Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Operating on Raccoon City: Resident Evil Operation Raccoon City Review

A while back, there were rumors about a new squad-based Resident Evil game. It was to be developed by Slant Six, and would change the pace from survival horror to a more action based game. From my recollection, many fans were revolted by this concept (including yours truly), and by the choice of developer. Practically everyone in the fan community dismissed the game as just a rumor, a misguided concept that would never even be imagined.

We were wrong.

It turned out the game was a reality. That every shred of the rumor was spot on true. The game was to be made by the low-rent Slant Six development crew. It was to be a third person shooter a-la SOCOM. And, it would be set in an alternate timeline, letting you change the history in drastic ways.

To say I was worried was a bit of an understatement. E3 videos of gameplay didn't help with this, showing a janky, ugly game. A game with rather lackluster mechanics and some rather plain looking character designs.

Then the trailers hit, and I was intrigued. It showed a lot of potential in concept. Yes, they were cinematic trailers. But if it was to show the concept and mood the developers were going for, I was interested in seeing it through.

Of course sometimes a decently portrayed concept never lives up to the real deal. It's not that Raccoon City doesn't try to deliver what it promised. But rather, it didn't make any of the features that stand out feel special. And in the end it all melds into a massive mediocrity with half-baked concepts. Everything about the game feels like bare minimum effort was put into it; from the graphics to the gameplay itself. Nothing stands out, and it's a shame, because sometimes the game manages to be fun.

Now I'm going to put aside my fanboyism for Resident Evil. And judge this game fairly. Which probably wont make too much of a difference, I wracked my brain thinking about how I felt about the final product.

The game is unremarkable, it's hard to pinpoint one thing. It could be the stale, half-assed story presentation (if you could call it that); the sterile environments you wander; the generic, unsatisfying gunplay; or the abilities which for the most part seem to do so little to alter the gameplay experience.

I don't even know
To say the story is weak is an understatement, it's barely there. There's a twist...and then the twist is seemingly untwisted in an odd mission briefing. There is no exposition to speak of, you just appear in places, and there's some awful dialog to let you know what to do in this particular corridor. Sometimes the dialog changes based on who is in your squad, but it's not that different. And it barely matters, none of the characters are likable. And none of them are particularly evil in any manner. The idea you are an operative sent in to kill survivors and destroy evidence is barely touched upon. The only human beings you see are zombies and Spec Ops. There's no civilians to speak of, and it's a shame. I felt that a huge emotional impact could be made by you choosing whether or not to execute innocents, if portrayed in the correct way. Yet the game doesn't do this at all. You being a part of this cleaner unit is seemingly just a ploy to give you the option to kill Leon Kennedy (which was a huge deal in the marketing for this game). For a concept so ripe with morality, it's never played upon, and it's a massive missed opportunity.

One of the few characters from the other games
Then there's the city itself. To say it's generic is an understatement. It's a sterile world devoid of much character, which is a huge accomplishment given the fact it's falling apart from the inside out. It should be a warzone, yet it barely looks it. The indoor environments are a joke, I often got confused as to where I was going because it lacked any character to differentiate itself. Then you throw in the design in a gameplay aspect, and it's even worse. Narrow hallways and choke points make navigating with 4 people a chore. the inability to drop from a ledge unless the game wants you to do so makes the world impossible to traverse in a natural way. Many instances of the game devolves into people just raining bullets down a corridor as it's the only effective way to deal with any threat. At least the multiplayer maps fare better. But the shame is sometimes the level design is decent, which only serves to make the garbage you sift through all that more glaring.

The worst idea to ever use for defense against zombies
Playing the game itself lacks much satisfaction. All the weapons handle similarly, leading you to wonder why there's so much variety. I rarely felt like I needed to change from the base weapons. What's an even bigger offender is how weak the weapons feel. You hose enemies down till they fall, but there's so little reaction from them you feel like you are doing nothing. That and your standard enemy takes so much firepower to take down, it pretty much eliminates the idea of feeling like a bad ass. This is interrupted by unresponsive controls. Mostly everything works fine, but I noticed reloading takes multiple button presses to get to happen. And switching to your side arm is hit or miss. Most of the time I would do a quickturn. This lead to a lot of frustration, especially since I was never able to replicate the quick turn on purpose. On occasion, I would pull my pistol out rather than do a dance. But the pistol is so weak it's useless anyways. There is however a nice feature where if you held the switch weapons button you would go into a quickdraw mode, in which using the right analog stick would point your gun in different directions, auto firing when you aimed at an enemy. It was surprisingly effective, and gave me some of that bad ass feel I wanted. But I barely used it since the pistols aren't too good. The cover mechanic works in some ways, you can get in and out of it pretty easily, but it doesn't really give you the ability to smoothly move from cover to cover. You kind of end up awkwardly dashing around.

The game does set up a class system. But it's not particularly well put together. Each character is class specific, which leads to a problem. Maybe you like demo, but not the character Beltway. Well tough shit, you want to blow shit up? Play as Beltway. This is also made worse in multiplayer, as if you invest in a certain class, you are dependent on a specific character. So the more popular characters are picked first, and that rules out specific playstyles. This is really evident in Heroes mode, where characters like Hunk, Leon, Claire and Jill are picked first. Leaving lesser liked characters to be picked. Not that it matters in that sense, but with the lack to pick a class that's not set to a specific character would have been a much better choice. The classes themselves vary quite a bit. But so far only a few abilities (like cloaking and a pheromone grenade) seem particularly effective in the online arena (in single player you never really need any of these).

Which brings me to the multiplayer, it's actually quite fun for the most part. Although not in great lengths, it's a good distraction from more refined online shooters. Most of the modes are fun to play, aside from Heroes mode, which is imbalanced and slow as all hell to play. I didn't see too much in terms of exploitation. There are set spawns, but I rarely found spawn campers within these, as it's a fairly weak tactic in this game. The basic gameplay is fun, but it does have a few issues with lag, and just a general lack of variety and incentive to keep playing.

It also shows how half baked certain design choices are. Like the pheromone grenade for instance, it never seemed particularly effective. But  for the most part, it's the bleeding mechanic that really shows it's lack of polish. If you take a certain amount of damage, you begin to bleed. Bleeding attracts zombies to you (or an enemy player), and you get swarmed. Or you are supposed to, as it's easy to get away, and bleeding stops fairly quickly. Putting an enemy into bleeding status doesn't seem to do much, or at least it didn't until I looked at my stats and saw how many people got mauled to death because I made them bleed. The game never rewards you for some of these things, which makes it seem unimportant or ineffective. And it almost makes me wonder if  anyone got killed because of my pheromones, as there is no stat for it. In the end there isn't much rewarding for the various things you do, which gives you no incentive to try new things and tactics. There's no sense of satisfaction in pretty much all of the game.

A good opportunity squandered
And then you throw in the fact it's Resident Evil. And that it takes a part of history from the series that is well detailed, and ignores it. None of the city resembles Raccoon City from RE2/RE3, save for a few measly rooms and locations, that you barely visit anyway. You do fight iconic enemies like Mr. X, G-Birkin and Nemesis. However, the fights are weak and don't show those monsters' true potential. You'll see a small handful of characters from past games...but it seemed like cameos at best. Then you throw in a bunch of inaccuracies to canon and it all shows a lack of care to a property that is rich with details.

It's insulting to long time Resident Evil fans.

But most of all it's an insult to gamers in general. A shoddy product that lacks any features that define it, a game that's only fun in short bursts and little more. What redeeming value there is, is very small. If I were you, I would keep away from this game, far away.

In fact, pretend it's like a T-Virus victim and is highly contagious. That might help you keep from wasting your time on such a shoddy half assed product.

FINAL VERDICT: 1 out of 50

Humor Tumor has decided he doesn't want to live on this planet anymore...


  1. Seems harsh, but I trust your judgment as a Resident Evil fan. For what it's worth, what I've seen of the game in small doses doesn't look terrible. But I have almost 0 history with Resident Evil.

    1. The multiplayer is actually fairly fun in small doses, the single player is however not very well tuned for a co-op experience.

  2. I'm a little disappointed to see this. I saw it in action at PAX East and it looked pretty cool. Seems like an interesting concept, running and gunning in Raccoon City. Shame it didn't turn out better....

    1. The concept is interesting. But sadly the mechanics of the game itself just aren't there to hold it up.