With reports that Resident Evil may be heading away from the traditional survival horror-style and into more action, it’s fitting that we get to put Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City through its paces. Doing away with the slower-paced, tank-track controls, and welcoming third-person action, it’s a departure from the norm, that’s for sure.
Taking place in between Resident Evil 2 and 3, RE:ORC sees you take control of an Umbrella Security Service operative. Part of a small group called Wolfpack, it’s your mission to infiltrate the zombie-infested Raccoon City and ensure that all evidence of Umbrella’s involvement in the catastrophe is destroyed. Throughout the campaign you’ll meet some familiar faces, and encounter some recognisable sights and locations, only from a more in-your-face point of view.
As the game revolves around Wolfpack, RE:ORC is primarily a co-op title, but it can be played solo with AI teammates. The missions you’ll embark upon will take in the various highlights of the storied city, and you’ll do battle with classic enemies like Hunters, Lickers, Tyrants and, of course, shuffling zombies.
Starting out, you’ll first need to choose your team. You can choose from a range of characters, picking from recon, demolition, medic and other traditional roles, and either friends or the AI can fill in the gaps of the four man fire team. You can pick a starting load out, skills (once you purchase them) and outfits, which, in true Capcom fashion, have to be purchased. Give me strength.
Once you’ve picked your soldier and load out, it’s off to see what an all action Resident Evil is like, and I can honestly say that, after five minutes, you’ll want to go back to Resident Evil 2. Yep, this is not good. Not good at all.
Dire, dire, dire my darling
It’s not often that you can play a game for a mere five minutes and just know that it’s going to be a crapstorm of awfulness, but RE:ORC is one of those games. There are just so many things wrong here it’s hard to know where to begin.
I suppose I should start with the basics, the controls. Although the simple, bread and butter controls for moving, aiming and shooting are ok, and are passable, the third person staple of cover is not. Far from it.
The cover system, always important in this genre, is just totally broken, and instead of a button-activated setup, it uses an instant, stick to anything you touch method. Well, I say stick to anything you touch. Perhaps more accurate would be, stick to anything you touch that you don’t actually want to use as cover, and refuse to the point of stubbornness to stick to cover you actually need to use in the midst of a firefight, before you die.
Often, you can be trying to run away from danger, or use the stupidly awkward evasive roll to avoid hits, and you’ll stick to the walls like Spider-Man after he’s had an accident with Solvite. Other times, when you’re frantically trying to avoid incoming fire, you head towards a seemingly flat, cover-ripe area, and your character will stand there, taking shots to the head. It’s ridiculous, clumsy and inexcusable.
Cover systems are hardly new these days, and there are plenty of far, far superior titles to take inspiration from, so there’s simply no reason this staple feature should be so bad. But, that’s just the start of the problems.
One of the most shockingly bad elements of RE:ORC has to be the AI. I’ve seen a lot of poor AI in games in the past, but the ‘intelligence’ seen here is truly awesome to behold, it’s that bad.
In fact, the AI isn’t just bad, it’s truly atrocious, and you’ll wish, if you’re planning on playing the game solo, you could do away with the AI completely. It’d make your life easier.
Not only are the computer-controlled team mates about as useful as a eunuch in a brothel, hardly ever killing any foes, they also like to get in your way at every opportunity, obscuring your view, stopping you escaping an attack, blocking you in doorways and hogging cover for no reason. They’ll wander around aimlessly, even in the midst of combat, running back and forward as if they’ve gone mental, and will wander into your own hail of fire.
Yes, your AI allies don’t just occasionally wander right into your sights which is bad enough in some games, they constantly do, as if they realise just how bad the game they’re starring in is and can’t take it any more. I swear, I think I killed my team mates more by accidental friendly fire than any zombie or mutant did.
Allies also vary rarely heal you, and when they do, they waste a healing spray on you when you’re near, or at full health. It’s truly laughable. Oh, and if you don’t kill them with friendly fire, don’t worry, they’re hardly Bear Grylls, and couldn’t survive a quiet night down the pub, let alone a zombie holocaust. Expect to revive them often.
I’m out of ammo!
When you’re not battling with your own AI team, you’ll be able to get down to the actual business of fighting the enemy, but sadly, this is no better. Enemies can be varied, including plenty of Resi staples, but man, do these guys take some damage.
Enemies can soak up so many bullets, you’ll probably end up giving in due to boredom, especially in some of the boos fights, where your foes are seemingly impervious to anything but the ammo cache of a small developing country, and this is made all the worse thanks to the aforementioned AI team who rarely manage to kill even the most basic, shambling undead, leaving you to do it all yourself. You’ll often run out of ammo in the midst of a fight, and this leads to tedious ammo hunting.
But, hold on, your characters have close combat moves, don’t they? Yes, but I’m afraid melee attacks just feel like swinging a soft woollen sock at a rhino. On anything but the easiest difficulty, you’ll be flailing around like a loon even when you’re trying to kill a lowly zombie. Set the game to the hardest level, and you could take minutes to kill a single undead, I kid you not.
I’m all for challenge in a game, but simply making enemies nigh-on immortal is not the way to add difficulty. All it does is turn the game into a chore, and with so many other faults, that’s not something you want here.
Game got issues
Outside of direct combat, the game has plenty of other quirks and problems. For example, during the missions your characters can become infected with zombie virus (so why do they bother to wear their elaborate, but seemingly useless gasmasks?). When infected, your, or your allies health drops slowly. Let it drop all the way and it’s zombie time. Luckily, you can find anti-viral sprays to counteract this, retuning yourself, or a team mate to normal. Sound good eh? Well, yes, except that this feature is broken too. Why? Because all you need to do is let your team mate zomb-out and then kill them. Once dead, press and hold A to revive them, and voila! Instantly better, Monty Python-style. It’s absolutely pointless.
Some other game mechanics simply boggle the mind, like the early confrontation with William Birkin in the first level that, without any warning, locks your view towards him, forcing you to run backwards slowly, making avoiding his attacks almost impossible. Eventually you can turn around and run away, but again, the game doesn’t indicate this. It’s just amazingly poor, and as if no one at Slant Six even bothered to play test their own game, let alone try to come up with anything robust or workable.
Even the aesthetics and game world, something that shouldn’t be hard to produce with a license as rich in detail as Resident Evil, are lacklustre at best. The locations are dull and devoid of any feeling or grandeur, and if it wasn’t for some familiar enemies and the odd recognisable sound effect, this could be any generic third person shooter. It barely feels like Resident Evil, and not just because it’s a different style game, it also bears none of the hallmarks found in other entries in the series. It has virtually no personality whatsoever.
These are just a few of the issues that plague the game, and you may be wondering if there’s anything at all I found enjoyable at all.
Bring a friend
The only real way RE:ORC can even approach being an enjoyable game is if you play with friends, and in Slant Six’s defence, this is clearly where the game design was headed.
When in multiplayer, things do improve, and with a group of friends, the issues with the AI are gone, and the game at least resembles something you may want to play. But, even here, the tedium of pumping endless clips into enemies, the lack of any real effort or polish on in the environments and the seeming disdain for the Resident Evil license is enough to kill any enjoyment you’ll get out of it.
A nifty deathmatch mode that sees players fight each other in arenas crawling with undead and mutants is a good idea, but is one of the miniscule good points of this tirade of terribleness. A good multiplayer mode simply cannot save it.
How Capcom let Slant Six crap all over Resident Evil like this is beyond me. It’s a truly shocking release that offends on almost every design and mechanical level. There are few games I can honestly say I can find so little in the way of redeeming features, and this, certainly in single player mode, is one of them.
Only the semi-interesting deathmatch mode is worth a prolonged look. Other than that, this is an appallingly poor release, and one that both Slant Six and Capcom should be ashamed of.
If this is a sign of Resident Evil‘s action-heavy future, give me the old-school outings any day.