"Fail Too Big For Even Umbrella To Cover Up"
With great power comes great responsibility, be it for an arachnid-themed superhero or a popular video game brand. Capcom owns many examples of the latter, but they seem to have trouble keeping their franchises' good names untarnished. At least, when they did endless sequels of Street Fighter and Mega Man, Capcom wasn't releasing bad games, just unoriginal derivations of good ones. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, however, is just an outright poor game, and the fact that it's set in the world of the original survival horror series only highlights its shortcomings.
In theory, Operation Raccoon City could have been a solid game. The concept is engaging, and it approaches the universe from a completely different perspective. Rather than casting the player as a heroic character surrounded at all angles by hideous bio-organic monsters, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is told from the perspective of the Umbrella Corporation's security forces. As one of the evil company's many heartless goons, the player's task is to clean up any evidence of wrongdoing, be it a horde of zombies on the loose or an innocent civilian who knows too much. To add to the game's appeal, it takes place during the Raccoon City incident from Resident Evil 2, and it allows the players to kill the heroes of those games. Of course, this is all in theory.
In practice, RE: Operation Raccoon City is a forgettable and derivative squad shooter with no real reason to use the Resident Evil mythos. The new characters are completely forgettable, literally covered behind their evil black masks and bearing only a few trace personality elements. They spend just as much time fighting human security forces as they do against the zombies. There are BOW fights, but they're not as intense as in the main games, because the game isn't a survival horror title with limited ammunition and support, but a shooter that gives you plenty of guns and several equally armed teammates. Worst of all is the set design, which lacks any of the series' atmospheric detail and instead just sets everything in an endless series of darkened corridors. The darkness isn't frightening, just frustrating and unpleasant.
Even if you don't have any attachment to Resident Evil, Operation Raccoon City is just not a good game. It's a repetitive series of cover-shooting sequences marred by some bad design choices. The controls are all over the place, with disparate flaws that range from overly complex (i.e. having to hold down the left analog stick to sprint, and only being able to dive for cover when sprinting) to overly simplistic (i.e. the elaborate CQC moves being executable by pressing merely two buttons, then launching into an overly long fight animation). Players can enhance their characters' abilities with experience points, but any weapons or pick-ups acquired in level are frustratingly reset to default after your death. Also, single-player is marred by the fact that your teammates' A.I. is extremely crude and rarely helpful. This is somewhat mitigated with online multiplayer, but the game is so bland by itself that playing with friends doesn't help.
Resident Evil has always been a unique and entertaining series, if incredibly cheesy and rarely logical. It has a goldmine of material for developers, and it doesn't even require them to stay firmly within the survival horror formula. However, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City's developer, Slant Six, didn't bother with any of that. They tried to combine both their SOCOM games with Capcom's baby, hoping to combine the strengths of both, but they ended up doing neither any favors. The result is a severely disappointing title that strikes a blow to the integrity of the Resident Evil brand.
GameDynamo's Score for Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (PS3)
Neil Kapit is a freelance writer, cartoonist, and "La Li Lu Le Lo" agent based in Los Angeles. His work can be seen on www.therubynation.com.
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