For years fans have been asking and waiting for another entry into the Resident Evil: Outbreak series of games. Enter Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. Is this a worthy successor to the Outbreak series or does it fall miserably short?
For those of you who may not know the Outbreak series of PlayStation 2 games, they were a chapter based series of missions that allowed you to choose one of six different characters. With three more being game-controlled or your human online compatriots. Each character had different skill sets that made each of them unique. Unfortunately the biggest drawback to the Outbreak series of games was the intentional lack of microphone support, leaving you with only a limited amount of preset phrases to use to communicate with your squad mated. Operation Raccoon City has full-on microphone support, automatically making the experience more enjoyable.
Operation Raccoon City is a what-if scenario set during the events of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3. You choose one of six “Wolfpack” members, who are a part of the Umbrella Security Services, or U.S.S. Unfortunately game-play entails one person per console, sorry but no split screen here. Operation Raccoon City follows an over-the-shoulder 3rd-person perspective, with each character having a specific role. Now if this sounds familiar to the S.O.C.O.M. series of games, then you would be correct as Slant 6 Games was handed the reigns to this pony. Each character can use any weapon in the game, so what sets them apart are their specialized skills. You have six different roles or classes to choose from: Assault, Recon, Surveillance, Demolitions, Medic, and Field Scientist. Each class has five abilities to acquire and upgrade, two passive (always on) and three active (short burst activations). Field Scientist is the newest class, and quite different from any game you’ve ever played before. This class has the ability to make zombie allies, and to throw pheromone grenades that will send all enemies after whoever is caught within the gas range, or to just that spot so they are easy to group kill.
As for the game-play, as I stated earlier, it’s an over-the-shoulder 3rd-person shooter. You can move and shoot in any direction. The melee system has been revamped and made really useful. No longer are you stuck having to hold a button to bring out your melee weapon and then hit the action button. You now only have to hit the O or B button depending on your system. For any human-sized enemies, once you make them stagger a bit from your melee you can hit X/A or triangle/X to perform a Brutal Melee kill. There are generic and character specific Brutal kills. Which one you get will depend on which button you press and if the character’s ability stock is full. As you run around each level there is a lot to discover. Laying about each level is Data, which you will need to find a specific number of to get your S rank for the level, and Cameras, which are extras that will give you fifty XP with a potential of five-hundred XP in each level as you destroy them. XP? Yes, you read that right. This game uses an XP system in lieu of money to equip and upgrade your character. You’ll use the XP to buy and upgrade abilities, and buy primary and secondary weapons. Unfortunately, you can’t upgrade any of the weapons. Also littered around each level will be weapon crates that require you to shoot the locks off to loot. These will contain a variety of weapons. From heavier machine guns, sniper rifles, to the classic grenade launcher and flamethrower.
Teamwork is the key to surviving in Raccoon City. If you’re playing offline you can choose who your A.I. teammates will be, but not their starting weapons, or abilities. When playing online, it helps to know a characters strengths and weaknesses, which is especially true for the online versus multiplayer component of the game.
For story this “what if” starts you off at the beginning of everything. You meet up with Hunk to support his mission of “acquiring” the G Virus samples from Birkin, to Leon and Claire’s escape from the doomed city. Playing as each character gives you different abilities, but for the story dialogue –depending on the place in squad– they all have the same lines, with some character specific variations. Your main mission after failing to get the samples from Birkin is to travel around RC and destroy as much evidence of Umbrella’s involvement as possible. From documents, to survivors. So Leon is on your clean up list. Along the way you’ll run into other Resident Evil characters. Nicholai and Ada show up to try and ruin your day, along with U.S. Spec Ops. As for the infected enemies, you’ll run the gamut of classic enemies –Zombies, Crimson Heads, Dogs, Hunters, Lickers, T-103 Tyrants, T-102 Nemesis, and even Birkin’s first G form. Added to the mix are parasitic enemies. Think large spiders and your almost there. Not as big as the more familiar spiders, these smaller ones will climb up a zombie host, knock its head off, take control of the body, and come after you. Crazy I know, but hey this is Resident Evil.
For the online versus, you get a few interesting modes. The XBOX 360 gets an exclusive mode called Nemesis, in which you basically fight the other team for control of the Nemesis from Resident Evil 2. Then you get Biohazard mode, where you collect the G-Virus sample and return it to your base. Team Attack, which is basically Team Deathmatch. Survivors, where you fight the other team and then run for the chopper when it lands –which can only hold 4 people and it don’t matter if members from both sides get on. What’s interesting about the Survivors mode is that every time you die it’s going to take longer for you to spawn back in. Finally, the big mode is Heroes. In Heroes you each get to pick a classic Resident Evil character and run Team Death Match until all heroes on a team are dead. The Hero characters have more health and take longer to kill. For the “good” side you get Leon, Claire, Jill, and Carlos, while for the “bad” side you get Hunk, Ada, Nicholai, and a placement character called Lone Wolf. Yeah they got a little lazy. Could have given us Chief Irons or somebody.
Now in all of these modes not only do you have the other team to contend with, but you’ve also got Zombies, and depending on the map, Hunters, Lickers, and even T-103 Tyrants. I’ve been in rooms where I’ve been running from Zombies, Crimson Heads, Hunters, and a Tyrant at the same time. To say it can get hectic is a bit of an understatement. Fortunately the enemies will go after whatever player is closest to them, unless a pheromone grenade is tossed out. Each non-playable character enemy is worth XP points, so don’t be afraid to use that ammo on them. Ammo, health, grenades, and sprays are placed around the map and will continually respawn. Not to mention that NPC’s will drop the same items as well. So learn your way around the maps because knowing where your health and Anti-Viral sprays are key.
Speaking of Anti-Viral sprays, you can become infected in many different ways. Now the infection is a double edged sword. Once infected enemies will leave you alone. So allowing yourself to become infected has the ability to allow you to get past non-human enemies and get the objective done, however, your health will decline at a pretty good clip. And once your health meter is fully down, you’ll zombify, losing control of your character. If you see one of your squad-mates has been infected you can heal them with a AV spray, or you can outright kill them, then revive them –unless it’s a versus game, then they’ll just have to wait to respawn.
There are four difficulty settings to the campaign mode: Casual, Normal, Veteran, and Professional. On Veteran and Professional not only are the enemies tougher, but you get the added difficulty of having friendly fire on. So you had better be careful with your aim.
Now other than just some simple fun I didn’t have particularly high expectations with this game. I have been actually surprised by the amount of fun I’ve truly had with it. I had some clanmates from Killzone 3 that picked this up as well, so three other guys and myself had great teamwork and communication. That made my experience really great. Playing with random strangers who refuse to use a microphone would probably make the game suck balls. With fairly short campaign mode, it may not worth a full sixty bones right out the gate, but that being said, this is a solid title.
Final Verdict: If you’re a big Resident Evil fan –especially if you got friends that will hop online and team up– your going to love this game. With lots to unlocks to discover, it’s got the chops. The only sad note is no unlimited ammo unlocks for the campaign modes, and some diversity of each character in cut scenes would have been nice.