Welcome back. Today we’re covering a game that occupies a weird spot for me. I played the PS3 version of Operation Raccoon City and actually came away from the experience with some pleasant memories. I bought the PC port to try and recapture that feeling as I stepped up to say “Hey, this game wasn’t as bad as people said.” Of course, who do I find blocking my path but Capcom themselves? Turns out the PC port has Games For Windows Live built in. You know, that thing that has been DEAD for 2 years now? So I get a lovely little window that pops up every time I start the game, stating I need to sign in on a service that no longer exists or my online progress cannot be saved. This is, to borrow a phrase, aggressively abysmal product support, guys. Especially considering you had it baked into other PC ports at one stage and took it out, i.e.- you already know exactly how to handle this issue and you just haven’t done it for this game. I spent an hour combing both Microsoft AND Capcom’s product support pages after the guide on Steam failed, trying to find a way to get online to work, with nothing to show for it. Now, PC gamers generally expect a certain level of unnecessary bullshit between us and the games we paid for, but that doesn’t make it any less of a case of unnecessary bullshit, especially this time.
To get back to the game itself, this is Operation Raccoon City, released in May 2012 by Capcom. You play as a special black ops force sent in by Umbrella themselves to tie up some loose ends in the chaos of Raccoon City being overrun. You and 3 buddies get to do behind the scenes dirty work to make sure your employers are never connected to the catastrophe, and I recall the advertising making some pitch about “being able to change the path of RE history.” We’ll get to that later. Point is, the concept is solid.
Execution, meanwhile, is a trainwreck. The gun-play feels unsatisfying. Guns hit like beanbags, kick like angry mules or miss anything smaller than a barn door at 10 paces. As a result, you’re going to need the massive ammo capacities and ubiquitous ammo stockpiles cluttering the stages. On the other side of things, melee has actually improved.
Instead of stopping still in the middle of a pitched battle to remove your knife, or only punching guys that have already been shot, you can run up and drop knife combos on most enemies. You heard me- combos. You can chain together a couple slashes, or mix other stuff in with the Action key or even the Ability key. For example, I was playing as Lupo and slashed a mercenary a couple times before slamming their head into the crate behind me for a Brutal Kill, then a Vector bot sliced a guy and went invisible. Awesome. I looked online and there’s a full blown manual for it, showing borderline Metal Gear Solid level complexity in the CQC system, stuff like human shields and choosing whether to shoot downed soldiers in the head to finish them off or in the gut to draw the undead away, stuff I didn’t know about at all when I played on console. I mean, they really should have added a proper tutorial or manual in-game to explain it all, but props all the same.
That’s the other new feature. Since you’re in environments that will have zombies more often than not, you can make use of them. Shoot an enemy with a certain weapon to make them start bleeding, and all zombies will charge in after them. Additionally, if you get infected, then zombies will start to ignore you, seeing one of their own. There aren’t as many opportunities to take advantage of these new mechanics as I’d like, especially with no good way to communicate to your squad (human controlled or otherwise) what your intentions are.
Controls in general are iffy this time around. The camera is sometimes (I haven’t figured out exactly when or why it happens) very stiff when it comes to vertical movements, even on high sensitivity, so it can be a struggle to even properly aim at targets not on ground level. You can’t use the arrow keys to help steer when you’re sprinting, even though RE5 lets you do it just fine. Maneuvering around the menus feels clunky too. Why is “back” mapped to backspace, but exiting a menu completely is mapped to escape? And as I alluded to in the section on melee combat, half the buttons just aren’t explained on the PC version. I had to pause in the middle of a hectic gunfight when I realized the game had never told me where the heal button was! You also have to specifically aim at items to pick them up now, just being near them doesn’t work. And when a teammate is downed, the icon pops up exactly where they died, but you can’t revive them unless you’re standing directly over their corpse, which usually ragdolls five feet away, and you have to stand, which has gotten me killed in more firefights than I care to admit. Lastly, the big BOWs will ragdoll your character with every other attack, and they will generally hit you just as you’re recovering from the last swipe, leading to death by stunlock if your teammates don’t manage to peel them off you fast enough.
The AI is another problem. Remember all the stuff I complained about in RE5? It’s worse here. Yes. Worse. Somehow. Make sure you bring the medic, because they’re the only one that seemed to care that the entire team is running around at 1/4 health, and will try to deploy first aid sprays when you’re bunched together enough to all benefit from it. You’re gonna need it, because your teammates will walk into bullets like there’s no tomorrow.
It’s a shame, because it made me like the cast of Wolfpack less, which I did warm to over the course of the game. Their characterization through dialogue is rather one note (“Hunk but Cooler”, “Angry Black Man”, “Sadist German Doctor”), but with the Active and Passive abilities granted to each, as well as default weapons, you could start to see who does what and how these guys function as a unit.
I’ll also say that the environments, while overly dark, look good. The art style is different than it was in 4 and 5, but I like it, and when the bad mechanics aren’t getting in the way, you can appreciate some of the fights the game sets up. The game succeeds in turning fights into a massive melee of zombies and BOWs and soldiers with Wolfpack caught in the middle, fighting for survival. But now I gotta dive back into the stuff getting in the way of that.
The writing is garbage. Management is quick to blame Wolfpack for every little thing that goes wrong, even when it’s definitely not their fault. One wonders how Umbrella made it so far when even their elites are treated barely better than their rank and file. Then on the third mission a mercenary steals one of your mission critical items and proceeds to gloat, revealing several important pieces of information, including that he’s working for a powerful employer to collect information for “Operation Watchdog.” Management proceeds to say “We have no idea what’s motivating him, but he seems to have ulterior motives.” No shit, Management. And there’s a point soon after where they leave your team (see: the only competent people there) behind in a vague attempt at “You have failed me for the last time,” only to reconsider when Wolfpack refuses to politely roll over and die and instead kills a ridiculous number of their BOWs, inhibiting their field research. Almost like they’re an elite paramilitary unit designed for extreme situa-oh. And at the end you decide whether to kill Leon Kennedy and retrieve Birkin’s daughter to appease Umbrella at last, or leave them alive and start gunning for your former employers. Like everything else, it’s handled too badly to appreciate, with half your AI buddies turning on you no matter what choice you make just for a dramatic twist.
The versus is another cool concept- you dig in and fight against the other team while waiting for the extraction chopper to touch down. There’s a catch though, there’s only 4 seats and 8 total people in the match. So everyone makes a mad dash for the chopper while trying to gun down the other team so they can’t get on board. But it feels forced and arbitrary: Why only send 1 chopper? Why don’t the guys on board said chopper just mow down the opposing faction when they try to board? Why do the survivors of each side decide to play nice just because they got a chance to sit down? And why on earth would you leave the medic’s borderline invincibility skill in for that game mode when it makes it trivial to just run to the chopper and board while being shot in the face?
All of this culminates in a frustrating experience from start to finish. Hunk tells your team to get out and let him handle the botched sample retrieval? Management decides the entire Raccoon City outbreak is your fault, moving the goalposts every time you do something to redeem yourselves. You enter a corridor full of Spec Ops soldiers, and immediately lose half your AI teammates because they decide to charge. You die to a hail of gunfire because your character decides “no, I don’t want to take cover behind that particular bit of wall,” or because it took an extra 2 seconds to aim at the green herb placed on top of a filing cabinet, or because the game decided that the best place to put a triggered spawn of a dozen riflemen is within pissing distance of the terminal you needed to operate to proceed. You decide to melee the daylights out of Leon Kennedy for a quick kill only to find out, surprise, the rookie cop has like 15x as much health as your elite soldier and will combo you to death the second he gets an opening. There’s just so many rough mechanics and bad design choices that shouldn’t have survived the first pass of QA it makes my head spin.
Okay, now I’m going to do something positive. I am to explain what Capcom could change to make this a decent title. Removing the blasted GFWL goes without saying, and I doubt they’re going to re-record voice lines, so let’s focus on the gameplay itself.
- Remove all the weird control nonsense like needing to look at items and needing to control sprinting with the mouse. Make the former work on proximity, with healing items getting highest priority, guns getting the lowest, and everything else somewhere in-between. Remap the menu controls so either Esc or Backspace is used to back out of everything.
- Do more to characterize your AI buddies through mechanics, while making them less dumb. Make Vector actually flank using his invisibility, make Lupo trigger Supersoldier when she’s pushing forward, make Bertha use Painkiller on a teammate that’s taking the majority of incoming damage and maybe add extra indicators so you can see when they’re happening. Make them actually revive people, so you don’t instantly fail the mission if something badly designed kills you.
- Add some tutorials! Even just in-game manuals. Hunk outright says in the first stage “Remember your training!”
- Get rid of the stunlock situations the enemy can trap you in. The only reason enemy soldiers don’t combo you to death is they’ll stop after a couple swipes. Make Leon and the other BOWs work like that or give players an out when they’re being pummeled.
Making these changes won’t make ORC an amazing game. I don’t know if it’d even make it a good game. But it’d still be 100x better than the mess I played through.
So… yeah, that’s Operation Raccoon City. I love a bunch of the ideas they put into this game, I just can’t give it as much credit as I’d like due to the flawed implementation and malarkey that gets in the way. It’s $30 on Steam, $40 for the version with all the DLC. I wouldn’t buy it unless there’s a big sale, and even then it’s not a priority.