Up close you're just as strong. A multi-directional melee system means mashing the CQC button is usually enough to down an enemy, at least to the point where you get the icon to perform a brutal finisher and spray the camera with blood. Alternatively, grab a zombie and use it as a meat shield, firing with your sidearm, then kick it into other zombies. There's dismemberment, too – arms, legs and of course heads.

Against your powerful weapons and speedy movement, zombies pose an almost negligible threat. This is deliberate: they're designed to be your plaything, to be used like toys.

"The zombies in this game should not really even be that scary," director Yasuhiro Seto says. "You're using them as tools. You're using them as shields. You're kicking them, maybe trying to confuse other players, maybe even hiding in a group of zombies. However, it can suddenly change on you where you're actually surrounded and being attacked."

The US Special Ops soldiers aren't much cop, either. They act as most enemies do in third-person shooters, conveniently popping in and out of cover so you to dispatch them in whack-a-mole style. But the BOWs, they're well hard. They're the ones that force you to work as a team, stacking abilities on each other and flanking where possible.

At the very least, they demand deeper strategy than 'hide behind cover and shoot'. When a T-103 Tyrant turns up at the end of Kawata's demo, the only option is to run away.

The frantic firefights are occasionally broken up by more atmospheric moments in which the chaos quietens and well-worn horror scares make you jump. They're short and sweet, but they're there. Still, the meat of the game is moving through each level, one street at a time, killing enemies, completing objectives and protecting Umbrella's credibility. Shooting zombies, shooting soldiers, shooting BOWs - this is what REORC is all about. You versus them versus them.

Raccoon City has Tyrants too.

While the campaign is hands-off for now, a four-versus-four competitive map is playable. Here you pick a class from the USS or the US Spec Ops. Both sides offer exactly the same class options, devaluing the named USS characters and their silly back stories somewhat. The map on show is lifted from a campaign level set on Stagla Street – an area of Raccoon City that rekindles memories of Resident Evil 3.

The mode on offer is Team Attack. Whichever team has the most points after five minutes of play wins. Everything you do scores points. Killing zombies, landing headshots, downing other players, defeating BOWs – all of it adds to your team total. But player-controlled characters offer the most points, so it's best to seek them out, ignoring the zombies for the most part.

There are some interesting elements at work here. Playing as Spectre, for example, and using infrared vision while up on a roof to camp and snipe heat signatures, is a good strategy. But given there are always zombies baying for your blood, you can't camp in one place for too long.

And, on the three minute mark, the game drops in a BOW that instantly heads for the match VIP. Hunters, for example, can navigate the environment at a blistering speed, and can jump and leap on top of roofs. "And what if you could control them?" Kawata teases.

Despite these elements you can't help but feel that unless Operation Raccoon City has something special up its sleeve, it could falter when held up against the likes of Gears of War 3's four-player co-op and Uncharted 3's competitive multiplayer - both games it will face off with when it launches this winter.

Judging by what's been shown so far, this game is at risk of being another generic, by the numbers third-person shooter with underwhelming visuals. It also feels experimental, as if it's a low-risk precursor to something we may see in the inevitable Resident Evil 6.

So will Operation Raccoon City turn out to be a Resident Evil revolution or a simpering spin-off? Right now the most interesting thing about it is the gory loading screen. A twitching, dismembered arm with an open wound surrounded by flies hammers home the point that this is a darker, more violent Resident Evil. The trouble is, according to Capcom, it may not end up in the final version at all.

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Wesley Yin-Poole

Wesley Yin-Poole

Deputy Editor

Wesley is Eurogamer's deputy editor. He likes news, interviews, and more news. He also likes Street Fighter more than anyone can get him to shut up about it.

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