March 25, 2012 by Paul Curtin
With Resident Evil 5 failing to improve upon anything from Resident Evil 4 and the Dead Space series perfecting the survival horror genre, Capcom needed to make some improvements to the Resident Evil series to win back some of their fans. In a move that nobody saw coming, the developers behind almost completely killing the SOCOM series before Zipper somehow made it even worse, Slant Six, were hired to shake things up a bit by revamping RE‘s gameplay and shifting the focus to a faster paced multiplayer tactical shooter. An idea that will make Resident Evil purists cry blasphemy as the iconic stop-and-shoot survival horror series becomes Call of Duty-fied.
Shockingly, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City doesn’t suck. In fact, not only does it not suck, but Slant Six has managed to almost perfectly blend competitive multiplayer gameplay with maps full of zombies to create an experience unlike anything else before it.
After countless sequels to the Resident Evil series over the past sixteen years, most of which have featured the same old characters, somebody at Capcom finally came up with a brilliant new idea: Take their beloved series that they’ve milked to death in both the gaming and film industries, and retell one of the franchise’s best stories from the point of view of those working for the evil Umbrella Corporation trying to stop the heroes from once again saving the day.
Taking place in 1998 between the events of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, ORC‘s alternate non-canon story puts players in the boots of new Umbrella Security Service characters who have been assigned with the task of covering up Umbrella’s involvement in the Raccoon City outbreak. The story is broken up into seven missions so that players can easily choose different parts of the story to replay with friends and compare stats in post-level reports similar to Capcom’s Lost Planet 2. The entire campaign is available for online co-op play, so you and three friends can select from six U.S.S. members to fill the four person squad before starting missions.
ORC‘s faster-paced co-op structure prevents its story from being presented anywhere near as well as previous titles in the series, and some fans might find fault with the game’s lack of puzzles and new squad-based system, which doesn’t allow a single character to go it alone in traditional Resident Evil fashion. However, with the new faster pace and increased amount of zombies to fight, you’ll appreciate the help from friends when taking on this crazier version of Raccoon City as harder difficulties can render the mediocre A.I. useless, but still not as useless as in RE5.
Although none of the new characters are developed as well as heroes from previous games due to the game’s decreased amount of cutscenes and shorter length, returning to parts of Raccoon City that most gamers haven’t visited in over a decade to prevent the old main characters from saving the day all while encountering thousands of zombies and classic bosses is an interesting concept that will keep you intrigued throughout the action-packed seven-hour campaign. Unfortunately, despite having its share of awesome moments, ORC‘s ending feels unfinished and doesn’t explain a potentially awesome final twist that could have greatly helped develop the new characters and make them more memorable.
But ORC isn’t just a new story in the franchise told from a different perspective. Slant Six has made some big changes like a simplified inventory system, improved melee combo system, and the ability to shoot while running, which modernizes the classic gameplay experience. Like Gears of War 3, you can even take a zombie as an undead meat shield, plant a grenade on it, and kick it back at other enemies as an on-the-fly zombie IED. How awesome is that?
Returning items like health sprays and herbs that players must scavenge maps for along with the use of classic sound effects help keep the atmosphere feeling like the old Resident Evil while the improved movement and cover systems finally give players a better shooter experience. The new cover system works great by allowing players to simply run up behind any object to take cover; however, by not using a devoted cover button there are times where using cover doesn’t work perfectly, which can be irritating when getting shot and low on health.
While most of the new tweaks are for the better, for some reason Slant Six decided it would be a good idea to keep the dodge system awkward and sluggish. Characters basically just faceplant roughly into the ground when jumping instead of using a smooth animation into a prone position. It is pretty neat that you can continue to shoot while jumping and on the ground, but jumping in general feels pointless with how long the whole animation takes to get back up and sometimes you can accidentally jump on top of items when just trying to pick them up.
The revive system is also poorly thought out with the revive button being the same action button as picking up new items, so you’ll find yourself swapping back and forth between your gun and the gun dropped by your downed teammate in the heat of battle instead of reviving them. It’s another case where there should have been a dedicated button. Slant Six does however offer somewhat alternate control schemes and allows the triggers and bumpers to be swapped, which is nice and something only PlayStation 3 owners can understand as a necessity.
Once you get the hang of the controls and beat the campaign, you’ll discover where ORC really shines with one of the most awesome and fun team-based multiplayer experiences in recent years. Resident Evil 5‘s tacked-on joke of a 2-on-2 multiplayer experience doesn’t even compare. Left 4 Dead and Dead Space 2 might have also done similar concepts amazingly well, but neither allowed two all-human teams to go at each other like a regular multiplayer shooter. The battles that take place on chaotic zombie-infested maps with a wide range of modes and different zombies from throughout the campaign who attack everyone they see and hear no matter their team is a revolutionary new feature to multiplayer gaming that will hopefully become a trend.
Each Versus map is carefully constructed and packed with normal zombies, Lickers, and Hunters, who all do just enough to get in the way and throw a monkey wrench into the combat, but never too much to where they ruin the gameplay by being too powerful. Different modes that pit two teams against each other can be played on each map like Team Attack which is a classic deathmatch mode where teams just try to kill each other the most, Biohazard that’s objective-based with each team fighting to collect G-virus samples scattered throughout each map, and Heroes which starts each player on a team off as one of the main characters with the goal of eliminating all of the other team’s heroes before your own team of heroes is wiped out. There’s even an Xbox 360 exclusive downloadable mode that allows teams to fight over controlling the Nemesis monster to their advantage — it’s the clear reason why to purchase the 360 version over the PS3, even though it shamefully still costs $4 to download after purchasing the full game.
Linking the co-op to multiplayer is another great feature with weapons and skills unlocked in either mode being able to be carried over into the other mode. Each character’s unique abilities give the game great replayability, and the limited amount of ammo amongst the multitude of guns offered makes conserving ammo and working as a team essential in order to survive. The new infected health system brought over into the multiplayer also makes for intense situations as you rush your way through maps fending off zombies and the other team after being infected in an effort to try and find items to keep yourself from bleeding out or turning into a zombie. ORC‘s only problem online is its melee system that allows players to spam combo attacks, which are very difficult to break out of like one of Capcom’s fighting games, but it’s another good reason that you can’t be caught alone and encourages sticking together as a team.
Even with some of its bigger flaws, Operation Raccoon City’s co-op is enjoyable, and its use of zombie A.I. in competitive multiplayer modes is unmatched by anything else ever offered. If you don’t like co-op or multiplayer shooters, ORC is most likely not the game for you. But if you’re looking for a unique co-operative or competitive online experience, ORC is definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re already a fan of the series. With some time taken to learn the controls and friends to team up with online, the Versus modes are insanely competitive and addicting. There’s nothing more fun and rewarding than giving an enemy the beat down alongside other zombies who are lending a helping hand, it’s a one-of-a-kind experience you won’t find in any other game. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City gets 4 out of 5 stars (Great).
- Unique 4 vs. 4 multiplayer experience that’s amazingly fun to play with friends
- Tons of guns and abilities to unlock that carry over between the campaign and multiplayer
- Solid co-op story available to also play online with three other friends
- Improved controls and other tweaks bring the series up to date
- Great looking graphics with very rare framerate drops during chaotic battles
- The story is too short, characters are underdeveloped, and the ending feels unfinished
- New dodge, revive, and melee systems need more work
- Day 1 Xbox 360 exclusive paid DLC multiplayer mode should be free for every console
- Playing alone with A.I. squadmates on harder difficulties can be very frustrating