Xbox 360
2.5 stars
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Overall Grade
2.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Game Itself
2.5 Stars
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
2.5 Stars
The Audio: Rating the Sound
2 Stars
Replay Factor
3 Stars

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City

Street Date:
March 20th, 2012
Reviewed by:
Chad Goodmurphy
Review Date:1
April 25th, 2012
Game Release Year:
2012
Platform:
Xbox 360
Publisher:
Capcom
Developer:
Slant Six Games
ESRB Rating:
M (Mature)

Introduction

Over the last sixteen years, Capcom has continually attempted to scare and intrigue us with its Resident Evil franchise. Despite being well known for employing zombies as its go-to villain type, the series’ many releases have always had a slight air of wonder to them. Shooting things that go bump in the night is one thing, but the fact that they’re all deformations resulting from biological experiments makes you worry about just how far sects of humanity would ever go to win a conflict. It’s scary stuff, much like the creaking doors, darkened hallways and hideous monsters that the Japanese video game giant has been sending our way for more than a decade and a half. All of those elements feature into Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, the first co-op focused franchise release.

The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Operation Raccoon City is different from most of the other Resident Evil games because it presents a non-canon storyline. Its campaign’s events take place during the timeframes showcased in Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, featuring familiar elements and recognizable faces. Being able to create something that wouldn’t count towards the series’ main story arc provided Slant Six Games with an opportunity to do something unique with the survival horror giant, but they didn’t do enough to make this a memorable and hard-hitting experience.

Over the course of what is a seven mission campaign, up to four players can band together as members of the Umbrella Security Service (USS) team. With several class-based characters to choose from, including an assault leader, a medic, an explosives specialist and a methodical recon enthusiast, the group must work their way through each of the twenty to twenty-five minute-long stages. With every new location, such as Raccoon City itself and its unforgettable police station, comes a new objective.

At the start of this third-person shooter/survival horror hybrid, USS forces are asked to infiltrate the lab of one Dr. Birkin, a scientist who has threatened to pass on his T-Virus research to the U.S. Government. Things go from bad to worse when it’s discovered that the traitorous lab rat has hired mercenary help, but nothing has prepared the company’s elite task force for what will happen next. In a bit of fury-fuelled panic, Dr. Birkin injects himself with an experimental G-Virus, resulting in a hideous transformation. It’s while these events are going on that the T-Virus ends up leaking into Raccoon City, infecting its poor civilians.

Missions begin and end in menus. First, one must choose a character, pick from his or her unique class abilities list and then equip a primary and secondary weapon. Once all of that is over, and the foursome has selected its team, the objective-based survival horror begins. Anyone playing alone will be responsible for choosing a team of three artificially controlled allies, using their individual play style as a guide for which character classes to choose.

When every player has signaled that they’re ready, an introductory loading screen will play, using dispatchers to progress the game’s ongoing story. Story-based cutscenes are used, but they’re not taken full advantage of. As a result, a lack of direct narration mars what could have been a much more fleshed-out storyline. Then again, this is a game where attempting to complete basic objectives makes up the majority of the player’s efforts. There’s nothing unique or revolutionary about the fetch quests and switch-hitting that one must perform, complete with colour-coded pass cards.

Although the required objectives and featured environments are different on a level-by-level basis, the experience doesn’t evolve much from start to finish. It’s routine and rather uninspired, with the expected mixture of basic enemies and heavy foes to deal with. You’ll be shooting tons of baddies en route to each goal, having to scour the area for more ammunition of a frequent basis. It’s surprising how limited bullets are, but that must be why they give you a main and a pistol. Then again, using characters’ one hit kill melee specialties tends to be more fun…when they work.

Items play a vital role, dotting each landscape with their coloured hues. The most important ones are the memorable green herbs and health sprays that will help keep players alive throughout the game. However, there are newcomers, including traditional, stun and fire grenade types. Granted, the most interesting addition is the blue infection-removing spray can, which can stop your controlled avatar from turning into a team-hurting zombie. Turning while playing with A.I. comrades means a forced retry.

Every scenario has its own par time, which factors into an end of mission rating system. Those minutes are calculated with players’ kills and deaths, in order to come up with an overall lettered grade. In true Resident Evil fashion, the desired result is the letter S, meaning than an optimal effort was put forth. However, getting to that plateau can be challenging for those who wish to explore each environment for its hidden stuffed raccoon plaque collectible.

There’s no denying that Operation Raccoon City’s campaign is quite a divergence from its predecessors. Team-based shooters like Left 4 Dead have done quite well this generation, and it’s tough to fault Capcom for wanting to bring its own entry to the party. However, the story-based content that we get from this release isn’t up to snuff when compared to what Valve’s zombie movie homage delivered. There’s some fun to be had, but one must check any high expectations at the door in order to be able to appreciate this campaign. While it’s certainly not bad, it’s also not good by any means, hovering over the fulcrum of mediocrity.

Folks who intend to purchase this game to play by their lonesome should rethink that idea. Being a co-op centric experience, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that multiplayer is greatly emphasized here. However, the game’s insanely bad teammate A.I. was a shock. For some reason, I had a heck of a time finding anyone to play the campaign with, meaning I had to resort to computerized ‘help.’ Their complete incompetence marred my enjoyment as they’d walk into and stand inside of fire traps, and would rarely heal. Worst of all was the fact that they were incapable of reviving fallen allies. You can just imagine how annoying that became.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Before entering into a digital city in chaos, anyone willing to give this game a chance should head directly to its options menu. The brightness tab’s default setting was far too dark to make the campaign’s already low-lit locations playable, but things greatly improved when I adjusted the gamma slider. Being able to see where you’re going while hordes of repetitively modeled zombies spew out of every architectural orifice is incredibly important, especially if becoming infected is something you wish to avoid. Allies who turn into zombies can be revived, but the aforementioned dumb-as-nails A.I. can be thanked for forced retries once solo players get bit by that bug.

Quite a few of Capcom’s previously released bioorganic nightmares made names for themselves by employing jaw-dropping visuals. That isn’t the case here, unfortunately, as Operation Raccoon City’s graphical details can be summed up as being average. It looks decent and runs pretty well, but there’s nothing new to be found in what ends up being a ho-hum return to 1998. Textures tend to look dated, the game’s character models are of mixed quality and each of its familiar faces lack the detailed features fans know and love.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Resulting from its emphasis on team cooperation, Operation Raccoon City loses a lot of the claustrophobic and creepy charm that many of its predecessors had. Sure, you’re still walking through dark areas (some of which are tight, while others are wide open,) but the iconic feeling just isn’t there. Then again, it’s tough to expect the same type of experience from a completely different game. However, there should have been more of a Resident Evil feel than there was within this game’s run time. Superior sound design could have aided that cause greatly, but that department’s work is noticeably pedestrian.

In this outing, bullet and explosive-based effects reign supreme. Enemies will make some noises, but they’re not used to the great extent that we’re accustomed to. You’re not going to fear their hideous designs unless you’re low on health, because much of the featured gameplay essentially boils down to a shooting gallery design. There are a lot of enemies on screen at once, and frame rate issues occasionally pop up. Having so many baddies to deal does away with the series’ charm, replacing it with a soundscape that completely lacks character. Its only notable facet is the use of decent orchestral music, with the main menu’s tune impressing me most.

Each of the available operatives looks to have an individual personality, but they’re unfortunately very dry, as well as ultimately forgettable. There’s some cutscene chatter, as well as occasional in-game dialogue, but those things don’t combine to paint an interesting picture. This is the type of experience that you play and then forget about, knowing that its mediocre storytelling and uninteresting characters don’t actually factor into the canon storyline you know and (possibly) love.

Replay Factor

The folks who’ve been following this project will be quick to say that Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a multiplayer game first, and that the aforementioned single player content isn’t meant to be its focus. While that’s definitely true from a development standpoint, neither one of those modes truly stands out. Although the game’s multiplayer designs are rather standard and happen to lack the amount of creativity fans will be hoping for, quality opponents can make for relatively entertaining competitive rounds.

Upon selecting the Xbox LIVE or PlayStation Network-enabled option from the main menu, gamers will be asked to select from one of several different modes. You have the traditional two-team Deathmatch, a Heroes mode where popular icons from the series can be controlled, a vial-collecting challenge and a Survival attempt. Each one is a variation on multiplayer modes that we’ve seen in other games, and they’re simply average at best this time around.

In the latter two modes, the teams are jockeying for victory through means that don’t focus on war. Survival, which is the best of the bunch, promises just one helicopter, which is limited in its carrying capacity. This means that only select players will make it out of the map’s hostile environment. Conversely, the vial-collecting scenario asks armchair combatants to find and hoard a certain amount of virus-filled vials. Think of it as being a capture-the-flag type scenario.

No matter which lobby you enter, one thing is for certain: there will be lots of zombies to deal with. The flesh-eaters appear on every map, with great numbers. This means that, not only do you have to worry about getting a bullet in the back from an opponent; you also need to watch for infectious corpses that have a tendency to bite. Experience points can be earned by killing those mindless foes, acting as currency for class-specific skill upgrades and weapon purchases, in addition to contributing to leveling opportunities. The only problem with this system is that it’s tough to pick out human-controlled characters from the horde.

Online is where the majority of Operation Raccoon City’s replay value resides. It’s also where most of our fellow gamers migrate to when they insert the game’s disc into their console of choice. It was easy to find people online at all times, but quite a few of them were highly leveled, giving them access to special abilities and superior weaponry. Matches run quite well, but their balancing could have been better, creating a need for newcomer-friendly lobbies.

In addition to everything this review has touched upon, it’s important to note that this game is to receive a full secondary United States Special Ops campaign, along with extra multiplayer maps. At this point in time, the first two packs are available, with the first one (and its single mission) being free. Pack number two is a ten-dollar download, and it’s expected that its followers will be priced in that range. With regards to the new missions, it’s a shame that we’re being asked to pay for something that should have been provided from the start. However, that’s the way this industry works these days.

Final Thoughts

Gamers love team-based and cooperative shooters, but only when they’re done right. With Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, Capcom and Slant Six have attempted to capitalize on that market. However, the disc-based result of their effort fails to live up to the quality precedent that was set forth by certain competitors. In the end, this is a mediocre-at-best game. There are some enjoyable aspects to be found, but the truth is that you won’t miss out on much by passing on this release. It could have been so much better.

Tech Specs:

  • DVD Disc

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 720p

Audio Formats

  • Dolby Digital 5.1

Multiplayer Mode(s)

  • Online Co-op
  • Online Versus

Motion Controls

  • No

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