'Resident Evil's' Complicated History with Multiplayer
'Project Resistance' sparks conversation on 'Resident Evil' multiplayer
The terrors that befell Racoon City after the incident at Arklay Mansion forced strangers to band together to survive in a dying world. As the infection spread across the city, man helped man and selfish acts only left you alone with the gnashing maws of mutated fiends. For gamers, the viral outbreak played out quite differently.
Trekking through the decaying city was largely a solo venture. Up until 2003, Capcom forced players to battle through hordes of zombies and B.O.W.s in experiences that relied heavily on fear amplified by isolation and solitude.
Then Resident Evil: Outbreak completely changed the game. Sure, it wasn’t the first time a Resident Evil title deviated from the tried-and-true formula. Gun Survivor and Dead Aim swapped 3rd-person horror for light-gun action, but Outbreak was something truly unique. It was the first game in the franchise to offer a multiplayer option.
At the time, it seemed unlikely that the popular survival horror franchise could work with an online multiplayer component, but it wasn’t entirely the game’s fault. Sure, Outbreak had its faults and was a little rough on pacing, but its biggest drawback was that it was ahead of its time. By requiring a separate adapter for the PS2’s online play and an internet connection that not every household had, Outbreak already had a limited audience.
Looking past its pitfalls, Outbreak was a worthy Resident Evil title that paved the way for the series’ future in multiplayer. Unfortunately, Capcom took a few missteps along the way. Being the first in the series to offer multiplayer, Outbreak should have been subpar compared to future attempts. The reality is that it’s far from the worst Resident Evil multiplayer game. That honor goes to some of the rougher patches in the series’ history.
The following list lays out the complicated history of Resident Evil and multiplayer. As much as Outbreak found a formula that could work, Capcom continued to deviate from it to deliver these vexing or forgettable coop and competitive titles.
With two Outbreak games and the rail shooter The Umbrella Chronicles, Capcom proved it had a handle on multiplayer. The fifth canonical entry in the series was its attempt at mixing a co-op experience with the gameplay of Resident Evil 4. Surprisingly, it wasn’t quite the perfect marriage series fans had hoped.
It’s not fair to call Resident Evil 5 an all-around bad game, but it wasn’t the survival horror experience we had grown to love. Action was starting to creep in, specifically to make the multiplayer work best. The horror of being isolated in a strange world full of bloodthirsty fiends was a thing of the past. Purists may have been able to sit back and accept the change, but the drop-in/drop-out co-op forced Capcom to stick players with a resource-hungry, mostly useless AI.
Unless you strictly play through the story with a living partner and avoid the AI stand-in at all costs, Resident Evil 5 is a frustrating game. Players have to do double the resource management, watch for enemies creeping in on their computer-controlled ally, and deal with frequent glitches. It’s like being paired with Ashley from Resident Evil 4 all over again, only this time, she eats up your ammo and herbs.
Being forced to play multiplayer is possibly more annoying than not having the choice at all. Had Resident Evil 5 stuck to the single-player model, it would have been worth tackling solo. The story is among the most ridiculous to grace the franchise (at the time), but it was entertaining enough.
What happens when you take the horror out of Resident Evil to create an multiplayer action shooter? It may not be the most exciting use of the franchise, but it could work. That is, of course, unless the result was Operation Raccoon City, Slant Six Games’ attempt at cashing in on the popularity of Resident Evil and third-person shooters. After tackling three subpar entries in the SOCOM series, Slant Six set its sights on another well-established franchise with similar results.
Set during Resident Evil 2 and Nemesis, Operation Raccoon City offers an alternate look at the events of the critically acclaimed titles. The “what if…” plotline should have been the star, but it was told through the eyes of a forgettable cast of mercenaries. Unfortunately, that’s not even the game’s most egregious offense. For that, we have to look at the gameplay, which can be experienced in a single-player story mode, several multiplayer offerings, or, the best possible way, not at all.
No matter how you tackle Operation Raccoon City, the game is a mess. Against AI enemies, you’re forced into inane firefights with bullet sponges while B.O.W.s serve as pesky distractions. When facing human opponents, you also have to battle horrible hit detection and uninspired weapons and abilities. It’s a lose-lose, regardless of whether you tackle this resident atrocity alone or with a friend.
There is one saving grace—if you skip it, you’re not losing chunks of canonical story for your favorite Resident Evil characters.
Here’s a strange concept. For the follow-up to Resident Evil: Revelations, Capcom developed a story mode perfect for online multiplayer, but failed to include it. Yes, you can tackle the story in local split-screen, but there are two things wrong with that.
- Resident Evil is not the kind of game you squish into a halved screen
- This is the age of online multiplayer
Revelation 2’s saving grace is that you can tackle the mission-based Raid Mode with an online companion, but there is still something missing. The dual character narrative where one wields the guns and the other serves as support in a horror setting is a beautiful formula for online play. With local multiplayer, someone is by your side. Those scarier moments are downplayed, especially on the divided screen. Online, you still feel isolated. Someone may be on the other end of your headset, but they can’t provide you the emotional support needed when the latest mutation lurches toward you.
Revelations 2 isn’t a bad game. Its multiplayer design is merely misguided.
Sometimes, a game is so bad that it just hurts to know it’s attached to your favorite franchise. Think Aliens: Colonial Marine or most recent Sonic the Hedgehog games. For Resident Evil fans, that game is Umbrella Corps. It doesn’t even deserve to bear the same moniker as the more than 20 games that came before it.
We rag on Operation Raccoon City for being beyond disappointing, but Umbrella Corps is on an entirely different level. There isn’t an adjective to accurately describe how bad it is. Whether you decide to plow through the minimal single-player content or torture yourself with unbalanced competitive multiplayer, you’re going to briefly reconsider your love for the franchise. Thankfully, save for the scattered B.O.W.s, mention of “Umbrella,” and few poorly rendered character skins, it’s easy to forget that this cash grab has any affiliation to Resident Evil.
In fact, it’s likely only because of me that you’re even thinking of this abysmal game, which I apologize for immensely.