Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City first caught my eye at last year’s E3. A third-person squad shooter based on the events of Resident Evil 2 and 3? Sign me up! I enjoyed my brief experience with the game, even though it felt like an unpolished, unfinished demo -- which in all fairness, was exactly what it was supposed to be. That’s fine. I knew that the developer, Slant Six Games, had almost six months (at the time) to further improve the game. Then REORC was delayed, adding a few more months to the development cycle. Some fine-tuning, perhaps? Imagine my surprise when I fired up my copy of REORC and found the exact same clunky, unresponsive, unfinished game from almost a year ago.
REORC has a four player online only co-op campaign (no local co-op), as well as several four-versus-four multiplayer modes. I can’t figure out if REORC is a sub-par co-op game with tacked-on versus modes, or a lousy versus game with a four to six hour co-op campaign added as an afterthought. What I do know is that you don’t want to touch this game for a single player experience. There’s nothing for solo players here but grief and AI agony.
Going against my own advice, I started a private solo campaign. I selected Lupo, the commander of the Umbrella Security Service, from one of six playable characters. She's classified as the “Assault” class, possessing passive abilities that allow for quicker reloads and resistance to bullet damage. This was good for me, because I like to spray and pray and tend to get shot a lot. Her active abilities include incendiary rounds, an ammo buff, and an pseudo-invulnerability mode. These skills, along with new weapons, can be purchased and upgraded using the XP gained at the end of each level.
Somebody cue up "Little Green Bag."
Lupo is also the only character that begins the game equipped with a run-of-the-mill assault rifle. If video games have taught me anything, it’s that an assault rifle can usually get the job done. (I would find out later that any class can be equipped with any unlocked weapon.) I then chose the rest of my team. The characters themselves are devoid of personality. Each one wears a mask that covers most, if not all, of their facial features. I know the USS are the “bad guys,” but the decision to make each one a faceless goon negatively impacts any relatability a player may have had with the characters.
To complete my party I chose a medic and two more classes based solely on their appearances. I’m pretty shallow when it comes to making an AI party. I began the first mission in solo mode, as I often do before I venture online, because no one likes to be the guy that shows up with his gun pointed at the ground while he figures out how to invert his y-axis, spiking grenades at his teammate’s feet while trying to reload. I also wanted to test the AI... for science!
After a lackluster cut scene, my USS team met up with none other than Resident Evil’s resident badass, HUNK. We had been dispatched to an Umbrella lab to obtain the G-Virus from Dr. Birkin. We're quickly engaged in a firefight with some mercenaries of questionable loyalty, and that’s when things got ugly: The combat system itself is just plain sloppy.
Targeting is questionable. You know the drill. Pull the left trigger to aim, or just pull the right trigger without aiming and harmlessly empty your gun without hitting anything. Occasionally, the sight reticle and the laser sight from my weapon didn't seem to be on the same page, let alone the same target. Bullet hit detection appeared to be random, and this was when I was using short, controlled bursts. I would line up a shot with my assault rifle and actually shoot my own cover. I could clearly see an enemy’s arm, leg, or head sticking out from behind an object. When I would fire most of my shots would be magically deflected by whatever table, railing, or crate they were hiding behind. Enemy soldiers took several direct hits before dying, unless the game decided to register a headshot. Even then it would take two or three hits to put them down, depending on the weapon I was using.
Maybe you can hit those guys behind the bench, maybe you can't.
The cover system is awkward at best, infuriating at worst. I automatically clung to cover when I approached it, whether I wanted to or not. You can’t vault over cover, so I would be stuck behind waist-high barriers for much of the battle (and the entire game, for that matter). Don’t even get me started on the dodge mechanic. Too late, I mentioned it -- dodging is a catastrophe. You need to push the left stick in the direction you wish to dodge, then click the stick while simultaneously hitting the “action button,” and even then my character didn’t really dodge. She kind of just fell over with a grunt. You can fire your weapon while dodging, which looks kind of cool, but in battle it’s totally useless.
Close quarters combat is incredibly brutal and satisfying, when I could land my strikes. Animations seem to be missing, making transition from gunplay to hand-to-hand fighting a jarring experience. More often than not I’d miss part of my combo because my character had overstepped the target (after successfully landing the first two strikes), leaving me open to counter attacks.
Keep in mind, I experienced all of this in the first firefight. The combat, the gameplay itself, just isn’t good. It’s not awful, but it’s not good. Here’s an example of one of the headaches you’ll have to deal with: The generic “action button” (A or X) is responsible for dodging, curb stomping, melee combo finishers, picking up items and ammo, as well as using green herbs. You will stomp the ground when you’re trying to quickly heal yourself with an herb while getting mauled by something nasty.