition. They can use this mishmash of types to their advantage through Blood Frenzy. This involves shooting an enemy soldier so that they bleed, thus causing the zombies to get far too exciteable and all rush towards them. It's a neat move and something that Operation Raccoon City would have benefited from more of.

Besides the Campaign mode, there's also the presence of competitive multiplayer which is where experience gains and weapon unlocks transfer to. With a few clever ideas hidden under the surface, the multiplayer side of things deserves to be played more than it actually will be. Besides traditional Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag style modes (with the required daily dose of zombies), there's also Heroes and Survivor mode. Heroes is where fans will be happy. They get the chance to play as characters such as Leon Kennedy, Claire Redfield, Jill Valentine and other fan favourites. It's still regular last man standing deathmatch but the added personality goes a long way.

Survivor is a little like Left 4 Dead but not quite as well implemented. Two teams fight against a horde of zombies (and themselves) while they wait for rescue from a helicopter. Once the helicopter arrives, the first four players to reach it win, irrespective of their previous successes. This is where it falters somewhat but it's a fun enough distraction.

Like a few too many Resident Evil spin-offs, Operation Raccoon City suffers for feeling like another game trapped in a zombie infused skin. It's essentially a SOCOM game with a few nods to the classic survival horror series and with none of the tension that should be there. Alongside three friends, it will be fun, even despite the silliness of some of the design choices, but at 40 a copy, that's an expensive way of enjoying five or six hours compared to many other alternatives.

E3 Trailer