A truly dark day for us all.
PC gamers usually have to wait a bit longer than their console buddies before getting an opportunity to play certain multi-format releases. For publishers the danger of this is two fold; firstly all the hype that they’ve oh so carefully created for the initial launch will inevitably die down by the time PC owners get involved and secondly they greatly extend the time period of word escaping that their latest effort really isn’t any good.
That’s the intriguing scenario Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City finds itself in, derided for having dull shooter gameplay and unfulfilled promise by the console-loving masses, perhaps on PC its scope and ambition will be fully realised. After all Capcom wouldn’t just send out Slant Six’s third-person co-op shooter to die, would they?
The latest Resident Evil is a spin-off from the main series with the single-player emphasis shifted to four-player multiplayer co-op with a seven mission campaign telling the story of Raccoon City’s downfall. You and three friends assume the role of one of Umbrella’s many black-ops teams who’ve been sent in to contain and destroy any evidence of the evil super corporation’s involvement of the zombie disaster that’s taking place in the city. If you’ve no idea about what we’re talking about then don’t worry as the game does a good enough job making players aware of what’s going on, even if you only have a passing knowledge of this insane story-arc.
Unfortunately this interesting premise is completely wasted thanks to a very traditional mission structure, which just sees players shoot their way through zombies, special forces and random bosses, like Lickers, cherry picked from this series’ cannon. This in itself wouldn’t be a problem if combat was up to scratch, but even the humble zombie requires half a dozen bullets to take down with ammo usually becoming very scarce. This inevitably leads to combat which feels like a slog and this monotony is made worse by occasional bugs, such as key cards going missing, weapon sounds not working correctly and annoyingly confusing level design which lacks any kind of imagination. Instead you just fight in settings which rarely change from the dark urban sprawl you’re presented with very early on in the game. Each area is bolstered out with intel which unlocks concept art and other interesting titbits, but the environments are so dark that we rarely felt compelled to invest the substantial time and effort in discs and other artefacts scattered around the place. There’s also an interesting unlock mechanic where XP earned while playing can be directly spent on unlocking new equipment, weaponry and abilities for the game’s six different soldiers, but this is little consolation for gameplay that is at its core uninteresting.
The controls and menu design also feels clunky and obviously designed for a platform other than PC. In fact we’d recommend connecting an Xbox 360 gamepad as soon as you boot up, as it’s much easier than trying to reassign buttons in the menu or figure out which key equates to pressing down on a d-pad you don’t have in order to use an item in your inventory. The cover system at least is easy to understand though, with your character automatically snapping to any flat surface he or she brushes against and there’s a nifty dive option when you decide to stop mid-sprint, but overall the controls feel clunky and counter-intuitive.
After you’ve muddled through the five hour campaign there’s also a selection of multiplayer modes to try out including traditional four-on-four deathmatch, wave-based survival modes and a Heroes mode where established characters like Leon Kennedy take on the forces of Umbrella. These different offerings are interesting, but are entirely contingent on finding other players online – so be prepared for long waits.
Compared with the army of compelling co-op experiences like Left 4 Dead and Dead Island, Raccoon City just doesn’t measure up – especially when it’s currently being sold at full price. If you’re a Resident Evil fan you’ll get a kick out of seeing this established 1998 setting return over a decade later, but everyone else would do well to allow their zombie killing fetish to be fulfilled elsewhere.
A lazy port of a co-op shooter than wasn’t very good to begin with.
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