Five Resident Evil Games That Attempted Multiplayer (And How Well They Worked)
Ask most people what they want from a Resident Evil game, and the odds are they'll tell you they're after a chilling, immersive single-player experience. The very foundation of the iconic survival horror franchise was built on the idea of a character (or small group of characters) struggling to survive against insurmountable odds in an overwhelmingly hostile and isolated environment, after all.
With that in mind, you wouldn't often think to put Resident Evil and multiplayer together, but that hasn't stopped Capcom from attempting to marry co-op and PVP experiences with their zombie-slaying franchise, with varying degrees of success. With the recently-announced Resident Evil: Project Resistance looking like it's gonna be a co-op survival horror in the vein of Left 4 Dead, I figured now is as good a time as any to assess Capcom's previous, oftentimes shaky, relationship with multiplayer in Resident Evil.
Resident Evil Outbreak
Resident Evil Outbreak never really got the love it deserved at the time, for whatever reason, but ask the majority of those who played it, and they'll likely tell you that it's an underrated gem and one of the best Resi games of all time. I know for a fact that there were a few folk on the GAMINGbible team who were seriously hoping that Project Resistance would turn out to be a new entry in the Outbreak series, but it wasn't to be.
For those who might never have experienced the delights of Outbreak, it was actually the very first game in the franchise to attempt co-op multiplayer, and one of the few PlayStation 2 titles to make use of the console's online capability. Released in 2003, and set during the Raccoon City outbreak documented in Resident Evil 2/3, Outbreak saw players work together across a series of scenarios which essentially boiled down to "get from A to B without getting your face chewed off", which is an admirable goal.
It essentially combined classic Resident Evil gameplay with co-op multiplayer in which certain characters each had specific abilities and special items. The only thing that really let the game down was the PlayStation 2's limitations when it came to online play, leading many critics at the time to question why it wasn't simply a couch co-op experience.
Resident Evil 5
Resident Evil 5 played a lot like its PlayStation 2/GameCube predecessor Resident Evil 4, maintaining a blend of puzzle solving, tense scares, and over the shoulder third-person shooting action. The fifth core entry in the franchise did put more of a focus on the latter than any of its predecessors however, in a move that longtime fans still argue about to this day.
Some say 5's action movie vibes ultimately set the scene for the unforgivable mess that was Resident Evil 6, while others argue that Chris Redfield's Kijuju adventure was a solid addition to the canon. Whatever your opinion, most of us can agree Resident Evil 5's co-op multiplayer was great fun, allowing a friend to drop in and experience the adventure online or locally. I personally found local multiplayer to be the best way forward, as you better shared in the terrors that way - and had an easier way of hitting your partner over the head whenever they greedily used up the last green herb.
If nothing else, playing through Resident Evil 5 with a mate negated the need to go through the game with your AI-controlled companion, who would often behave so erratically, blocking doors and simply not responding to oncoming threats, that I became convinced they were actively trying to get us both killed.
Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles
Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles is a solid - if ultimately forgettable - on-rails shooter that zips players back through the stories of Resident Evil 0, Resident Evil, and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, while also introducing new material that shows players exactly what became of the shadowy Umbrella Corporation and the T-Virus in the end.
For those of us that want to get caught up on some of the main story beats of Resident Evil but don't have the time to play through three entire games, Umbrella Chronicles is a great (and speedy) way to bone up on some of the franchise's key events. Darting through the Spencer Mansion and streets of Raccoon City in first-person without having to solve dozens of needlessly complicated puzzles does feel a little odd at first, but being able to blast away hundreds of zombies in a light-gun romp with a mate by your side makes for some entertaining arcade fun.
If nothing else, the chance to play through the story of Resident Evil 0 without having to actually play through Resident Evil 0 itself is something I'll always welcome.
Resident Evil: Umbrella Corps
While it can be kind of odd to see Resident Evil embracing multiplayer, the above three games manage to make it work - by and large - by being co-op experiences that stay true to the roots of the series. Okay, maybe not the on-rails shooter, but even that game manages to feel like classic Resident Evil by going through the story of the original games.
A tactical-based military shooter is probably not something that anyone ever asked for or wanted from Resident Evil then, but that's exactly what we got when Capcom turned around and farted Umbrella Corps in our direction. It was a rancid poop of a game that essentially felt like a Call of Duty game with a few Resident Evil references tacked on. Put a mate in front of this without telling them what it's called and chances are they'd never actually guess that it had anything to do with Resident Evil.
That in itself wouldn't have been the worst thing in the world if the multiplayer itself was actually in some way redeemable, but dodgy controls, bad shooting, and limited content made this one of the worst games of 2016, and certainly a game that Resident Evil fans are better off forgetting about.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
If Umbrella Corps was an attempt to put a Call of Duty spin on Resident Evil, then Operation Raccoon City was Capcom's stab at making a Resi game that felt like Gears of War. It worked about as well as you'd expect. A third-person cover based shooter that puts you in the shoes of an elite paramilitary mercenary sent by Umbrella to clean up the mess in Raccoon City, this 2012 title was a mess, unfortunately.
Yes, the game had co-op and PvP multiplayer modes, but they really didn't add anything to what was, in essence, an incredibly uninspired and by-the-numbers third-person shooter. Resident Evil 5 and Outbreak both proved that there's certainly potential to do something interesting with a co-operative survival horror, but Operation Raccoon City was as much a survival horror title as my nan is an Olympic-level diver.
It remains to be seen what path the upcoming Project Resistance will take, but by the looks of it, we're getting another co-op game that puts action ahead of survival horror. That's not always necessarily a bad thing, but the majority of Capcom's forays into multiplayer Resident Evil games that took this approach really weren't very good at all.
We can only hope that the likes of Operation Raccoon City and Umbrella Corps have taught Capcom a valuable lesson about what does and doesn't work in multiplayer Resident Evil games. Lord knows I can't handle another Gears of War ripoff.
Featured Image Credit: Capcom