The recent Resident Evil Showcase had more to show than Lady Dimitrescu, the internet’s latest (and possibly unhealthy) obsession. We were given our first look at the multiplayer experience being tacked on to the newest installment. Resident Evil 3 came with Resident Evil: Resistance, a 4v1 asymmetrical online multiplayer component, which quickly died out. Now, Village is getting paired with Re:Verse, an unoriginal and unimaginative 6-player deathmatch mode.
Fellow AOTF writer, Joseph Ocasio, has argued that Resident Evil and multiplayer are a disastrous combination. He points out that Capcom’s desire to attach multiplayer to the franchise while also monetizing it has resulted in lackluster offerings. And he’s right. But the truth is multiplayer does have a place in Resident Evil. It can exist in the series while also satisfying the goal of adopting current live service trends.
I’ll be the first to say that I am not a fan of the games as a service model, but I think we all know it isn’t going away anytime soon. So how can Capcom implement that business model without vastly upsetting their community, as they have been with these lazy multiplayer additions?
As it turns out, Capcom has been sitting on the formula for success for over a decade. To no one’s surprise, that recipe isn’t hiding in cloning Dead by Daylight or … the basest form of competitive play. We have seen glimpses of this multiplayer greatness hiding in Resident Evil 5’s Lost in Nightmare DLC, Resident Evil Revelations 2’s campaign, and even part of Resistance’s core concept.
Long-time fans of the franchise will no doubt remember the 2003 PlayStation 2 title, Resident Evil Outbreak. This cooperative, online-enabled Resident Evil game was ahead of its time. Sure, voice chat was absent, but the rest of its parts proved why co-op and survival horror could (and should) coexist. Limiting individual inventory spaces to an anxiety-inducing four slots, packing survivors in claustrophobic hallways, and multi-step puzzles all worked in tandem to extraordinary effect.
Sadly, online gaming was very much in its infancy and the true nature of the game could not be appreciated by most. The framework of Outbreak would be a perfect fit for modern gaming and it could very much satisfy both the developer and the consumer. We may be a bit past the episodic release trend, but that delivery method could provide Capcom the ability to test the waters with bite size content drops. Outbreak was already a game cut up into scenarios and its success spurred a sequel (Outbreak: File 2) with additional scenarios rapidly launched less than a year later. Releasing scenarios over time to build on the overarching narrative or simply fill in gaps in the Resident Evil timeline has the potential to hook fans for the long haul.
Avoiding the easy “add costumes” suggestion, a new Outbreak game (or something similar) could bring in new characters over the course of the year. Outbreak’s cast had strengths specific to each person. Mark was proficient with melee weapons; Yoko could hold additional items; and Kevin started with an improved sidearm. Releasing characters with new strengths would entice players to shake up their set group compositions and rerun existing content.
Although it has been declared on this very site that mainline Resident Evil series should avoid multiplayer modes, that may be path of least risk in testing the market. Do you think Resident Evil Village is going to sell less simply because it has Re:Verse joined at its hip? Probably not. Unless Capcom is willing to go all-in on an Outbreak remake or successor, giving Resident Evil 9 (or whatever comes next) a similar co-op mode with DLC scenarios and characters may be their safest bet if they are unsure of the community’s demand and/or adoption of such a game.
Look, I don’t want to sit here and go into excruciating detail about how Capcom could structure this all, throwing around terms synonymous with live service like “season pass” and “battle pass,” simultaneously earning revenue beyond the initial purchase while giving fans the experience that has been missing for over fifteen years. I have to believe someone within their organization has lobbied for this very idea multiple times at this point. It’s a no-brainer. Why it has yet to materialize is beyond me.
Resident Evil deserves multiplayer, but it deserves a whole lot better than Resistance and Re:Verse. It deserves the resurrection of Outbreak in the modern era. It wasn’t obvious in 2003, but Outbreak was built for the various facets of gaming today. Regardless of how you feel about current monetization systems, the pieces are there. We will have to wait and see if Capcom ever puts them together.