Despite its age, Capcom’s survival horror series has never been in better shape. Resident Evil 7 moved the franchise into new territory by changing the perspective to first person, the recent remakes of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 have paid homage to the series’ roots in stunning style.
Now, Resident Evil Resistance looks to pose the question: what if Resident Evil played more like Valve’s Left 4 Dead? Though not without its merit, the answer to this riddle fails to be anything more than what you expect.
Resident Evil Resistance isn’t necessarily a bad game but it struggles to outrun your preconceptions of what it is. While there’s something to be said for the charm of the unexpected, this really is the cooperative multiplayer Resident Evil experience that nobody was asking for.
Holding Out For A Hero
The premise here is a little wacky, even by the standards of Resident Evil.
You take control of either one of several survivors who have been kidnapped by the Umbrella Corporation and have to work together to run a gauntlet of zombies, traps and puzzles before time runs out or you get to play as the mastermind behind the situation.
Depending on who you’re playing as, Resident Evil Resistance plays pretty differently.
If you opt for the first scenario, you’ll start each match by selecting your character of choice. There are currently seven or so faces in the mix and while Capcom have recently added Jill Valentine to the game, the rest of the cast feels very generic and forgettable.
Each character has their set of unique combat and movement abilities plus a set of other passive perks that improve over time as you gain more experience and level up that character. Usually, you’ll get a minor ability with a short cool down and major ability with a longer cooldown. Some characters are designed to deal heavy damage. Others are designed with support or other auxiliary roles in mind.
Resistance takes obvious inspiration from MOBAs and hero shooters as much as it does Left 4 Dead. Unfortunately, one of the problems here is that while the baseline experience of controlling characters in Resistance feels predictably similar to the recent Resident Evil remakes, the degree of specialisation offered by each character on the roster can often get you into trouble.
For example, transitioning into playing this after Resident Evil 3, I often instinctively tried to use Jill’s dodge ability - a key mechanic of the remake - only to remember too late that ability belongs to another character entirely. Learning to play each of the game’s characters can often be a bit of a trial by fire and it sucks to feel like you’re dragging the team down because you don’t know how to get the most (or any) value out of Martin Sandwich’s specific skill set.
Even stuff that feels common-sense, like sticking together as a group, feels unclear in its strategic value. You’re never quite sure if Resident Evil Resistance is a game where that kind of tactical thinking can make a difference.
Speaking of, the start of each level features a CounterStrike-inspired supply crate that lets you spend Umbrella Credits collected through play on things like ammo, consumables and new weapons. Inventory management here feels very abridged compared to other Resident Evil experiences and, as with the characters in the game, any familiarity with the series can work against you here when you run up against situations where the interface doesn’t work or behave the way you might expect.
Resident Evil Resistance is a game with a lot of different intersecting systems and mechanics but remarkably little in the way of explanation or on-boarding.
Rather than the brutal ambiguity found in the mainline Resident Evil games, Resistance opts for the RPG-inspired approach of having big damage numbers pop up out of enemies when you shoot them.
As last observed in Wolfenstein: Youngblood, this change takes a lot of the charm out of shooting zombies. Every enemy ends up feeling like a beefy HP sponge that takes way too many headshots to kill. This becomes especially problematic when big boss enemies like Mr X or Nemesis get introduced. It’s not always readily clear whether you’re supposed to work together to take them down or focus on slowing them down and waiting them out.
Of course, if you’re playing as the Mastermind, that’s not necessarily going to be a bad thing. There are several different playable villains to choose from and, like the survivors of Resident Evil Resistance, each brings a few new tricks to the party.
Regardless of which one you play as, you’ll primarily be watching the survivors through the lenses of security cameras.
This perspective shift breeds some interesting asymmetry between the two sides but, like a lot in Resident Evil Resistance, it's an aspect of the game gets a little complicated for its own good. In Left 4 Dead’s similarly-conceived Versus mode, the rules are very clear about what human and zombie players can or can’t do. The experience of jumping into Resistance involves a lot of ‘Oh, I guess the Mastermind can do that’ - which isn’t particularly fun or rewarding for either side.
Matches of Resident Evil Resistance are broken out into three stages. In each, the survivors have to find, collect or interact with a number of objectives before making their way to the exit. Meanwhile, the Mastermind player has to deploy traps, enemies and other threats to slow down, damage or kill the human players.
In some ways, the fast-pace of the action here is the thing that undoes a lot of the appeal for me. Jump into a match of Resistance and you’ll likely be pulled forward by more experienced players looking to barrel through each stage as fast as possible and a Mastermind looking to overwhelm you by introducing as many threats as possible. It’s stressful and confusing, even when it seems like you’re winning.
The last thing worth touching on here is the microtransaction elements. As with many online free-to-play titles, Resident Evil Resistance features loot boxes that come with cosmetics that allow you to customise your character.
The meta-loop here involves you playing matches to complete daily missions, which earn you credits that can be spent on weapon or cosmetic loot boxes. It doesn't feel like a particularly egregious example of these practices but it is what it is. I never felt pressured to spend any money on the game but then again, I don’t know if I ever really felt any pressure to stick with the game either.
The Bottom Line
Resident Evil Resistance is hardly the first time Capcom have tried to transport the series appeal from the realm of single-player experience to multiplayer gaming.
There was the ill-fated Resident Evil Outbreak. There was the ill-fated Resident Evil: Operation Racoon City. There was also the ill-fated Resident Evil: Umbrella Corps. Time will tell whether Resident Evil Resistance proves resilient to this trend but, even as a casual fan, I’m skeptical.
It copies from the best, but in a time where free-to-play multiplayer is such a polished space, Resistance struggles to hold its own. Nevermind the fact that the game pulls from so many places that it lacks a cohesive identity of its own, it’s deep where it needs to be shallow and shallow where it ought to be deep.
Even if you’re a diehard Resident Evil fan, it feels like there’s so little of the series here beyond the imagery and nouns involved. To me, Resident Evil has been about limited ammo, tight, detailed spaces that you master and a quiet atmosphere. You’ll find none of that in Resident Evil Resistance and while there is some fun to be had here, I struggle to say it’s worth the download unless you’re looking for a fast-and-cheap alternative to other, better, zombie survival games.
Resident Evil Resistance is available now on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC.