Sunday, April 8, 2012

Shoot it in the head!

On paper, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City sounds like a reasonably good idea. Take a venerable, possible stagnated series and inject it with a genre about two steps removed from the original. This isn't Resident Evil, the RTS, but it is Resident Evil, the squad based shooter. Sprinkle with liberal fan service, up to and including canon shattering events like 'killing Leon,' and the end result should be at least interesting. Contrary to what I read about the game beforehand, it actually is.

One of the earliest Resident Evil rewards was a rocket launcher with unlimited ammo. This made running back through the mansion, city, etc incredibly easy, but it also made me wonder why the good guys didn't just load up with better weapons to begin with. The bad guys in Operation Raccoon City actually have experience dealing with zombies, hunters, lickers, and tyrants, so they brought along the appropriate hardware. If all the game had you fighting were zombies this would make it easy, so it throws nameless soldiers that have the audacity to shoot back into the mix early and often, not to mention the meanest version of lickers I have ever seen. It's not enough that they can cling to any surface and take a ton of abuse, they also play dead and will attack from behind with  no warning.

Where the game stumbles is not in its ideas or atmosphere, it is in the application of the different genre. Squad based shooters are everywhere, and they are at their best when the non-player character members of the squad are both effective and autonomous. The other Umbrella members in Operation Raccoon City are neither, barely edging out the zombies they are trying to kill in the intelligence department. They have terrible aim, get stuck on the environment, and generally are much more trouble than they are worth. I found myself keeping them alive just so there was something else for zombies to chase.

The zombies themselves end up being the games other problem. Early on they work just fine as canon fodder, occasionally showing up from behind the squad to keep them on their toes. The first time the crimson heads from RE:make appear they are a welcome addition because they are the exception, not the norm. As the game nears the end the crimson heads are all that are used, and the last level sees them re-spawn forever until at least one member of the team (read: you) makes it to a ladder. They may be able to tear you to pieces in two seconds flat, but vertical obstacles are still their downfall.

At five or so hours the single player campaign ends just as it gets annoying, so it knew when to cash the chips in and go home. I even tried a game or two of the multi-player (there were actually people playing!), and it was unoffensive but unremarkable. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City certainly gets points for trying, and a Double Dragon inspired ending that sees the squad split into to parts, each trying to kill the other is a nice touch, but it is not something I am going to remember for long.

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