As we established in our hands-on preview, Resident Evil 3 Remake is shaping up to be pretty bloody good. That's not all you'll get when you buy the game, however - included in the package is new multiplayer adventure Resident Evil: Resistance. We've played that, too.
Resistance is a strange little aside that in one sense is clearly being included to appease those who might miss the inclusion of a 'mercenaries' style mode in RE3, which made its debut in the PS1 original. At the same time it's something wholly new and original - a four-versus-one title that pits a team of players who play regular humans and survivors against the fifth player, the 'mastermind' that manages things from afar.
In truth it's a very dungeons and dragons setup, and one I've seen twice before, albeit with unfortunate final results. In 2014 BioWare announced and then promptly cancelled Shadow Realms, a four-on-one action RPG that channeled the basic setup of Dungeons and Dragons where an overseeing Dungeon Master taunts and shepherds four players through a quest. Later Microsoft Studios would have a bash with Fable Legends, which had much the same concept. In 2016, that game was also cancelled.
So - that's not too hot a form for other similarly fashioned games, but that isn't to say that there's not a great idea at the core of Resistance. Four-player cooperative play to complete objectives and survive an undead onslaught is a great concept, and playing as the mastermind trying to slow and kill the players is equally satisfying. For Capcom, it was an idea worth exploring, especially in lieu of RE3 Remake including a Mercenaries mode.
"We wanted to challenge ourselves to make a survival horror experience, but online multiplayer," Resident Evil 3 and Resistance producer Peter Fabiano said of the birth of the Resistance project.
"How do you enjoy this with friends? What does that mean? We wanted to take a new spin on that and I think we've we've been successful. You know, we have an interesting, engaging experience. You can play as a mastermind which really gives you a totally different perspective - you play almost as if you're playing as one of the devs, dropping in certain enemies at certain times, playing with the environments, manipulating things... but you could also play as a survivor where you have to really work together with others to actually get through."
The result is something unique from Resident Evil 2 and 3 Remakes despite the shared engine and technology. Thanks to being online, there's a clunkier and sometimes more arcadey feel to things like character movements and how enemies react to hits. Swinging a spiked bat at zombies in a casino setting as a timer ticks away on one of the maps evokes Dead Rising as much as it does Resident Evil, especially when you're not just dealing with the undead but also things like mastermind-placed turrets and 'supply zombies' that drop loot to help aid your escape. All of this has been carefully created to be in keeping with Resident Evil lore, however.
"Thematically, it fits," says Fabiano. "Both titles - both Resident Evil 3 and Resistance - take place in Raccoon City. Both have characters that are trying to escape something or somewhere. Also, this takes the perspective of everyday people, right? You're not a trained officer."
The cast of Resistance are indeed normal people, though each comes with their own skill-sets. There's six different survivors all fitting into various archetypal video game ability sets - the hacker that can take down technological obstacles like the aforementioned turrets, the tank that can soak up damage, the damage-dealer for battering enemies and of course a support to provide both active and passive buffs. The more you play as each character, the more of their skill set you'll be able to unlock and experiment with to create a play-style. Beyond that, there's also team composition to consider - any given foursome will have natural strengths and weaknesses thanks to gaps in their abilities.
Over on the Mastermind side there's also a handful of characters, each a classic Resident Evil side character, each of which has their own unique abilities and style of controlling the experiment. That's what these missions are in the lore, by the way - Umbrella has kidnapped regular people off the street and is now forcing them through enclosed experiments in some hidden lab deep beneath Raccoon City to test out their zombies and viruses. That tracks. That's an umbrella thing to do.
Anyway, the end result here is pretty much the same as those other ill-fated four-versus-one games I mentioned, except this one is seeing release: the star of the show is playing the mastermind. In this role you get to gleefully screw with other players and ruin their day, taking a gods' eye view of things and spending resources to hold the players back. Everything is timed, so their real enemy is the clock - all you have to do is delay them enough to force a failure. You don't necessarily have to kill them - though of course that can be a pleasant bonus. I had my most fun as a mastermind, gleefully just being a bit of a dick, waiting to spawn the ultimate super-weapon until the team was dangerously close to finishing a set of objectives.
Over on the survivor side, based on my hands-on this does appear to be a game that might live or die based on who you play it with. If you're grouped with a quiet squad of random people it certainly looks as though it might trend towards frustrating and befuddling, but if you get a game together with chatty people or better still people you know, it could quickly turn into a riot. It's important to communicate and stick together, as a good mastermind will be able to overwhelm an individual easily. The tension ramps up the deeper you get, too: each stage consists of four parts, but reaching even the third is a challenge unless you're paying attention to what you're doing.
Resistance is unlikely to be the reason anybody buys RE3 Remake, but it's an interesting avenue for the Resident Evil series to experiment within and could well end up being a totally worthwhile bonus - though with all online games, full judgment has to be reserved for after launch. As for Resistance replacing Mercenaries entirely? The game's producer doesn't quite go that far.
"I look at it as its own game, and I hope that people enjoy it for what it is," Fabiano says. "It's unique in its own way, and it takes place in Raccoon City and it totally fits in with Resident Evil 3. I hope that people play and enjoy the online experience."