No sooner do we deal with one zombie outbreak in Yakuza: Dead Souls, that we are involved in another, however this is one we have all been privy to in the past, this is Raccoon City circa 1998, where the Resident Evil outbreak started all those years ago.
There have been previous attempts from Capcom for a solely online gaming experience with the Outbreak series on the PS2, though this time, rather than the archaic old Resident Evil controls and static cameras, you have a slightly altered Resident Evil 4 system. Thanks to this change, Raccoon City focuses a lot more on action, while also giving you the chance to play as the baddies, the Umbrella Security Services (U.S.S).
The main campaign takes you through memorable moments of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, controlling one of six of Umbrellas best security team, Wolfpack. Initially you’ll be assisting HUNK, (a side character but a firm fan favourite) in infiltrating the Umbrella base underneath Raccoon City during the original outbreak and then each of the missions will take you through some of the early games highlights, but give you a slightly different perspective of the events. You’ll also be able to act out some “what if?” moments, as Umbrella places your teams in various scenarios, such as one mission which has you turning off the power to Raccoon City to cut it off from the rest of the world and let it rot in hell, nice! Of course it’s not just your team in operation here as most of the battles tend to be between three sides, with your team trying to cover it all up, the US Special Services trying to contain the incident and find out what happened and then there’s the infected, who just attack anything that moves.
Be it bad controls or a bad player, during battles it is all too easy to get shot.
All of the action is viewed from over the right shoulder of your chosen character, just like the popular game mechanics of Resident Evil 4, but don’t get too excited as they don’t really transfer all that well to this sort of game. Becoming a Gears of War style cover based shooter requires a decent cover mechanic and this does not have it. The idea is to just run into a wall or low cover and your character will act accordingly, granting you a brief safe haven and the ability to blind shoot; however this mostly ends up in a panicked rush to a wall with you getting shot to hell as you maniacally push forward, desperate for cover, resulting in use of the scarce First Aid sprays. Thankfully this style of fighting is only really required against the Special Services as zombies have more of a swarm mentality, where you can use a running shoulder charge to disperse them or use their body as shield to your advantage.
Be it bad controls or a bad player, during battles it is all too easy to get shot, resulting in fatal Bleed Outs, smearing the screen in blood, which in turn makes it hard to see what’s going on and also attracts the horde to your location, requiring a frenzied search for some first aid. With all these zombies around you’re bound to get bitten at some point and for the first time you can actually get infected. Once bitten you have a very short time to locate and use an Antiviral spray, fail here and you become a zombie, with the game then taking control and sending your character on a bloody rampage, and the only way out is to hope one of your team kills and revives you, before you kill them.
The U.S.S. consists of 6 selectable characters, including a few familiar classes that comes with this sort of online game, plus a couple of unique classes to the Resident Evil world with the likes of Beltway as the demolition guy, Spectre as the spotter and Lupo, who is the weapons specialist and Wolfpack’s leader.
Each character has their own specific skills for the field and all can be fully upgraded in both looks and weaponry via an easy to use shop, with the whole team able to access the same weapons cache, with a decent variety of SMG’s, rifles, machine guns and pistols plus also purchase and upgrade their own specials like Beltway can use blast armour, sticky mines and laser trip mines. Lupo’s special can allow her to have infinite ammo for short time, Spectre is good at item detection (handy for completionists) with both Bio-thermal and sonar vision to improve visuals and Bertha is the field medic who offers various health boosts.
Being predominantly a multiplayer experience the most fun is had online, however we all have those moments where a connection is lost but sensibly, rather than chucking you out of your campaign game and losing all of your progress, the game seamlessly switches to offline mode, with the remaining characters now being AI controlled and whilst not as good as human players, the AI does a good enough job for you not to notice to much.
With the main campaign offering seven missions each taking from 20 minutes to an hour to finish, you will quickly be trying out the other modes in the Versus area, where this time around you can play as either the U.S.S. or the US Special Services (offer the same classes). You will need to make sure you spend your experience points across all of your team during campaign mode as if someone beats you to your favourite character, you may be playing with an underpowered and unfamiliar character.
Versus hosts a couple of the more basic modes, such as Team Attack and Biohazard, which has your team collecting G-Virus samples. Survivors is a little different, with two teams fighting to survive in a small area against a constant flow of zombies for five minutes, at which point a chopper lands with only four spaces, leaving it down to you look after yourself and hope you get a space before it takes off. Finally, the Heroes mode allows you to take control of a handful of classic characters like, Ada Wong, Jill Valentine, Claire Redfield and Leon Kennedy. The aim is to be the last hero standing. If you get killed, then your task becomes to protect the remaining Heroes from the other team by now playing as their respective security force. Because of the faulty cover system most of these modes turn very quickly into a messy and unskilled strafing blast-fest. Survivor is the best mode, but even that is fatally flawed with you able to find safe areas untouched by zombies and a win screen that feels like the game has crashed as you wait up to five minutes for the final survivors.
The random and seemingly magical spawn points of your enemies is a common problem to the point where they at time pop into existence right before your eyes, sometimes you can clear a room, turn your back for a second and then get attacked from behind. At other times the game goes to the effort of bringing some suspense when you hear lots of zombies behind a door, scratching away until it bursts open, but then to have constant spawning enemies appearing from an empty side room completely ruins the illusion.
The enjoyment is very short lived and when compared to other Resident Evil titles, Operation Raccoon City just doesn’t hold up.
Being a long-time fan of Resident Evil titles, it’s hard to admit that Operation Raccoon City really goes wrong in far too many places and while some of these flaws can be forgiven, ultimately Operation Raccoon City lacks any real thrills. Constantly, you’ll be scrounging and swapping weapons as you are always out of ammo or cursing the quick time events that pop up and require split second reflexes that ends up resulting in many deaths. You’ll also find yourself getting stuck on the floor on random objects, come across enemies that can juggle attack you with no way of escape; finding yourself frustrated at the melee system that does very little other than get you bitten or scratching your head at the levels, which are so dark it’s very hard to see where you are going at times; the list goes on and sadly whilst it looks all pretty, all these flaws and more spoil the overall excitement.
Feeling like a half-baked Left4Dead clone, this whole game should really have been a B-side to a main single player campaign, preferably bundled with a title such as Resident Evil 6. The enjoyment is very short lived and when compared to other Resident Evil titles, Operation Raccoon City just doesn’t hold up.
Rating: AverageReview Policy(version tested: PS3)
You can still pick up Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City on (PS3 | Xbox 360) from ShopTo for just £36.85, you’ll even get free DLC in the shape of the Resident Evil Operation Raccoon City Renegade DLC Pack.