Released: 20 March 2002
Developer: Slant Six Games/Capcom
Also Available For: PC and PlayStation 3
By 2012, the Resident Evil series (Capcom/Various, 1996 to present) had undergone many changes since debuting as a cheesy survival/horror title hampered by “tank controls”; Resident Evil 4 (Capcom Production Studio 4, 2005) famously switched the game to a more action-orientated, over-the-shoulder third-person perspective, which had been expanded upon greatly in Resident Evil 5 (Capcom, 2005) and would basically transform the series into an action-heavy shooter by Resident Evil 6 (ibid, 2012). In the midst of this transition into a more action-orientated franchise, developers Slant Six Games worked alongside Capcom on a spin-off, a squad-based shooter that reinterpreted events from the franchise’s early days. Despite selling over two million copies and being considered by Capcom to be a success, the game was met with mixed reviews perhaps in a reflection of the backlash against Resident Evil’s new direction; some praised the gameplay and mechanics while others criticised it as being inferior to other, similar videogames.
In a retelling of the events before and during the zombie outbreak in Raccoon City, an Umbrella Security Service (USS) strike team, under the command of HUNK, attempts to secure the G-Virus sample from Doctor William Birkin. However, they are soon forced to battle against Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service (UBCS) mercenaries, flesh-eating reanimated corpses, and the malevolent Umbrella Corporation’s many Bio-Organic Weapons (B.O.W.s), and faced with death and betrayal that cause them to question their orders.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a third-person, squad-based shooter in which players can pick from six members of the Umbrella Security Service (U.S.S.) Delta team (known as “Wolfpack”): Vector, Lupo, Beltway, Spectre, Bertha, and Four Eyes. Once you’ve selected your character, you must then select three others to assist you in the game’s missions to be controlled either by other human players using the game’s online function or assigned to the relatively competent A.I. No matter which character you select, the controls remain the same and will be instantly recognisable to players of similar third-person shooters: press in the left stick to run and then press A to dive ahead, press the Right Trigger to fire and the Left Trigger to aim, B executes a melee attack, you can switch weapons with the Left Bumper, toss grenades and other explosives with the Right Bumper, and press X to reload. The directional pad (D-Pad) also factors into gameplay; you can select from the different grenades available by pressing right, use a First Aid Spray by pressing left, use an Antiviral Spray by pressing down, and toggle through various vision modes by pressing up.
Each character does, however, have access to several different abilities, which you can activate with Y for a variety of temporary effects. Vector specialises in reconnaissance and moves much faster, can become undetectable to enemy radar, mimic other characters, and become completely invisible; Lupo focus more on combat and is able to wear stronger body armour, reload faster, and utilise more versatile ammunition; Beltway is the explosive expert and is able to better resist explosions, disarm mines and traps, and utilise a wider variety of explosives; Spectre is all about detection and mapping and is able to expand upon the mini map and detect nearby items and enemies using different vision modes; Bertha is the team’s medic and can carry more healing items, use them more effectively, and reduce the amount of damage taken; and Four Eyes, being more of a virologist, can carry more Antiviral Sprays, detect infected individuals, and both infect and command infected targets. Similar to the more action-orientated Resident Evil titles, much of the game is focused more on combat rather than exploration and puzzle solving; as a result, you will automatically snap to cover when you’re near walls, barriers, or other objects and must often clear a room of enemies in order to progress. The game is surprisingly dark, however, so I recommend increasing the “Gamma” settings in the options to bring a bit of illumination to the darker areas, though the use of darkness is used to create a sense of ambience and dread to the proceedings.
As you defeat enemies, find Raccoon City Mascots and data, destroy well-hidden security cameras, pick up Intel and send it using laptops, and complete missions, you’ll gain experience points (XP); XP is then used to purchase new weapons and unlock and upgrade each character’s Passive and Active abilities. While any character can use any of the weapons you unlock, once again you can only carry two weapons at a time, so you’ll most likely be dropping weapons and liberating new ones from your defeated foes, and you’ll need a great deal of XP to unlock and upgrade everything the game has to offer for its six characters. As is the standard for Resident Evil titles, you can pick up First Aid Sprays to fully refill your health and use green herbs to restore a little bit of health; if you come across a green herb, though, it cannot be stored in your inventory. Unlike most other Resident Evil videogames, though, you can actually become infected with the Tyrant Virus (T-Virus) and, unless you use an Antiviral Spray, will become a zombie and attack your team mates after a short period of time. Additionally, you can be afflicted with a “bleeding” status that will attract (and spawn in) all nearby enemies (though you can also inflict this status on human enemies to zombies attack them as well). Note, however, that while you can pick up First Aid Sprays, Antiviral Sprays, and additional weapons and explosives, you’ll lose all your new held items if you die during a mission.
The A.I. is relatively competent in a firefight; if they get downed during combat, you can press A to revive them but you may find that they often wander around aimlessly and tend to shoot through doors and walls before enemies even spawn in. Your mission objectives generally involve holding out against wave upon wave of enemies, reaching a specific destination, and clearing out all enemies but you’ll also be tasked with destroying or locating certain items and objects. Other times, generally during boss battles, you’ll have to hold out until doors are opened, or open them yourself, and the battle becomes much more about survival as you desperately try to stay alive while a seemingly endless wave of enemies attack you. Despite the fact that the environments are littered with an abundance of ammo creates and plenty of ammo and weapons, it’s easy to be overwhelmed, which can lead to some frustrating moments that are probably made a lot easier when playing with another human.
Graphics and Sound:
Resident Evil: Operation Racoon City mostly holds up pretty well; thanks to many of the characters having their faces obscured by helmets and masks, the character models largely avoid resembling action figures and, when popular and recognisable Resident Evil characters do appear, they shine all the better for it. However, I did notice quite a few instances of slowdown and jitteriness when there were a lot of enemies and characters onscreen at any one time and more than a few clipping errors where characters would walk through parts of the environment.
The game’s environments are decent enough; they’re dark and creepy and fully of the usual Resident Evil ambiance, featuring flickering lights, blood trails, and an abundance of gore to punctuate the game’s action-orientated approach. There are a lot of little details here and there (though the dark lightning can make a lot of them difficult to make out) and, once you finally escape from the drab, grey corridors, you’ll get to fight through the ravaged streets of Raccoon City (which was a notable highlight). Other environments include the dark, maze-like offices of City Hall, a creepy cemetery, as well as recognisable locations from Resident Evil 2 (ibid, 1998) and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (ibid, 1999) such as the police station (including Chief Irons’ office) and the prerequisite Umbrella laboratories and facilities. Despite the presence of a number of high-quality cinematics, the game’s cutscenes largely utilise the in-game graphics, primarily to ensure that your chosen character and team mates are properly loaded into each scene. This adds a degree of variety and replayability to the game as different characters have different dialogue in cutscenes, though it does seem as though the game recycles a lot of sounds from Resident Evil 5.
Enemies and Bosses:
As you might expect, one of the most common enemies you’ll encounter in Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City are zombies; zombies are slow, shambling corpses who go down quite easily but generally attack in large groups and will lunge and grab at you to try and take a bite out of you. In these situations, you can frantically wiggle the left stick to try and shake them off and you better make sure you do this as they can infect you or cause you to bleed otherwise. Dead bodies in the nearby area will often pop up as surprise zombies, who can also power-up and return to life as the much faster, tougher, and more aggressive Crimson Heads so make sure you take them out with a good old head shot before they get the chance to do this. Similarly, you’ll also encounter the odd Cerberus; these infected dogs like to pounce at you out of nowhere to give you a good scare and you’ll also have to shake off their bite and have a good aim to take them out because of how fast they can be. You’ll also come up against spider-like Parasites that quickly scuttle across the environment and can also be difficult to hit. These become doubly annoying when they join with a zombie as not only will Parasite Zombies be faster and more dangerous thanks to the Parasite’s extra limbs but you’ll also have to kill the Parasite after taking out the zombie host.
You’ll also come up against some of Resident Evil’s most notorious B.O.W.s, such as the Lickers and the Hunters; Lickers scramble all over the walls and ceilings, popping out from vents and grabbing at you with their long tongues. Fast and difficult to hit, it’s best to target their exposed brains but they can easily overwhelm with their sheer numbers and ferocity. Similarly, Hunters will often drop from the sky in torpedo-like capsules and attack with an unmatched viciousness; leaping and charging across the place, they attack with large, deadly claws and take a great deal of punishment before going down so you’ll definitely need your more powerful weapons to make short work of them. Apparently because B.O.W.s aren’t interesting and dangerous enough, you’ll have toe exchange gunfire with a variety of living, human enemies; soldiers from the Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service (U.B.C.S.) will fire at you from behind cover and other barricades, often to provide support for series staples such as Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield, and are surprisingly durable and difficult to spot. You’re encouraged to inflict them with the bleeding status to send nearby zombies into a frenzy and tear them apart but this can just as easily be bad news for you, too, as the U.B.C.S.’ bullets can cause you to bleed and the final mission of the game is notably frustrating because you end up caught in a crossfire between the well-equipped U.B.C.S. and an endless swarm of zombies.
If you’ve played Resident Evil 2 and 3, you’ll instantly recognise the bosses and larger B.O.W.s included in the game; given that your first mission is to retrieve the Golgotha Virus (G-Virus) samples from Birkin’s laboratory, the first boss you’ll encounter is Birkin in his monstrous “G” form. “G” can’t be killed, however, making this a tense chase down a very narrow corridor as you desperately avoid “G”’s wild swings and slow him down by shooting nearby explosive barrels and pipes. If you linger around too long or get too close to him, it’s stupidly easy to get caught up and glitched on his hit box and the nearby environment so just turn around and run and save your ammo and efforts for when the game tells you to hold him at bay.
Another recognisable B.O.W. you’ll encounter more than once is the T-103 Tyrant known as Mr. X; this massive, hulking figure has a tendency to attack and damage other B.O.W.s in its path and can be briefly controlled by Four Eyes but, for the most part, is indestructible when you first encounter it, leaving you to desperately run around taking out zombies and Parasites as you retrieve key cards to escape the area. In a later mission, two of the damn things attack you at once and you must take them out in order to progress. They’re incredibly strong, leaping and charging at you, pounding you into the ground and squeezing the life out of you with each so it’s best to keep your distance, focus on one at a time, and always aim for the head. One of the most troublesome and frustrating missions of the game sees you staving off wave after wave of zombies and U.B.C.S. soldiers while trying to bring down the Nemesis-T Type, an intimidating creature by itself without all the additional enemies swarming the area. After numerous deaths and failures, I found it was much easy to quickly take out any nearby zombies, grab some restorative sprays, and camp out by the ammo crate and take pot shots at Nemesis until it finally dropped to the ground, taking advantage of the explosive barrels wherever possible. Even then, it can rear up and keep ticking along, all while you’re getting shot to shit and desperately trying to bring it down so you can inject it with the NE-α parasite.
As in Resident Evil 2, you’ll have to do battle with Mr. X’s final form onboard an elevator; again, like Nemesis, the Super Tyrant is powerful and formidable enough without the battle being made more strenuous by the presence of Lickers, flame jets, and being a gauntlet that you must complete without any checkpoints mid-way through. To take out the Super Tyrant, it’s best to camp out by the ammo crate, stay away from it, and shoot at its exposed heart with everything you’ve got. If it’s close enough to the elevator edge, you can knock it off pretty quickly in the first phase of the battle and, as long as you can pick off the Lickers and avoid being roasted alive, you can repeat this strategy for the second phase of the fight where the B.O.W. is much faster and more aggressive.
In a change of pace, however, the final challenges of the game have you taking on Claire and Leon in separate missions; Claire awaits you in an infested train yard and likes to take pot shots at you with a grenade launcher but tags out before you get to make her pay for her insolence. When you get to the end of the train yard, Leon camps out up top and snipes at you while being protected by U.B.C.S. soldiers behind a fortified barricade and zombies roam the immediate area. This, without a doubt, was the toughest and most frustrating part of the game at that point and, in the end, I was reduced to simply tanking damage and running the barricade to reach the ladder and trigger the cutscene that led to the game’s final mission. Here, you’re given two options: one sees you spare Leon and the other sees you kill him as per your orders. If you kill him, you’ll have to take out a couple of your team mates before you can get to Leon, who blasts at you from behind cover and can cut you down with ease unless you bring along or get your hands on the sniper rifle. If you spare him, it’s the same thing but, this time, you’re defending him from your team mates and it’s a far easier fight but, if you want to get all of the game’s Achievements, you’ll need to slog through this final mission at least twice.
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As mentioned above, you have a variety of restorative items available to you in the game; green herbs offer a quick, one use pick-me-up, First Aid Sprays can be stocked and refill more of your health, and Antiviral Sprays will cure you from infection if needed. Unlike a lot of third-person shooters, your health won’t replenish over time so it’s best to keep a First Aid Spray in your inventory and to keep your team mates nearby so they can revive you as checkpoints are often lacking mid-way through the more frustrating missions.
Each character has a variety of unique Passive and Active abilities; Active abilities also come with a cooldown period so you can’t spam their use over and over and some are, honestly, more useful than others; the mechanics are definitely geared towards human players working together and using each character’s abilities to the best of their advantage and you’ll be grinding and replaying missions quite a bit to unlock everything and make life easier for yourself. Of course, the main power-ups you’ll pick up are the wide variety of weapons; pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, and heavier weapons like grenade and rocket launchers are all available if you have enough XP but you’ll also be able to liberate them from dead U.B.C.S. soldiers and grab better weapons from weapon creates scattered throughout the environments (you’ll need to shoot the locks off these first, though). You’ll also be able to use familiar weapons from the franchise, such as the Samurai Edge and Barry Burton’s magnum, and three different types of grenades (frag, flashbang, and incendiary). Thankfully, you don’t need to use XP to upgrade the proficiency of the weapons and, once you unlock them, any character can use them but you’ll still need a lot of XP to unlock everything.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City has fifty Achievements for you to earn; many of these are tied to simply clearing the single player missions but you’ll also get Achievements for purchasing weapons and upgrades, healing a certain amount of times, and killing a certain amount of enemies. Some are much trickier to get and require you to finish he game on harder difficulty modes, purchase and upgrade every ability, and kill enemies in specific ways.
Many of the rest are tied towards the game’s many multiplayer modes; the game’s single player campaign can be played in co-op and it also features a variety of competitive modes, from traditional deathmatches to a survival mode and one that has you searching out G-Virus samples, and the Xbox 360 version also has an exclusive “Nemesis Mode” that allows one player to take control of the Nemesis and hunt down and kill the other players. Unfortunately, I never got to experience any of Operation Racoon City’s multiplayer options as they game cannot be played locally, which is always frustrating and mind-boggling for me, meaning I couldn’t even 100% all of the Achievements even if I wanted to. Operation Raccoon City isn’t an especially long game (I finished it on “Normal” mode in around eight hours), even in its most frustrating moments, but you can extend the game’s playtime by purchasing the “Spec Ops” downloadable content (DLC), which adds six more playable characters, a number of additional campaigns and Achievements, and more recognisable characters from the series to expand upon the game’s unique retelling of the second and third games.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a decent enough title for a spin-off of the main series; it takes many familiar characters and concepts from the franchise and reimagines them, fully embracing its more action-orientated mechanics and being a relatively inoffensive third-person shooter. It’s not much compared to the Gears of War franchise (Various, 2006 to present) and lacks a lot of the appeal of main series titles like Resident Evil 4 but, had Capcom kept the more action-orientated, third-person mechanics confined to a side series such as this, Resident Evil 6 might have turned out a little less disappointing. However as great as it is to battle the franchise’s gruesome B.O.W.s with more freedom and more detailed graphics compared to the original PlayStation releases, Operation Raccoon City has a lot of flaws and bugs and frustrating parts that really drag it down; the clipping and frame rate issues were noticeable, the lack of checkpoints and losing all of your inventory after dying can make bosses and the survival missions needlessly exasperating, and the sudden, anti-climactic end of the game really derails what little story is on offer. Overall, it’s a decent enough experience that should satisfy fans of the series, especially the more action-heavy titles like Resident Evil 5, but fans of third-person shooters can definitely find better options on the market.
Could Be Better
What did you think to Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City and how do you think it holds up as a third-person shooter and spin-off of the main series? Which of the playable characters was your preferred choice? What did you think to the game’s minor retelling of the main story and the encounters with recognisable Resident Evil characters and monsters? Did you choose to kill or defend Leon at the conclusion of the game? Did you ever play the game’s multiplayer and, if so, what was it like? Which Resident Evil videogame, character, monster, or spin-off is your favourite, and would you like to see a return to the more action-orientated style the games adopted during this time? Whatever you think, feel free to leave your thoughts down below.