Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City Xbox 360 Review
Operation Raccoon City revisits the story of the outbreak in Raccoon City first told in Resident Evil 2 and 3, which is perhaps the most interesting time in the series history. The difference now is that the game plays more like a tactical cover based third person shooter, much like the SOCOM games that the developer Slant Six previously worked on. This is of course a departure from other genres the series has had over the years such as a run and gun shooter like Resident Evil 4 or 5, a first person rail shooter like the Umbrella and Darkside Chronicles games, or a conventional survival horror game with limited health and ammo like the original Resident Evil 2 and 3 and Outbreak games. This genre change could have worked but the poor execution of the game overall, with even basic things like the shooting mechanic and hit detection being clearly broken stop Operation Raccoon City from ever living up to its full potential, and will likely be a disappointment to casual and hardcore Resident Evil fans alike.
The story of the game is split between the two campaigns that occasionally intersect with both locations and enemies. It is basically a non-Canon retelling of the events of both Resident Evil 2 and 3, with the new squads of both Umbrella and Spec Ops teams injected into the major events of the plot. This leads to a lot of brief cameos from Claire Redfield, Jill Valentine, Hunk, Sherry Birkin, Ada Wong, Nikolai, Carlos, and Leon Kennedy. Occasionally they'll fight alongside you, you'll attack them, or in the case of Sherry you'll have to protect her from zombie snatchers for half a level. There are also a lot of returning bosses such as the Nemesis, Mr. X, and William Birkin. It's cool seeing all these characters again but most of them don't speak more than maybe a paragraph of dialogue throughout the whole game, or sometimes even only a few sentences, so their appearance seems kind of wasted. I was also disappointed, that even though the game's story supposedly isn't connected to the whole series overall, I would've liked it if they finally filled in long standing gaps in Resident Evil lore; such as what were Chris Redfield, Albert Wesker, Barry Burton, Rebecca Chambers, and Billy Coen doing during the events of Resident Evil 2 and 3.
The basic gameplay of Operation Raccoon City is changed radically compared to any other entry in the Resident Evil series. You can now move and shoot the same time, and you can now only carry two weapons at a time. Your primary weapon can be a shotgun, sniper rifle, grenade launcher, or machine gun, but your secondary weapon must always be a handgun. You always travel in a squad of four members, which can be made up of human or AI players. Ammo conservation is much less important compared to other games in the series, since nearly every room has a ammo box in it and every third room seems to have a crate with a infinite supply of ammo. Plus enemies tend to drop health and ammo much more often than in other games and ammo is now universal and any ammo that you pick up can be used with any weapon. Most of the changes to the game were made to make it appeal to a broader audience and make it fall more in line with other squad based third person multiplayer shooters. I don't mind those changes, what bothers me is how poorly executed nearly every aspect of the game is. The shooting, the hit detection, the cover system, the inconsistent damage, the dodge and knock down mechanic, the graphics, and even the simple task of picking up an item is unnecessarily difficult and finicky. Truly Operation Raccoon City has a wealth of problems.
Aiming in the game is terrible. You not might have too much trouble lining up the reticle, but once you actually fire there's only a 60% chance that you'll actually hit something. The first problem is that every weapon in the game has absurdly high kick back, awful range and horrible accuracy. Hit detection is terrible and inconsistent as well. It shouldn't take an entire clip to kill an enemy at point-blank range while shooting them in the head, especially considering that supposedly every enemy in the game with the exception of two are particularly vulnerable to head shots. Sometimes I'll shoot a zombie in the chest and it will die in three hits. Other times will take half a clip, a full clip, or even a clip and half to kill zombie, when it's literally standing directly in front of the barrel of my gun. It's ridiculous, and happens with both zombies and human enemies. Another problem with the hit detection is how your shots will constantly miss and hit the terrain or boxes around your attackers instead of your intended target. It even happens when soldiers stand up from cover, which makes sniping frustrating and seemingly pointless.
The cover system is also atrocious. Unlike most cover based shooters, you don't have to press a button in order to enter cover, instead you simply have to walk or run near an object or part of the level that can be used as cover, and you'll automatically entered cover. To exit cover you just have to pull back on the left analog stick and you'll stand up. This seems like a good idea, but the downside with making it too easy to enter and leave cover is that you'll often accidentally enter cover while you're trying to run past a object, or mistakenly stand up from cover when you're simply trying to move left or right while still being protected and then proceed to get shot in the chest repeatedly. Popping up from cover for suppressing fire is a common tactic, but doesn't work in this game since most the time your shots will just hit the object you're using as cover, and not whatever you are actually aiming at. Oddly blind firing seems to be more effective since you can actually hit things that way, but it bizarrely leads you susceptible to head shots, even though only your hands are peeking out. What I really don't like is I that can't shoot an enemy soldier by aiming between the boards of a traffic barricade, but they can and will most certainly shoot me in the head while I'm ducked down behind the middle of a car. It's totally bogus and really cheap.
I also don't like how nonchalant enemies are about getting shot, rarely do they even react at all. Most the time zombies will just keep charging at you, not seeming to mind that you just fired a shotgun into their stomach at point-blank range, which should probably send him flying backward, but no they don't even flinch. Soldiers at least will have some sort of arm spasm when you hit them for half a second, and some bosses will attempt to cover up their weak spot after you hit it. Hunters and bosses will also let out a roar when you've done a significant amount of damage to them, and then continue to attack you. Arms and heads of zombies can be shot off but they don't go flying, instead they just sort of disappear which isn't very satisfying. When enemies die they either go limp and completely ragdoll or freeze in their last animation and fall over on their side as if they were a heavy statute, it's very strange looking. Dead enemies will then quickly dissolve into a weird aura of red and purple bubbles before leaving the battlefield. Sometimes zombies will emerge from their crimson bubble bath transformed into Crimson Heads or course faster and more dangerous than regular zombies. what I'm saying is that I hate the animations in the game, and am annoyed by how quickly enemy bodies disappear.
Clicking and holding the left analog stick let's you sprint, which is fine. However in order to dodge you have to press the A button while running which causes you to lunge forward into the ground, belly first as if the streets of Raccoon City were some sort of slip and slide. Then after flailing on the ground like a beached seal for a good two seconds you can finally very slowly get back up and enter cover or fire your weapon again. Unfortunately you cannot slide into cover in the game, which if I'm not mistaken as been a stable feature in just about every cover based shooter ever made. What I really hate though is whether you're on on the ground because of dodging, an explosion or being not knocked back from a enemies' attack, it takes between two and six seconds to stand up and start shooting again depending on how fast you count. To make matters worse the animation takes so long that enemies like Hunters, Mr. X and especially William Birkin have enough time to attack you again which knocks you right back down and they'll repeat the combo until you're dead. It's incredibly frustrating when it happens and the only strategy really is to never get close that they can chain you to death.
Another problem with the game is that bot controlled squadmate's AI is especially terrible making them almost useless in combat. Different squad mates seem to have different personalities. For instance in the Umbrella forces Vector is more likely to rush while cloaked but then use his knife to try to take out a mob of enemies which inevitably gets himself killed. Bertha and Four-Eyes have the chance of occasionally healing you or curing your infection, but only if they feel like it. A common glitch is that the AI will randomly break in the game causing them to just stand around in one spot looking off into space, repeatedly go in and out of cover for no reason, or run right into a trip mine or something that's on fire and get themselves killed. The AI also loves to dart out in front of me while I'm shooting, to rush with a knife then get killed by enterign my fire line. The AI will get stuck on terrain, pace back and forth and my favorite [Actually most hated.] Spin in one spot in at a corner of a level, while I'm left to fight all the enemies by myself. What's especially infuriating is when the AI stands around and does nothing during boss fights leaving me to fight it all by myself and then they have the gall to tell me not to stop standing around, which is ironic since that's exactly what they're doing! One good thing the AI does though, is they'll drop the whatever weapon they were holding when they die which you can then pick up and use yourself, which comes in handy if you're out of ammo. It's frustrating that the AI is incapable of reviving you and they can't even revive other AI controlled characters, which leads to many situations where you'll have to clear several rooms while being the only one alive.
The A button is used to pick up items or weapons, dodge, revive teammates, open doors and interact with objects. The problem is that too many things use the A button so you often dodge for no reason when you want to pick up a herb or you'll switch weapons by mistake when trying to revive someone. Another problem is that the window of the area to pick up an items is too small such as data disks, or herbs. The data items themselves are also too small at about the size of a characters hand in the game which I guess is a realistic but makes them really hard to see and easily missed. It's infuriating when you see an item that you're standing right next to, mashing A but you can pick it up until the character's body and the camera are facing exactly the right way. It's totally bogus.
Another common problem is the difficulty in switching weapons. When you press the left bumper you're supposed to be able to alternate between your primary weapon, and your secondary handgun. For some reason though it only seems to work one third of the time. You'll press the button, your ammo will flash, making you think you switched but it actually hasn't. This wouldn't be so bad, if the primary reason for switching weapons wasn't because that you've out of ammo, so the glitch leads to many deaths.
A legitimately interesting element to the game is the possibility of characters being infected with the T-virus. Certain zombies, lickers, and especially crimson heads are more likely to infect you when attacking than others. When you get infected your health will quickly start to drain, until you either use the antiviral spray to cure yourself or die which will turn you into a zombie and you'll attack your teammates. The AI will frequently get infected and you have the option of preemptively killing them, or waiting until they turn and then putting them out of their misery. Either way once they're finally dead on the ground you can revive them they'll respawn at half health. That's not too annoying but the AI also has the terrible running in front of my gun when I'm shooting a group of zombies and then dyeing due to friendly fire. The AI will get stuck on terrain, pace back and forth and my favorite [Actually most hated.] Spin in one spot in at a corner of a level, while I'm left to fight every enemy in the level, including bosses by myself, until they either die or respawn at the next checkpoint. One good thing the AI does though, is they'll drop the whatever weapon they were holding when they die which you can then pick up and use yourself, which comes in handy if you're out of ammo.
The Umbrella campaign is mostly run and gun, just travel from point A to point B. In fact most of the time you can just run past enemies and focus only on getting to the next checkpoint in order to beat the level. Contrastingly the Spec Ops campaign is much more combat oriented, since you'll often have to clear the area of all enemies in order to advance. It's also more focused on boss battles, which are oddly often gimmick based, such as drop something on the boss's head or lure them into a trap. The Spec Ops levels are certainly more interesting than the Umbrella campaign, which is often pretty boring. But however I find the Spec Ops stages to be more frustrating than fun, so I actually prefer Umbrella's levels especially since they don't cost an additional $20.
One really unusual thing about the game is how you unlock new weapons and upgrade character abilities. Every time you complete a level or multiplayer match you'll be award a certain amount of experience points based on how well you did and what ranking you got. Then at the character select screen before a level you can spend your experience points to buy new guns which will then be unlocked and available for selection in all modes of the game, both multiplayer and single player. Because you can unlock weapons in any order you want the better ones tend to cost a obscene amount. For example most guns cost about 5,000 exp to buy, but the especially good ones cost about 20,000 exp to unlock. Characters also have passive and active abilities that must be unlocked. Passive abilities are always in effect when you play a character such as being able to carry more sprays, take less damage from bullets or run faster. Active abilities must be activated by the Y button and either give you a temporary skill like reduced damage, invisibility, thermal vision and invincibility or special weapons like trip mines or the attraction pheromone which is a grenade that lures zombies. Both kinds of abilities have three different levels and it usually costs about 10,000 exp to max out a single ability. This makes the task of acquiring all weapons and unlocking all character abilities pretty tedious considering you'll usually only get between 2,000 and 8,000 exp for beating a level and 1,000 to 3,000 for completing a multiplayer match. I estimated that you would probably have to be about rank 75 out of 98 before you could afford to unlock everything. What's most annoying about the unlocking system is that it puts you at a huge disadvantage if you play multiplayer before your say rank 50 since you'll have hardly any weapons, and more importantly very few abilities upgraded. This is the more prevalent in Heroes Mode where each hero's abilities are taken from several different classes, so even if you focused on maxing out one character, you could still get stuck with a hero that you haven't bought any abilities for yet.
The graphics in the game are largely pretty terrible. Textures are at a very low resolution and are muddy looking. Character models often look strange, with heads or waists looking too thin or way too wide and appearing freakish unintentionally. Lighting is probably the biggest problem though as the game is always way too dark, which makes it very hard to shoot or pick up items. I had to turn the screen gamma setting way up in order to even play the game in the first place. Sure most of the game takes place at night, but it's ridiculous how dark some areas in the game are.
To say that Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a disappointing game would be a gross understatement. The quality of the game varies greatly depending on what mode or level your playing on, but most of the time it's overall a bad experience. Sure there are a few good stages in the Umbrella campaign and several more in the Sec Ops story, but four to six good levels out of fourteen I would say doesn't make the singleplayer worth playing through for most people. Heroes Mode in multiplayer is great fun, but the other modes are forgettable and I just wish I could play as Heroes characters in all gametypes including the single player. Plus the aiming and hit detection is so bad in every mode of the game that it almost feels like luck when you do well and not skill. People new to Resident Evil that have no love or nostalgia for the franchise as a whole should definitely avoid the game as you'll probably find it to be a 3/10. Resident Evil fanboys however might enjoy the game a bit more, due to references to other games and the ability to play as some of their favorite characters in Heroes Mode, which might bring the game up to a 5/10. Me personally I'd probably give the game a 6/10 since the DLC campaigns and Heroes Mode were pretty fun. Overall though I feel that the game is a acquired taste that most people won't enjoy and will feel is over priced at $60 plus about another $35 to get all the DLC. So I think that a 4/10 is a fair final score. Despite this hardcore Resident Evil fans still might want to check the game out when it comes down in price, but only if they're very curious and especially diehard fans.