Blasting past the company's flesh-hungry guardians, the IBTimes UK broke into Capcom's inner sanctum, getting an exclusive hands-on playthrough of the opening two levels of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. Better still -- kind people that we are -- rather than hoarding our ammo supply, we're sharing our experience, firing off a full preview, chronicling our opening impressions of Capcom's forthcoming zombie filled squad-based shooter.

Set between the events of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, the game saw us step into the shoes of a team of Umbrella agents, sent to cover-up the Raccoon City T-Virus -- Zombie -- outbreak.

A step away from the original games that saw you playing a hero nobly battling the evil zombie making, pharmaceutical company Ubrella, Operation Raccoon City is a squad-based shooter telling the story of six of the company's Umbrella Security Service (USS) para-military force. Though we only got to see the opening two levels the main crux of the story, while having a lot of nice nods and references to older Resident Evil games' plots, is fairly self-contained, primarily chronicling the six agents' stories.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City Hands-on Preview
Forget the Redfield\'s, in Operation Raccoon City, you\'re one of the bad guys.

Moving past the intro sequence and plot exposition we were met with the game's "team" screen. Since we were playing single player using AI controlled team mates, as well as our own character, we were able to choose which of the six agents were in our four-strong team.

Each of the characters available to us had their own name, specialisations and special abilities, with Vector taking the role of the team's recon expert, Beltway its demolitions, Bertha its medic, Spectre its surveillance, Four Eyes its science expert and finally Lupo its Assault/team leader.

As well as the choice of character we were also able to pick which weapons we wanted. Unlike other Resident Evil games which let you store whatever you could in your inventory, Operation Raccoon City limits you to taking one primary and one secondary weapon. Going through the list of primary weapons all we can say is there were a lot of them. Everything from the classic Resident Evil SMG and pump action shotgun, to a slew of new never before seen weapons were included in the list. A similarly impressive arsenal was housed in the secondary weapons section, with the armoury containing a host of different pistols.

Having made our choice of characters and weaponry, we dived into the action. The opening chapter saw us storm an Umbrella base looking to recover virus samples before invading U.S. special forces found them. While the second mission saw us come to surface, seeing the zombie ravaged streets of Resident Evil 2's Raccoon City.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City Hands-on Preview
When the zombies get this close, things are never going to end well.

The environments all held the familiar feeling of Resident Evil 2 and the enemies on offer saw us gunning everything from human soldiers to zombie humans, dogs and the ever dangerous super-zombie Lickers.

Breaking from its predecessors, Operation Raccoon City houses a re-worked combat system designed to stream-line and tailor the experience towards a more action heavy, team-based mechanic. Three of the biggest additions were the game's new cover system, actually effective melee attacks -- including nicely gory finisher moves -- and the ability to run and jump. In our playthrough it quickly became apparent that the Jon Rambo approach was not the way to go, with the sheer number of zombies and invading special ops soldiers forcing us to consistently use cover and rely on the support of our comrades in arms.

The cover system was fairly intuitive, simply requiring us to push forward on the joystick when near our intended source of cover. Melee combat was similarly easy, being primarily controlled by the Xbox controller's "B" button. As well as the primary melee attack we also got a chance to see a couple of its finishers. The option to "finish" an opponent appeared whenever we got close enough to a wounded enemy, where a push of the "Y" or "A" buttons sees the character perform a brutal execution.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City Hands-on Preview
Executions were a nice touch, making you feel you\'d suitably \"p3ned\" your enemy.

Another nice touch is the game's "bleed" mechanic. Whenever you get hurt or wounded to a certain degree, your character begins to bleed. When bleeding zombies in the area's interest in you peaks, as they get the scent of your "tasty" blood.

One important thing to note is that when playing with AI controlled squadmates, you cannot order your team around. Luckily in our time with the game this wasn't a problem, as team's AI was suitably robust to deal with any situation we faced -- our decision to have the medic in the team proved a wise one on many an occasion.

Another feature we saw in our playthrough came at the end of each mission, where in a sum up page our performance was marked, a grade given and experience points doled out. Experience points are the currency of Operation Raccoon City. They let you upgrade and purchase new abilities for your character, or buy new weapons for the team as a whole. From what we've seen they are given for a variety of reasons, ranging from number of enemies killed to completing side missions. These missions ranged from everything from collecting hidden items to finding each mission's stuffed Raccoon City raccoon.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is set for release March 20, 2012, on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, check back at the IBTimes then for a full review.