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PlayStation 3 Review: Resident Evil – Operation Raccoon City

There’s an old adage in the film industry that goes somewhat along the lines of “Sequels aren’t equals.” The same applies to the world of video games — even to ones that have been around since the early days of non-8-bit game consoles. Now, you would speculate that an enterprise such as Capcom, who have been the developers and publishers of the Resident Evil series — a legacy that, mind you, has spawned several (equally) popular live-action and animated films as well as comic books, novelizations, action figures and more over the years — would try to make each entry in their seemingly endless franchise just slightly cooler than the last.

You might also be under the postulation that they would try doubly hard to keep the fires burning strong when a new Resident Evil title is released just two days shy of the 16th Anniversary of the original PlayStation (1) game. Of course, you’d be completely wrong in that assumption — leading to another timeless axiom: “When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.”

And, sadly, in the case of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, everybody looks like an ass; from the creators of the game, right down to the poor suckers who buy it.

Set around the same time as Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is more of a theoretical “what if?” footnote in the series. Here, you are part of an elite squad of super secret security service folks who have been assigned to breach the apocalyptic hell zone that is Raccoon City in order to take possession of the T-Virus from Dr. Birkin (which is your opening assignment — and a vastly unfulfilling one at that), destroy all evidence of the Umbrella Corporation’s involvement in matters, and to eliminate any and all non-infected survivors you encounter (including a few other characters from previous games).

Naturally, things don’t go according to plan on the first mission. Or the second. And it isn’t long before you and your squad (whom you can change all four members of at any time, despite the fact that you’re stranded within the confines of the town) are venturing from one location to another, fighting off zombies and humans alike. Alas, things really don’t work out the way the should all around, particularly in the real world — as players of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City are forced to contend with one misfortune on behalf of the game’s programmers after the next.

First off, the game’s controls just plain suck. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City’s developers (Slant Six) apparently decided that the tried-but-true formula of including a “duck/crouch” button wasn’t worth throwing in here. Try and try as you may, you cannot really “choose” when you want to duck for cover — the game attempts to make up your mind for you in the instances when you can do such a thing, primarily when you’re standing in front of a crate (etc.) or a wall. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t work when you would want it to; instead, it chooses to do so at the worst possible times — such as when you don’t want to submerge yourself into a state of safety.

Pressing the “X” button will allow you to pick up certain items. If you’re in a hurry to pick up that green herb or ammo on the ground, you might want to just press “X” rapidly and hope that your character picks it up as you dart past it. If the item in question happens to lying next to a discarded gun, however, you can bet your bottom dollar that you’ll probably pick up the less useful item; this is particularly maddening once you’ve found a weapon you are comfortable with. Of course, this all depends on whether or not your pushing of the “X” button will work the way it’s supposed to: sometimes, you’ll just leap to the ground for no reason.

Hell, the game doesn’t even tell you what some of the objects you can interact with in Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City are, or what you can do with ‘em. For instance, you’ll come across some boxes that don’t open. The reason they don’t open is that they are locked. The game doesn’t tell you that they are locked, though, or how to open them for that matter. It’s a pity, too, since they usually contain sniper rifles!

Speaking of guns, another issue present here which is extremely annoying is shooting — as well as the layout of items. As if the absolute worst level of Doom ever had been turned into an entire game, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City seems to stash items (ammo, health, etc.) in the most inconvenient of places, but the firing of weaponry itself is even more frustrating. Sure, it’s a shoot ‘em up game, but you usually expect your targets — both the living and the living dead — to actually die after you pump them full of lead or make clear, clean headshots. No such luck here: you’ll waste more ammo shooting opponents than you would by picking up bullets and throwing them down the hall.

Now, a few words about the game’s AI. When you take four different squad members — each with their own special forte (explosives, medical, surveillance, and so forth) — you expect their AI to kick in. Regrettably, “AI” in this instance stands for “Absconded Intelligence,” as your characters will roam and wander about with no clue as to what they should be doing. Worse still, you can’t push a simple button and assign them to a task (i.e. “shoot the bad guys”). My jaw nearly dropped to the floor when one of my squad (Bertha the medic) actually made good on their trait, and came walking up to me to heal me — at a time when I most certainly didn’t need it. Too bad I couldn’t have issued a command to her via the simple pressing of a button.

The AI of your foes isn’t so hot, either. Sometimes, they can just run or shoot right past you — and I’m not talking about the undead ones, either. Granted, the zombies aren’t as bright as the reanimated corpses seen in previous Resident Evil games — granter, we probably shouldn’t expect much from a game made in this day and age that only bothers to give its living cadavers about five or six different skins.

Now, when you combine these various flaws into a single mission, you can imagine how considerately insufferable some levels might get — even when you’re playing on the normal level of difficulty. And it hurts. Real bad, too. It’s also a very uninspired and boring title all around. But then, I guess they had to make up for the fact that the game only has seven damn missions somehow, didn’t they?

Here’s hoping that Resident Evil 6 is a whole hell of a lot better.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language. This game can also be found on: PC and Xbox 360.

About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the alter-ego of a feller who loves an eclectic variety of classic (and sometimes not-so-classic) film and television. He currently lives in Northern California with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.

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