And so it goes in Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, where imperfect concepts are imperfectly executed. If you play with AI teammates, make sure to stay alive: they are incapable of reviving you should you fall. (Somehow, most other co-op shooters have solved this AI conundrum.) Actually, these loons are incapable of many basic AI functions, such as avoiding blazing fires that burn them to a crisp. Human partners can revive you, of course, but not if your limp body disappears beneath the ground. Or perhaps your buddies might get tripped up by all the grenades and ammo littering the ground next to you, forcing them to dance around until the correct key prompt appears. The sloppiness comes to a head in the final sequence, where the game forces you to make a nonsensical choice and engage in a messy, anticlimactic firefight. And then the credits roll, four hours or so after the campaign began.
The virus appears to have no negative effects on the amount of blood the average human head can hold.
There are glimmers of entertainment here, though--moments of legitimate fun when things come together. Picking off one zombie after another in a series of headshots is a hoot thanks to the copious splatters of blood that erupt. Freeing a teammate from the grasp of a licker's snapping tongue instills a sense of camaraderie, as does healing multiple victims at once with a health spray. Then there are special abilities, like planting a mine and blasting an undead horde into smithereens, that give you brief moments of joy. And don't forget the brutal melee kills, which finish off zombies in fine fashion, even if the melee system itself is clumsy and overpowered.
Even the infection mechanic had promise, though it too is let down by the item scarcity and abysmal AI. The gist: a zombie might infect you with the T-virus. You can heal yourself with an antiviral spray, but if you don't have a can, you end up sprinting about, hoping the telltale blue glimmer catches your eye before you fall victim to the virus's deadly curse. Should you fail, the AI takes over for you, and you can only watch as you barrel toward your teammates, who have no choice but to shoot you down. If you play with others, no harm done: they can revive your limp body and you live to fight another day. Your AI teammates, on the other hand, don't have the intelligence to restore breath to your downed lifeless corpse.
It's like leading lambs to the slaughter.
Enjoying the cool moments that do arise means getting used to the sloppy interface and key assignments, however. With a controller plugged in, you get more or less the same experience you would have on the Xbox 360, PC-specific bugs notwithstanding. Prefer a mouse and keyboard? Then expect clumsy default key assignments (which can at least be customized) and interface elements that still assume you are using a controller (like the D-pad interface for switching grenades). Regardless of your controller of choice, expect periodic audio issues, such as a pervasive bug that causes the in-game sound to drop out completely, though the menu audio still functions properly. (Switching to your desktop and then returning to the game sometimes--but not always--fixes the problem.) It's also worth noting that the game forces you to use Windows Live, the unpopular online interface that brings Xbox Live features to PC owners.
Raccoon City isn't just a co-op game; it also includes competitive modes, where human players join the undead in their relentless quest to murder you. There are four modes on offer, two of which had real promise. The most enjoyable of them is Biohazard, in which G-virus samples appear on the map, and teams race to collect them and return them to their home base. That aforementioned mine might come in handy again here, should you plant it near the enemy's home area. (Like zombies, other players blow up real good.) The other promising mode is Survivor, in which two teams mow each other down while waiting for a rescue helicopter to arrive. The helicopter has limited seats, and some heated action can occur in that mad dash to safety.
Team deathmatch variants called Team Attack and Heroes round out the selection. No matter which mode you prefer, however, you run into some of the same problems as in the campaign: flaky cover mechanics, long animations leading to damage loops, and so forth. Weapon imbalances are also a problem. Raccoon City has a persistent leveling system in which you earn points that can be spent on new weapons and abilities. You can earn more powerful weapons in other shooters, of course, but pistols rarely make you an unstoppable killing machine. In Raccoon City, that Lightning Hawk pistol, combined with the game's quick draw aiming system, gives you an edge over players with dinky weapons like heavy machine guns and bolt-action rifles.
Yet all these guns and abilities are wasted in a game that never makes good on its potential, and what potential you glimpse is overshadowed by a careless porting job that makes you wonder why the teams responsible even bothered in the first place. Perhaps you crave a creepy and thoughtful journey through the darkest regions of the human psyche. Perhaps you crave tense, exciting action, either online or on your own. Either way, Raccoon City not only fails to satisfy--it leaves you feeling even emptier than when you started.
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