Wednesday, November 11

Resident Evil Outbreak Review

I played on: PS2
I paid: £3
Available on: PS2
Notes: N/A

Resident Evil Outbreak was Capcom’s first attempt at bringing Resident Evil online and it’s not a bad first attempt and far from their worst one. Outbreak is an online cooperative experience years before RE5 or REsistance.

The basic concept saw players controlling one of three survivors trying to explore and escape from one of 5 scenarios. Despite the fact that only 3 survivors could play a scenario at a time you had 8 characters to choose from in total. You control your character using classic tank controls and see the environment from a fixed camera perspective. This instantly brings back fond memories of classic early era Resident Evil. I love this idea, classic RE with friends in bite-sized chunks!

Despite its beautiful recreations of classic Raccoon City landmarks, this game lacked a lot of its appeal in Europe. Seeing as I’m in England this really impacted how I saw and experienced the game. Despite this I found Outbreak being one of my most-played PS2 games as a teen simply because of the shift in focus. Instead of playing as series veterans such as Leon, Jill, Chris, and so on you now play as just everyday Raccoon City citizens. Over the course of the 5 self-contained scenarios, you get to witness the downfall of Raccoon. Going back, I found a lot of the charm I remember has remained intact. Seeing Birkin’s underground lab and Raccoon City Hospital recreated in 3D was an absolute pleasure and still is to this day.

Remember when I said that Outbreak lacked a lot of its appeal in Europe? Well, let’s talk about that. So, in both Japan and across the USA it was possible to connect to servers and play Outbreak online with friends. I would talk about this as I owned the game during its release back in 2004 but I couldn’t play it online. Why? Capcom didn’t bother with setting up servers for the European region. That’s right the first online multiplayer Resident Evil game with all its marketing pushing the online play lacked online play! As of 2011 servers across all regions were shutdown. So now wherever you play you will be doing so alone. Seeing as Outbreak was built from the ground-up as a multiplayer game lacking that support hurts the overall experience.

Let’s look at what you do get playing it on your own nowadays. Similar to the early series you find yourself trapped in a location and need to explore in order to find a way out. In your path, you will find simple puzzles with pieces hidden across the map and Umbrella’s lineup of monsters. Classics such as the iconic Hunters, Zombies, Lickers, and giant moths are all here. You also get to see additions from REmake and 0. What’s left of Dr. Marcus’s T-Virus leeches show up as well as a zombie in the mid-stage transformation between a Crimson Head and a Licker. The monsters and bosses in Outbreak are some of the game’s highlights in my opinion. It’s a shame we didn’t see any of these creatures in the recent RE2 and 3 remakes. These are not enough to save outbreak from its problems.

Whereas in classic Resident Evil opening your inventory or reading any documents found around the world would pause the game in Outbreak you don’t get this luxury. Stopping to read files, reload your firearms or manage your tiny 4 slot inventory leaves you vulnerable to attack. This made more sense during online play but if you’re playing today or in Europe even at release it just acts as a deterrent. At best this harms the world-building of Outbreak because stopping to examine things or read files is almost always punished. At worst it leads to unfair deaths or attacks from the many monsters unleashed upon the city. The companion AI for single player makes these problems even worse simply by being useless. You can request items from their inventory if they’re in the same room as you but more often than not they will wander off. Seeing as they will pick up important items from around the maps often needed to progress it can be an unintended nightmare at times. You can shout commands to them but it’s normal for them to just tell you no or ignore you altogether. 

I can imagine this game being an amazing experience with a group of 4 friends all working together. Sadly, as a solo experience, it occasionally feels enjoyable but spends most of its time feeling frustrating. I love this concept and it’s remembered fondly amongst the fanbase but with no online play, it's aged poorly. If you’re a fan of the early series this is well worth picking up and playing. But temper your expectations as it may feel more clunky and annoying than you remember. If any Resident Evil needs a remake it’s Outbreak and its sequel.

Recommendation Rating: 6 out of 10


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