Resident Evil: Outbreak
Resident Evil is nicely split in two parts. The first is the ‘main’ part, which continues the normal story every time and is hailed by the fans. The other is the ‘spin-off’ part, which gives you some background information about unimportant characters and is not so well received. But there’s always hope. Now there’s Resident Evil: Outbreak. Another spin-off, sure, but a promising one. The idea itself is fantastic: co-operative zombie-killing and puzzle-solving. The back of the box also says some good stuff: huge 3D environments, new control method and incredibly scary. Too bad, never trust what they say.
To start, if you haven’t read it somewhere, this game can’t be played on-line. Although America and Japan could kick some T-Virus scum’s ass together with human players, we Europeans can’t. This is the biggest disadvantage, if not the reason not to buy this game. But let’s continue playing for a while, together with some bots. Not having human help only makes the game more difficult, so we need a though and bold character to play with. Since there are eight to choose from -each with a slightly different story line- there will be at least one that suits you. Or you just check out his or her special features. I picked the first one, Kevin, which looks like a strong cop from another Resident Evil with his RPD-clothes. There is also a doctor, journalist, and a waitress but how can you trust those. After choosing your alter ego, you can start in the first scenario. In total there are five scenarios, each with their different style and environment. Concerning the “huge environments”, they’re not really that big. Let’s say statement number one of the box is false.
Scenario 1, ‘Outbreak’. You’re sitting on a bar stool, leaning against the liquor cabinet with a scotch in front of you, ‘film noir’-style. Bad luck today, because suddenly a whole army of undead are moaning in front of the entrance. After the usual screaming and yelling you can start playing. First, quickly push some barrels in front of the door to win some time. Err, did I say ‘quickly’? I don’t know what Capcom thinks ‘new control method’ means, but the controls haven’t improved. Now you walk -as it should- in the direction which you press. A lot of people will yell “about time!” when reading this, but they should know that the system isn’t worked out properly. What is wrong with them exactly, I don’t know, but more than once I ran into the arms of a zombie without knowing why. After some time you’ll get used to the controls, but they’ll never feel natural. Concluding statement two is also untrue.
After you can find your way with the bizarre controlling, it’s time to go up a floor. You can’t go outside, so your choice is limited. Once upstairs a couple of groaners are waiting for you. And here it becomes a lot more fun. To start with, there are now melee weapons. A pipeline or cane, whatever, it only has to be hard or pointy. This is the dream of every Resident Evil fan, just bashing on those decaying scum bags like a maniac. It really feels good, that’s for sure. Too bad your teammates aren’t exactly born fighters. They often won’t help you, so most of the battling is up to you. Because of that you’ll get bitten now and then, and unlike the previous games, you get infected. The longer you play and the more you get bitten, the higher the infection percentage. When it reaches three numbers it’s Game Over for you. Luckily it doesn’t go fast and you can heal yourself a bit every once in a while. Now you’re going to think two times before you let yourself get caught, since normal herbs wont cut it anymore.
Capcom didn’t really know which way to pick. Or pre-rendered backgrounds, or 3D. So they took a bit of both: sometimes pre-rendered, sometimes 3D. And the result is pretty good. Okay, you do notice a big difference between both, but everything is detailed and zombies move around more natural -as far as possible- than ever. That’s why it’s too bad that Outbreak never succeeded in frightening me. Almost never there’s a tense and zombies -no matter how detailed- are a bit laughable. This isn’t normal for a Survival Horror game and because of that there are some plain boring parts. The fact that a dead enemy just fades away, probably won’t help. Statement number three: don’t believe it.
It’s the same with the sound. Sudden sound peaks -which always scare you- aren’t present. The music is a dramatic tune which you’ll ignore after some time. The one liners which the computer players shout to you about every minute are irritating and always the same. The worst of all is the hearth beating when loading a room. The loading is ridiculously long so the ‘bom-bom-bom’ is just sleep inducing. If only the screaming, groaning and ‘BLAM’ing are good, right?
I would love to write that Resident Evil: Outbreak is finally the first good spin-off, but nothing is less true. It’s an on-line game, which has to be played on-line. Offline it’s a valuable experience, that unfortunately isn’t worth its price. Sometimes the game is just plain boring. Even if there’s a lot to unlock, I don’t immediately have the urge to play this game again. There’s a sequel coming though, in which also Europe can play on-line. It will probably be the very first RE spin-off worth of placing itself on the same level of its bigger brothers. But the offline mode in it, I will silently ignore.