Friday, April 20

Litmus Test: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (PS3)

I didn't want to agree with my wife at first, but she's always right. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is an affront to the storied franchise and one of my all-time favourite games.

To give you some background, Resident Evil 2 is one of those games that for me evokes warm, fuzzy feelings of nostalgia. Some may think that it's odd to feel all gooey and sentimental about a horribly violent, incomprehensible tale of evil corporations and the zombie apocalypse, but I love that game. Well, to be accurate, I loved the demo for that game more than most full releases from 1998.

Back in those awkward days of adolescence where it was hard to come by the one hundred dollar asking price of your average videogame, sometimes a demo would have to do. A good friend brought along his demo disc insert from an issue of the Official PlayStation Magazine which held a timed, thirty minute demo of Resident Evil 2. It is to this day, my favourite demo of all time. For the record, my Brothers and I finished the game multiple times, but the demo itself holds a place of prime importance for me.

"What does the demo for a nearly fifteen-year old game have to do with Slant Six's multiplayer-centric abomination for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC?" you may find yourself asking. For starters, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is set shortly after the events of RE2. In the co-op capable campaign, you act as part of an Umbrella Corporation clean-up squad that is sent in to erase any record of the antagonist's involvement in the T-Virus outbreak that was the focus of the preceding title's narrative. The game also features several characters from the successful sequel that are playable in various competitive multiplayer modes.

There's a few different team-based competitive multiplayer modes available that all sound great, but good luck actually finding a match. Anyone that follows me on Twitter (@UnbearableDutch, if you're interested) was witness to a series of miniature rants regarding the amount of time it took me to find a match. For the campaign I created a lobby and waited for forty minutes with no luck, and a further twenty minutes searching for a versus match until I finally found something playable.

After playing through a few missions and about four versus matches I found a common issue that irked me: everyone -- other players, AI-controlled operatives and zombies, everyone -- can take a shitload of punishment. I can remember lining up a clip's worth of headshots and not getting a single kill against live opposition. I scored direct hits on flunkies in the campaign with grenades and launchers with no effect. I stabbed the living shit out of hundreds of zombies, but they just kept coming.

For versus play, I guess you could attribute this apparent resiliency to latency. As far as the campaign is concerned, it shows ignorance on the developer's part as to what makes an enjoyable game. Challenge? Sure, we crave that; but Operation Raccoon City's difficulty is artificial. What I mean by that is: if I hit a human in the face with a shotgun at point blank range, I expect them to go down... and hard. There are times when it seems like you're not making an impact at all.

The controls are reasonably solid and allow for you to feel empowered (to an extent) in the sense that you can move more freely when compared to other games in the series. That sense of confidence all goes to shit when you actually try and kill something though. Not only because of the aforementioned durable enemies, but also the dimwitted friendly AI. In the final part of the second mission, your team is ambushed by Lickers: gruesome creatures that have no skin and tongues that can reach and stab you from across the room. You're tasked with escaping the room where the ambush occurs, but your three (once again, good luck finding human company) AI-controlled buddies stand still and cop as much punishment as they can before dying. You can't progress in most instances unless all buddies are alive, so this was an extremely painful experience that required multiple attempts. Worse still, your buddies don't fire at enemies half the time. It's a complete fucking mess.

On the bright side, versus multiplayer matches have tons of zombies wandering through every map. This keeps you on your toes as any large amount of damage sustained from your enemies will likely induce bleeding, which sends these guys into a frenzy. It'd be pretty tense if you could actually fucking die!

Is it worth a shot? 
Short answer: No. I'm not sure whether the whole resiliency issue can be fixed by a patch, but at the moment I would advise you to steer clear of this title. The worst thing is, you can see flashes of inspired design that are bogged down by some really bad choices. That, and the lighting in this game is terrible. Increasing the brightness does nothing to help you discern your surroundings, it just makes everything look washed out.

Will I finish it? 
No chance.

Have you had a chance to play Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City? What are your thoughts? 

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