After the breakthrough global success of Monster Hunter World, the tasteful handling of Mega Man's return and the course correcting for Resident Evil - which, in the remake of 2, artfully managed to blend Resident Evil old and new, resulting in perhaps the greatest series entry yet - we now have this. A team-based shooter that leans heavily on asymmetrical play, and pushes the Resident Evil formula to odd extremes.
And, having played Project Resistance for a couple of hours, I can say, hand on heart, that it's by no means a bad game - even if it does initially conjure up grim flashbacks to the miserable Operation Raccoon City and Umbrella Corps (and of course Resident Evil Outbreak, which is a slightly kinder comparison). You can sense a slight nerviness about Project Resistance at Capcom, and the reveal is accompanied by a number of caveats.
First, that word 'project' in the title is there for a reason. This is a prototype, being made in the RE Engine by an internal team alongside the Taipei-based NeoBards Entertainment, a studio that previously worked with Capcom on Onimusha Warlords. It's a project that, they're openly saying, might never even make it to release - there's a closed beta running from October 4th to October 7th on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later this year, after which opinion will be gauged and a decision made as to whether there's enough here to justify pushing through to release.
And there's also the desire to see where Capcom can push Resident Evil. "We need to keep making new stuff," says producer Matt Walker. "If we keep rehashing old stuff, we'll die out." So yes, Project Resistance offers a new concept for the Resident Evil series, though it's a concept that you might be loosely familiar with. You're one of four people who wakes up in the depths of a dark Umbrella Facility, becoming aware of a remote mastermind who's pulling the strings (and spawning the zombies).
It's survival and escape - both foundations of the Resident Evil series - but delivered in a 4v1 set-up that's more Fable Legends or, to give an example of a game that actually did make it to launch, Dead by Daylight. And, in the context of Resident Evil, it works - and, quite often, it works very well.
On the survivor side there are - at present - four characters, each with their own abilities and skills. January van Sant is a hacker (complete with never-seen-the-sunlight complexion - character design isn't a strong point of this, it's safe to say), with an ability to hack cameras and take them out of service and robbing the mastermind of an angle on the action. Her 'fever' skill - Project Resistance's analogue of an ultimate - is an EMP burst that makes it more expensive for the mastermind to spawn enemies. She is, in effect, Project Resistance's own mage.
And its healer comes in the form of Valerie Harmon, who looks like she's walked straight from Scooby Doo's Mystery Machine. Samuel Jordan, meanwhile, is a former boxer who can get busy with his fists, his own fever skill giving him tremendous power, the resulting overstated pugilism a tremendous amount of fun, and finally there's Tyrone Henry, a tank class character armed with a powerful kick that can down enemies.
They're a decent bunch to tool around with, but the real fun is to be had when playing as the mastermind. Here, you've an overview of the entire map, accessing certain points by jacking into security cameras and drawing upon a suite of tools to hinder the progress of the survivors. You can spawn zombies, lickers or undead dogs by playing from a deck of cards, each card with its own cost on a resource meter that builds up over time. You can shut doors, reinforce them, or simply switch off the lights for an old-school fright. You can even, when you've enough in the bank, spawn a tyrant and then take control of them for a limited time while you chase down the survivors.
Yes, you can play as Mr. X, a notion so fantastic that on its own it's enough to make Project Resistance worth a try. "It's like an Resident Evil-maker in a way," says Walker. "As the mastermind, you're deciding where all the different enemies, where the traps go. We think that's really cool, because that gives people the chance to be Capcom game designers as they play this game in real-time."
In practice, it allows for some high-class trolling as you tinker with your prey. Matches are split into three rounds and are all on a timer, with more seconds added upon completing an objective, and with the objectives simple things like finding security stations or key cards - placed by the mastermind - with the survivors all scattering to solve simple puzzles as quickly as possible. It's about tricking the survivors into a false sense of security, or constructing death pits around all-important map points, and after a couple of hours it appears there's a welcome tendency for matches to be decided in the final few frantic seconds.
It is, in short, a lot of fun, even if it has more than its fair share of rough edges (which is understandable given how it's still a project that's very much in the incubation stage). How exactly Capcom and NeoBards can build upon the premise - or, indeed, whether the fan feedback will be warm enough for them to deem it worthwhile - remains to be seen, but there's a spark to Project Resistance that wasn't necessarily there in some of the rougher Resident Evil spin-offs. This is a very different take on the old survival horror formula, and one that will doubtless prove divisive - though after Capcom's recent successes, they've surely earned the right to try something new.