Zombies are awesome. I’ve written two reviews of games on this site which feature them, and I’ve even written an article on why we need more zombies in gaming. As such you would assume that a game like Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City would be a zombie apocalypse wet dream for me, and thankfully it is.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City takes place during the events of Resident Evil II, in case you can’t remember or have ignored the title of the game, it is set in a lovely little hamlet called Raccoon City. If you have played Resident Evil II, and paid attention, this game is a fanboy/fangirl treat for you. The story lines of Resident Evil II are almost perfectly interwoven with the plot of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City.
Resident Evil II saw Leon and Claire, basically due to their own ineptitude and sense of what is right, trapped in Raccoon city with a population of zombies. On their mini-break from the hub-bub of the working week they happen upon a slew of characters including Sherry. Sherry is a little brat with a whiny voice that grates my very soul, her father has created for the underground Umbrella Corporation a bio-weapon called the G-Virus. Stay with me here, the G-Virus isn’t what has caused the regular zombies top-side, that’s the T-Virus, The G-Virus creates hideous creatures that are harder than an East London mechanic.
Through the course of Resident Evil II you find out that Sherry is on the search for her father but it turns out a secret ops team were sent by Umbrella Corporation to find him and take away the G-Virus, enter The Wolf Pack stage left. The Wolf Pack, or in my head S&M Leather Emporium Reps, are your team. You build a squad of four from a selection of six characters – each with their own speciality and technique for some extra murdering. If playing solo you can choose the team, their weapons, and which passive and active abilities they take into the field. If you’re playing online everyone can choose their own puppet of death.
The Leather Reps are an amoral team who basically will do whatever they’re told, be it for the greater good or just to be a bit of a squad of tools. The characters all have their own personalities which are shown in quite clever cut-scenes, the personalities range from dick to arse-hole. I say the cut-scenes are clever because you’ll realise that each of the characters are talking and reacting to each other, yet when you think about it there are six potential lead characters and different combinations of back up members. Little touches like this encourage replaying the game, however it is not the main incentive.
For me, other than the story and general shooty fun, the main reason to replay this game is XP. Experience points are a dangerous thing to implement into a game, especially in an established series that hasn’t had it before. In this game XP is used to buy new weapons and upgrade characters abilities. Buying weapons is slightly redundant in my experience as the basic assault rifle will do the job fine and worst case if you get bored a dead team mate’s weapon will mix things up a bit. Abilities however are a must in terms of spending your XP. Out of the six characters available you have, Spectre – a Splinter Cell sneaky rip off, Beltway – a beefcake demo freak, Lupo – a woman who is a little too into her guns, Bertha – a medic who looks like she belongs in Allo’ Allo’, Vector – the one in a hoodie that all the kids want to be and finally Four Eyes – a field scientist.
I fancied giving myself a challenge when I played this so I chose the one character who I felt didn’t have the same military training or medals as the rest of the team, Four Eyes the field scientist. Also with the way matchmaking works if you spend all your time levelling up a character that someone else has already chosen then you’re out of luck; obviously no one else ever chose the field scientist. Four Eyes’ abilities include poisoning enemies with strains of the T-Virus, the ability to control the undead menaces and finally an extra couple of pockets which she uses to carry a T-Virus vaccine.
The vaccine which isn’t referenced or explained stops your character from getting infected with any viruses, you can pick up the infection from toilet seats, unsafe hugging and being scratched or bitten by the undead. Your screen will flash blue as a timer counts down, if you fail to spray yourself and remove the infection you will become a zombie. In single player this means game over, but if you’re playing online co-op it means your character will charge and attack your team mates automatically. As such it’s worth keeping an eye on your allies and if they get infected you should put them out of their misery with a medicinal bullet to the skull.
The game follows the simple mechanics of a third person shooter, cover shooting and door kicking are all here but nothing has really advanced any further than you would hope. The cover shooting is useless against zombies but as you meet and shoot armed foes you will soon learn that bullets are as bad as a bite. One of the most infuriating things about the cover based system in this game is that they have not implemented a jump-over cover mechanic. Something that it turns out gamers have taken for granted since the advent of the genre. During a fight, being able to jump your cover and either charge your enemy or sprint heroically in the opposite direction makes a real difference.
In a game where you are supposed to be a crack squad of S&M mercenaries you feel like tactics should play a part but this is sadly lacking. In multiplayer obviously this is down to the team you put together, or the atrocious matchmaking, but in single player you would expect your AI teammates to both use cover and use their brains for something other than the enemies dinner. On many occasions the AI would send a teammate to either block my path, as they don’t move when you want to get past, or occasionally run up to and stand next to my impending incendiary grenade. More annoying than that however is the bullet magnets that you get teamed with, every shootout I would experience a teammate walking in front of my line of fire and just absorb my rounds, there is no forgiveness for this kind of stupidity in AI. As such, this game is playable with AI but it will ruin your experience, you are better off trying to enjoy the game with cocky and offensive fourteen year-old kids instead online.
I’ve tried to avoid talking about the story too much in this review as a number of elements are really worth experiencing for yourself. If you have played Resident Evil II this game will give you enough knowing nods and winks to make you feel like you’re being chatted up by a spiv. The tying up of loose ends and plot holes of Resident Evil II is actually well thought out and crafted and although certain liberties have had to be taken especially towards the end, the story is a good stand-alone tale and one that works well using previous games as a jumping off point.
This isn’t the Resident Evil you remember from many years ago, the only things that really tie it to that era of gaming are the green herbs and the character names, other than that you’ll be at a loss if you expect more. To be honest the main series of Resident Evil has changed to such an extent they are barely comparable to the originals any more, so to hold that against this game would be unjust. This game is great fun, with co-op and competitive multiplayer and a storyline that is genuinely interesting and original I really recommend this title. It may not be what you were expecting but there are guns, zombies and the rejects of Ramstein; what more do you need?