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Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (PlayStation 3) artwork

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (PlayStation 3) review

"A dismally unimaginative co-op shooter, coupled with a half-finished idea for an intriguing competitive component. Play it in either mode and youíll be bored or irritated within minutes."

Operation Raccoon City needed to be good. After all, it angered Resident Evil fans by simply existing, taken as proof that Capcom no longer cares about those who adored the franchiseís survival horror beginnings.

Itís a fast-paced co-op shooter in which you and three others fight your way through a mildly story-driven zombie apocalypse. But we know that premise can be employed to tremendous effect. It certainly has been before.

Sadly, Raccoon City makes such a perfunctory effort to differentiate itself from the competition that itís almost a little embarrassing. When itís not aping Left 4 Dead itís trying to be Gears of War, and it doesnít seem to understand what made its inspirations tick in the first place.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City asset

Set across the timelines of Resident Evil 2 and 3, Operation Racoon Cityís campaign will see you desperately struggling to give a crap about this new take on old fiction. You can try to enjoy the occasionally cinematic cutscenes if you want, but good luck with that, because in my experience everyone just talks over them.

So, the game. You pick from one of six classes (shooty, sneaky, sciencey, explodey, a different type of sneaky, mediciney), then promptly realise your choice bears little relevance once you get into battle. Thatís because the best way to succeed in Operation Raccoon City is to slam your thumb down on the left stick, sprint forward, and just shoot everything that moves.

Itís a gleefully gore-ridden game, full of dismemberment and spurting blood. Shotgun blasts are particularly noteworthy, packing an uncommonly satisfying punch, but all the gameís weapons are capable of getting the claret flowing. Sadly, most also feel strangely underpowered. You canít help but feel you shouldnít have to hold your machine gun trigger down for quite so long to fell a lone infected.

The game promotes some intriguing strategies, such as taking enemies hostage and allowing attacks to focus on their skulls instead of your own. You can also non-fatally wound Raccoon Cityís many human opponents (dreadful AI, confusingly nondescript model skins) in the hope that youíll send a zombie horde their way. A nice idea. In principle.

In practice, itís pointless. Itís not that these tactics donít work, itís just that theyíre the least convenient and efficient way of making progress. Ammoís in plentiful supply, and the best way to avoid death is to keep moving. Simply running and gunning, ignoring your character class and any of the clever trickery the game allows you to toy with, is by far the most sensible option.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City asset

Of course, as is mandatory in modern third-person shooters, youíre also encouraged to take cover - and doing so, popping out to fire bullets into the distance, is a smart move on the few occasions youíre not also being surrounded by the infected masses. You snap into cover automatically upon contact with any surface the developers deemed appropriate to tag as such - helpful when it works, not so much when youíre trying to calmly walk down a corridor only to see your character dramatically dive against the wall.

Juxtaposing sections of frantic, twitchy action with slower, more atmospheric segments, Operation Raccoon City clearly works hard to keep the tension at a high level. To begin with itís almost effective, as you inch your way around the next corner, or hold your breath as one of your team-mates opens the big scary door.

Then you play a little further, and slowly you begin to realise the game has virtually no surprises to throw at you. And if it does, itíll probably set them up in a cutscene. The more you play, the more you long for the dynamism of Valveís vastly superior co-op zombie-blaster: a game only four levels long, but whose astonishing AI system tracked your every move to ensure you never knew what would happen next, even on repeat plays.

For a game in which youíll fight quite so many fearsome foes, Operation Raccoon City is bizarrely resistant to chaos. You run forward, you shoot the enemies, you move on. You donít get players screaming at each other, you donít gasp as comrades are plucked from the squad by a hidden long-tongued beast, you donít get frantic firefights against practically unwinnable odds. Itís bland, plodding, predictable and just a little bit boring.

Where the campaign mode occasionally steers towards competence but suffers from a crippling lack of inspiration, the gameís competitive multiplayer takes the opposite approach. The idea of team deathmatch variants in which you must also avoid the infected masses is a strong one, and could have led to some interesting play, but itís dogged by calamitous design issues that make enjoying yourself nigh-on impossible.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City asset

In keeping with Raccoon Cityís grizzly aesthetic, these modes opt not to give either team any distinguishing features, asking you instead to identify your enemies by which ones have their name displayed above their heads. If they do, theyíre on your side; if they donít, theyíre not. But in the heat of battle - and the chaos does reign supreme in Versus mode - making that snap judgement takes far too long.

Youíll be up against not just human enemies, and not just regular infected, but various special types as well. When all are dropped into the same arena, itís often hard to catch your breath. Thatís fine - thereís nothing wrong with frantic battles. But when you spend half your time being knocked to the ground, then having to wait for an agonisingly long animation to play out as you clamber back to your feet, itís all too easy to find yourself surrounded, battered by the enemy while youíre not even in control of your character.

Across everything, the online infrastructure is a mess - trying to get into anything other than a quick match proved a nightmare of long waits and even crashes. In-game the situation isnít much better, with stutters and stalls commonplace despite the fuzzy, unimpressive engine. Incidentally, the screenshots that adorn this page are alarmingly misleading. The game itself never looks anywhere near as good.

If you, as I did, have any faint hopes that the game ever finds a strong identity of its own, youíll be disappointed. This is a dismally unimaginative co-op shooter, coupled with a half-finished idea for an intriguing competitive component. Play it in either mode and youíll be bored or irritated within minutes.

Lewis's avatar
Freelance review by Lewis Denby (March 23, 2012)

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Sise-Neg posted March 23, 2012:

Good review. I definitely agree. When the previews came out I was willing to give this game a chance, but after playing through it once on single player and a couple times in multi-player, I got rid of it and went and bought Silent Hill: Downpour. Slant Six really dropped the ball with this one.
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zippdementia posted March 23, 2012:

Yeah, not enough love for Lewis' review, which is very deserving of it. I think this was outside of your normal style, Lewis, but you carry it well, giving a solid critique which left me with no need to read another review to make up my mind about this game (though I did go on to read Master's as well).

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