What would happen if zombies suddenly attacked your town, throwing you into something unbelievable and having to help total strangers just to survive? Well, now is your chance with the first survival horror game online. Resident Evil Outbreak is the very first survival horror game to let you play online with other people. There is also a single player mode as well so if you don't have a network adapter or a broadband connection then don't worry you can still enjoy this game as well. So the real question is did Capcom pull it off?
Resident Evil Outbreak is a side story to the series. It contains five different scenarios for the players to survive through and each one is really different from the next. It's about everyday normal people living out there lives when suddenly all hell breaks loose. There isn't really much plot and while to some that might seem a little wrong for a Resident Evil title it really doesn't need to have one it's really just about trying to survive and get out alive. The game play is played the same way as a typical Resident Evil title but this one throws a few things into the mix other then the online ability. First off, each character has there own special abilities from lock picking to tackling and even playing dead. Each character has different characteristics and different personalities and gives the player a good amount to choose from. Also you are now able to hold doors shut for a certain amount of time or help characters when there limping to walk faster at the cost of your own speed. Capcom also decided that instead of just getting to use a knife for a melee weapon now there are tons of weapons lying around from pieces of wood to iron pipes and even crutches. There is now a viral infection meter and the longer you play the meter goes up and if your knocked down onto the floor from taking to much damage your meter will start to fill up really fast and the only way to get back up is with the help of the other characters. Now, offline when this happens in single player mode once your meter hits one hundred percent then you die however online you become a zombie for a limited time and are able to go after the people you were just trying to help. Becoming a zombie is really fun and I just wish you were able to walk around as one for a bit longer then you're allowed to. Now you are also able to ask other players for items and to give players items as well and that adds to the teamwork aspect of the game. All in all these little things really add to the whole "being in a zombie movie" feeling. Other then that for the most part things are still the same Resident Evil, from finding pass codes to memos and solving puzzles and blasting zombies and creatures away. It's the stuff people have grown to love the RE series for.
Now there are two ways to play RE Outbreak which is either offline or online. Playing offline is like playing a normal RE title except you get the help of two AI characters and while sometimes the AI isn't too smart at other times they help you out at just the right moment. Sometime they will stick around and help you and sometimes they will go off and do stuff on their own and while some people complain about that, playing online you really have no way to stop that character from leaving you as well so that's not really a big issue. The only problems I have with the AI is they wont help you push stuff around or barricade doors and they sometimes just don't know what to do with themselves. They're really helpful when it comes to attacking and helping you get up and off the ground and carrying items though. When playing online things can get mixed up quite a bit since you never really know who is going to help you out or perhaps bail on you. That's the exciting part about playing online. People can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Teamwork is the key to successfully playing online though and without it you're going to have a pretty tough time getting through the levels and at the end of the day if someone screws you over and gets you killed well you can always try killing them as a zombie.
Like all RE games you always get top of the line graphics from the system there on and this one is no different. This is one of the better looking games out on the PS2 and once again Capcom knows there stuff and now it's in total 3D. Gone are the pre rendered backgrounds and yet still the game looks amazing. There are still the preset camera angles but now sometimes the camera will pan or rotate around the area when the character moves around the environment. The characters themselves all look great as well and they all have there own distinct look and feel. The zombies and other mutant creatures all look wonderful and there is something satisfying when popping off a zombie and seeing the blood splatter on the wall behind them. All the creatures fit right in with the RE universe and it's always great to see what kind of new creatures Capcom comes up with for there next game. The five different scenarios each have there own distinct look and feel and all look wonderfully detailed including one level that has some really great looking fire effects. To top things off I haven't even mentioned the wonderfully done CGI cinema scenes. There all beautifully done and just when you think these movie scenes cant get any more realistic looking they do and Capcom seems to have a knack at how to make these look better year after year.
Now the controls have always been a big issue with RE games in the past and even have prevented some people from playing them. Well Capcom finally changed them for this game and no longer do we have the stiff controls that the other games had. Now we have full control and so whichever direction you press on the controller is the way your character will move. Many will find this to be a really big plus. The controls have changed in other ways for this game as well. Pressing R1 aims your gun and auto aims at the nearest enemy while pressing R2 just aims wherever you're pointing. L1 reloads and also shifts to a different target when the time permits. Now when pushing on the right control stick in the game your character will yell out different phrases depending upon which direction you push. Also by holding L2 and then using the right control stick you get even more things for your character to shout out. The triangle button is used for the map. The circle button is used to run and also in combination with R1 or R2 you can do your characters special ability. The square button is an adlib button and it basically makes your character say random things in pertaining to the events going on in the level and X button is used to examine items and use doors and various things. The left control stick is used to control your characters movement and when wanting to barricade or block a door with an object you merely just push in the direction of the object or door. There are a few things that have been changed and altered but for the most part RE veterans shouldn't have too much trouble adjusting and newcomers should learn it fairly quickly.
In all honesty the sound effects in the game are all pretty much rehashed from the older games from the zombie moans to the firing of guns but really it does the job well and doesn't take away from the game whatsoever. The soundtrack on the other hand is wonderfully done and the composer did a really good job with the opening intro music. The rest of the soundtrack is great as well with a fast paced score picking up when the chaos is getting out of control to the slow more peaceful yet creepy score when you're just searching around someplace and trying to figure out what to do next. Overall, it's done well and definitely fits in with the rest of the soundtracks from the previous games.
This RE title ranks you and gives you a score at the end of the scenarios and the better you do and more people survive the better score you get. The score is just kind of for bragging rights but also you earn points and with these points you can unlock movie scenes and character costumes and even music. This adds to the replayabilty greatly and gives the player incentive to keep coming back and getting a better score and higher ranking.
While Capcom pulled of a lot of things really well there are a few hiccups along the way. First off there is no saving and there is. You can save at a typewriter but once you save you are forced to quit so really its more like a backup system so if you have to leave or go somewhere you can save and come back to it later. There is no saving just for the sake of saving in case you die it's a one way trip all the way through each scenario and while this adds challenge and difficulty and more strategy to the game in ways some people just wont like this fact. Currently, also right now the servers are kind of going back and forth working and then not working. While this will be fixed eventually it's really annoying to buy a game for the online ability and then not be able to log in, but thankfully this should be ironed out for the most part by now. The other thing that many players have encountered is a glitch using Alyssa in the very first scenario and if you are using her and you adlib after a certain portion of the game (specifically near the police barricade part) that the game will freeze. I myself have tested this out three times and each time I did this it did freeze. Now this is a huge bug that passed by Capcom apparently and there really is no excuse for it but luckily the adlib button really serves no purpose and as long as you don't adlib after that point you won't get the lock up. Luckily I've heard of no other glitches like that. The last thing I want to mention is the load times. While the loading between rooms isn't too bad the loading after cinemas scenes can really be long and it can sometimes ruin the flow of the game. Luckily if you have the new PS2 hard drive it will cut those load times down tremendously.
Even with some of the aforementioned problems overall Capcom's first attempt at a RE online is a success. The single player is worth playing just as much as the online is. They both are lots of fun and at times the game can seem very chaotic but exciting all at the same time. With the countless hours I've logged on already from both online and off this is a game I see myself replaying over and over again. Bring on the sequel. (Which is surprisingly already in development).
- Justin Celani