The next Resident Evil game, a spinoff called Project Resistance, may not be what survival horror fans were expecting. But the four-against-one online multiplayer game is already disarmingly fun, especially when you get to play as the cruel, murderous Mastermind who unleashes zombie hell on a team of four other players.
As revealed earlier this week, Project Resistance drops a team of four survivors, each with their own skills and special abilities, into a deadly escape room. Those four players must cooperate to solve puzzles and survive through a series of rooms while a fifth player tortures and terrorizes them.
There are at least four survivors: Tyrone, a tank with a powerful kick and the ability to boost his teammates’ fortitude; January, a hacker who can shut down security cameras and other gadgets used by the Mastermind; Valerie, a healer who can “ping” her surroundings to find items and deploy a healing area of effect ability; and Samuel, who can deal heavy melee damage, which can be critical in confined spaces.
Playing as the survivors — I tried January and Tyrone — is a fun, if sometimes clumsy experience. I tried to stay with my team, seeking out items like ammo and green herbs, while we performed simple objectives like finding security keys that would let us progress through each level. Occasionally, we’d come across automated shopping stations, where I could spend a currency called Umbrella Credits found throughout each level on ammo, healing items, new guns, melee weapons, and grenades. Once we completed our objectives, fighting against a ticking clock, we could move on to the next area.
Having recently played the Resident Evil 2 remake, Project Resistance felt immediately familiar. Most of the controls carry over directly from that game, and so do some of its quirks. Resident Evil games can feel awkward or clunky when the action gets up close and personal; trying to fight a Licker in a dark hallway means also fighting with the camera and controls. The same feels true in Project Resistance.
But the game is meant to be a new type of survival horror, less about ammo and item conservation than it is about sticking together as a team, trying to outsmart the player behind the Mastermind.
While playing the survivors offer some cooperative Resident Evil-style thrills with a bit of a twist, assuming the role of the Mastermind is where Project Resistance shines. In the build playable at Tokyo Game Show this week, there was one playable Mastermind character named Daniel Fabron. His abilities include being able to directly control certain zombies, to deploy certain types of zombies (like an armored SWAT officer), and to spawn the Tyrant, the massive bioweapon also known as Mr. X.
Playing as the Mastermind is done from a computer terminal. I could cycle through a series of security cameras to monitor the survivors’ progress or pull up a map of the area to directly select a camera. From these camera views, I could spawn things in the play area from a deck of cards. I deployed traps that would slow survivors down, spawn a variety of zombies and other virus-infected mutants, or attach a gun to a security camera and shoot bullets at my enemies. I had other godlike controls too: I could lock doors to slow players down or turn lights off to disorient them.
After a long cool down, I could spawn a Tyrant into the world and directly control him. That’s when things get thrilling: when you isolate a player from the group, stalk him as the Tyrant, and either punch him to death or grab one by the head and squeeze her noggin into mush. (Survivors will respawn if killed, but it will slow the whole team down and eat valuable time from the game clock.)
The sadistic fun of playing as the Mastermind comes when you layout a deadly combination of traps and zombies, sowing chaos among the survivors. In one game-winning moment, I spawned an armored zombie right by an objective that a sole survivor when after, then dropped a crawling zombie and a Licker by another group, then chased the last one down as the Tyrant. They were so close to finishing the level’s third and final objective, and it was immensely satisfying to shut them down.
The Mastermind has a breadth of powers, including the ability directly to directly control zombies that he spawns. When he does, this is visualized to survivors by making the zombie’s eyes glow read, so they recognize that it’s an extraordinary threat. But survivors have their share of counters to the Mastermind’s abilities. For example, Jan’s hacking will blind the Mastermind by shutting down his security cameras, and Tyrone’s kick can stun the Tyrant, freeing another survivor from his deadly grasp.
The push and pull of survivor abilities and the Mastermind’s suite of deadly tools is where Project Resistance will succeed or fail, and why developers Capcom and NeoBards will need to test and balance the game carefully.
Some players will be able to get their hands on Project Resistance (not the game’s final name, by the way) with a closed beta in October. Xbox Insider Program members and Resident Evil Ambassador members will have a chance to play the game on Xbox One or PlayStation 4 from Oct. 4-7, and registration for the beta is open through Sept. 18.