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Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City - Does survival horror and squad-shooter mix?

Returning to Raccoon City for a second bite...

You'd have thought, after the harrowing events of Resi 2 and 3, most would be happy to see the back of Raccoon City. Dark mansions, zombie dogs, deserted police stations, unstoppable mutations of the T-virus... let it stay scorched.

Capcom, however, isn't finished with the home of Resident Evil, encouraging us to storm the streets again in Operation Raccoon City.

This time though, you're approaching the events of Resi 2 and 3 from a different perspective. This isn't a survival horror game in the traditional sense. Instead developer Slant Six is sticking to what it knows: squad-based shooting.

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The over-the-shoulder camera may echo later Resi games, but this is an even more immediate and precise shooter, in line with the dev's own SOCOM Confrontation. It's built around four-player co-op, and while you can power through the campaign with the help of AI buddies, it's far more rewarding with three mates in tow.

Your perspective also differs because of the actual squad you lead. In this spin-off you get to slip into the jackboots of the Umbrella Security Service's most ruthless, kitten-hating killers.

Slant Six is at great pains to make sure you know these are the bad guys, the anti-heroes. That's why they're dressed like they fell out of the Torture Garden at 3am on Halloween.

The four characters revealed so far are barely distinguishable from each other at first glance, but each has their own personality and special skills. Vector is described as a modern day ninja, which translates to a generally grumpy demeanour and Predator-style active camoufl age. Beltway is apparently a 'foul mouthed prankster' and an explosives expert, which leaves us wondering why he still has any hands.

Spectre is a pervy, voyeuristic sniper who likes to watch from afar. Finally, Bertha is a dominatrix, falling in line with the dress code, and somehow also a medic - apparently she'll heal you, but in the most painful way possible. Where do they find these guys?

UNDEAD RISING
Of course the problem with ludicrously tooled-up super soldiers is that they're likely to turn your average rotting zombie into garden mulch in an instant. You need a more formidable foe to face off against, or the whole thing plays out as frightening as an episode of Countdown.

Cue the US Government Special Forces who have been sent in to prevent Umbrella destroying evidence of its involvement in the outbreak. These boys are considerably smarter than your average corpse and pack projectile weaponry to boot. The zombies are still there, of course, and you'll need to keep an eye on them. What they lack in punch, they make up for in numbers. Get too preoccupied capping government grunts and you could soon find the hungry undead opening your skull for snacks.

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Even the stompy trenchcoat-wearing Tyrant isn't necessarily the threat he was in previous games. Because you're on the Umbrella payroll, these guys will occasionally be dropped in to help you out.

This being a Resident Evil game, though, we can't imagine the Bio Organic Weapons will stick to the gameplan for the entire duration. There's at least one more adversary you'll have to worry about, and this is where Operation Raccoon City gets really interesting.

Leon S Kennedy, one of the series' fresh-faced heroes, will also be knocking around the city and, because this is a spin-off rather than part of the main series, if you want to put a premature halt to Leon's escape attempt you'll be able to.

It's not often you get a squad shooter with a branching narrative and multiple endings, but that's exactly what Slant Six is not-so-subtly hinting at.

Individually, the elements of Operation Raccoon City don't seem particularly special. Combine them, though - the nostalgic setting, the 'three-corner-conflict' and the opportunity to shape the plot - and this becomes more interesting than a standard squad shooter.

If Slant Six can buff up the visuals and give its generic character designs as much identity as classic Resi personalities, this could definitely become an exciting addition to the series.

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