Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City revew
UK Price (as reviewed): £39.97
US Price (as reviewed): $59.99
Most Resident Evil spin-offs have suffered from using the franchise’s name while ignoring the survival horror gameplay the series was founded on. But with the fifth Resident Evil, and to a lesser extent the fourth, the main games in the series have also been abandoning horror in favour of action, making the prospect of another spin-off less awful than it previously might have been.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (RE: ORC) is a cover-based squad shooter set around the same time as Resident Evil 2 and 3, only this time around you get to play as the bad guys. As a member of the Umbrella Security Service your task is simple: damage limitation.
Intent on covering their tracks and salvaging vital research, you must do the evil Umbrella corporation’s bidding by eliminating anyone who stands in your way, including - die-hard Resident Evil fans look away now to avoid disgust - Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield.
Fire. Lots of fire.
The first mission is to enter an Umbrella facility and stop the U.S military getting their hands on the T-virus. An initial lack of zombies makes for a terrible start to the game, with boring firefights that highlight the worst aspects right from the off.
Supposedly activated by holding the left analogue stick towards whatever you want to hide behind, the cover system works sporadically at best, schizophrenically at worst. Sometimes you snap into position as intended and the rest you’re left floundering in the open.
If you do get into cover the shootouts that follow are pure digital whack-a-mole. Enemy soldiers reload in cover, popping out of position to shoot, rarely moving from their allotted slot. When they do it’s usually to run straight into your line of fire.
Also clueless in the ways of combat, your computer-controlled squad spends more time running in circles and getting in the way than shooting in the right direction. RE: ORC should be played with other people, not because the level design necessitates it, but because the AI is so awful.
This wouldn’t matter so much if the public matchmaking system actually worked. This has to be addressed with an update, as right now it’s impossible to find anyone to play with. Out of a mix of curiosity and determination we waited multiple times to find other players, with no joy.
It’s a shame because once zombies, Lickers, Hunters, Tyrants and Nemesis’s enter the fray, RE: ORC becomes entertaining - if mindless – fun. It even brings a couple of new ideas to the zombie shooter table.
Most foes are simple cannon fodder
For the most part, zombies are cannon fodder there for the purpose of being torn into bloody chunks of flesh and viscera. Some, however – identified by a sunburnt complexion - are a tad more bitey and can actually infect you. When that happens, it’s a race against time to find an anti-viral spray before you become a zombie yourself, creating manic moments and last-second mercy killings, taking out infected squad members before they turn and attack.
You bleed when shot in the body, attracting nearby zombies. The same is true for enemy soldiers, who can be used as zombie bait to lure the monsters away from you. It’s good old-fashioned, sadistic fun aiming for the belly then standing by as your target gets torn apart by a hungry mob.
Scores and rankings after each stage determine the amount of XP awarded. This can be used to upgrade a character’s abilities or buy new weapons. Incendiary rounds, invisible cloaking and land mines are just some of the toys available to spice up your approach to zombie genocide.
Bosses are ridiculously strong and take a lot
of punishment before going down. Upgraded weapons and special abilities speed things up slightly, but if the rest of the squad pulled their fingers out and actually helped, bosses would seem less like invincible bullet sponges. We’re not exactly sure what the rest of the team do during boss fights, but shooting the boss in the head isn’t generally one of them.
There's good, old-fashioned fun here. But not very much of it
Revisiting Resident Evil 2 and 3 from a different perspective is an interesting prospect, but RE:ORC never makes the most of the opportunity. Story-wise, nothing significant is revealed, and familiar locations don’t hold the same appeal without fixed camera angles to frame them. Big fans of the series will probably find things to gripe about, but for the rest of us, RE:ORC can be enjoyed as an average shooter wearing Resident Evil’s clothes.
Unlike the public matchmaking, finding people to play the online versus modes with is quick and easy. These are serviceable but can’t hope to be more than a temporary distraction from more polished shooters such as Gears of War, Battlefield and Call of Duty.
Survivor sees two teams fight it out against each other and an increasing amount of monsters until an evacuation helicopter arrives. With only four seats and up to eight players (every slot was filled whenever we played), frantic last-second scrambles to get on the chopper make this the most fun versus mode available.
If you’re looking for a game where you can switch off without having to worry about engaging anything but your trigger finger then RE: ORC fits the bill. Go in with low expectations, and you may well find them exceeded.