Available on Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3
Say what you like about Capcom, it has never been one to under-exploit a successful franchise, and when that franchise is Resident Evil that goes double. Counting remakes, director’s cuts, side-projects and gun games, the series is now on its 25th title, and that’s with Resident Evil 6 still to come later this year. Disappointingly, after the excellent Resident Evil: Revelations on 3DS, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is one of the worst games in the Resident Evil canon. Co-developed by Capcom and the Canadian developer, Slant Six, it’s a third-person shooter, set in Raccoon City during the events of Resident Evil 2 and 3, with the focus on online play.
Slant Six is best known for its work on Sony’s SOCOM series; the third-person military shooters that gave the PS2 and PSP their biggest taste of online action, albeit most successfully within the USA. As a result, you might have expected the team to ace the blasting and the multiplayer mechanics, but blow it when it comes to making the game feel like a Resident Evil title. Surprisingly, the opposite is true. Operation Raccoon City does a nice job of keying into the existing Resident Evil storyline, delivering situations, characters and monsters that the series' long-term fans will love to get to grips with once again. It’s when it gets to the execution that things go horribly wrong.
The premise might be Operation Raccoon City’s best idea. Instead of playing one of the ditchwater dull STARS operatives, as you do in almost every other Resident Evil, you take the part of one of four members of Wolfpack, a group of black-ops specialists working for the fiendish Umbrella Corporation, and charged with tidying up loose ends as the T-Virus runs amok in Raccoon City. While the game has an over-arching storyline, it breaks the action up into a series of discrete missions, which see you exploring such famous Raccoon City locations as City Hall, the police station, the hospital and Berkin’s lab. This gives you the opportunity to experience highlights from Resident Evil 2 and 3 from the other side, and while Slant Six and Capcom have fiddled with events to make them work in a new timeline, it’s still great to pursue RE’s arch-wuss, Leon Kennedy, through the streets of Racoon City, go into action with the brutal HUNK, or see the third game’s mighty Nemesis in action once again.
Wolfpack are an interesting bunch as well, with specialists in stealth, demolition, healing, science, assault and marksmanship, all of whom have some special ability they can bring to the fray. Vector, for example, can temporarily cloak, giving you the chance to sneak behind enemies and hit them from behind. Belway, meanwhile, has a range of high-explosive weapons at his disposal. All get a nicely designed leather combat suit and a range of ‘look, I’m really nasty’ tics, and the result is that you get a good feeling out of doing bad things. For once, you can be one of the villains.
Unfortunately, it’s all bad news from here on in. One of Operation Raccoon City’s biggest problems is that it’s designed as a co-op multiplayer game. You can play through the campaign with the other three members of wolfpack under CPU control, but the AI is so wretched and so disinclined to heal that you’ll find yourself dying time and time again, turning each stage of a mission into a test of how much you can be bothered to continue.
And even played with three other human players, the game just doesn’t feel that good. Movement feels awkward, the cover system doesn’t seem to work predictably. Weapons feel pitifully underpowered against anything but the basic zombies, with Spec Ops enemies that appear to be sporting the latest in bullet-proof balaclavas – at least that’s the only way we can explain why headshots no longer work – and some mutant foes that act like bullet sponges. This doesn’t just make the shooting unenjoyable, it puts it at odds with what we’ve seen in other RE games.