He’s had a thoroughly deserved break (from us) but Jake is back and he’s got a hankering to take down some zombies! After you’ve read his review of Resident Evil Outbreak please check out his YouTube channel for lovely retro gaming vids and interviews!
With the highly-anticipated Resident Evil Survivor coming over the horizon – oh, and a remake of the third game, but no one cares about that, probably – it’s only appropriate that now would be a great time to look back at the series’ very first outing into the world of online cooperative play. Resident Evil Outbreak was an ambitious spin-off that, sadly, couldn’t deliver a solid multiplayer-centric survival horror experience.
The game is set during the events of both Resident Evil 2 and 3. A viral outbreak from the megalomaniac pharmaceutical company Umbrella Corporation is infecting nearly everything and everyone that has come in contact with it. A small group of strangers have found themselves stuck in the middle of a hellish zombie apocalypse, and must work together to escape before succumbing to the dreaded T-Virus. You have a limited amount of time until the toxin overwhelms you, thus ending the level with a spooky game over screen.
It looked good for the time it was released, but was still nothing spectacular in the visual department. The cutscenes were always a fun watch, and it ran at a stable framerate. Loading times could feel a bit tedious, though it still had some memorable character designs and set pieces. The soundtrack is a bit forgettable, barring the emotional, and utterly brilliant, opening theme. Also, if you love bad voice acting, there are plenty of drab performances to be found here.
Instead of playing as one or two protagonists, you get to pick from eight, each with different stats, unique items and special abilities that can help them reach new areas or items. For instance, Mark the bodyguard is slow and can’t hide in small areas, but he’s strong with melee weapons and has a lot of hit points, plus he can push very heavy obstacles alone. Meanwhile, Yoko the ex-Umbrella researcher is slow and feeble, but can carry eight items at once – twice as many as every other character. On top of that, she can dodge enemies by crawling away. There’s no right choice to pick from here, as it’s a varied cast whom all feel unique to play as. Oddly, you can’t choose which allies to bring, as that largely depends on which level you choose.
The game is structured episodically, and offers five levels to choose from. Barring the first mission, the rest are quite large and nonlinear. More often than not, you’ll be needing to find keys and other special items to progress, as well as documents that’ll give solutions to some of the game’s basic puzzles. Usually, there’s just enough health, items and weapons to scavenge to help you get by, more so on the lower difficulties, but prioritizing your inventory and sharing it with others is still very important here. The limited space you’re given makes each mission feel challenging, but in an enjoyable way.
Dodging zombies and other freaky creatures can be tricky. However, in some scenarios, you’ll be pursued by a seemingly-unkillable enemy that’ll stalk you, and can only be defeated at the end. The boss battles are a fair challenge, and they can put up a fair fight. Some tend to rely on predictable attacks that can be dodged if you keep your distance, though.
The controls and combat makes the game feel pretty familiar to the originals. There’s a sizeable of weapons to find, too, though there’s a bigger emphasis on using melee weapons here. Some of these can be combined in order to craft an even deadlier creation, which is very simple to do. Thing is, swinging clubs and knives at those pesky undead freaks does feel like a cumbersome, time-draining chore that could put you in danger if you time it poorly. At least the guns get the job done without too much fuss.
Your allies aren’t particularly helpful here, no thanks to its wonky AI. While you’ll be paired up with two other allies, they’ll often shuffle around aimlessly, wasting ammo or swapping useful items with random tat. While you can use the analogue stick to bark commands at them, chances are they’ll either follow you to the end of the earth, or simply ignore every request you make. In fact, depending on the scenario, some will muck off on their own accord, only to die in an unavoidable, scripted sequence.
Surprisingly, there’s a whole heap of unlockables to purchase with in-game points, which you earn by completing objectives in each scenario. The coolest things on offer is the ability to play as NPC characters that you meet in-game. They function much like the original cast – i.e. a Jim-type character will have the same dialogue and abilities as him, respectively – only with altered stats (speed, health, etc.). While these changes are never explicitly shown in-game – you need to play as them to spot the differences – it’s still a boatload of bonus characters to pick from.
Resident Evil isn’t known for its well-made spin-off titles, and Outbreak is a testament to that. It was a bold move for Capcom to create a survival horror experience that tips the odds even further against your favour. It no doubt plays and feels like a Resident Evil game. Sadly, the whole thing felt a bit too half-baked on arrival due to its useless AI, bad voice acting, limited number of scenarios, and a few clunky features that drags the whole thing down (like not being able to move and aim and its lengthy loading times). The online features are long gone, too. Still, the whole thing is a half-decent title, but it’s not an essential play, unlike its sequel.
**And seeing as you like Resident Evil so much, why not check out our Resident Evil 2 PS1 Video Retro-spective**