I love asymmetric multiplayer games. Done right, they’re complex and engaging experiences with tons of possibility. Of course, doing them right is hard. It’s tricky enough to balance strategies, characters, and items when all players have access to the same ones. When you break that symmetry, the design challenges become even more daunting.
All of this was on my mind yesterday as I visited Capcom at New York Comic Con for the US gameplay premiere of Project Resistance. If you haven’t heard, the title is the company’s latest effort at a Resident Evil-branded multiplayer experience. Project Resistance pits a team of four survivors attempting to escape an Umbrella Corporation facility against one Mastermind trying to kill them.
Tag, You’re Dead
It sounds a little like Left 4 Dead, but the actual gameplay is much different. The survivors play with an over-the-shoulder perspective, exploring areas, fighting zombies, and solving puzzles. Meanwhile, the Mastermind has a high-level view of the entire map, and can spawn traps and zombies to hinder the other team.
There’s a kind of confusing timer mechanic at play in all this, too. When survivors dismantle traps or defeat monsters, they gain time. But when they’re downed or set off traps, they lose time. If they run out of time or they’re all downed, the survivors lose. And there’s another kind of soft loss condition, too — if the Mastermind does well enough, they get to embody the fearsome Mr. X from Resident Evil 2, at which point there’s not a lot the survivors can do.
In fact, the survivors seem to have a much harder time of things right now — we lost in both of the two rounds I played. Part of this is down to coordination, since the survivors need to work together and communicate whereas the Mastermind works solo. But the survivor controls also felt very stiff, and there were a number of times where I felt like I was fighting against them to turn around or hit a zombie.
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Teamwork is key, because each survivor has a different role and set of abilities. There’s January, the hacker, who can deactivate surveillance cameras; Valerie, the healer, who can mark nearby items and debuff enemies; Tyrone, the tank, who can kick apart doors and enemies; and Samuel, the melee fighter, who’s great at whacking zombies.
Well, in theory he is — I played as Samuel in both rounds, and again, I had a hard time getting to grips with my foes. I’m going to chalk some of this up to the game’s early build. The characters looked great, but my interactions with the world felt unfinished. Doors swung open on their own when I opened them, and Samuel didn’t seem to be connecting with enemies at all, but damage numbers kept popping.
(Quick aside here: it feels a little weird in 2019 that the game’s two support classes are tiny women and the two combat ones are burly dudes. Also that the game’s Tank class is a black guy named Tyrone. Moving along…)
Project Resistance is an interesting idea. Again, I love asymmetrical multiplayer and I love the Resident Evil universe. I got to see some banter between the Mastermind and the survivors in my brief time with the game, and I hope we get more of that to make the game feel more rooted in the RE world. Right now, it feels pretty rough, but Capcom has yet to even announce a release date, so there’s plenty of time for things to improve.