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By Kris . April 8, 2012 . 2:00pm
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City opens with Umbrella Security Service commander HUNK telling your team of generic racially-diverse badasses (known as “Wolfpack”) that you’re in charge of recovering the new, mysterious “G-Virus” from the scientist that invented it: William Birkin.
This results in HUNK leading your nondescript team of gasmask-equipped soldiers (you can customize your team before starting the mission, but they all dress in black and wear gas masks) through the very dark corridors of one of Umbrella’s laboratories. Despite the fact that there is a bit of character diversity and customization in terms of the special abilities (one character can go invisible for 10 seconds, another can give themselves a clip of burning bullets) you can outfit
any one of your characters with any gun you’ve purchased, so they all feel pretty much the same. Their gruff personalities don’t differentiate them much, either.
It’s in the first level that you’re met by the most dangerous and terrifying enemies in the game: the Special Ops. These soldiers can take bullets very well (presumably because of their Kevlar vests), have necks strong enough to withstand multiple slashes with a knife, and wield their guns with deadly accuracy. These are the first enemies that you fight and remain the biggest threat throughout the game. Unfortunately, Operation Racoon City also tends to use them as a design crutch.
For instance, about halfway through the game, the Wolfpack engages in a dramatic (in theory) boss fight with the iconic Resident Evil villain, Nemesis, who has lost control. He’s big, angry, minigun-equipped, and surrounded by swarms of zombies. One would generally expect that this sort of fight would be very intense and focus specifically on the Nemesis itself, demonstrating why this big mass of flesh and rage is important enough for Umbrella to want their Wolfpack to recapture it and bring it back under their control. It should be all about Nemesis, right?
“Oh no,” says Operation Raccoon City. Instead, it makes Nemesis a stupid, hulking bullet sponge, randomly firing its minigun and seemingly incapable of hunting a single one of your team down. After you’ve done enough damage to it, the developers realize that they haven’t crafted an interesting boss fight and fill the giant warehouse that you were fighting in with Spec Ops. The battle goes from a fight with the Nemesis to a mad rush in which you have to stay out of the Spec Ops’ line of sight while they shoot down the rest of Nemesis’ health. Chances are, your three AI-controlled teammates will die, and half of the Spec Ops will go after you instead of fighting Nemesis. Hopefully you’ll be able to eat enough of the green herbs liberally sprinkled around the arena to keep yourself alive through the onslaught until Nemesis goes down.
I don’t know why the Spec Ops are everywhere (including hospitals and Umbrella’s inner sanctum) or why they want to kill the Umbrella Security Service so much when they both just want to kill some zombies, but I do know that they’re broken in terms of balance. Even when you’ve used your experience points to buy some of the most powerful weapons in the game, they’re still more frustrating than any kind of zombie or Bio-Organic Weapons (essentially monsters) in the game.
One of the game’s few shining moments for me happened when I was playing as Beltway, the gravelly-voiced demolitions expert. For my special ability, I was able to throw bombs that stuck to things. After 5 seconds, those bombs would explode. Near the end of the game, Wolfpack was pinned down by a few Spec Ops. I threw my sticky bomb and it latched onto the face of the closest enemy. I grinned as I saw his teammate join him behind cover. Two Spec Ops down in a single explosion isn’t half bad, right?
After the explosion, the enemy who joined his friend behind cover stood up. “Well, that’s okay,” I thought, “he’s probably down to pretty low health anyway.” Then the man who had a grenade stuck to his face got up, aimed his machine gun, and killed me.
I think that’s another issue. Despite being a Resident Evil game, zombies and even BOWs feel like an afterthought. Regular zombies and even the speedier and more powerful “Crimson Heads” feel like cannon fodder. This is a shame, because the zombies are host to two mechanics that could be interesting.
The first is bleeding. When a human, either Wolfpack or Spec Ops, is hurt, there’s a chance that they’ll start bleeding. Blood attracts zombies. Unfortunately, zombies are so weak that even a swarm can be cut through pretty easily. On the other hand, it’s quite entertaining to shoot a Spec Ops soldier and watch him get rushed by zombies, but I think I only saw that happen once, since the presence of Spec Ops often guarantees a lack of zombies.
Because zombies are so weak, the only real danger they’re host to is infection. Infection acts much like poison in every RPG ever. Your health drops until you either turn into a zombie or use an anti-infection spray. If you do go zombie in single-player, your game is over. Teammates can be infected too. The first time that one of the Wolfpack was infected, I waited as I saw their health drop, and has she joined the undead, I grabbed her and snapped her neck. I was stunned at how grim and surprisingly affecting my choice to kill her was… until I saw the prompt “Hold A to Revive Teammate,” which destroyed any sense of weight that I thought my actions held.
That’s the frustrating thing about Operation Raccoon City. There’s no connection to the faceless characters you play, no sense of weight to anything in the single-player mode, and it sacrifices potential opportunity with the zombies to throw Spec Ops at you. Operation Raccoon City is one of those games that you keep hoping will get better, but the problems you have in the first level are the exact same ones you have in the last.
Food for Thought:
1. Teammate AI is pretty stupid. My teammates would often run through fire, hurting themselves in the process, get in my way while I was shooting, and occasionally shoot me.
2. Being grabbed by a Crimson Head or BOW will often lead to a QTE-style thing where you have to wiggle the left stick. Escaping from one of these attacks generally does less damage than a single bullet from a Spec Ops soldier.
3. Bosses can knock you down while you’re in the animation for climbing to your feet, sometimes leading to your inevitable death, especially if you’re in a corner. This is when you hope for one of the QTEs mentioned above.
4. There was one boss fight in the game that I only realized was supposed to be a boss fight because of all the green herbs lying around.
5. Even in their brief appearances in the game Leon, Claire, and Ada seem much more interesting than the characters you’re playing.