E3 2011's Most Anticipated: Resident Evil Raccoon City

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The first question that arises is, naturally, is this a co-op game? History would suggest yes. The dire PS3 SOCOM game we mentioned earlier was a multiplayer-only affair, and given Resident Evil 5's online co-op campaign, plus Outbreak's before-its-time Netplay ambitions, it's impossible to imagine Capcom coming up with Operation Raccoon City's premise and handing it to Slant Six if it were planned as a single-player-only game.

The four-man squad seems made for four-player online co-op, while the game's third faction would make for some tasty competitive multiplayer action... Ah yes, the third faction. When Umbrella forces were dropped into Raccoon City, so were US Government Special Ops squads.

While you're busy clearing up evidence of any Umbrella wrong-doing, you're being hunted by people eager to uncover the truth. The struggle between Umbrella and the Special Ops teams means Operation Raccoon City is primarily a firefight-driven tale, as opposed to a traditional item-juggling, running-away from monsters experience we associate with the old Resident Evils.

Anyone claiming zombies are a complete afterthought, however, would be wise to remember that while Dead Rising became a tale about you versus the military, only fools turned their back on the undead. The zombies are a quiet but persistent threat, and add an element of strategy to the otherwise standard gunplay.

It's actually possible to use zombies to your advantage. The undead react to a few stimuli - fire an unsuppressed weapon and they'll all clock your position - but the most powerful one of all is their sense of smell. Shoot a soldier in the arm and he won't die.

That bullet might well trigger some bleeding, though, and that's usually good enough because as soon as the haemoglobin starts flowing the zombies will have a target to zero in on. The zombies' only allegiances are to their own stomachs. As long as you keep injuring the opposition, zombies will mostly focus on swarming around and devouring the incapacitated Government Ops.

It works both ways, though. Take a hit and you'll be the one attracting unwanted attention until you patch up the wounds with some herbs or a bit of magic spray-on flesh.

The shooting mechanics themselves aren't wildly different from anything you're used to. The four members of your team (see The Drab Four) each have specialist skills and your characters' abilities improve over time once you've gathered experience points. We imagine there will be some degree of choice about precisely which attributes will improve, but firm details about the upgrade system are thin on the ground.

Rather than the shooting, it's the location that might set this one apart from the crowd. This isn't another war-torn middle-eastern town or Russian village, this is Raccoon bleedin' City! Favourite spots such as the RCPD station are definitely part of the tour, and we can't wait to see how our old zombie hunting grounds look two generations on.

If Slant Six can do with Resident Evil what Capcom Vancouver managed with Dead Rising 2, Operation Raccoon City could be brilliant. Imagine, if you will, a Racoon City flooded with hundreds upon hundreds of zombies.

Now contemplate online play that sees individually skilled fighters helping fellow squaddies to hold back enemy lines. All you're really imagining is a serious take on Dead Rising - this is tech Capcom already has to hand. In theory, it shouldn't be too hard to make good and to churn out a couple of killer XBLA episodes, Case Zero-style, while they do.

For now, though, that picture will have to go down as some fanciful thinking. The Artists Formerly Known As Blue Castle had very clearly defined blueprints about what Dead Rising was, remember, while this is a brand new breed of beast for Slant Six to tackle. That alone is cause for concern.

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