Technically flawed, artistically lifeless, old fashioned. These are just some of the terms you could use to describe Slant Six’s squad-based spin on the Resident Evil franchise. Funnily enough though, you could also describe it as fun, strangely addictive and, to an extent, unique. Whether or not you will be able to look past the game’s faults however depends on one very important question – are you playing Resident Evil: Operation Racoon City online?
As a rule, the majority of videogames are more fun when played with others, but in the case of Operation Racoon City, I would go as far as to suggest that the addition of a few online buddies is downright essential. On your own, the numerous cracks in the already creaking visage are all too easy too pick out.
I appreciate that Operation Racoon City was clearly created with multiplayer at the very core of each and every design choice made, but that’s certainly no excuse for AI as dumb as is often found here. Be they walking into bullets, shooting aimlessly or being completely unwilling to help you out in your time of need, your three AI companions wouldn’t make it into the Police Academy, let alone the supposedly super elite U.S.S. (Umbrella Security Services) unit. It’s not just your teammates either – the human mercenaries you’ll battle along the way have a tendency of running behind explosive barrels for cover and calmly strolling into waves of bullets. Sure, the B.O.W.’s (Bioweapons) act as expected, but that’s only because they are supposed to shuffle around aimlessly and charge at you with no consideration for their own life.
It gets worse – play on your own, and you might notice the technical bugs that mar every aspect of the game, maybe the unresponsive cover system or even the fact that for some strange reason, you can’t hurdle over cover. Heck, play on your own long enough and you might even begin to notice just how painfully unimaginative the visuals are.
Despite being set in and around the events of Resident Evil 2 and 3, with numerous famous sites including the Racoon City Police Station making welcome appearances, somehow, Slant Six have managed to suck all the personality out of these previously memorable locations. The game does look pretty decent from a technical standpoint and despite being developed by a Canadian studio, is primarily made up of that very cool Japanese-style visual design that I love so much (namely clean lines and a commitment to coolness), but the fact of that matter is, this is a game with largely poor art direction. The characters and enemies might look cool enough, but the environments themselves never manage to establish a consistent sense of place. With a location as famous as the much loved Racoon City at their disposal, the fact of the matter is, Slant Six Games dropped the ball artistically.
So far, so crappy then. Well, as bad as all of that may sound, once online, Operation Racoon City becomes a very different experience indeed. Like Capcom’s other experiment with online co-op gaming, Lost Planet 2, when playing with friends, just about every flaw with the games design seems to melt away into the background. With friends in tow as you fight off a combination of human Mercenary forces and mutant B.O.W’s, everything begins to fall into place. Suddenly, the frantic action on screen reminds you of how tight the gunplay is, how fun it is to injure a human enemy to the point that all surrounding zombies charge after the scent of their blood and how frantic it all becomes as teammates become infected and attack you when you least expect it. Sure, there are still problems (the over-abundance of anti-virus being just one of them), but as far as I’m concerned, when played with three like minded players, those previously seven rather boring story missions suddenly come to life as you work together to fend off the array of enemies eager to spill your blood.
While the seven missions themselves may be rather short, the fact that all levelling up in Story missions (online or off) goes towards your multiplayer level and skill-set makes playing through them again and again a worthwhile experience. There are collectible bits and bobs too, but other than giving you higher grades and subsequently higher levels of XP, they’re really not all that exciting. Still, anything that goes towards the goodies, aye? With plenty of weapons to unlock and numerous skills to upgrade, I for one found the collection of XP hugely addictive, and with six unique characters to choose from, each with their own distinct set of abilities to upgrade, I know for one that I will be playing Operation Racoon City for some time to come.
Although fun enough on the normal difficulty setting for a quick play through and some much needed XP, if you do want to get the best out of the Campaign, I implore you to play on the hardest difficulty setting with a full quota of online players. Ok, so the enemies do little more than take additional bullets before disintegrating in that traditional Resident Evil fashion, but it’s here that you will find the game at its most tense with teamwork all but essential for those looking to survive with decent grades intact.
There has been a lot of fuss made about the return of key figures from the Resident Evil series with Leon S. Kennedy, HUNK, Claire Redfield and Ada Wong all making appearances along the way, but honestly, none of them do anything of great interest during the campaign and with the story not proving exactly canon worthy, it’s hard to give a monkeys about any of their actions and often disappointingly boring cameos. The use of some of the series’ most famous villains is handled with a little more care, but even these appearances are often tarnished thanks to the game’s consistently underwhelming boss battles. In fact, it’s not until you take on Operation Racoon City’s competitive online options that the famous supporting cast begin to make any sort of impact.
In a brilliant last man standing battle, Heroes Mode has all eight players fighting it out as famous characters from the series with buffed up stats and, like all other online modes, B.O.W.’s to fight off while you’re at it (albeit extra strong ones). Although the other modes are all pretty traditional fare i.e. Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag etc, all are made infinitely more interesting by the inclusion of the additional enemies roaming the battlefield. With zombies ready to infect your teammates and Lickers and Hunters capable of attacking just as you’re about to bust a cap in one of the opposing team, a by-the-numbers online offering is suddenly turned into a tense, highly addictive collection of online game modes. Like everything else in the package, it’s far from perfect, but with nary a dull moment when online, the faults are once again all the easier to bear.
Resident Evil: Operation Racoon City is an extremely flawed experience, one that, when played alone, proves something of a broken mess. Get online however and suddenly, everything seems to magically fall into place. Sure, online or off, the faults are still there, but be it the co-op campaign or competitive online play, Operation Racoon City somehow manages to transcend its flaws when experienced with friends. Slant Six have created a game very easy to find fault with, but also, a game that, like a particularly stubborn zombie, I found extremely hard to put down.
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