Over the years, the Resident Evil franchise has come in many shapes and sizes. From its humble beginnings on the PlayStation 1 to a franchise of blockbuster movies that are successful unto themselves, Resident Evil is one of the most powerful names in the world of video games. However, even with all of those incarnations, four-player co-op has never been attempted until now, with the recent release of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, wherein players get to explore the events of previous RE games from a whole new perspective.
Set around the events of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, Operation Raccoon City puts players in the shoes of the Umbrella Security Service (U.S.S.) for the first time, effectively letting you play as the bad guys. Tasked with recovering the G-Virus before there is an outbreak, the U.S.S. Delta squad is sent to assist another team deployed to contain Dr. Birkin before he can turn over his research on the T-Virus to the U.S. Military. As anyone that's played a Resident Evil game can tell you, that's not exactly what ended up happening. There's a T-Virus outbreak, and Raccoon City becomes home to an attempted corporate cover-up, perpetrated partially by the main characters in this game. Taking place at a series of locales throughout the city that should be familiar to fans of the city, the U.S.S. team members need to fight off hordes of zombies, countless Spec Ops members, and some of Umbrella's most recognizable experiments in order to complete their mission.
Operation Raccoon City is a third-person squad based shooter that allows you choose your character from six different classes, and play with up to three other people. Ranging from medic to demolition, Raccoon City offers a variety of different options for players to take out onto the battlefield, and most people should be able to find someone that fits their preferred play style. As players progress through the game successfully and discover data hidden throughout each map, they are rewarded with XP which can be used to purchase new weapons and abilities, both of which can be taken into the game's online (co-op and competitive) modes.
The set up and the concept should make just about every RE fans' ears perk up, unfortunately, the game's execution is where this beautiful dream turns into a bit of a nightmare. The gameplay is riddled with a variety of problems, from clunky controls to underdeveloped AI. By far, the most annoying aspect of the gameplay is the cover system, which consists of an auto-cover feature which locks you into any surface you are standing next to. But, when you actually need cover, the feature reverts to a user-initiated button press, making it a reoccurring issue, whether you're in the middle of a fire fight or just wandering around looking for ammo (which is, for the most part, quite scarce). Add to that the fact that your companions on the battlefield regularly both help and hurt you; help by providing you cover fire, and hurt by blocking you into corners, standing in your line of sight, and frequently needing to be revived. While it is playable, it's likely that players will be fighting with their controllers more than the zombies, at least on their first run through the game.
Fortunately, Operation Raccoon City does have some bright spots. First and foremost, the co-op, while not on the same level of a Left 4 Dead, is still pretty enjoyable, especially if you have the right group playing. Additionally, the game is Resident Evil cannon, so for those of you out there that follow the series closely, this could help fill in a few gaps from earlier games in the series. There are also six raccoons hidden throughout the game, which is just a nice diversion by the developer.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City has its roots in a solid core concept; a co-op squad based shooter that takes place in an unexplored area of the RE universe. Unfortunately, when you actually sit down to play it, the game gets in the way of itself (figuratively and literally in certain situations). If you're a fan, Operation Raccoon City is worth playing for some of the background story and to play as the bad guys for once. However, fans that are looking to dip their toe in the zombie infested waters of Resident Evil have much better options in most of the other games in the series.