This is not the Resident Evil you were expecting. Capcom decided to take a detour before the sixth installment of their survival horror series to bring some squad-based multiplayer to the zombie-infested property. To do so they enlisted the help of developer Slant Six Games, the team behind multiple 'SOCOM' titles, and the results are a bit mixed.

The story campaign revolves around a team called the Umbrella Security Service (U.S.S.) which works for the infamous Umbrella Corporation and assists them with covering up whatever virus they’ve unleashed that day  (T-Virus? G-Virus? T-Abyss? Who can keep track?). The levels start you off facing a bunch of government goons who are trying to keep the peace in the city, and then the outbreak spreads and you’ve got zombies to deal with as well as the stronger, deadlier B.O.W.s (Bio-Organic Weapons) like Hunters, Lickers, and even Tyrants. The levels start off fairly slow and boring before getting more interesting and there’s a lot of things that will drive you nuts about the design, like all the backtracking you'll experience. When you’re exploring a creepy mansion filled with zombies trying to find a key to open a particular door, a bit of backtracking is to be expected. In a balls-out action title like this it just kills the tension.

Your guns are perhaps more realistic than in any other zombie game, in the sense that they spray around a lot and give a ton of kick so it’s hard to get the headshots you need. It doesn't help that any humans you face can take a ridiculous amount of bullets before dying and you’re constantly forced to scrounge for ammo boxes. It seems likely to be a conscious design choice to make the game feel more authentic to the series, which used a lack of ammo in order to create tension, but this is a squad-based shooter and there’s generally no avoiding things- you’ve got to go through them. This requires ammo, and you’ll constantly be on the lookout for it. I knew things were bad when I unloaded four full machinegun clips into a Hunter at close range before it went down.

There’s also some fundamental problems with the controls. For example, one button lets you pick up anything on the floor, like items and ammo. Unfortunately it’s also the button you press when you’re running to do a tumbling roll. This makes for a lot of fun moments where you’re dying and trying to run to a green herb only to do a fancy little roll right by it. The cover system is equally annoying as you just push up to a wall or obstacle to get into cover, whether you wanted to or not. It’s very easy to get caught on the corners of walls, especially because you can’t see where you’re going half the time.

The gameplay is only hampered by the graphics, which are ugly as sin. The game is dark, as you’d expect in a game like this, but it’s so dark that you can’t see a damn thing. And the fancy special ops team that you’re hanging with, who bring thousands of dollars worth of weapons and equipment, honed from years of experience on the field? It seems that they forgot to pack a flashlight. The only way to illuminate dark areas is to shoot your gun, which isn’t so bad thanks to all that ammo you have. Oh. Wait.

The story fills in gaps in the stories of Resident Evil 2 and 3, telling you how certain characters got to certain places and how things ended up the way they are. In other words, things that never mattered to the story and that you won’t care about one bit. The dialogue is as inane as we’ve come to expect from the series, and some familiar characters show up both in the game and in multiplayer. Perhaps the best bonus for fans of the series is the opportunity to kill off some of the more irritating characters from those two titles... take it when you have the chance.

Much like Resident Evil 5, don’t even consider picking this up if you’re going to play it by yourself, because it’s an awful slog with stupid AI companions. You end up having to do everything yourself while your useless teammates do nothing but get themselves killed and make you revive them. They won’t even open doors towards the objective, so it’s up to you to fight off the horde and advance the team. Not fun. Online it’s better even though the level design isn’t any improved, and of course the real fun with the game is in the multiplayer.

The multiplayer consists of four on four matches that sees each side controlling either the U.S.S. or Spec Ops teams, or even a S.T.A.R.S. team consisting of famous ‘Resident Evil’ characters like Leon Kennedy, Claire Redfield and Ada Wong.

There are seven different maps on which to try four different game modes. Team Attack is your basic four on four team deathmatch mode, with the inclusion of zombies and other assorted nasties, of course. ‘Biohazard’ (nice nod to the original title of the series there) sees your team trying to get virus samples and bring them back to your base before your foes. ‘Heroes’ is a survival mode of sorts- you’re trying to kill each member of the other team before they kill yours.

Perhaps the weirdest mode is ‘Survivors’, where you’re waiting five minutes or something for a helicopter to arrive at a predetermined point. When it get there it only has room for four people, and with both teams you’re eight, so not everyone is getting on board. But it’s pretty funny that it doesn’t matter which people from which teams get on there, the helicopter takes off with just the survivors. Must make for some incredibly awkward conversation on the ride, as you sit among the people you’ve been killing the whole round.

(The Xbox 360 version has an exclusive Nemesis mode where one team can activate the Tyrant and have him hunt down the enemy team with a chaingun, but I didn’t check it out because the DLC costs four bucks.)

Even with all the game’s faults the multiplayer can be fun and oddly addictive. There’s a ton of weapons and abilities to unlock and you’ll likely enjoy playing as different classes to see what they can do. I found myself playing it for a lot longer than I expected to. There’s some free DLC on the way and it looks to have a nice amount of people playing it, as I’ve never had a problem finding a full game.

But it’s certainly not the ‘Resident Evil’ game we were all hoping for, and just makes the wait for ‘6’ even longer. If you absolutely have to pick up a game in the series right now I’d recommend nabbing ‘Resident Evil: Revelations’ for the 3DS which is not only one of the best games on the system but perhaps second only to the almighty ‘Resident Evil 4’.

Rating: 5/10

‘Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City’ is available for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. The game was developed by Slant Six Games and published by Capcom. This review was based on ten hours with a Xbox 360 version provided by the publisher.

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