Released in North America on March 20th for the Xbox 360 and PS3, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a squad-based tactical shooter that takes place during the events of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. While some familiar faces return, ORC puts us in the shoes of the Umbrella Security Service on their mission to rendezvous with HUNK and assist the Alpha Team in stopping Dr. William Birkin from surrendering the T-virus to the United States Military. Unfortunately, anything interesting about that scenario stops long before the end of the first chapter.
During ORC’s 7 chapters, you’ll run in to the usual enemies like zombies, lickers, hunters, tyrants and the Nemesis, which makes sense given the time frame of the campaign. You’ll also run in to Leon, Claire, Sherry & Ada Wong but unfortunately they’re not on your side this time around. Instead, you’ll be playing as an entirely new cast of characters to the Resident Evil canon.
ORC is a class-based shooter and between each mission you can select which class you’d like to play as, using the experience points gained during the missions to purchase class-specific abilities and new weapon load outs. Each class has their own unique abilities to purchase and upgrade. For instance, Four Eyes, the “field scientist”, can not only turn opposing soldiers in to zombies but also mind control up to 3 attacking zombies at once. She can also learn a pheromone grenade that attracts zombies to the affected area and equip a visor that shows nearby infected targets and their weak spots. The other classes had their own unique abilities, but I found hers to be the most interesting.
Unfortunately, while this all sounded promising to me at first, ORC suffers from some of the worst AI in recent memory as well as random spikes in difficulty that kept me from enjoying the game as much as I wanted to. I couldn’t tell you how many times my entire squad would walk through obvious trip-mines or hang out in the open during fire fights. At one point during Chapter 5, you’re dodging spouts of fire while ascending an elevator and not just one of them, but my entire squad, stood directly in the fire the entire time. Half the time they were either shooting a stray zombie while opposing Spec-Ops troops shredded them to pieces, or they would stand around doing nothing while I was ass-deep in a pile of lickers. If I didn’t shoot every trip mine or use my only First Aid Spray on them, they would have died every time. I’ve seen them pick up their own First Aid but only twice through the entire campaign did one of them ever use it on me (or themselves) when I needed it.
Had I been playing through the campaign with 3 of my friends, I’m sure the spikes in difficulty could have been handled accordingly. But when you’re depending on your squadmates to throw grenades and watch your back, yet they’re off somewhere by themselves melee’ing a zombie to death, you wonder how in the hell you’re supposed to survive 5 hunters and 30 Spec-Ops troops all shooting with pinpoint accuracy. Sometimes your squad would get in the way and it wasn’t even their fault. Pressing in the aim button zooms in over your shoulder, but if anyone is behind you their textures pop over in to your field of view and prevent your bullets from going through them.. while they’re behind you.. are you following me here? You zoom in to shoot your own people that are standing behind you? Right. Just checking. Apparently zombies aren’t the only things superhuman in Operation Raccoon City as even the Spec-Ops troops can take 4 or 5 headshots before dropping. How technical flaws of this magnitude made it beyond beta testing and two patch updates is beyond me.
Stepping back to the varying spikes in difficulty, some of the campaign is fair and requires the skill on your part to take cover, dodge grenades and handle the swarm of zombies to the best of your ability while maintaining the cooldown of your special ability and keeping inventory of your ammunition. This is when ORC shined. Sadly, these opportunities were too few and far between that you never really noticed that there was a halfway decent concept buried deep beneath the suckage. More often than not, you will die over and over again wondering how in the hell you’re supposed to make it out of certain situations alive without throwing your squadmates to the zombies and running for dear life to the next checkpoint. One annoying area in particular occurs in a later chapter where you have to deal with a pretty decent amount of Spec-Ops troops while being smashed to the ground repeatedly by hunters that are dropped from the sky by helicopters. You have a split second to notice the shadow on the ground and GTFO, but for some unknown reason, Slant Six decided to make the dodge function combine the pressing in of the left analog stick and one of the face buttons. Mass amounts of enemies I can deal with, but suggestive controller layouts I cannot.
That actually segues to my next complaint – the controller layout. The same button used to pick up items is also the same button used to revive fallen squadmates. When your squadmate dies, they drop their weapon which usually leads to you picking up and putting down your weapon 3 and 4 times before actually getting the prompt to revive them. In order to quick-turn 180 degrees, you have to tilt down the right analog stick and hit L2 (for the PS3) which also causes you to look directly at the ground in the process.
Graphically, ORC isn’t the ugliest game on the market, but Slant Six didn’t exactly do a great job of bringing to life some of the more iconic locations from RE2 & 3. Major locales like the Raccoon City Police Department or the inflamed city streets look dull and, pardon the pun, lifeless. I can only brain the same fat zombie in a gray sweatshirt so many times before I notice that either the family tree in Raccoon City goes straight up or the developers were lazy. And why is everything oily looking? Is everyone a former pro wrestler or on their way to the beach? Either way, none of the characters or zones really impressed me and I got the impression that the layouts were nothing more than a generic place for people to shoot each other online. I don’t know if Slant Six just didn’t think anyone would actually play offline and pay attention to details or if this really was their idea of a good looking game. Either way, it failed miserably.
So for all of the faults, there has to be something good to say about ORC. Eh, not really. I’m sorry, but as much as I try to sit back and think of something I actually enjoyed I can’t seem to find anything other than the possibility of replaying it with friends if anyone actually kept their copy of the game. It’s really a shell of a game that could have been something special for Resident Evil fans, especially considering that the timeline of ORC is during the prime of the series, but unfortunately it’s just a skeleton in the franchise that fans would rather soon forget. Granted, it definitely controls better than Resident Evil 5, but the poor button layout is extremely frustrating. You can’t take a turd and slap the Resident Evil name on it and expect it to be better than it would have been if named something else.
The Verdict – D+
While my trip back to Raccoon City was a short one, there was an overabundance of technical flaws that kept me from enjoying most of the game. I applaud Slant Six for taking the RE series in a new direction and I honestly hope they can learn from their mistakes to bring out a sequel with a bit more polish worthy of the Resident Evil name. Beneath all of the texture pop-ins, terrible AI, poor controller mapping and random spikes in difficulty lies the brainchild of a pretty decent squad-based survival horror game. Unfortunately it missed the mark completely and feels like nothing more than a cheap attempt to cash in on the Resident Evil reputation. The RPG fanatic in me dug the option to choose your class and level up abilities, but those rare instances when I actually enjoyed the game were immediately destroyed by the multitude of downfalls constantly poking their heads around every corner. Aiming is wonky, your squadmates (if not actual human players) aren’t the brightest crayons in the pack and sometimes the game just throws way too much shit at you at random intervals. Plainly stated, Operation Raccoon City is an unfinished trainwreck that could only be outdone by an actual zombie apocolypse.