Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City takes us back to the crazy days of 1998, when gas prices were low and everyone's favorite sitcom Seinfeld was gearing up for its last season. You're put into the ludicrously designed combat boots of Delta team, codenamed Wolfpack, a rather bloodthirsty wet-work team operating for the Umbrella Corporation roughly in the same time frame as Resident Evil 2. After completely botching a mission to retrieve some virus samples from a secret Umbrella research facility, you inadvertently release the infamous T-virus into Raccoon City, turning it into the zombie filled hell-hole we've all come to know, love and/or loathe.
The biggest problem that Operation Raccoon City has is that, despite that interesting set-up, it's just plain boring. Instead of tense sequences of fighting off zombie hordes or classic monsters like the Licker, and making every bullet count -- you know, like previous Resident Evil titles -- most of RE: ORC is just a frantic mess of gunning down every living, undead, or mutated enemy that gets in your way. In fact, that's pretty much the entirety of the single player campaign. Pick from one of several one-dimensional villainous stereotypes, move from one area to the next, and kill everything that shows up.
You'll also get particularly frustrated with your AI teammates, who are more or less just meat shields who'll walk into your line of fire, block doorways, get caught on walls or stumble blindly into laser trip mines the first chance they get. You can't give them orders either, which further adds to the aggravation, especially when you desperately need someone to come to your rescue and all your AI teammates are off staring into the distance. You can run through the single-player mission cooperatively, but unless you have friends who're also interested in what RE: ORC has to offer, good luck finding anyone to join your game. I spent quite a long time sitting at the cooperative-player matchmaking screen, and even then I was only able to get one or two people who joined up halfway through a mission.
You'll gain experience for killing stuff and surviving each mission, which in turn you can use to purchase special abilities for your characters, like being able to fire incendiary bullets or have a better resistance to explosions. You can also use experience to purchase weapons to use in single and multiplayer, but given how easy it is to run out of ammo, you'll usually end up picking up whatever weapons that are dropped by your human enemies or your colleagues when they get taken out.
The only real reason to pick up RE: ORC is its multiplayer. With several game types, ranging from team death match to capture the flag (or retrieve the sample of the highly infectious mutagen, in this case), there's a lot more variety available than the straightforward, kill everything that moves missions in the single player. Plus, it gives you the option of being on a team of STARS or playing as a few famous characters from the Resident Evil series, like HUNK or Leon Kennedy.
When you come down to it, RE: ORC is just a mess of a game. The single player is sloppy, feels unbalanced, and is far too focused on action over anything else to really feel like a good Resident Evil game. It's hard to be scared of a bunch of horrific monster charging you with claws bared when you're toting a fully loaded assault rifle, and running out of ammo is more of an annoyance than something that instills a crippling sense of fear or panic. RE: ORC doesn't even try to throw around any cheap jump-scares to keep you on your toes, as any enemies that come bursting through doors or walls are just obstacles to overcome. The multiplayer, while giving a few more options and is probably the most enjoyable experience out of the entire thing, doesn't really get beyond average.
Bottom Line: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a mostly pointless third person shooter that's lacking many of the survival-horror aspects that make a good Resident Evil game.
Recommendation: If you're bored to death of the Left 4 Dead series, and absolutely need a zombie-filled shooter of some kind or other, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is a barely adequate substitute.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version game.
Game: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
Developer: Capcom, Slant Six Games
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Available from: Amazon(US), GameStop(US), Amazon(UK), Play.com(UK)