Our Jake knows how to get the crowd HYPED. He’s warmed you up by reviewing Resident Evil Outbreak last month and now the killer blow, the meatier, more powerful sequel! And after you’ve had a read of this give some of his retrogaming videos a little look…
Capcom’s first attempt at turning Resident Evil into a co-operative survival horror experience for both offline and online play was a bit too shoddy. While their second attempt didn’t sell particularly well, it actually struck a chord with longtime fans of the series, and has gained itself a cult following. Rightly so, I should add. Despite being undoubtedly flawed in many noticeable ways, Resident Evil Outbreak: File #2 is still a wonderfully tense experience that packed a lot of great content and clever ideas.
In terms of plot, not much has changed. You can still play as one of eight unique characters who are unfortunate enough to be stuck in Raccoon City in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Again, much like before, the visuals and cutscenes were pretty good for the time, though the loading screens are much faster than in the previous title. Plus, it had a decent soundtrack and moderately better voice acting. Otherwise, the core game remains largely the same: you need to work together in order to find items, solve puzzles, and escape before succumbing to the virus.
The cast of characters remains largely the same as before. Their strength, maximum health, speed and resistance to the T-Virus – which slowly climbs up towards 100% during gameplay – all vary between one another (though you need to figure out these things for yourself, as they’re never mentioned in-game). Their special moves, bonus abilities and designated items remain the same, respectively. For example, David the plumber has a toolkit with a knife and spare parts to create new weapons, while Alyssa can pick locks, dodge attacks and perform critical hits with handguns. There’s even a whole new heap of unlockable NPC characters that function similarly to the original cast, albeit with tweaked stats. You can even play as characters from the first game as well.
There’s a whole heap of new levels and challenges in the sequel. Barring the well-needed training mode, the survivors must escape from a zombie elephant in a zoo, dodge overgrown ticks in the subway, escape a mad axeman within an abandoned hospital buried in vines, escape the police department under siege, and finally rush through an Umbrella Laboratory while being pursued by Mr. X. That’s right, you’re gonna be chased down by boss enemies once again, some of which can be killed before the boss fight. At least some missions offer alternate routes and shortcuts, too. So, if you miss an opportunity to take an early exit in the subway, there’ll be another route to take to ensure your escape. It adds a lot more replayability to these tough, but satisfying, missions.
The core gameplay is pretty similar to before, albeit with a few more balancing tweaks. Key-hunting, scavenging supplies and fighting off undead creatures with limited weapons and items remain intact, only now there’s a handful of new items and weapons to use. The guns and throwing weapons are still pretty effective, though melee attacks still leave a lot to be desired. At least you can move and aim this time around.
Once again, there’s still just enough supplies to get through, though you’ll be no doubt struggling on the higher difficulties. Enemies put up a fair fight but can still be knocked back or stumbled, which might give you the opportunity to make a hasty exit. They’ll still chase after you and can knock open doors like before. Annoyingly, they might end up swarming certain rooms on the higher difficulties. Anyway, while the puzzles are still simple enough so not as to break the flow of gameplay.
The AI companions are not much of an improvement, and you’ll still see them hampering around doing dumb stuff at times, like offering items to share while a boss enemy is ready to insta-kill them. Sometimes they won’t even use their designated special abilities. Sadly, there’s no solution to this since the servers are long gone. They’re not totally useless, though, and they can help you out during some tight situations if they’re nearby. Usually, that might depend on luck, or whether they like your character or not (again, never stated in-game). At least now you can choose which allies you’d like to bring with you, which is a really big improvement.
New to File #2 are some bonus modes. The trio of Showdown missions are like boss rushes; you’ll fight the bosses from Outbreak in the first, File #2 in the second, and all of them in the third. Meanwhile, the triple batch of Elimination game modes is made up of disjointed rooms from levels found in both games (opening a door in the zoo would take you to the university in Outbreak, which might contain a passageway to the police station, etc.), and has you killing all the enemies in each level before the timer expires. There’s limited supplies scattered everywhere, and while you can only play these solo offline, they’re still heaps of fun and are well worth trying out if you want to challenge yourself.
Out of all of Capcom’s spin-off titles in the Resident Evil series, Outbreak: File #2 is definitely one of their best attempts. Despite some balancing issues and dopey companion AI, it’s still leaps and bounds better than the first entry with its speedier loading times, additional modes, new equipment and abilities, and miscellaneous gameplay tweaks. It’s got oodles of replayability backed up by its tense gameplay, too. The whole thing just feels a lot more oiled up and polished in every single way, without hyperbole.
**And seeing as you like Resident Evil so much, why not check out our Resident Evil 2 PS1 Video Retro-spective**