- Lasting Appeal
The ideas were there, the tried and true premise was there, but none of them were implemented correctly. If you must buy this game, wait for it to get to the bargain bin.
Much happened during the viral outbreak that decimated Raccoon City, an industrialized city set in fictional universe of the Resident Evil franchise. The accidental release of the T-virus, created by the Umbrella Corporation caused the zombification of the tens of thousands of the city’s residents. This horde of flesh hungry undead proved too much for the U.S military to handle. In days, the city had turned from a warzone into a smoldering, bloody ruin, occupied by the shambling and moaning zombies.
Raccoon City was the stage for the first three games of the long-standing series. The games redefined the survival-horror genre and were the prime examples of the best titles of the late 90s.
Naturally, a trip back to this dark city would be awesome, or so goes in theory. Operation Raccoon City is a non-canon entry set during the events of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. It sets itself apart by discarding both the “survival” and “horror” elements that make up the core of the franchise. ORC is a squad based third person shooter that feels more like a poor man’s take on Gears of War than a Resident Evil based Left 4 Dead.
The lack of fleshed out characters would’ve been fine if they were compensated for by solid gameplay. Sadly, a few fundamental aspects that give rise to good shooters have not been worked on enough.
The formula, though not at all new, isn’t a bad one. You play as one of six playable members of the Wolfpack, a special operations team working for Umbrella. Each member has his own special kill move, preferred weapon, special ability and so on and so forth. For example, you can play as Vector whose special ability is invisibility through active camouflage. But that is all that you are likely to notice about the characters for none of them feel especially interesting. A few lines of backstory are provided at the character selection screen, but they hardly suffice.
The lack of fleshed out characters would’ve been fine if they were compensated for by solid gameplay. Sadly, a few fundamental aspects that give rise to good shooters have not been worked on enough. There is a fair collection of weapons to choose from but nearly all of them feel weak and weightless. Zombies do lurch and twitch with bullet impacts but strangely enough, they can withstand machine gun fire unlike Resident Evil zombies ever have.
It’s not just zombies that are bullet sponges (which is somewhat acceptable, given that they are already dead), human opponents who make up a good portion of the enemies you face, behave the same way. Things get worse when you face mini-bosses such as lickers and hunters. Not only can they take magazine upon magazine of bullets, they barely react to the barrage of gunfire. This apparent uselessness of precise gameplay is disappointing. All you need is more ammo to survive and there’s plenty of it scattered around the maps.
The cover system featured in ORC is functional at best. To protect yourself, all you need to do is run towards cover, and your character will automatically crouch or lean against whatever that’s in front. It works for the most part, but you can’t switch from cover to cover and you tend to slide out of them when you try to take shots from the side. In the end, you end up battling not just zombies and marines but abysmal combat mechanics.
Thankfully, the levels get relatively better as you progress.
Your squad-mates, if controlled by the computer, can’t revive you if you go down. They can’t make use of cover properly or shoot with precision. They run off on their own and get killed, further making you a prime target. They also tend to run into perfectly visible mines, though that does save you ammo.
To top all that off, your guns lose their audio whenever too many enemies appear at the same time. A simple switch to desktop fixes this problem. As of now, no patch has been released to alleviate the issue.
All of the above problems showcased themselves right at the first level, which starts off with the transformation of William Birkin, one of the key characters of RE 2. At the point where Birkin burst into a tunnel, the general audio of the game somehow diminished. I tried turning around to make a run for it, but I couldn’t. I was forced to shoot at his weak spot, a giant eye above his left arm. I tried backing away but was met with a jet of flame that I could’ve easily avoided if I could just turn more than 180 degrees. By the time the game did let me turn, Birkin had already closed in on me and pummeled me to oblivion with his giant metal pipe. My teammates, who were right beside me before the introduction of Birkin, were nowhere to be seen. When I got to the other end of the tunnel, I saw all three of them standing there. One of them was staring at a wall.
Thankfully, the levels get relatively better as you progress.
The one thing that would urge a RE fan to plough through the campaign is the prospect of seeing the events that took place in the previous games through the eyes of the enemy. It is interesting to see Leon. S. Kennedy, the protagonist of RE 2, fleeing from the Wolfpack or witnessing the death of Ada Wong in his arms.
Some parts of the game are genuinely fun though. Pulling off a series of headshots or saving a squad mate from the clutches of a licker does bring excitement to the play. There is also the thrill that comes from locating anti-viral sprays, without which you are at the mercy of the virus if you get bit. Once you turn into a zombie, you can watch yourself turning on anyone near your vicinity. Your team mates put you down without second thoughts.
The game isn’t also properly anti-aliased, which is a shame given that it uses DirectX 11.
ORC’s competitive modes showed more promise than the campaign. The best of the four, Biohazard, has your team collecting G-virus samples off the map to return them to their home base. In survivor mode, two teams fight each to get to an extraction helicopter with limited seats. While the other more common modes, Team Death Match and Heroes provide basic fun, the issues that make the campaign a slog persist.
Operation Raccoon City is fairly good looking on the PC. The environments in particular have been given special attention. A lot of the locations from the previous games, such as the Kendo gun shop and the police station look great. There isn’t much light available to appreciate the details though, much of it is obscured by a hazy fog. The game isn’t also properly anti-aliased, which is a shame given that it uses DirectX 11.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City PC showed signs of being a basic port right from the get go. Even the most ardent fans of the series would have a hard time wading through all the stuff that ultimately brings the game down to its knees. The ideas were there, the tried and true premise was there, but none of them were implemented correctly. If you must buy this game, wait for it to get to the bargain bin.