The Once and Future Evil
In 1996 Japanese publisher and developer Capcom, known for their history with such beloved franchises as Mega Man and Street Fighter, released a game for a genre that, up until this point, theyíd never truly delved into on an international scale: survival horror. Resident Evil was the name that the world came to know that franchise by. The rest, as they say, is history as the series went on to be one of the most powerful voices in survival horror. Fifteen years on however the series has gone from scaring players to simply engaging them in an action style game. While the core entries in the series follow a specific track and method of play though Capcom likes to experiment with lesser titles, hence the game we have before us today.
Wanting to see just what could be done with the series, Capcom hired out developer Slant Six Games, known for their work on the SOCOM franchise, to explore new lines of possibility with Resident Evil, an action that has yielded Operation Raccoon City. Does this experiment open a new avenue to such a storied saga of games?
Revisiting the Outbreak
In September of 1998, Raccoon City, a Midwestern town of seemingly little importance was wiped off the map in a hail of fire and death after a viral outbreak turned its inhabitants into flesh eating monsters. This would eventually lead to the downfall of the Umbrella Corporation, the developer of the viruses that destroyed the population. Every Resident Evil fan knows about the days of horror that plagued that ill-fated city but this new title answers an often asked question: what if Umbrella got away with it? Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City attempts to find out in the first non-canon entry in the series in over a decade.
You play as a member of a six man elite Wolfpack squad of the Umbrella Security Service. Dropped into Raccoon City just prior to the events of Resident Evil 2, you are assigned to help obtain samples of the G-virus developed by Dr. William Birkin whom intends to sell them to the US government. Entering the lab far beneath the streets of the city you aid alpha team leader HUNK as he fights his way to Birkinís lair. The rest, as anyone who has played the early entries in the series can contend, is history: a dying Birkin injects himself with his creation, turning into a hulking giant of death and subsequently releases the G-virus, leading to the infection of the entire city. Team Wolfpack barely manages to escape the facility but, as punishment for their part in the infection of Raccoon City they are ordered to stay until all signs of Umbrellaís involvement are destroyed. Evidence, be it paper, digital or human is to be eliminated and you and your team arenít getting out of this hellish nightmare until youíve done just that.
Operation Raccoon City (ORC) has a lot of potential as a non-canonical entry into the Resident Evil series. Without having to conform to the restrictions of the core series, Slant Six had the opportunity to allow us to explore Raccoon City in ways that couldnít have been done before. This was further aided by the fact that the game functions as a third person, squad-based shooter, a first for the series. ORC could have been a great game, emphasis on could.
What has been released to the public however is a badly constructed and poorly thought out narrative that injects itself into the world of Resident Evil 2 with little regard to anything going on around it save for the chaos that fills the streets. Much of the game has you running around performing errands for Umbrella before they inevitably decide to betray you after you fail to complete a certain objective. Even the primary marketing point for ORC, the hunting down of survivors, only appears in the last third of the game and, even then, is ultimately disappointing. This, coupled with characters that are neither likeable nor memorable and paper-thin narrative growth, produces a singleplayer/cooperative campaign that is easily the most unsatisfactory story in the seriesí sixteen year history.
Probably the most frustrating part of the gameís story is the laundry list of things that could have been. So much could have come from Operation Raccoon City from a narrative perspective that wasnít previously attempted in the previous Resident Evil titles. Exploring the city as the outbreak engulfs it, killing surviving witnesses and even encountering the soldiers that appear in the opening cinematic for the game could have been undertaken. What we have been given however is a story that doesnít even try to do anything new plotwise, only stopping to highlight a few key series characters and locations before abandoning them to focus almost entirely on gameplay.
In short, donít come looking for an enthralling tale here, folks. Turn around and donít look back.
Interesting multiplayer modes
Unbalanced, seemingly unfinished gameplay