Review

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City Review (PS3)

The Resident Evil franchise has always had the ability to create scenes that linger in my memory. In the first game, Jill's escape from the descending ceiling still haunts me to this day. The mumbling monks of Resident Evil 4 still send a shiver down my spine. Out of all the titles, Resident Evil 2 produced the moment that I rank as one of the finest in gaming history. After entering the deserted police station, Leon's tense journey becomes far more terrifying with the appearance of a single enemy: the Licker. Silently, it passes by a window. Blink, and you miss it.

These special moments all have a number of things in common. Not only are they frightening, each scene is incredibly subtle. Capcom has always been able to unleash an unnerving amount of dread by doing very little. I could have picked numerous other scenes, and if you've played the game, I'm sure you're thinking of your own. Each example only adds to the feeling of bafflement when playing Operation Raccoon City.

I'm not sure I've ever seen a more ridiculous screenshot...

Experimenting with a squad-based shooter is fine, but when the transition is so laboured, Capcom shoots itself in the foot. It only takes one level to realise this is a world away from the Resident Evil we've all come to expect. Again, this isn't the problem. Instead of expanding upon the universe that has taken years to create, Capcom loses sight of what makes the series such an enticing prospect.

Unfortunately, Operation Raccoon City doesn't take long to distinguish itself in an unsavoury manner. After selecting a bland character, you'll be briefed on the first mission. Whether you opt to take on the role of Medic, Assault, Boring C or Forgettable D, the game doesn't alter itself too much. A quick cutscene introduces you to the knowledge that you're about to clean up the fallen city, and then you're plopped amidst the darkest corridors known to man.

Seriously. If you don't have night vision capabilities built into your skull, you won't last one mission without ensuring the gamma settings are as light as possible. When you've got zombies, Spec Ops and other beasts hunting your position, consistently walking into walls isn't going to help your cause.

While most players will feel comforted by the familiar third-person-shooter controls, the game's rigidity soon starts to frustrate. Combat is simplistic, as you carry a primary weapon and pistol. Most damage is dealt out via an assault rifle, shotgun or bolt-action sniper rifle, without any interesting choices making an appearance. Various grenades are on offer, but again, don't expect to see any hint of originality. To round things off, you can melee opponents if they get close enough, because constantly tapping one button is amazingly fun.

Oh, wait, there we go

Annoyingly, the gunplay doesn't represent this game's worse points. Not by a long shot. Operation Raccoon City forces you to adhere to a strict set of rules, only to constantly break them. Ammo is in short supply, so scouring each room is the only way to maintain a flow of bullets. Herbs, first aid sprays, even anti-virus spray can be found if you look hard enough. When you've three allies to look after, these things are immensely important to the sustained progress of your team. Why then, after big shootouts, does Capcom force you to run away as quickly as possible? Forget collecting vital supplies, the building is burning and you've got to escape. Or you're being chased by a tyrant. Oh no, this time it's a burning tyrant.

This kind of inconsistency is unfair on players. To make matters worse, actually rounding up each item is an irritating chore. Whether you're picking up ammo, collecting data or stocking up on medicine, you have to be standing directly on the object to actually take it. Better yet, you have to be staring into it, focusing on the beauty of it's glistening curves. Of course, this sensitiveness is extremely out of place amongst a zombie onslaught.

As a squad shooter, Capcom want you to play the campaign with friends. This is fun for a few minutes. It only takes a few encounters with the enemy to underline the notion that titles like Left 4 Dead do it better. Alongside human or A.I controlled allies, the complete feeling of shoddiness is never overcome. Warehouse after warehouse, lab after lab, the game repeats the dullness to a mind-numbing degree. But hey, forcing you to collect mechanical parts is fun, right? Capcom should probably make you do it every half an hour or so, that would be really great. Needless to say, co-op doesn't mask a lazy product.

Even now, I haven't unearthed this game's most damning flaws. It seems this title didn't receive a debugging process, as it's riddled with glitches and other mishaps. During the opening levels, I turned invisible, witnessed my team getting stuck in walls, and even floating in the air. When groups of foes are in sight, massive slowdown stutters the action down to a diorama-like state. I could go on and on, but I fear you may get the point by now.

I told you the game was bland!

Competitive multiplayer is included, but it hardly warrants a mention. Like the rest of the game, you're pitted in a host of bland arenas, and are told to shoot your way out. Possibly fun with a handful of friends, or when heavily intoxicated, I doubt it'll hold your attention for long.

And so, I think of Resident Evil 2's Licker once more. That single enemy struck fear into my entire body. In Operation Raccoon City, I faced an entire army of them, and never felt the pulsating of my heart make it's way towards my throat. The intelligent use of horror, intensity, and most importantly, subtleness has gone. While this game is only a diversion until Resident Evil 6 arrives, Capcom have done an amazingly awful job. Resident Evil used to be the trendsetter, the series everyone looked up to, now its identity has been de-constructed in a major way. Let's hope November's numbered release can have a zombie-like effect, injecting the series with a hint of life.

Top Gaming Moment: Playing with friends is fun for a short while.

Platform Played: Xbox 360

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