Late in the Game Review: 'Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City'
Epitaph: A City of Sponges and Zombies
Remember that feeling of excitement we, as Resident Evil fans, had when the Resident Evil 2 remake was announced? It wasn’t just nostalgia. We were excited to see what Capcom could do with the beloved title of yesteryear and how improvements and updates would enhance the survival horror experience.
Now, remember back to 2012. We were still feeling the burn of Resident Evil 5 and its shift toward action, but still hopeful for the future of the franchise. Then Slant Six Games stepped in promising a sort of retelling of the Resident Evil series, as told through the eyes of a team of Umbrella special agents. The kicker? It would would be a multiplayer game that completely tossed away any notion of horror. In a way, it was the exact opposite of that 2015 remake in that it hoped to solely appeal to the nostalgia of the series.
As much as nostalgia can be a selling point, tacking it onto a generic multiplayer shooter concerned many. At that point, plenty of fans of the series bowed out. However, there were still those like myself that held hope that the former SOCOM dev had a trick up its sleeve to turn a disdained concept into something golden.
Spoiler alert - it didn’t.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a lot like a Christmas morning where every gift, big and small, is a sweater. The packaging is fancy, the anticipation high, but when you tear through the paper, Grandma Phyllis’ impossibly bad taste is all that awaits.
Slant Six Games promised a lot. It promised a new Resident Evil title that retells the events of the second and third games in a new way. It promised the ability to alter the events of our beloved series. It promised a solid action title with engaging multiplayer. What it delivered, however, was a tasteless shooter with some expired Resident Evil seasoning.
Was it fun revisiting the iconic locations from Resident Evil 2 and Nemesis? No, actually, it wasn’t. Imagine bland environments plastered with dull recreations of the Raccoon Police Department and the haunting halls of the city’s hospital. Many of Operation Raccoon City’s locations, new and old, were entirely forgettable.
That’s really the best way to describe Slant Six’s attempt at a Resident Evil multiplayer game. It’s eight years later and you don’t hear many requests for a remaster or a follow-up. Unsurprisingly, the developer’s attempt at shoehorning elements of Resident Evil into a multiplayer game isn’t even the worst part of the total package. Siphon out every aspect of the beloved franchise from this game, and you’d still be left with a remarkably bad third-person shooter with uninspired co-op and competitive multiplayer modes.
There may seem to be some variety in the selection of playable characters, but if you’ve played any multiplayer shooter in the past umpteen years, Operation Raccoon City is all very familiar. Umbrella’s Security Service team is comprised of characters that fit within the assault, medic, explosive, tech, recon, and marksman classes. They all feature the staple assortment of skills and abilities, with a small Resident Evil twist to try and deviate from the norm. You may spend a little time having fun with each ability, but once it comes time to implement them into battle, things go downhill.
Even in 2012, it was bad form to release a game that feels like it’s still in beta. From start to finish, Operation Raccoon City feels like Slant Six was still ironing out the details, like how many bullets it should take to bring down enemies. Whether you’re firing upon zombies or gunning down team members of the United States Special Ops, you can expect to burn through clips regardless of what weapon you’re using. On the rare occasion, special abilities may come in handy to thin out the line, but expect every bullet exchange to be a drawn out bore.
The slog through each level is marred by chaotic action that constantly feels like it’s trying to distract you from how incredibly standard the whole experience is. Even the inclusion of familiar characters like Leon S. Kennedy, Nicholai Ginovaef, Ada Wong, Claire Redfield, HUNK, Mr. X, and William Birkin can’t salvage this unbalanced mess of a multiplayer shooter. Especially since it leaves out four of Birkin’s five mutations, arguably some of the most notorious bosses in the entire series.
I thought it would be fun to take on the products of Umbrella’s work, but Slant Six does a poor job of emulating the horror they once instilled. They feel like filler, used only to break up the encounters with human opponents. Much like every other aspect of the Resident Evil series, they simply don’t belong.
If there’s one thing Operation Raccoon City was faithful to, it was the miserable AI of Resident Evil 5. If you thought the bullet-hungry AI of the fifth canonical game was bad, wait until you’re paired with the run-and-gun simpletons that join you on the battlefield.
Operation Raccoon City took a concept that few fans of the series wanted and showcased exactly why we didn’t want it. It’s a sluggish mess that can’t even capitalize on the use of an incredibly popular IP to be entertaining.
Unfortunately, it was also Slant Six Games’ last big title before it closed in 2013. Despite surprisingly good sales of Operation Raccoon City, Slant Six was forced to close its doors after releasing a trio of forgotten titles, including The Bowling Dead for iOS devices.