Resident Evil has enjoyed varying degrees of success with its experimental forays into multiplayer over the years. While the likes of Resident Evil Outbreak and Outbreak: File #2 have a special place in the hearts of fans in spite of not being the mot prominent games in the series, other multiplayer ventures like Operation Raccoon City and Umbrella Corps have been widely criticized by all corner (and rightly so).
Resident Evil Resistance finds a middle ground between the two- in that it is not nearly as fun or as well-executed as some of the series’ better multiplayer efforts, but is also not an atrociously bad experience the way some others have been. What exactly is it then? It is a fun idea on paper, which is carried by its novelty for a while, but once the novelty wears off – and it wears off pretty quickly – you’re left with a repetitive experience that is quite rough around the edges.
"It is a fun idea on paper, which is carried by its novelty for a while, but once the novelty wears off – and it wears off pretty quickly – you’re left with a repetitive experience that is quite rough around the edges."
Resident Evil Resistance plays as a 4v1 experience, with each match seeing a team of four Survivors going up against one Mastermind. The Mastermind’s goal is to stop them from doing so by spawning traps, zombies, bioweapons, and more, and make sure that they don’t reach the map’s final exit before the timer ticks down to zero. Anytime anything happens in favour of the Survivors – such as a successful zombie kill, for instance – a few seconds get added to the clock, while if the Mastermind successfully does something – such as down or kill one of the Survivors – a chunk of time gets lopped off.
It’s a neat idea, and the first couple of matches I played seemed promising, but soon I realized that there’s a very strict pattern that each match follows to a T. Each map is divided into three sections, and each section requires the Survivors to fulfil objectives to proceed further, which require exploration of that section. But it all boils down to the same thing- run around the area to find an item that is randomly placed somewhere while you avoid or fight against enemies.
The combat itself feels quite clunky too. Shots don’t always connect due to poor hit detection, enemies can often move and animate mechanically, while even when shots do connect, they don’t have nearly the same level of punchiness or impact that Resident Evil 2 or 3 boast. There’s a general lack of polish that harms the gameplay, and it becomes even more of an issue when you begin using melee weapons, which just feel clumsy to use. When your whole squad of four is working well together in perfect synergy and completing objectives smoothly while fending off anything being thrown at you by the Mastermind, it’s certainly a rush, but that feeling is far too rare, and easily overcrowded by the general jank and roughness that pervade the entire experience.
Each of the Survivors has his or her own unique attributes as well. Of the six Survivors that are currently playable, each essentially belongs to a different class, from a hacking expert that can disable cameras used by the Mastermind to a character that specializes in Healing to a tank that deals greater damage, so it’s certainly fun to experiment with each of them and find which of them suits your playstyle best.
"The first couple of matches I played seemed promising, but soon I realized that there’s a very strict pattern that each match follows to a T."
Sadly, Resident Evil Resistance’s progression system does not encourage experimentation- in fact, it actively discourages it. That’s because rather than having a unified progression for all Survivors, each Survivor character levels up and upgrades individually. If you’ve invested in any one of them, trying your hand at another one – and basically starting with them from scratch (or at least a much lower level) – really doesn’t seem like a very logical choice.
Bafflingly enough, you pretty much have to regularly do just that, especially if you play in Quick Matches (the ones that are the most rewarding in terms of progression), because there’s no guarantees you’ll be able to pick the character you want before your three other teammates. It’s a very unbalanced system, and hopefully Capcom will sort it out with future patches, because the unique attributes of each character and the prospect of gradually upgrading them is something that can add quite a bit to this experience.
Playing as a Mastermind is much more fun. It’s a very different experience from playing as a Survivor. You hop across the map from camera to camera, looking on as the Survivors try to make their way through, while you place hazards such as traps and enemies in their path using a system of cards. It’s already a fun experience because of how different it is from the other side of the game – and because matches when playing as a Mastermind feel far less repetitive – but it’s made even better by the fact you can even take control of the enemies you spawn. From zombies to zombie dogs to even hulking bioweapons like Mr. X or William Birkin, being able to play as these classic enemies and absolutely wreck shop with them can be a lot of fun- though again, the lack of polish and rough combat are factors to contend with here as well.
Progression is also better on the Mastermind side of things. You start out with Annette Birkin being the only option, but level up with her enough, and you’ll unlock another Mastermind- and so on, and so forth. Right now, there are four playable Masterminds, and each of them has their own unique strengths or exclusive enemy types that they can spawn and then take control of. Having that goal to work towards – of unlocking the next Mastermind – and not having that hampered by any weird balancing issues like on the Survivors’ side of things makes for a refreshing change of pace.
"Playing as a Mastermind is much more fun."
Resident Evil Resistance falters from a technical perspective. I’ve already spoken plenty about the lack of polish, but that’s not just specific to combat or enemies’ animations. Though Resistance, of course, uses the very same RE Engine as RE2 and 3, it doesn’t look nearly as good. The environments look great, sure, but character models and enemies look plasticky and are lacking in detail. Worse still is the fact that there are plenty of glitches as well, where the camera will suddenly clip into the map’s geometry or some random assets, often in the midst of intense firefights, while there’s also been at least a couple instances of major slowdowns during the time I’ve spent with the game so far- which is obviously far from ideal in a multiplayer game especially.
Resident Evil 3 itself is – in spite of being a solid-enough game in its own right – something of a disappointment compared to the 1999 original, or even last year’s Resident Evil 2, and while no one was expecting the multiplayer to lift the experience, it’s still disappointing to see that that tendency to underwhelm isn’t just restricted to this package’s campaign. Resistance has some fun ideas, and one side of the experience is much better designed and thought-out than the other, but on the whole, it just feels a bit too rough to be anything more than a minor distraction right now. Can Capcom make it a significantly better game with patches and more content updates down the line? Certainly. But will they deem it worthy of that time and investment? That much remains to be seen.