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Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (PlayStation 3) artwork

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (PlayStation 3) review

"My team went through a checkpoint door and encountered enemy resistance. I noticed one teammate was absent on the front lines, and looked for her. Naturally, she was running in place, into the locked checkpoint door we had just come through. "

For many, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City was already off to a poor start by virtue of what it represents. Fans of the series have long accepted that the canon will never again be George Romero-cum-clunky controls; though we were all better for the evolution that manifested with Resident Evil 4. Even when Resident Evil 5 took the essence of its predecessor and built a Hollywood action flick around its husk, the slick execution made it difficult to mind.

But with RE: ORC, the series looks to have devolved into a sci-fi 3rd person shooter with team elements but little of horror – you know, like Gears of War. Only not good like Gears of War.

I admit to appreciating a couple of nice conceptual touches going in. The story occurs around the time of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, and it chronicles the efforts of Umbrella Corporation’s Security Service (that’s us) to cover up their famous FUBAR, whereby a nasty zombie-making virus infected Raccoon City’s populace. Their ‘efforts’ include killing any survivors. So it’s a nice touch to be playing as the bad guy, as it were, for a change. A government spec-ops team is also involved, and they are present to prevent any cover up and rescue any survivors (good guy stuff), so clearly we won’t be getting along. It’s also notable that of the twelve members of the two security factions, about half are women – another nice touch.

But the trip from auspicious concepts to decidedly flawed execution is a short one; perhaps never shorter than as here. Perhaps I should have expected this, since the game was developed by Slant Six Games. Slant Six has made three SOCOM titles, one of which is a PS3 title which was universally panned, mainly for technical issues. Finding that out after having played RE: ORC was a definite “A-ha!” moment for me.

But I knew nothing of their involvement from the onset, so I was genuinely shocked when the first of the game’s numerous ‘technical issues’ reared its head immediately.

I selected my character, and my three teammates, and off I went. Took a look around while being debriefed in the elevator ride and took in the sights and sounds. And the very noticeable and disruptive screen tearing. Not good.

I shelved that complaint. I made it to my first standoff and took cover. The snap-to cover system seemed to work quite well, which was nice. Blind fire? Check. Stand and empty your clip in a guy's face, counting what looks to be at least a half dozen head shots before the guy drops? Check. The problem here is two-fold: some shots that should be registering do not, and besides that, the tough enemies are far too tough. (Not cunning or bruising, just impossibly resilient cannon fodder.)

I slogged through that first encounter anyhow, and watched a barricade go down to allow access to the second enemy encounter on the floor below. This time, once the resistance was wiped out, the barricade decided it didn’t feel like going down. Yup, a nasty game-resetting glitch already. When all the enemies are dead, the barricade should be triggered, and your team should get moving, you know, as if they were on a mission. But a few times when I tried this, my teammates just jogged around in a circle and we couldn’t progress. I had to restart the mission.

Sadly, your teammates do stupid things without glitches having to facilitate; I made it a little further, almost to the point where the first boss lies in ambush. My team went through a checkpoint door and encountered enemy resistance. I noticed one teammate was absent on the front lines, and looked for her. Naturally, she was running in place, into the locked checkpoint door we had just come through.

Closing out my wretched first level experience, I made it to the boss, who looked suitably grotesque, but also a little silly. Anyway, he came down a hallway, and my team members and I literally had our backs to the wall. You can’t bring him down before he corners you; the idea is to interact with the door behind you and then the game will trigger a countdown. You’ve got to hold him off until the game thinks it’s time to release the lock on the door and permit your team to beat a hasty retreat.

The only problem is, I didn’t know that. I thought I was supposed to kill him before he cornered us. This was a reasonable mistake to make. How the game scolded me for making it, however, was not at all reasonable. The big nasty was within arm’s reach from us and was bludgeoning the closest team member to him. I thought I might be clever and run behind him, in the direction from whence he came, to furnish some breathing room, catch him in a crossfire, and perhaps draw him away from that dying teammate.

None of that happened. The game drew an invisible line I could not pass in order to hem me in. I was literally running as if against an invisible wall. It’s difficult to overstate just how bad a design choice this is. Nearly anything would be preferable: a teammate imploring me not to abandon the team, an explosion or some other nastiness at the other end of the tunnel keeping me back – anything. Instead? Where do you think you’re going! and a virtual treadmill. Absolute bollocks.

The good news, is insofar as glitches go, the game gets a lot better from there on. Not good, mind you, but the bar was set so low, that the uninspired, darkly bland ‘zombie’ locales, entirely forgettable sounds, and missions completely devoid of surprises, highs, lows, climaxes or competent storytelling – somehow all became manageable to me. Because from level two to the end seemed less broken than at the start, I was thankful enough to simply sprint from checkpoint to checkpoint, a workaround in dealing with the stupidly bullet-resistant opposition.

The most fun that can be had playing RE: ORC is in blasting zombies with your assault shotgun (zombies, not soldiers, let's be clear). The shotguns pack a satisfying punch, and the resulting gore is delicious. It’s a shame, because leveling up based on finding goodies, getting infected and turning on your allies, and causing a soldier to ‘bleed out’ thereby attracting the undead to him – all seem like cool ideas. But ultimately, they all amount to squat: you can beat the game without leveling up for currency to buy guns, since soldiers drop even the best guns after you kill them. If one of your teammates gets infected, you need only blow them in half with a shotgun blast, and then revive them and all is well. The bleeding out perk is negated because it happens completely at random; you certainly can’t count on it to be an effective ‘tactic.’

Given the unequivocal failure of the campaign mode, I’d like to be able to recommend the multiplayer variations, but I cannot. Simply getting started was tedious and buggy, and actual play was as bad as in campaign mode, but now you've got online jerks to further sour the mix. You might have more fun if you play only with your buddies, but doing so will just be a sobering reminder of how hopelessly inferior RE: ORC is to Left 4 Dead. Which is how Capcom has left this latest effort when they made the decision to outsource. Hopefully, Resident Evil 6 will right the ship.


Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (March 23, 2012)

There was a bio here once. It's gone now.

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zippdementia posted March 23, 2012:

I almost feel like Capcom is making bad zombie games on purpose just so they can point to a bunch of evidence and say "see?! we told you no one likes survival horror any more. Every time we go back to making classic zombies the enemies, everyone complains. Now let us go make another action game involving militant africans."
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Roto13 posted March 23, 2012:

Zombies aren't really any more creepy than the manjinis or whatever they're called in RE5. Operation Racccoon City is also significantly less survival horror than modern mainline RE games.
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wolfqueen001 posted March 23, 2012:

Great review, Marc. I hate this game already and I haven't even played it! Man, that's disappointing to read how bad this one is.
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zippdementia posted March 23, 2012:

Majinis are far less creepy than zombies. And zombies are far less creepy than Police Chief Irons.
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Sise-Neg posted March 24, 2012:

You know what upset me about ORC as well - not only did they put the movie version of Nemesis by having him controlled by a computer and giving him a potato head and a gatling gun in the beginning, but they butchered his voice. It's even worse than the voice they gave him in Umbrella Chronicles.

Look at 9:00 to hear what I'm talking about. It's painful to hear him say "STARS".
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Masters posted March 24, 2012:

Yes, the way they handled the RE2/3 guys was brutal. Nemesis aside, your encounters with Claire and Leon are ridiculous. Leon, not particularly interested in taking cover, shoots at you from above. If you hit him about five times in the face with the highest powered rifle in the game, he will calmly walk away. Really? There was so much that went wrong here.
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zippdementia posted March 24, 2012:

Ouch. He should have said "hyuk" after STARS.
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overdrive posted March 25, 2012:

Majinis are far less creepy than zombies. And zombies are far less creepy than Police Chief Irons.

EVERYTHING is less creepy than Police Chief Irons.
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zippdementia posted March 25, 2012:

"To think that taxidermy used to be my hobby... sigh...."

Psychic vampires with sunglasses and little sexual twins with ant fetishes still couldn't beat out the creep factor of Irons. Who designs a police station like that?!
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Masters posted March 26, 2012:

I missed your message the first time 'round, Leslie--thanks.

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