In high school English class I was assigned a fantastic novel titled Grendel, written in 1971 by John Gardner. It was a retelling of the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf from the perspective of that poem's most infamous monster, the eponymous Grendel. It gave a fascinating perspective on events and made us gain new appreciation for what was once perceived as a mindless killing machine, and instead was revealed to be a deep, almost philosophical character.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City takes a similar stance in its expansion on mythology, retelling the events of Resident Evil 2 and 3 from the perspective of the Umbrella Security Squad, sent into the BOW-infested streets of Raccoon City to clean up and destroy any evidence tying Umbrella to the outbreak. Does it deliver a fresh new take on the RE story, or is it a name-branded cash grab?
Developer Slant Six, creator of the SOCOM franchise, certainly seems to understand the aesthetic of the timeframe that Operation Raccoon City is set in, clothing the USS in a post-Matrix wardrobe of black leather and blue LEDs that absolutely screams early 2000s. The team represents your usual tactical shooter archetypes: the heavy-weapons guy, the stealthy assassin, the sniper, etcetera, allowing for a wide spread of tactics across your team.
These tactical differences make for a fun, if generic experience in multiplayer. The main campaign is playable cooperatively online, and there are an additional four multiplayer modes available, ranging from team deathmatch (which offers a RE spin by allowing you to play as iconic characters like Leon Kennedy and Ada Wong) to capture the flag (called Biohazard in ORC), and the tense Survival, which sees you fighting off both human and AI-controlled enemies as you wait for a helicopter to extract you from the level.
Unfortunately, all of these modes take place in the same levels as the game's single-player campaign, which is, to put it bluntly, disappointing. There's a twinge of nostalgia that tickles your brain as you run through familiar scenarios, but there's no freshness to the perspective or deeper understanding offered by reliving these events as the USS, just the same experiences from within ORC's new gameplay mechanics. These mechanics play a lot like the previously mentioned SOCOM or a less visceral Gears of War, with seeking cover being just as important as gunning down foes, but the actual execution is far less crisp than either of those games. Running into a waist-high barrier or wall "sticks" your character to it for cover, but it's a woefully static experience. Blind-firing from cover is a game of chance, and there's no rolling between cover locations to seek a better vantage point.
Even the regular shooting mechanics are serviceable at best and broken at worst. Aiming is spotty and inaccurate—strange considering the elite status of the Umbrella Security Squad—and damage is inconsistent. Enemies range from one-shot kills to bullet-gobbling damage sponges, even within the same class, which makes any form of strategic planning a hopeless case. This sort of wholesale chaos can enhance a feeling of horror—especially survival horror—but in a game completely devoid of scares it's merely obnoxious.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City tries to use its horror pedigree as a sales-driving wrapper for a game that literally brings nothing to the franchise it claims to represent. It's a disappointing tactical shooter, and with the mishandled use of the Resident Evil brand, it's a shameful attempt to gouge series fans with empty promises and wasted opportunities.