Resident Evil Project Resistance is an Escape Room in a Haunted House
Capcom's asymmetrical multiplayer spin-off from Resident Evil, Project Resistance, has great ideas but faces some balance issues.
It may be too easy to compare every four-player co-op game with zombies to Left 4 Dead, but it should be said that Project Resistance takes some interesting liberties with that formula. Through a playable demo at New York Comic-Con 2019, this multiplayer spin-off of the Resident Evil series showed off its stuff to a Western audience for the first time. What I tried out was fascinating in concept, but a bit mushy in practice. The Capcom folks at the booth, however, kept stressing that all of this was very much a work in progress—the game doesn’t even have a name yet.
I spent some time observing players in the booth while a Capcom representative explained the game’s concepts and fielded my questions. I mainly focused on the Mastermind, the omniscient antagonist to the four survivors in this asymmetrical multiplayer gameplay. After watching a full round, I jumped in as one of the four survivors. Long story short: we sucked, and barely made any progress despite trying two rounds in a row. I certainly have some concerns about balance in Project Resistance, but definitely don’t balk at it—there are some smart ideas here.
In a way, Project Resistance is Left 4 Dead if the AI Director were a human being; some folks I’ve spoken to also found comparisons to the Friday the 13th video game. A big key difference involves the playable characters, each representing not only a different horror character archetype but a “class” or style of play. The punk rock January Van Sant is the hacker, the studious Valerie Harmon is the healer, firefighter Tyrone Henry is the tank, and athlete Samuel Jordan specializes with melee attacks.
Each has a Personal Skill and a Fever Skill, a sort of “Ultimate” ability; players will need to utilize them to take on the challenges ahead. The Friday the 13th comparison comes in with the rounds being objective-based; players will work together to complete tasks, such as finding a number of keys to access different parts of the Umbrella facility they find themselves trapped in. In the midst of all of this are shenanigans brought upon by the Mastermind, the human-controlled player who acts as the author of the survivors’ pain.
The character of Daniel Fabron, an Umbrella security officer, acted as the Mastermind for the demo, with the player placing zombies, dogs, lickers, traps, and obstacles like turret guns around the survivors. The Mastermind will have a CCTV view of the building, keeping track of the survivors with a map in the UI and occasionally jumping into zombies to control them in their quest to obstruct the human survivors as much as possible; player-controlled zombies are indicated by some red, glowing, menacing eyes.
What I enjoyed about Project Resistance (at least conceptually) was the push and pull between the survivors and the Mastermind. The gameplay isn’t all about trying to mercilessly kill each other; it’s a race against time. There will be a timer looming on top of the UI for all players, but that time isn’t fixed—it’ll go up and down depending on how everyone is performing. Should the Mastermind’s minions get some good hits on the survivors, the timer will go down, giving the survivors fewer ticks to work with as they try to complete their objectives. Should the survivors fend off obstacles efficiently, time will be added back.
It all becomes a game about opportunism, and knowing which characters and abilities to use in the right situations. That’s the case with many multiplayer games, but the situation is a bit more time-sensitive and claustrophobic here. You’ll find situations where you need the tank character to bust through the door, with the melee character clearing the way immediately after. Teams will need to have an attentive hacker as they come under fire from turret guns, and the healer to do their work when the dust is settled.
At the same time, the Mastermind must also exercise opportunism, finding survivors at their most vulnerable and taking advantage immediately. Enemy placement can go a long way, obstructing a key area or at the very least, providing a good scare. Both sides will earn points (or credits) as well as time from their deeds, with survivors using credits for weapons and recovery items while the Mastermind uses them for different enemies and obstacles; the granddaddy of all of the Mastermind’s tools is the Tyrant, or Mr. X as he is famously known as.
All of the possibilities for countering and strategic plays all sound well and good, but I would not be the best player to demonstrate that in the game itself. When it was finally game time, I took control of healer Valerie Harmon, as I felt comfortable in support roles in other multiplayer games. The round began with us survivors spending credits for ammo and healing herbs; by the time I was done, I noticed that my teammates had run ahead without me.
Valerie’s starting pistol didn’t have that great a rate of fire, and the other survivors seemed more limited in their attack ability; even just dispatching a handful of enemies required a good amount of effort and time, time that we couldn’t afford to waste. We began in an outside area and made our way indoors, but not without having to contend with a turret that had been placed behind us. It took our tank character to break ourselves inside, and we immediately felt cramped in an office area.
It didn’t take long for us to feel bottlenecked and overwhelmed in that small space. We were tasked with finding three keys to go through the next door, but what felt like a flurry of enemies kept chipping away at our health and distracting us from the real tasks at hand. I had a difficult time determining whether we should have prioritized the main objective or clearing out enemies in hopes that it will reward us with more time. Regardless, our strategy never came together, and the Mastermind quickly claimed victory.
I wouldn’t disagree with anyone who blames our losses on our pure incompetence, and in defense, the Capcom rep on the floor commented that the Mastermind player was quite good. But before the match, I had asked her about the win ratio she had observed; this rep had also brought the game to Tokyo Game Show last month. According to the rep, that ratio skewed more towards the Mastermind from her personal observations, leading me to wonder if this asymmetrical dynamic was a bit too lopsided.
The ideas are in place, and while I imagine that some big changes will come to Project Resistance as the development cycle continues, the gameplay concepts already seem solid enough for a full game; just with some more maps, and perhaps even more characters. I’d be quite surprised if legacy Resident Evil characters didn’t show up as bonuses. With a lot of lore to take advantage of, I’m sure Capcom has no shortage of ideas on how to flesh out what they have early on. As long as the proper adjustments are made, I can see this title gaining an audience, and I’m happy to have briefly participated in the project’s first steps.
Project Resistance, or whatever the heck it’ll be called, will release on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on an undetermined release date. You can watch a full match, much like the one I described, here. I’m willing to bet that the players are more skilled in that video. You can also read our own Logan Moore’s thoughts on giving the project the benefit of the doubt right here.