Sunday, 20 May 2012

Review: Resident Evil Operation Raccoon City (PC)

So after a critical panning on its console release I should have given this a wide berth, but since I know that most shooters on PC have a better time, plus the resident evil setting looked too enticing to pass up, I gave this a go anyway, is it any better on PC compared to its console bretheren?  This version of the game uses GFWL so if you hate this system you may want to avoid it.

Obviously this will play differently to the console release due to the mouse and keyboard control setup which works pretty well.  Aiming and shooting is handled via the mouse, while movement and interaction is assigned to the WASD keys and keys close to them.

The setup for those of you who haven't really looked into this before, is that during the events of Resident evil 2 & 3 a special team of Umbrella security agents codenamed Wolfpack are sent into the city to assist Hunk and his team with the retrieval of the G-virus.  Obviously things go wrong and the virus spreads throughout the city.  As the members of the USS Wolfpack, you are tasked by Umbrella HQ to clean up any evidence that would link Umbrella to the outbreak, while also hindering the survivors efforts to escape.  You are also tasked later on with killing Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield, while trying to capture Sherry Birkin.

The story is not canon by any means, more a kind of what if re-telling of the resident evil story.  Examples of inaccuracy are that G-Birkin will be wielding the metal pipe he had at the end of resi 2 at the beginning of the game.  Also the virus is released in the facility and not the sewers as it was in resi 2.  There are more that diehard fans of the series will likely spot and either chuckle or be annoyed at.  

At launch you can only play the USS campaign although there is a DLC Echo six campaign that will be released for the PC version at a later date.  Eacho six is a campaign that sees you playing as the US special forces attempting to rescue survivors and uncover evidence of Umbrella's experiments.  As of writing the DLC is available on GFWL marketplace, but steam has yet to add any of the DLC despite having a steam store link in the main menu of the game.

All of this boils down to a left 4 dead style four player co-op third person shooter.  Each member of the wolfpack has different skills for taking down human and zombie enemies alike, some of these being passive abilities such as being able to detect items in the enviroment, or turning zombies into allies.  There are six wolfpack members in total, although only four of these are in any one mission.  Combat will be the main focus of the game, unlike other resi titles that go for the atmospheric approach, ORC prefers the run and gun kill em all style of gameplay.  You will spend time in levels between fighting zombies and bioweapons or US special forces, sometimes both at the same time although the zombies and bioweapons will attack both sides.  When fighting against the human enemy types the game plays like a third person cover shooter.  Sticking to cover is automatic, since all you have to do is walk into a piece of the enviroment to stick to it.  On the console this was something that drew immediate criticism, while for myself on the PC it worked pretty well, possible due to the quicker and more responsive controls compared to the analogue sticks which tend to over-exaggerate your movements in games.  While in cover you can blindfire, pop up and shoot and easily detatch from cover when things like grenades land nearby, simply by pressing away from the surface you are stuck on.

Shooting human enemies in the guy or chest area can sometimes cause them to bleed which will cause all zombies in the area to swarm the target and munch on him, sometimes turning them into crimson head.  This can also happen to you and your squad so be prepared to fight off an undead swarm.  Another thing players need to be aware of is infection.  Being infected due to zombie bites will cause you to slowly lose health, although you gain damage buffs and a damage resistance, when your health runs out you become a zombie yourself.  Sadly you cannot control your zombie self and have to wait to be killed before being revived.

Enemies can feel like they take alot of bullets to put down, although this seems perfectly reasonable for a zombie to be able to take a mass of lead and keep going, the soldiers you shoot can sometimes take close to a clip of ammo to go down, while others will drop relatively quickly.  Of course headshots will kill most enemies pretty fast and its easier to land them when using the mouse to aim.  When fighting zombies and bioweapons the game changes from a cover shooter, to a more chaotic melee/ranged affair.  Zombies swarm you forcing you to keep mobile while also picking your shots.  Crimson head zombies are very fast and require either a good headshot or a location to funnel them to make it easier to kill them.

Operation Raccoon City has the most guns of any resident evil game to date, and more are added as DLC expanding this list even more.  Weapons range from pistols, assault rifles, SMG's, LMG's, Sniper rifles and grenade launchers.  These weapons can be unlocked by earning experience points throughout each level.  Exp. is also used to unlock and upgrade abilities for each character.  Accumulating enough experience will also increase your level, although this doesn't seem to have any real effect on gameplay. 

The entire game can be played co-op online via a drop in drop out system.  You can also host private matches to invite friends to.  Obviously being in a group of other players helps compared to the sometimes concrete thickness of the AI teammates, who will stand in the open when bullets fly.  To be fair to the AI though they are pretty good at melee and can take down several zombies with no problem and will take cover to shoot military forces.  Multiplayer runs the traditional list of team deathmatch and capture the flag.  Survivor mode sees team fighting for spots on an evac chopper, but only four seats are available, while killing other players slows their respawn timer.  The final mode is heroes which sees teams playing as classic characters from resident evil with the objective being to kill all of the other teams heroes.  Death sees you respawning as a USS or Echo team member after their respective hero is killed.

In all multiplayer matches players have to contend with zombies as well as the other team, which adds a more chaotic element to the gameplay.  Teams need to stay together to avoid being swarmed while isolating enemy team members to kill them quickly.  Bleeding your opponent is a crucial tactic to draw a horde onto them which can be quite fun.

Now Operation Raccoon city on the PC isn't without its bugs.  There is currently a sound bug that cuts all sound from the game until it decides to randomly return of its own accord.  You can fix this by Alt tabbing out and then lowering your main volume in windows and then setting it back, which will fix the bug in game.  Other issues players have reported are framerate drops to near unplayable levels and mouse control being unresponsive.  Capcom are aware of these issues and are planning a patch for them soon, but as it stands at the moment these bugs do mar the experience.

Graphically Operation Raccoon City looks good.  Some textures in the enviroment look very low res while the character models look very high res.  There are some tessaltion and lighting effects added by direct X 11 provided you have the right graphics card.  The game supports Nvidia 3D although I cannot say I have used it since I lack a 3D monitor.  The game is powered using the Hexane graphics engine developed by Slant Six games the developer.

From what I have heard of the games soundtrack it sadly seems to lack any of the classic resi games music, but does have a fitting theme to it overall.  Zombies sound like the typical groaning undead, while crimson heads shriek and scream as they rush you.  The voice acting for the USS team is passable, although some of the accents seem a little iffy.  Weapons sound suitably powerful and the popping of limbs and the like is what you would expect from blowing a zombies leg off.

Overall Operation Raccoon City is a decent port of the console version.  The game is fun on singleplayer and co-op and the DLC campaign (which many console players say is much better than the USS campaign) will extend the life of the singleplayer.  Its not resident evil in a traditional sense, but if you always wanted to play as a military unit sent into the chaos of Raccoon city you finally can.  Diehard fans will like it regardless, while passing gamers may enjoy it as an alternative to left4dead.  It has some issues at launch for the PC but will be patched soon.

SCORE: 7.5/10 - A fun co-op shooter with a decent multiplayer.


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