Resident Evil Resistance Review – I Preferred Umbrella Corps
The Resident Evil franchise has a less than stellar reputation when it comes to multiplayer. The last multiplayer Resident Evil that I actually liked was Revelations 2, and even then I preferred to play it single-player (someone always got stuck playing the shit character, which isn’t fun). I’d have to go all the way back to Outbreak to remember an RE game that actually felt like the multiplayer added to the experience. Maybe Darkside Chronicles, but that feels like cheating. And while I know plenty of people like RE5, to me it always felt like an inferior version of RE4. Besides, did you ever read about what the game was going to be like before they added multiplayer? They were planning for it to be open maps with sandstorms and a shade/thirst mechanic. That is the Resident Evil 5 I’d rather play.
So when it was revealed that Resident Evil Resistance was a new competitive multiplayer Resident Evil, the warning klaxons were blaring. As mediocre as the co-op Resident Evils can be, the PvP ones are bad. Both Operation Raccoon City and Umbrella Corps were savaged by critics and fans alike. As it turns out, while cracking jokes with your co-op buddy can diffuse the tension in a tight horror atmosphere, a dozen dudes all shouting about your mother and the various intricacies of fucking her over team chat completely shatters it. Now before you jump down my throat and tell me how Operation Raccoon City was actually good, I’ll have you know that I am on record giving Umbrella Corps a slightly positive review. I am in no way a blind hater of the idea of multiplayer Resident Evil. But when Capcom announced that Resistance would be bundled as a package with RE3, my klaxon elevated into an air raid siren. Operation Raccoon City and Umbrella Corps were games Capcom was confident enough in to release as their own games. If they didn’t have the same confidence about Resistance, something must have been very off.
I have now played a fair amount of Resident Evil Resistance. I wanted to be sure to give it enough of a try to get over the learning curve blues. And Resistance does have a steep learning curve. The basic premise of the game is simple enough. You have four Survivors on one team trying to complete objectives to get out of a series of three levels. The Survivors all control like Jill from the main game, but also have access to a selection of powers set before the start of a match. Some of these are passive abilities that increase your stats, while others are activated super moves that can dramatically help your team. Each of the six survivors has their own specialty, allowing you to pick your playstyle. None of these specialties pigeonhole the character too hard. If you’re playing the melee guy, you can still pick up a gun and use it just fine.
Trying to stop the Survivors is a single player taking the role of the Mastermind. The twist is that the Mastermind isn’t actually there on the map. Far away in some secure control room, the Mastermind will use a series of cameras to observe players and impede their progress. They do this by using a deck of cards to place traps, spawn zombies, and even directly attack the Survivors with weapons. The Mastermind can also directly control zombies and giant ultimate abominations with insane powers. The four different Masterminds also all have different specializations, meaning the Survivors will have to learn what tricks the various Masterminds have up their sleeve. And just like the Survivors, the Mastermind can further vary their build to specialize or diversify.
This X v 1 style of competitive multiplayer is tough to get right, but has been done well several times in the past. And credit where credit is due, Resident Evil Resistance is unique even for this style of game. While games like Evolve, Dead by Daylight, and Friday the 13th: The Game pit one hulking monster against several smaller weaker players, the characters are all at least within the same genre (the distinction between first and third person is minor). Resident Evil Resistance pits one character playing a strategy game against four players playing an action horror game. It’s certainly bold, and the only game I can think of that does something similar is Natural Selection 2. Trying to wrap your head around how to view a level in two perspectives takes some getting used to.
The other main thing that sets Resident Evil Resistance apart is the timer. Each round starts with 5 minutes on the clock. If the timer runs out, the Survivors lose. Players completing objectives or helping each other out will net more time. The Mastermind dealing damage, downing a survivor, or hitting them with a trap will subtract time. This means that the Mastermind doesn’t need to focus on wiping the enemy team to win. Players actually dying doesn’t even permanently kill them. They just respawn with some more time taken off the clock. Instead, the Mastermind will want to constantly impede the Survivors and cause chaos that forces them to lose focus of the main goal.
One of the best features of Resident Evil Resistance are the tactics that aren’t immediately obvious. It will probably take new Survivors some time to notice that the camera the Mastermind is currently looking through is marked red. This allows attentive players to anticipate where attacks might come from, and at higher level play even guess what kind of an attack it might be. You can also start shooting the cameras at any time to temporarily deactivate them, though doing so takes a long time and a fair amount of bullets. On the flip side, the Mastermind can turn-off lights and lock doors for no cost. This can be used to trap players, but also mislead them. Lock a number of doors leading to nowhere, all while building up the horde right behind them. The Mastermind is always going to be the player spinning the most plates, so learning how to best divide your focus and when it’s worth it to take direct control is a real skill.
Unfortunately, I wouldn’t recommend you take the time to master these pro-gamer moves. Despite the interesting premise, Resident Evil Resistance isn’t a lot of fun to play.
The grand-bugbear of all of Resident Evil Resistance‘s bugbears is that the combat doesn’t feel good. I know that that’s an incredibly vague and seemingly bullshit statement, but an amalgamation of issues all build up into that grand sense of dissatisfaction. First and foremost, the combat feels weightless. Gone is the realistically rendered physics and gruesome visual feedback from the Resident Evil 3 campaign. In it’s place are bright numbers that pop out of the enemy whenever you hit them to indicate damage, à la World of Warcraft. I cannot fathom why they went with this method of feedback. It completely ruins the tension. You can easily tell when a downed zombie is finally dead because the little numbers stop coming out. Larger enemies feel like a clicker game where you insert ammo to receive points. I understand wanting to give the players clear feedback, but when I swing a bat at a zombie I want that skull to crack. I want to know I killed the zombie by way of its head detaching from its shoulders. It’s a fucking horror game. I don’t want little numbers telling me how good of a job I’m doing.
On the Mastermind’s side of things, there’s a serious disconnect between your actions and what’s happening on screen. When placing zombies, the camera’s POV makes it very difficult to tell if your clever trap is actually hidden. More than once I placed a zombie behind some objects I assumed obscured it, only to for the Survivors to shoot it through a gap in the scenery I couldn’t see. Even if you do try something unexpected, your options are limited by the poor zombie AI. They all basically just walk forward. Now, I don’t expect zombies to be flanking ninja assassins. But the only viable strategy is placing zombies directly behind doors to ambush players. Trying to do something clever like distract players with distant zombies while something more deadly sneaks up from behind is impossible. There just aren’t the tools to support that level of a strategy. And that’s all assuming everything is working as intended. There are numerous ways in each map for Survivors to cheese the AI, and I swear the zombie dogs spent 90% of their time running directly into walls.
If the Mastermind decides to get their hands dirty and steps into the boots of one of the zombies, they’ll experience a far worse version of the Survivors’ combat problems. Swipes seem to just wildly swat the air, leaving it up to the whim of the number gods to grant you a hit. Grapples come with a satisfying animation, but actually connecting is incredibly sluggish and unpredictable. It’s a bit better with the various ultimate bioweapons, but it’s the same basic formula. Basic attacks are boring, inconsistent, and lack satisfying feedback. Grapples are more visually appealing, but sluggish. Good luck if you’re having latency issues. Which happens in about 1/3 matches.
While gameplay should always be priority #1, a game can make up for it with a compelling narrative/world. Unfortunately, the characterization in Resident Evil Resistance is non-existent. The survivors have almost no personality, giving me very little reason to care if they make it to the finish line. In Left 4 Dead, the banter painted a clear picture of who each of character was. I wanted them all to survive because I liked them. I was actually sad when Bill died. In Resident Evil Resistance, my mother could be my teammates and I wouldn’t hesitate to leave her as zombie food. The Masterminds have a bit more flavor, but only because they draw on existing Resident Evil canon. Levels are also similarly devoid of any charm. There’s very little to interact with. Each level just boils down to a series of rooms to place zombies and objectives in. There’s no variety to it, no real setpiece moments to set each stage apart. The only real climax is, “did the Mastermind summon the big baddie this level?” The few levels that do have some variety are so easily broken that it becomes frustrating.
Like a sandwich you make at 3 a.m. after a payday pub crawl, Resident Evil Resistance feels like a lot of odds and ends thrown together without proper consideration given to how it all mixes. For example, the inventory. The game uses the same inventory system as RE3, with each character having a default 8 item slots. There are a number of items in the game, some with very specific uses. It’s frustrating enough to manage your consumables in the campaign. Trying to make sure you ditch all of your repair kits and defense spray to make room for herbs on a timer is absolute torture. With some items removed and functionalities altered, it could be a great way to build tension and limit the player’s power. But like I said, the bologna and cream cheese in this sandwich just don’t mix.
There are also boosters you can buy for real money to help you unlock more lootboxes.
Resident Evil fans are a diehard lot. I should know, as I’m one of them. I’ll buy whatever new thing comes out that carries the Resident Evil name. But I’m not blind to the fact that some of them aren’t great. So if you’re leaping to your keyboard typing up reasons to tell me why I’m wrong and why Resistance is actually a masterpiece, I want you to take a second and ask yourself, “would you be playing this if it wasn’t Resident Evil?” If Resistance was just another game released on Steam, it would hardly make a splash. The community would be dead within a week. I wouldn’t even be talking about it. I appreciate Capcom trying something new with the multiplayer. But I would rather have had a Mercenaries mode.
With frustrating combat and little personality, Resident Evil Resistance is ultimately forgettable. If it didn’t have the Resident Evil name, no one would be talking about it.