reHorror: What went wrong with Operation Raccoon City

Before I get started. I know there’s bound to be a few smarty-pants comments below proclaiming: “what didn’t go wrong with ORC?” So, yeah, I’m prepared for those. Just sayin’.

And I’ll also say, like I stated in my review of the game, that I did enjoy my time with the campaign and continue to find myself sucked into its multiplayer suite. But I’m no fool. I’m not oblivious to all the things that went wrong with the game. So I’m going to talk about the most annoying issues I came across, issues that at times made me want to stop playing completely and head back to Resident Evil 2 and 3.

I’m also more than aware that this game was designed as a co-op/ multiplayer experience, with that in mind throughout the entirety of its development time from Slant Six. So, me judging it by my time playing the campaign solo may seem somewhat unfair. To those that have told me that after reading my review, I’ll say this: To me, despite what the developer’s intentions are, Resident Evil is always a single-player experience first and foremost. So, having said that, on to the list of ORC’s most frustratingly apparent flaws!

The Atmosphere, or lack thereof

Here’s my number one issue with ORC. What in the blue hell happened to the city I used to call home? I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are a small number of standout moments like a trek through the town’s cemetery and moments where you’re fighting back hordes of zombies and Spec-Ops soldiers in fiery streets and even part of a building caught on fire. But most of the time, the game lacks the atmosphere we’ve come to expect from the series– especially from the titular city.

It’s a shame really, especially since Slant Six opted to bookend the game’s plot (something we’ll be getting to momentarily) with two survival horror classics: Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3. Two games that did a much better job of letting players explore Raccoon City (with RE 3 offering more in terms of city exploration than its predecessor). But man did they screw up here.

You can’t go into Kendo Gun Shop– a place I really was expecting would serve as a safe house where players could stock up on ammunition and fend off hordes of zombies trying to bust through in what could’ve and should’ve been an epic set-piece moment. But, nope, can’t go in there. Really? Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting to go in every building still standing in Raccoon City, but not being able to explore the interior of one of the most memorable (despite only being traversed briefly) locales is very, for lack of a better word, infuriating. Especially because it’s right there!

Then we have the truly iconic RPD station which sadly got royally, anally raped. I just can’t get over the fact that they screwed up this locale. Like I said in my review, when I got to that point, late in the game, I was livid. Granted, the overall structure is somewhat faithful, somewhat, but go through the rooms (of which there are only a few open) and you’ll see why any diehard fan of Resident Evils 2 and 3 (mostly 2) would be crying foul at the treatment this key locale received in ORC. I’m usually not one to be bashing something, especially not when it’s RE, but come on, this was just absurd.

I know this is primarily an action-oriented, squad-based third-person shooter, but I was just expecting at least a minimal sense of that classic atmosphere from the good old days. Instead, we got a Raccoon City that looks as generic as any ol’ level from any ol’ modern shooter. Oh yeah, it doesn’t help that the visuals weren’t all that hot either (which I’ll get to really soon). But keeping in line with the atmosphere and the game’s locations, let’s go to another part of the game which should’ve been something special, but sadly wasn’t.

City Hall

If there was one location ORC could call its own it definitely could’ve been City Hall. Ever since seeing the building in Resident Evil 3, I’ve always wanted to explore the interior, and take on the undead that roam its halls. No game in the series has ever given players the chance to do so, until ORC that is. But, as expected, it wasn’t anything special whatsoever.

I mean, I’m no architect nor do I have any firm understanding of interior design, so I’m sure City Hall as it’s presented here is like a City Hall should be, but still, it could’ve been a little more…atmospheric. Going through it, I really felt like I was going through the same halls and rooms over and over again most of the time. It really bothered me because for years I’ve always wanted to explore this place, thinking that once we all had a chance to do so it would be treated like the RPD station and even the classic mansion, amounting to yet another iconic RE setting. But, nope. Just another generic-looking building. Then there was the story potential that was tossed out the window…

Fans who’ve played RE 3 know of the town’s mayor, Michael Warren, and how he hid in the building with his daughter during the beginning of the Outbreak. After zombies started to pour through he opted to send his daughter to the RPD station. How cool would it have been to run into Mr. Warren and his daughter while exploring City Hall? Or at least see them running  through it, while the USS squad is busy holding back the zombies and, of course, Spec- Ops soldiers. I know, I know, ORC’s plot isn’t entirely canon, but finally opening up City Hall to fans could’ve definitely been better, both from a design and plot perspective. I really wanted to love the mission in the game set entirely within its confines, but I just couldn’t: it was just a dull mission to me.

Faulty Presentation

When it comes to Resident Evil, every home console release (with a few exceptions like the Wii titles, for obvious reasons) sets the bar up high for the series when it comes to visuals and the overall presentation. With Operation Raccoon City, this wasn’t really the case. Don’t get me wrong, I know this isn’t a numbered entry, but still, after Resident Evil 5 saw release back in 2009, it’s surprising to see ORC’s overall presentation be of a much lesser quality, 3 years later.

Look at the image above. That’s none other than Claire Redfield, of course. But think again. Sure in this particular image she looks pretty much how she’s supposed to, and in some of the game’s cut scenes as well (which were created by the same team that handled Darkside Chronicle’s cut scenes), but just wait until you see her actual in-game model…Claire, is that you? That’s pretty much what I questioned out loud once I saw her in the game, running around with Leon and Sherry (!). I’ll leave it at this, since me going on about this may seem a bit juvenile to some of you: ORC’s in-game Claire model pales in comparison to some of her most devoted fans roaming the innards of the Javitz Center during NY Comic-Con in full costume (Hell, I took a picture with a Claire cosplayer that looked better than ORC’s!). Seriously. Oh, it’s not just Claire! She just happens to stick out the most, but most of the classic characters’ character models all suffer from a strange and almost unfamiliar design. They got HUNK right, though, thank God. I mean, how can you screw that up, right? And it doesn’t end with the unfortunately shoddy character models and repetitive zombie models. Oh yeah! That reminds me. About those zombies…

Don’t get me wrong, I was in no way at all expecting every zombie to differ in looks from one another, but I was expecting something…more. They look great, and I do love the inclusion of the female zombies from Resident Evil 2, but you’ll see what I mean once you start seeing that Hunter (Left 4 Dead fans what up!) reject show up for the umpteenth time (you need to put the hood over your head and lose a few pounds, buddy!). Also, I think it’s a neat detail to have corpses littered around, but upon closer inspection, you’ll start to notice they’re pretty much only a few models being recycled throughout the whole game! I liked the one body (as sick as this sounds) that was all torn up with the guts all out and decapitated, but that “oh, this is awesome!” feeling went away after seeing it REused many times afterwards. Again, this may sound like I’m just intentionally mining for flaws, but I wasn’t, they just really were apparent to me throughout my experience with the game.

As aforementioned back in the “atmosphere” section, the level design didn’t really impress much either, sadly. Not to go on endlessly about it, but really, it just angers me to no end to have a setting as iconic and important to me (and many other RE fans) end up looking generic in a current-gen game. This was never intended to be a full-blown, traditional survival horror experience, but still, it’s wrong to take a generic approach to the design of such a beloved fictional town, it just is. At various parts of the game I really was contemplating taking time away from it and going back to Resident Evil 2 and 3 for that authentic Raccoon City experience.

The Wolfpack

When it comes to the Resident Evil series, there’s bound to be some truly memorable characters within each game’s cast. Sometimes there’s only a couple, and other times there’s more, but with Operation Raccoon City (excluding the classic faces, of course) there’s really none. Yeah, despite playing as the squad doing Umbrella’s dirty work, the game fails to add any truly memorable characters to the series’ overall roster of all-STARS.

The Wolfpack is comprised of 6 USS operatives: Beltway, Bertha, Four-Eyes, Lupo, Spectre, and Vector. Sadly, that’s all they really are, names, with some cool abilities to go along with that, nothing more. These operatives lack any form of personality and they’re pretty much as generic as a group of soldiers in any ol’ first-person shooter. But like I said, some of them do bring forth some really awesome abilities, especially Vector and Four-Eyes with the ability to turn invisible and manipulate BOWs, respectively. If only they more than just empty characters intended to fulfill each of the game’s classes.

I mean, this is a game where we’re experiencing the Raccoon City outbreak through the perspective of Umbrella. There’s just so much character potential with that concept! And I’ll delve in deeper when I talk about the game’s plot and how I found it to be another one of its weaker aspects. But I really was hoping I would totally love these new (masked) faces. My favorite is Vector, because of his connection to HUNK which gives him at least some sort of significant relevance. The same doesn’t apply to the rest of the Wolfpack though. It’s quite unfortunate. But I’m quite sure we’ll still see fans cosplay as them in the ‘Cons to come!

 The Bosses

The game starts off with an epic chase sequence in which you and your comrades, following HUNK’s lead, are trying to escape a mutating William Birkin. This occurs after Mr. Death himself takes the doctor’s precious G-Virus, and hearing this classic scene play out from outside Birkin’s lab (yeah, you don’t actually see it like we did in RE 2) was exhilarating because we all know what happens next. Then Birkin gets pissed, of course. While not really a boss fight in the traditional sense, this boss “encounter” was very intense and just an utter joy to take part in due to my enormous love for RE 2 (a sentiment I’m sure is shared with many others). But the boss encounters that follow are…quite dull, for the most part.

There aren’t many boss battles in the game, which is a major problem in my eyes, but the most disappointing one is definitely the one with Nemesis. Form all the promotional material and the video from the game’s viral site (which I’ll talk more about in a bit) I was really pumped for one very crazy, memorable encounter with Mr. STARbucks himself, Nemmy. Sadly, that didn’t happen. Yeah, it is quite an intense battle because of the Spec-Ops soldiers also being in the fight along with zombies, but Nemmy himself is just so robotic. Which should make sense since he is a BOW created to obey orders, but still, I wish he would do more than just move around, stop, and spray bullets from his mini-gun at you. Story-wise, I guess it makes sense, since he doesn’t have the control agent from the T-103 Tyrant injected that’s needed for him to obey Umbrella completely. I was just expecting much more from this fight, or better yet, why not have an encounter with him later on in the game, after he’s already run into Jill a few times?

The T-103 Tyrants are the main focus here when it comes to bosses, and pretty much the much focal enemy as the game’s cover rightfully displays, and the battles against these brutes are truly blood-pumping and not unlike battles with Left 4 Dead’s Tanks in terms of tension. The last encounter with this Tyrant is notably epic, and is set to a classic tune from RE 2. But really, that’s all there is when it comes to notable bosses.

There was so much potential here, and with the game’s plot not being entirely canon, Slant Six could’ve gone wild with their own boss ideas (a new, bigger form of Licker or Hunter, anyone?). But keeping things in line with the games ORC borrows from, why not use some of the other bosses included in RE 2 and 3? Where the hell was the Grave Digger? A boss battle against Raccoon City’s detached phallic structure would’ve been hugely satisfying to take part in with three other buddies (or strangers) online. A big missed opportunity. Hell, Slant Six could’ve even introduced their own unique Tyrant and pit the Wolfpack against it in the game’s final level (a Tyrant “prototype” perhaps that no one ever face before in the city).

It’s sad to see that the traditional concept of boss battles has been degraded as the years go by. They don’t make them like they used to. Where before these encounters would be something to look forward to at the end of each stage/level/chapter in a game, nowadays developers just seem satisfied to pit players up against hordes of enemies and have that replace the satisfaction that was once found when fighting actual bosses. Either that or they opt to just half-ass boss battles in general, making them afterthoughts. That’s just my whole stance on it, though. And since Resident Evil has a wealth of memorable bosses throughout its history, I was truly disappointed to see ORC not following tradition.

The Story

When it was first officially revealed, it’s always been known that ORC would retell the events of the Raccoon City outbreak, but this time through the goggled eyes of Umbrella’s USS team. It was also revealed that players would be able to kill Leon, leading to an alternate canon altogether. Fans were eager to see what else was in store that could lead to the overall story of the series being drastically changed. If Leon was dead, there would be no Resident Evil 4, or at least not the way it ended up being. And if Leon was dead, then what would happen of Claire and Sherry? It was queries such as this that had fans speculating, excited to see what other choices we would be able to make. Would we be able to kill Claire, too? What about Jill and/or Carlos? Well…not exactly.

Not only did Slant Six fail to meet their initial promise of being able to alter the series’ lore, but they also missed the mark completely when it comes to retelling the events of the outbreak through Umbrella’s perspective. There was so much more that could’ve been done here, ORC could’ve brought forth a wealth of revelations, showing us what was going on behind the scenes while we were taking on the roles of Resident Evil 2 and 3’s main characters. Why was I expecting all this? Well, the game’s viral site sure made it seem like the story would be a much bigger focus than it ultimately ended up being.

I remember the fun I had with every clue released on the game’s viral site, Inserted Evil. With each clue we would uncover more secrets having to do with Umbrella and their link to the outbreak. Sure, devoted fans already knew about most of the unearthed files and content, but still, it was nice to participate in something so engaging, and get rewarded with information to keep the anticipation high until the game’s release. I remember being so excited when the Nemesis Awakening video was unlocked, and from that point on I was expecting him to play a much bigger role than he ended up having. Quite simply, I got my hopes up and ended up being disappointed, as I’m sure many fans did also.

More interactions and run-ins with classic characters would’ve been very nice, too. I was expecting something like branching paths, with different routes being open through the game depending on which character you decided to help/kill. We got none of that. Don’t get me wrong, I know this was meant to be a game to cater to the multiplayer-craving crowd, or simply, the Call of Duty fanbase. But if you’re going to revolve a game around Umbrella and their USS squad, then why not go all out and offer a story worthy of the pharmaceutical corporation’s importance to fans and the series? Nicholai ended up being the only character that really had some weight to him, with others showing up and leaving before you knew it. And then we have the absence of Jill and Carlos, which leads to another fault with the game’s story.

ORC is a short game, there’s no denying that. It is extremely replayable, though. And I’m currently in my third play-through trying to conquer professional mode. But it’s short game because…well…it’s missing the other half of its campaign! Yes, the USS part of the campaign is only one half of the game’s entire plot. The last half resides with the Spec-Ops and their respective story (did you notice all those Echo Six trophies/achievements?). And guess what? That happens to be the DLC campaign we’ll be getting soon, with it being set in motion with April’s free, singular Spec-Ops mission DLC in which we’ll be seeing one of Nemesis’ encounters with Jill. Then you have the rest of the Spec-Ops’ campaign which may not be as long, mission-wise, as the USS’ but will still carry some level of importance. Jill and Carlos? Yeah, they’re going to be in the DLC campaign.

I’m excited about the Spec-Ops campaign, and I really want to see their side of the story. And I also get a feeling that their scenario may be a bit more RE than the USS’ was, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

After reading all this, you may be wondering why I ended up giving the game a 7 out of 10 if I found all these issues with it. Why not lower? Well, like I stated in my review, despite all its flaws, ORC still manages to be an enjoyable experience both online and off. It could’ve been so much more, though. So much more.

It really does seem like Slant Six took the easy way out, and yes, they did succeed in accomplishing what Capcom asked of them, but they didn’t succeed in offering an experience worthy of its title. Operation Raccoon City? With the way the city is presented, along with its locales, the game should’ve been called something else entirely, maybe Resident Evil #Team Umbrella?. But again, it’s a fun game, and I’m still playing it. After beating it once though, I went straight to Resident Evil 3 so that I could REvisit the city I grew up in the way it should be.

 

               
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