Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (XBOX 360)
In the world of gaming there are few titles, or franchises, which can claim to have heavily influenced an entire industry but Resident Evil is one that can. Although it wasn't the first horror game the first Resident Evil (or Biohazard) which was released in 1996 saw scares move to a new level where as previously they were confined to games like Dark Seed which were quite visual for their time but lacked the same frights.
Resident Evil brought us some iconic moments, regularly dripping with dread and suspense as we approached zombies chewing on our dead colleagues and few can forget that fantastic moment when the first zombie dog comes crashing through the window. It is also credited with confirming the emergence of a new genre, Survival Horror.
In the years that have passed since the first Resident Evil game we have seen over 20 sequels and prequels making it one of the most widely expanded game universes in history. With Resident Evil 4 and 5 in 2005-2009 Capcom successfully tweaked the game mechanic, bringing it up to date and ensuring that gamers would continue to enjoy the follow-ups for some time.
Now with the most recent release in the franchise, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, which is co-developed by Capcom and Slant Six Games (of SOCOM: Confrontation fame) we have a new take on the RE universe as the game goes online Co-op and team combat heavy.
Operation Raccoon City is set between the time of Resident Evil 2 and 3 and gameplay is split into two modes. We access both from the main menu with the first being Campaign and the second Versus. In campaign mode we take control of Umbrella forces and can play online with three other gamers or as part of a team controlled by the console (public and private games available). In this mode we work our way through a set of seven missions with a story linking them levels together and the game begins with the standard gameplay introduction level which see's us taken through key control mechanics. They are reasonably easy to pick up though with left stick to move, A to interact, triggers to zoom/shoot and more advanced features such as grenades on the shoulder. Our D-Pad allows us to use the sprays or swap grenades and the currently active items are shown bottom left of the game with bottom right for ammo/health or hints and top right for the map.
Action events are also present, shaking our left stick to throw off a zombie who has grabbed us for example and dotted throughout the game are ammo crates, new weapons and familiar Resident Evil items. These include green herbs for health and sprays to remove zombie infection and provide larger health boosts. These sprays if used also impact our team-mates should they be standing nearby and we can monitor their stats via a health bar underneath their name.
Standing in our way during campaign mode the enemies are mainly based on Spec Ops, Bio-Organic weapons and Zombies although we do stumble upon larger boss characters and other key foes such as the classic zombie dogs and essentially we are to get from point A to point B in each level, achieving objectives as we go and advancing the story line. We can start our own campaign, play through already completed levels or quick-match to jump into a game already in progress and through playing each mode our stats are rated and XP awarded which allows us to buy modifications. Throughout the level XP is also awarded XP for various tasks, we can collect data and upload through laptops as one method.
Each character has their own special skills for example medic, demolition and sharpshooter and can carry two weapons at a time, usually our choice of heavy gun and pistol. A key skill can also be added to our character (purchased with XP) and those provide enhancements such as enhanced bullets, motion detectors, quieter/quicker movement and the ability to mimic a target.
In Vs mode the maps are familiar, two weapon gameplay and enhancements present but the gameplay quite different. Rather than a story running through this gameplay mode we are given a brief overview of the gameplay mode and then left to achieve our goal within a set map.
The modes available are Team Attack where two teams of four compete, Biohazard where we play against another team trying to capture lost G-Virus samples, Heroes where we take control of key characters (such as bosses from the campaign including Hulk) and must fight for good or evil killing those who don't see our viewpoint with Survivor being the last mode. Survivor sees us play against the clock to stay alive in 4vs4 while we await a helicopter to rescue us, there are only four slots on there though. Also adding to the Versus options is "all modes" which cycles the game type so that we don't need to drop out to try a different style and the varied experience continues with the ability to vote for maps as we wait in the lobby.
Further complicating the human vs. human team gameplay is the presence of zombies and Nio-organic weapons throughout the maps, lots of them too. This means we must also fight them off and avoid infection while still trying to achieve the game mode goals and compete with other players. XP is of course also awarded in the online games and online leader boards are available to view and search as well as unlocks (gallery items) opening up as we progress.
Graphics and Audio
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City uses the Hexane Engine and on the whole it is a good looking game. There are nice lighting effects used in the dark environments and our over the shoulder viewpoint is well placed to allow plenty of visibility. The main characters all look unique and the enemies easy to distinguish with cut-scenes being rendered well.
The graphics are not without issue though as the framerate does drop on occasion, especially when there is a lot of action on screen and strangely the on-screen text could quite often do with being a little larger as even on a big TV it can be quite a strain to read from across a room.
On the audio front we have plenty of in game voice acting which is done to a good standard, if occasionally repetitive. Zombie moans are decent and the weapons fire offering sounds which vary from gun to gun with plenty of power behind the larger sounds which always adds to the atmosphere. Little reminders of the franchise are also present throughout such as the item pickup sounds being re-used from other Resident Evil games.
For anyone who has played Resident Evil games in the past jumping into Campaign Mode will feel unfamiliar. At first this doesn't feel like a Resident Evil game and depending on the character chosen it can feel a little sluggish to move but as we progress familiar elements of the franchise drop in to give us that familiar feel. Green herbs are one example, the classic You Are Dead red writing on the screen another.
This non-Resident Evil feel has a lot to do with the design and plot of the first mission though which has absolutely no zombies in it. There is us, the human based enemy forces and a genetically altered boss. In truth it isn't a strong mission at all and the strength of the boss can lead to some infuriating deaths as the path ahead isn't always clear, leaving us trapped in a corner to be piped over the head until we die. It also has a disappointing tendency to go with empty corridor, cut scene, empty corridor as we progress which ruins the pacing.
That said once we pass into mission two things very much pick up and this is no doubt down to the introduction of zombies and more advanced enemies which also alter the gameplay. When we are fighting the human based NPCs they are very much tougher, headshots rarely happen and we can unload a significant amount of ammo to take them down due to armour. Standard zombies are fair game though with headshots available, vomit spewing onto our screen if they get too close and loads of gore as we take them down. Advanced genetically enhanced monsters also add to the game with their weak spots such as exposed brains making a good aim essential.
Versus Mode offers a nice variation of gameplay and on the whole the modes here succeed. Our particular favourites were Survivor where strategy and timing are essential if we are to get one of the four slots on the helicopter and Heroes where the games almost always end in a close combat situation where we hack and slash against classic characters from Resident Evil while dodging zombies at the same time. That said we hope that as players get more experienced with this gameplay they realise that only targeting the other gamers is a bad idea, take out the zombies nearby first, together, then take on each other or be swarmed and killed.
It is the use of zombies in Versus which makes this game stand out in online mode though, elevating it above many other games with similar modes. In Operation Raccoon City we are always on the move and there will be no camping here, try to do that and zombies will always begin to head towards you forcing a move. This can also result in some amusing post death events. For example when drawing zombies to a location then escaping through a door to be killed by another gamer we know that the moment our murderer walks through that door they will be devoured by the creatures we were just getting away from... sweet revenge.
As with any online based game Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is best enjoyed with other gamers rather than NPCs and longevity would be enhanced by more levels/maps but there is DLC incoming. A solid game mechanic and interesting, fun online modes impress though for a solid entry in the Resident Evil franchise.