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Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City Review

Generic and Frustrating Single Player Experience Is Eliminated Online

By Nick Schneider on 3/24/2012
Some could say that 2012 has been slightly nostalgic when it comes to some of the major releases thus far. Whether gamers are going back behind the wheel in Twisted Metal, or revisiting the haunted streets of the quiet mining town Silent Hill in the Silent Hill HD collection, 2012 has definitely been a year of classic revival thus far. In the case of Slant Six Games' Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, the visit back can be rocky at times, but when played well it's like visiting an old friend after 15 years.  

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Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City places players in the role of a member of the USS, Umbrella Security Service, on Delta Squad who refer to themselves as "The Wolf Pack." These elite soldiers are tasked with one thing in the year of 1998 and that is to get into Raccoon City during the events of the second and third games in the classic Resident Evil series, and eliminate any information, including witnesses, of Umbrella's involvement with the viral outbreak. Traversing through familiar locales, such as the Raccoon City police station, you will find copious zombies, government forces, and other BOWs; needless to say, the operation in Raccoon City is dangerous, and canon crushing. The offline campaign will leave some incredibly frustrated, but when taken online, Slant Six Games have however managed to make an enjoyable experience. Even if it's too little to truly remove the generic nature of the core gameplay.

Rough AI Rides on Player Talent

 Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City as a whole feels eerily familiar, which is both a blessing and a curse. Battling the forces of the US Government Spec Ops team and T-virus nightmares through the infected Raccoon City, and revisiting old landmarks make this a nostalgic third person shooter emotionally, but gameplay wise still has a "been there done that feel." From mechanics, to even the constant grays and blacks of the environments, treading through Raccoon City feels like numerous games that came before it. Technically speaking Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City works well, minus the severe frustration of dealing with AI squad mates.

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It isn't that your AI partners don't perform well enough for the challenge at hand, it's that even on an older platform this AI would have been infuriating. As an elite security force the Wolf Pack represents the worst group of trained soldiers to ever grace a battlefield. The AI is constantly running into your line of fire, blocking your ability to proceed through doorways, and generally only being good at distracting the dangerous denizens of Raccoon City. At one point during the course of the campaign I gave up trying to heal them when they were low on health, as the chore of keeping them alive became detrimental to my own ability to proceed.

In a scene that should have been filled with adrenaline as we tried to escape a room full of lickers, I was instead treated with severe frustration. My squad mates just sat at the top of the theater, on the stage, and died over and over again. The sheer survival skill of this group was that of new born animals, as they left me on my own to run through a gauntlet of death. These children on my team became burdens, and it takes away a mechanic in the game that should have been more exciting than it actually becomes. When a character takes a significant amount of damage from T-virus infected creatures, they can in turn and become a zombie after they die. This is supposed to add a level of danger and reason to keep your squad safe, however with the necessary Anti-viral spray being rare, smart players can learn to just let the poor saps turn, kill them as a zombie, and then revive them with no consequence, sans the ammo usage.

The Been There Done That Feel

Squad AI aside, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City just feels dull offline. Gameplay relies heavily on a smooth cover mechanic, but it lacks many social graces that could have made this game special. Moving through cover is fairly easy enough, run up to a barricade, press forward on the d-pad, and your safely dodging enemy fire. Which is good because this is how you will survive most combat situations, but your enemies will just sit behind cover without leaving that barricade, unless something disturbs them of course.

Moving in and out of cover isn't cumbersome, but it just lacks any real excitement. There's no way to vault over cover, and battles end up becoming episodes of pop and hide. Compounding the issue here, is how ineffective your weapons feel. I'm honestly surprised that war is so dangerous in games like Modern Warfare 3, because shooting a US Spec Ops soldier in 1998 Raccoon City requires multiple shots to the head and chest. Melee is dangerous against your opponents, because your knife swings and kicks are coming from a blade that has to be dull. While special combo finishers are available to each character, after taking several beatings repeatedly from Spec Ops I simply decided it wasn't worth the almost guaranteed game over screen.

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Enemies in Raccoon City take way to long to bring down, and feels like a cheap way to add difficulty to an already frustrating single player experience. Luckily there are at times two sides to take on, and Slant Six Games has found a unique way to incorporate the chaos of a zombie outbreak into these battles. Hit an enemy with a bullet and you could cause them to bleed out, and in turn create a blood frenzy of zombies befalling the poor victim. This mechanic works as intended, but feels forced, even controlled at certain points during the campaign. It just feels like another feature that could have been more, but just falls flat from generic and uninspired implementation.  

Within Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City there are plenty of opportunities for true greatness, however it seems that potential is still left to be recognized, especially offline. It's hard to rate a game for feeling like an obvious cash-in, especially given that the core mechanics work exactly how they are meant. The problem is that it seems these features were meant to be developed further or implemented in another way. Luckily for those who play through the game cooperatively and competitively, the shooting, reviving, and team work all shine in ways that makes the offline offering even more disappointing.

The Light In The Darkness

When taken online most issues with the gameplay melt away, and a sweet euphoria washes over you the first time you cause a human player to bleed out and get swarmed by zombies. The online modes play out in fairly obvious ways. Team deathmatch is present, as is a capture the flag mode called Biohazard, and two other modes that define the competitive experience. Heroes mode tasks two teams of 4 with control over iconic characters in the Resident Evil series, and pits hero vs. villain in a match with no respawns. Players are given access to higher health and a battlefield littered with dangerous creatures to wade through as well.

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Survivors is another one of those game modes that fits in well with this title, and succeeds in bringing an enjoyable experience to the player. Here, you will fight off zombies and opposing players until a helicopter arrives, and then a scramble for evacuation begins. The gameplay in this offering is incredibly frenetic, confusing, and it brings your adrenaline up to a notch not normally seen in online matches. While these online modes add a necessary sense of competition to elevate the game above generic level, it's really co-op that should keep players struggling for survival in this apocalyptic nightmare.

Grabbing four friends, or randomly joining a campaign in progress is essentially the best way to play Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. Drop in and out, and enjoy the ability to not deal with shoddy squad mate AI; soon players will recognize some of the brilliance that Slant Six Games was aiming to achieve. In the right setting with the right squad, the campaign becomes a fantastic online survival horror, to an extent. There are no real puzzles to solve, just flip some switches every once in awhile throughout the linear levels, but combat becomes that much more exhilarating when playing with human allies.
In my offline playthrough I hardly ever worried about ammo or supplies, the squad with me wasn't worth saving and the consequences of not saving them were ultimately not worth the penalty. If I went down during battle none of my squad mates would be there to revive me, and so worrying about my survival over theirs was an easy choice. When playing with co-op online however, this idea of squad support plays a much larger role. Failing to work together as a team ends up leaving one of your squad mates dead, which forces the rest of the squad to pick up the slack. Co-op also eliminates the complete idiocy of the AI, and being able to coordinate tactics makes some of the most frustrating sequences more manageable. The co-op experience also adds challenge through the idea that as a group people, they all need ammo. My AI squad never ran out of ammo, and I never had to worry about them as long as they were a distraction.

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The sense of companionship and being against all odds only really sets in when you're literally against all odds with other people. Resource management becomes a top priority, and issues stemming from frustrating AI and sometimes unfair encounters essentially wash away. The bright light is that for many this game is entirely unplayable offline, but carry it over to an online arena with friends and strangers playing and fans of Resident Evil will be given an entirely competent survival horror online title.

Overall Impression

There really is nothing inherently wrong with Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City; the nostalgic trip back to 1998 and the events of Raccoon City are entirely fan service from top to bottom. The retrospective on those events even offers some compelling ideas, but the concepts here never fully materialize. Because of these issues it's truly difficult to adequately write a "fair" review of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. The brilliance is there, but it's buried beneath an absolutely poor single player experience. A campaign that has all the makings of a rote point-A to point-B progression, and just general frustration. Take the title online though, and you'll be met with the sweet spot of Raccoon City. The tactical experience becomes more realized, survival becomes intense, and the competitive mechanics feed into the game extremely well; which was the opposite of my frustrating and generic romp offline. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is ultimately a case of potential not met, it's not terrible, but there is hardly anything that will leave fans asking for more from this spin off.
The Good
  • Mechanics Shine in Multiplayer
  • Co-op Is Excellent
The Bad
  • Poor Squad AI
  • Generic Gameplay
  • Missed Potential
6.5
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USER COMMENTS
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Messi1 on April 22, 2012
GR8

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skullcrusher140 on April 01, 2012
I tried raccoon city and I thought the AI was all right,at least they healed you and fired at enemies.
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teknoandy69 on March 26, 2012
I got bored so i purchased the game to kill some time, and i did find that the offline play was horrible, but it did kill a few hours....Slowly. Then i decided to play online and found myself much happier, especially with the co-op mode. I did feel like i was actually fighting to survive and not having to worry about constantly  reviving my useless and braindead AI squad, versus actually wanting to revive my human team-mates knowing full well that if i didn't i would surely die. All in all i would have to strongly agree with the user review score. I would give the solo play a 6/10 and the online play a 9/10. 
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MikeDeas879 on March 25, 2012
I've only played 4 back on the GC. Thinking about buying the originals off PSN and taking them down. But, first I gotta get through the FF series and the Crash Bandicoot's.
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NSchneider on March 26, 2012
Resident Evil 4 was probably the best in my book, I played 1 and 2 when they released and couldn't get behind the controls. 4 addressed those, and added some great story elements.  I highly recommend playing those titles though to see how the story has progressed from the early entries to 4 and beyond, because there is a lot of fan service in most titles after 3.
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skullcrusher140 on April 01, 2012
all they Resident Evil games could have been great in the game play aspect as well IF THEY LET YOU MOVE WHILE AIMING and don't tell me it was to build suspense because it was just retarded.
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Fenriff on March 25, 2012
I really enjoy the multiplayer for this game but with it being a Resident Evil title obviously people expect a strong single player presence and the single player in it was really disappointing. If it drops in price I would recommend online shooter fans give the multiplayer a shot as they have some cool mechanics and fun game modes.
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NSchneider on March 26, 2012
I couldn't agree more.  Had the issues of single player such as the AI, not been as bad as they were I probably would have given this a higher score.  To be honest this was a hard review to write, because of the duality of the experiences I had, and decided that a mixed review would be best.  Thanks for reading and the comment.
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AsherSackman on March 25, 2012
Honestly, I haven't been too excited for this game, I had a bit of hope, but Resident Evil hasn't held up to my standards for awhile. maybe Resident Evil 6 will be good though.
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NSchneider on March 26, 2012
I too was in the same boat, and there was a ton of potential that really only gets realized in the online play.  Offline is a mess, but take the game online and if you like shooter games you're in for a treat, just avoid the offline completely.  You don't need to worry about missing any story, unless your group skips the cutscenes.
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