[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/reoutbreak/cover.jpg[/floatleft]Resident Evil Outbreak is the newest game in the vastly successful series put out by Capcom. Outbreak stands apart from other games in the genre with the addition of online play while still maintaining a single player mode for offline play. The mere idea of a co-op survival horror game got fans in a frenzy. As the game was released, people were less excited as it just didn’t seem to measure up to the hype.
Outbreak is a scenario based game which differs greatly from its predecessors. At the beginning of each scenario you are given a choice of which of the 8 playable characters you would like to use. Each character has a different personality and a vastly different natural ability. Choosing Kevin, the cop, will start you out with a pistol while choosing Yoko, a student with a backpack, will double your inventory space. I quickly decided that David the plumber was my personal favorite. Maybe the handyman in me needed some attention at the time.
Once the game gets underway you will notice that the gameplay mechanics are similar to past RE games. One significant difference is that you have 3 additional characters that will assist you in the level. Unfortunately, the AI is less than superior and they have a tendency to run off and do their own thing only to return just after you could have used their help. In the online mode, these additional characters are played by other gamers. Due to this co-op concept, accessing your inventory does not pause the game since it would pause it for the additional 3 players. This is also true for the single player game and can make it very frustrating trying to navigate the inventory menu while a zombie is feasting on your flesh.
[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/reoutbreak/ss02_thumb.jpg[/floatright]When my friends first started playing Outbreak all I heard was a bunch of complaints in regards to the loading time so I paid extra attention to this as I figured it would ruin the gaming experience for a lot of people if what I was hearing was true. I am glad to report that it isn’t nearly as bad as everyone made it seem. The initial loading time for the level clocked in at 35 seconds which is a little on the long side but not unbearable. Each room you enter is also accompanied by a 10-15 second load time which wasn’t that long but it did get annoying if you accidentally entered a room or had to travel long distances across the level. After playing for a few hours you will no doubt begin to loathe the “now loading” screen. The use of the PS2 harddrive should cut down on loading times by a very large factor since Outbreak will copy the game files onto the drive. Unfortunately the drive only comes with FFXI and at a price tag of $99 it seems rather silly to spend the extra cash unless you plan to make good use of the game as well as FFXI.
After you complete the scenario your results can be sent to the Outbreak online leaderboard. The results are also used to unlock bonus content and new scenarios in your single player experience. You can also go back and replay previous scenarios as you desire.
I want to issue a formal warning to parents thinking of letting their children play Outbreak. It obviously deals with zombies etc and can be pretty gory, but the language in Outbreak took me by surprise. Curse words are littered throughout the dialogue between characters. For these reasons I would suggest that Outbreak be reserved for an older more mature audience. I know I know that makes me sound like an old fogey.
[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/reoutbreak/ss05_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]The controls in Outbreak are just as I remembered from past RE games and only one aspect of them annoyed me. When you walk in Outbreak you don’t really walk you kind of shimmy. This isn’t some normal shimmy either; it is like a 90 year old man shimmy. Until I realized you could hold down a button to run I was getting severely pissed off at how slow you move. After playing for a while I had to wonder why the default would be to walk and not run as I couldn’t think of a single time in the game where I chose to walk over running.
Before it sounds like I have nothing good to say about Outbreak I want to discuss its visual merits. The graphics were downright pretty. They were far and away better than any previous game and really did a number to increase the immersion of the gamer into the story. Of course any good that did was immediately ruined by the loading screens.
I didn’t mean for it to sound like Outbreak was a bad game because it isn’t. Outbreak just has a few major issues that prevent if from being fun for anyone but a Resident Evil fan. Naughty Dog proved that you can have immersive levels without loading screens on the PS2 and Capcom obviously didn’t get the memo that waiting for loading is unacceptable. If you are a Resident Evil fanatic then you have probably already bought and beat the game. If you aren’t, then I wouldn’t recommend spending your time with Outbreak as you will probably spend an equal amount of time being frustrated or loading as you will playing the game.