Resident Evil 3 is going to come with an online counterpart - Resident Evil Resistance - and after our recent hands-on with the remake, we were invited to try the new multiplayer game that comes with it. It's an asymmetric online-only game that pits a team of up to four against another player who takes on the mantle of 'mastermind' and who tries to win by sending all manner of undead beasties to destroy their enemies before certain objectives can be fulfilled.
The group of survivors, which you control from the typical third-person perspective, is made up of up to four preset characters, and they all look as though they've been plucked from the casting couch for the next High School Musical. Each of the characters has a special ability that can be deployed during the match, although they're on a timer to stop you from being too over-powered. One character, January, can hack cameras, while another, Valerie, can drop an area of affect health boost that can heal the whole party if deployed with care. Tyrone can inspire his friends with a morale boost, while chisel-jawed Samuel is a promising boxer who can use his fists to devastating effect.
Each game is split into three rounds. Based on our experience, the first round involves grabbing three items needed to unlock the next part of the level. Then there appear to be special zombies to kill and keycards to grab in the second area. Later, the third section has us looking for three cores that were positioned at different locations around the same level. We don't know what happens after that because we lost every game we played.
We don't know what happens from the other side of the fence either, as both times we played as the mastermind we were able to defeat our opponents before they'd collected all three cores and thus we won the game. It seems as though the odds are stacked against the four-player team and a victorious group is going to have to be coordinated and capable. That's probably how it should be, with a slight advantage for the OP solo player, but we imagine things will even up a little once people have got the hang of things.
Teams are up against it because the mastermind has a bunch of tricks up their sleeve. There are currently four to choose from, and just like the survivors, each one is different. That's where the similarities end, however, as the mastermind interacts with the world in a completely different way to the survivors. Rather than taking first or third-person control of a powerful zombie (although you do get to do that at times), for the most part, you're deploying zombies and traps around the level using an entirely new interface, something akin to base building, where you have to position where you want your units to spawn. By cycling through the feeds from video cameras located in each room, kind of like Five Nights at Freddy's or Alien: Blackout, you can follow the progress of your would-be victims and try and stop them at opportune moments.
At first, it's very confusing and there's a fair bit for masterminds to get their big ol' brains around. We often scrolled through the cameras when what we wanted to do was cycle through the various units available for deployment. There is a pool of points that can be spent on zombies and different kinds of traps (such as mines, leg snares, and gun turrets), and the options available to you at any given time are displayed via a series of cards that appear at the bottom of the screen. Not only do you need to be tactical with your deployments, but you also need to work with purpose; using up your points on pointless traps or taking over a camera in an empty room and having to waste a machine gun attack can be quite disheartening (once you've played a card, you've got to see the associated action through). A misplaced trap can be especially infuriating if your opponents are working well together and advancing through your best-laid plans.
Most of the time you're just trying to slow down your enemies in the knowledge that they'll be able to deal with the majority of the stuff you send their way, but the key is waiting for the right moment, the right bottleneck, to lay down a concerted assault. Playing as the mastermind is mostly about being thoughtful, then, but sometimes you can take control of a zombie, or even your special attack/ability, and devastate your opponents with a well-timed strike. One mastermind, Alex Wesker, drops a plant-like monstrosity called Yataveo that remains stationary but is great at blocking a team into a small confined space. Daniel Fabron, on the other hand, can deploy a tyrant that you can directly control and use to pummel your enemies into an early grave. Each heavy has multiple attacks mapped to different face buttons, and while they're not exactly bullet sponges, they can take a bit of punishment so a well-timed attack can wreak havoc on a team during a crucial moment.
It was a bit bewildering as we learned the ropes, but we enjoyed playing as the mastermind once we'd got the hang of things (although we still felt like we'd only scratched the surface in terms of both our tactical options and our understanding of the role). We also had fun playing as a survivor, although as we mentioned earlier, the odds seemed stacked against the team going up against an all-seeing enemy, especially as a there's a countdown timer pushing you forward at all times. To keep players further out of their comfort zones, masterminds can also change the layout of any of the four levels, with multiple preset layouts and a random option to really spice things up for everyone; it means that every new run feels fresh, with objectives and scenery moved around to keep players on their toes. That variety comes at a cost, however, and at this late stage of development, Resistance was still a little buggy, with some clunky animations and the odd bit of noticeable clipping.
By the end, we were having fun, even if it wasn't the most memorable part of our day. For the dedicated, it will likely prove a good excuse to keep coming back for more zombie-blasting entertainment. Taking control of one of the four survivors makes for a tense and frantic battle against the undead while playing as the mastermind is fun even if it seems to be a little fiddly at times. What's most important, however, is that the 4vs1 setup fits the license well enough, and it gives some of the series' villains a chance to shine. That's reason enough to check out the Resistance part of this Resident Evil package when it lands on PC, PS4, and Xbox One on April 3.
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