The first level is the worst and as with all forms of media, it’s the start and the end that sticks most in the mind. The ending is all too quickly wrapped up, leaving players surprised and amazed that, yes, that was it. In between the dire beginning and the sudden ending is a game that still doesn’t deserve the Resident Evil name. Indeed, if it hadn’t had such an illustrious name attached to it, hardly anyone would have paid attention to this basic third-person co-operative shooter.
Set amongst the occurrences within Resident Evil 2 and 3, fans will feel obliged to see how things develop here. Playing the bad guys is bordering on revolutionary in any game. We’re all too focused on playing kindly sorts that somehow justify their mass slaughter by being the ‘good guys’ (I’m looking at you, Nathan Drake). It’s the implementation that sorely lets RE: ORC down.
The story isn’t as exciting as it deserves to be. This isn’t helped by the cardboard cut-out choice of characters. Players can choose from six character classes, each offering unique abilities. For instance, the Medic class can reduce the team’s damage while Recon man Vector can camouflage himself, thus turning invisible. It sounds extremely promising but they have the personality of a lettuce leaf and the skills are rarely of much use in battle.
That first level, previously mentioned, demonstrates the worst that RE: ORC has to offer. Lasting less than 30 minutes to complete (with only seven levels in all, this isn’t great news), the only glimmer of anything like Resident Evil is in the use of herbs to heal. Otherwise, it’s a dull and tedious start to proceedings. Players mostly find themselves up against bullet absorbing and dim-witted soldiers. These soldiers are the most annoying enemy within the game, precisely because of their unpredictable health. Some may fall after only a few shots, others will take a lot longer with no sign of when they’re weakening. It’s a mildly confusing method and one that players will have to become accustomed to fast.
That isn’t where the game really falters though. That dubious honour is left to the friendly AI. The player’s AI companions are spectacularly thick. Besides more typical mistakes to make such as standing in the way of charging enemies or a flurry of gunfire, these friendlies will also happily run through fire rather than step neatly around it. Even more impressively, they’ll remain standing in that fire while shouting out a variety of monkey-inspired “oohs” and “ahhs” until inevitably they succumb. This happens a lot. At one point, while playing a co-op game with a friend, we watched as the AI character collapsed into a huge fire, was revived by one of us then died in the exact same fashion.
Isn’t a co-op focused game all about playing with friends though? Well, yes it is. That fact shouldn’t be a ‘Get out of jail free’ card though for abysmal AI. Pretty much every game out there is improved immensely by the addition of friends and the laughter and enjoyment that brings. Having mostly played through the game with a friend, it is a lot more enjoyable. This enjoyment is despite the game’s mechanics though which, at times, feel like they want to actively stop you from gleaning any pleasure.
Throughout, RE: ORC is far from challenging on Normal but there is a bizarre yet brief difficulty spike. You’d expect this to be at the end but it’s not. About two thirds of the way through, players are pitted against two Tyrants that must be defeated. The strategy to defeat them is relatively simple – duck and dive out of their way while aiming for the head – but it takes forever. A complete battle of attrition, it outstays its welcome with all tension dissipating and gradually just gets boring. It’s also a classic example of an awkward control system.
Diving and tumbling out of the way, an important feature in any third-person shooter, isn’t available at the touch of a button. Instead, the player must start sprinting then tap X in order to leap. This leap is ungraceful but realistically slow with an entertaining grunt noise at the end. It’s also pretty annoying to implement at speed. Ducking behind cover is similarly awkward. It’s simple, in that there’s no button to tap, players just lean into the wall. It just doesn’t really work. Surfaces that you’d expect could be used as cover, like gravestones, don’t react accordingly – something that you’ll invariably discover just when you need cover most.
There are glimmers of innovation in there. At times, you’ll come across Spec Op soldiers fighting against zombies. This can be turned to your advantage with a carefully placed shot to the soldier, causing them to bleed and send the zombies into a crazed frenzy. Beware as it works both ways, with it possible to be afflicted by this blood frenzy. It’s a nice touch and RE: ORC could have greatly benefited from more of these.
The campaign mode will only take around 5-6 hours to complete. While there are two different endings, only the trophy/achievement hungry will likely bother pursuing them. There is some more meat to RE: ORC however in the form of the competitive multiplayer side of things. Experience gains and weapon unlocks from the campaign transfer over to the multiplayer which is quite useful. Multiplayer modes do also come with a few twists of their own. There’s traditional team deathmatch and capture the flag with a dose of zombies thrown in. More potentially interesting is that of Heroes and Survivor. Heroes is last man standing style deathmatch but with the choice of playing as more famous Resident Evil characters such as Leon Kennedy, Claire Redfield, Jill Valentine and so on.
Survivor is the one that has the best chance of being played for any great length of time. Two teams fight against a horde of zombies while they wait for rescue from a helicopter. It sounds quite like Left 4 Dead but it’s not as well implemented. Once the helicopter arrives, the first four players to reach it escape and win. It doesn’t actually matter what they achieve while they wait around which slightly ruins the point.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City misfires in nearly everything it sets out to achieve. Its main offence is its lack of soul and tension. You just won’t care what happens sufficiently enough, nor will you ever feel particularly tense. It might be fun with three other friends but at a price of £40 a copy, that’s a high price to pay for five hours of laughing at the ridiculousness of some of the design choices.
MLG Rating: 4/10 Platform: Xbox 360/ PS3 Release Date: 23/03/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a review of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City by freelancer Jennifer Allen. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.