Who would win in a fight? Chris “The Boulder” Redfield or Leon “The Hair” S. Kennedy? Could Hunk take Ada Wong? What would happen if Claire Redfield fought Jill Valentine? What if one of them could transform into a Tyrant when they died? Those are the kinds of questions that Resident Evil Re:Verse seems to exist to answer in the form of a third-person deathmatch shooter that’s launched as a free bonus for owners of Resident Evil Village. It definitely has its moments, thanks in large part to its surprising death mechanic that transforms heroes into iconic monsters. The most frustrating part is how unfinished it feels, with the precious little content it has suffering from some noticeable balance problems and some bad monetization habits.
The concept is simple: choose from one of six Resident Evil heroes and enter a six-player free-for-all. The small roster is a who’s who of the series’ lore: Chris and Claire Redfield, Jill Valentine, Leon S. Kennedy, Ada Wong… and, for some reason, Hunk. Sorry, Winters fans – pun-enjoyer and Father of the Year candidate Ethan Winters is nowhere to be found (likely because he doesn’t have a face) nor is his daughter Rose. We’re only rolling with the classics, apparently – which is fine for purists, but this meatgrinder could definitely use more fresh blood.
Each character has a unique loadout composed of two guns (a pistol with unlimited ammunition and a special weapon) and two unique skills. Chris is a close-range killer armed with a hell of a right hook and Indomitable Spirit, which prevents him from being knocked down, staggered, or even dying while it’s active. Combine that with his assault rifle and a passive skill that makes him deal more damage as his health goes down and he’s a menace at close to mid-range. Jill, by contrast, is more of a specialist: she trades survivability for higher damage output and increased damage after dodging, and can lay down mines and attack with a knife at close range.
Leon’s your all-arounder. His health regenerates when it gets low, and he rocks a shotgun and a roundhouse kick for close encounters. He’s weaker at mid-range but compensates with an ability that lets him dual-wield his pistols. Claire comes equipped with a revolver and a passive that means she reloads when she dodges, a quick heal in the form of an adrenaline shot, and an alternator that shocks nearby enemies. We’ll get to Ada and Hunk a bit later, but all the characters offer distinct playstyles and their loadouts line up nicely with their portrayals in their respective games.
Once you’ve chosen your character, you’re dumped into one of just two maps: the RCPD or the Baker House. They both look great, courtesy of the RE Engine… at least, they do after you turn off the comic book filter that looks like someone stretched a fishing net over the screen. Deathmatch is the name of the game here – literally, in that it’s the only game mode Re:Verse has to offer. The goal is simple: kill as many people as you can before the five-minute timer expires. And, strangely enough, it can be surprisingly fun – at least until Re:Verse’s other issues get in the way.
While Re:Verse is primarily based in the mold of a hero shooter, it does incorporate classic arena shooter ideas. Power weapons spawn on the map after a minute passes. Usually a rocket launcher, a grenade launcher, or a lightning gun, these weapons only give you one shot but do tremendous amounts of damage if you land a hit. Ammo for special weapons is also scattered around the map, as are health-restoring green herbs, which are essential for long-term survival if you’re not playing Leon or Claire. These additions reward smart play by adding an element of strategy to how you navigate the map and encouraging you to venture into otherwise dangerous areas to nab a power-up that can change the outcome of a match.
The real game-changer, however, is that in typical Resident Evil fashion, death isn’t the end. If you’re killed right off the bat you’ll come back as a Fat Molded, one of the basic enemies from Resident Evil 7, and chase survivors around until you’re killed for good, building energy all the while for a self-destruct that can take out everyone around you, if you play your cards right. However, if you manage to pick up a Virus Canister item before someone takes you out, it will increase the damage you deal while you’re alive and then transform you into a more powerful creature once you shuffle off this mortal coil. With one Virus Canister you’ll become either Resident Evil 7’s Jack Baker, complete with chainsaw scissors, or the Hunter Gamma from Resident Evil 3. Picking up two canisters (the most any character can hold) means transforming into either Resident Evil 2’s Super Tyrant or Resident Evil 3’s Nemesis.
Because the transformation happens almost instantaneously on death and there’s no way to know which of the monsters will emerge from the corpse of your victim looking for revenge, every fight with a survivor is a tense experience. This uncertainty generally means you’ll be running for your life the moment they go down. Awkwardly, though, there’s no sprint button, so everyone moves at a weird half-trot unless they’re dodging.
When you’re on the transforming end, creatures are very powerful and a blast to play. They can see other characters through walls and, in addition to their regular attacks, come equipped with two special abilities of their own. The first, like the Super Tyrant’s Leaping Strike or the Fat Molded’s Enrage, is generally meant to close distance. The second, such as the Hunter Gamma’s Devour or the Nemesis’s Pursuing Tentacle, either knocks down or executes a target, depending on how much health they have left.
Any of the creatures can clear a room in a few seconds, and each one is appropriately scary. A Fat Molded’s small size, speed, and ability to explode mean that it always has a chance when creature combat devolves into an all-out brawl, even against a Tyrant. The only downside is that creatures lose health over time and will eventually die no matter what – the question is how many people you can take with you before you go.
Who comes out on top of the scoreboard, though, is more complicated than simply racking up the most kills. Killing someone in the current top three, maintaining kill streaks, getting revenge kills, and executing targets award more points than a regular kill, while dying costs you five points. As a result, matches can turn on a dime if someone goes on a run. In one match, I went from last to second place because I managed to put together a good minute as a survivor and follow that up with a killstreak as a creature. Since the top three players at the end of the match are considered winners, it’s fairly easy to pull games out of the fire at the last minute, especially if you happen to be playing the right character for the situation you find yourself in. It adds tension to each match, but it can also make the results feel more luck-based than you want in a competitive game.
It’s not all down to chance, though, because while it’s too early to have definitive knowledge of character power, at the moment Ada and Hunk seem to simply be better than everyone else. Ada deals enormous damage and has more dodges than the other characters, and can even dodge while being hit at low health. Hunk has above-average weapon damage, can turn invisible, and has a backstab that does more damage while cloaked. The other characters can win; I’ve been in matches where the top three, including myself, were all playing as Leon. But those are outliers, and the difference in character power and usage is already fairly noticeable and doesn’t feel good with a roster this small. Jill, Chris, and Claire are rare, while Ada and Hunk are constants in nearly every match I’ve played. It’s not uncommon to see the top three be entirely Ada and Hunk. They’re that good.
Playing matches earns you points which can be spent to buy perks for your characters – five for a survivor, and three per creature. These can increase the damage or duration of skills, add critical hit damage to weapons, buff a character’s passives, and so on. It’s standard stuff, but they’re quick and easy to unlock and allow for a lot of player expression – and unless the perk in question is character specific, unlocking it for one character opens it up for everyone. Perks also have upgradeable levels, but as far as I can tell that functionality isn’t available yet.
There’s a battle pass, naturally. It costs $9.99 and, as you might expect, you don’t get much for staying in the free tier – a minor reward every other level. If you want to customize your characters’ looks, you’ll basically have to open your wallet. The bigger problem is that several of the best perks, like the ones that allow you to see virus canisters, herbs, and ammo from further away, or boost damage from standard creature attacks, are locked behind the battle pass. All of these are available in the free tier, but they are substantial gameplay advantages locked behind a system that rewards you for paying money; you earn 50% more points and unlock an additional challenge to complete once you’ve paid for the Premium Pass.
Aggressive monetization in a game like this isn’t surprising, but the lack of content is. Six survivors, five creatures, two maps, and a single game mode just isn’t much to play with. Worse still, there’s no way to play casual matches unless you’ve brought your own friends to play them with in a passcode-protected private lobby. There’s no option to simply create a room and let people join, or search for one yourself. Capcom has promised more content is coming, and balance changes will have to happen if Re:Verse is to survive, but as it stands, this feels like a beta that really wants you to spend money on it.
It’s a shame, because Re:Verse can be a lot of fun to play. Running around as Jack Baker and welcoming people to the family by punching them in the face, whipping out two pistols as Leon and going to town on someone you’ve snuck up behind, or nailing someone with the Nemesis’s rocket launcher are all great moments of Resident Evil-flavored action. And while there are only two maps, they’re both fairly well designed, with lots of areas of obstacles to navigate and set up ambushes in. There’s even a pretty clear skill ceiling here for those who want to dedicate themselves. Good players can stay alive for a long time, racking up killstreaks and making sure they have enough virus canisters to transform into a powerful creature when they go down. It’s just a shame that everything here feels so rushed and incomplete.