Review: Resident Evil: Outbreak (PS2)

Resident Evil: Outbreak
Platform: PS2
Rating: Teen
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: 04/01/2004

Before I begin this review I feel like I should define some terms that I will use within:

Video Game- noun An electronic or computerize game played by manipulating images on a video display or television.

Horrible- adjective Arousing or tending to arouse horror; dreadful; very unpleasant or disagreeable.

Horrible Video Game- See: Resident Evil Outbreak

It’s been a couple years now since a Resident Evil game has been on a Sony system with the last offering being Resident Evil: Code Veronica, since then the series has continued on the Gamecube. Till now. When I found out that not only was the next Resident Evil released would be for the PS2, but that it would also be online, I got excited. I don’t think that there are enough co-op online games in the market right now and thought that an online co-op survival horror game would be awesome. As a fan of zombie films I was imagining going through an infested zombie filled city.

So what the hell went wrong? How could such a promising idea be so bad that I would rather be teabagged by someone with genital warts than to ever play this game again?

Story:

Outbreak takes you back to when the T-Virus spread across the 5th circle of hell known as Racoon City. Unlike every other Resident Evil game there isn’t one solid overriding story. Instead what we have is five separate short scenarios with the same goal in each, get out of town alive. You’ll be able to choose between eight different characters in the game, each with a different role and special ability. On the character selection screen the game gives you a brief description about what job the character did before all hell broke loose. Other than a small clip before and after a scenario that’s all the development you’re going to get for these characters.

That’s pretty much it for anything related to the story. Umbrella is bad, living is good and your character is a plumber or one of the other classes. Considering the weird and fairly deep storyline that the other games have followed I thought this was a big disappointment. It was cool to see what was happening in the city when the T-virus spread but we don’t ever find out much beyond that. I’m sure a lot of this is because the game was designed for online play, however I can’t give this category a good score especially after playing Destruction Derby Arenas which attempted to at least tack on a background history on it’s characters.

2/10

Graphics:

One of the few things that didn’t suck in this game is the graphics. While they’re not equal to the Gamecube Resident Evil games the graphics are very good for the PS2. Some of the cut scenes will just leave you with your jaw hanging. My personal favorite video is from the first scenario, I won’t give away what happens but the explosion that occurs is one of the coolest FMV’s I’ve ever seen in a game.

The backgrounds are okay with some of them looking just great while others are just dull. My biggest problem with any of the environments was that they all felt cramped and small. This is even more noticeable by the length of the load times as you’ll sometimes spend more time looking at the load screen than the room you were just in. Speaking of a load screen, it’s all black with a description of the room you are entering. Bring back the opening door or give me SOMETHING to look at.

The camera doesn’t suck as much in Outbreak as it does is every Resident Evil game before it. It is still bad but I didn’t have as much of a problem this time around with it. There are plenty of moments where you will get attacked by monsters that are off screen that you will not see till it is too late. It wouldn’t be a Resident Evil game without that.

The only major problem with the graphics is the excessive amounts of clipping issues. Your teammates in the game are insubstantial. You can just walk through them which lead to some odd looking moments when you’re all in a corner or all going up a ladder. This happens with the monsters in the game as well. I watched as one of my teammates ran straight through a leech creature. This never seems to be a problem with objects in the game except for doors.

8/10 (for a PS2 game)

Sound:

did you find it?

did you find it?

Did You Find It?

DID YOU FIND IT?

Get ready to hear this over and over and over and over again. Seriously, the computer controlled characters will say this ALL THE TIME. You’ll be saddled with two of them as well so you get twice the fun. Of course they’ll spout about 2 other lines of completely senseless drivel. Fuck the zombies I wanted to shoot these bastards more than I’ve ever wanted to shoot anything other video game character in my life. That includes that goddamn dog that laughed at you in Duck Hunt too. Hammer Q-Tips in your ears or mute the TV because this is the most annoying thing I think I have ever dealt with in a game. The only line I liked that any of them said in the game was when Jim says ‘My life is shit’. Of course you know what he said after that?

Did you find it?

Give me Chinese water torture, The Rack, Thumbscrews, or any other type of torture before listening to that again. Aside from that the opening music is just awesome, the sound effects are decent, the background music is generic but still sets the tone well.

2/10

Controls:

If you’ve ever played a Resident Evil game in the past the controls will feel instantly familiar, luckily though they have FINALLY made a Resident Evil game for the Playstation that allows you to control the character with the analog joystick. I can’t even explain how much easier it is now to move around each level. The camera is still an issue with movement, pushing a direction from one camera view will sometimes not be the same direction when the camera switches views, for the most part though the analog control takes away so much of the frustration that I’ve encountered in previous Resident Evil games.

You still fire your gun by holding R1 or R2 and pressing X and now you can wield melee weapons such as iron pipes and brooms in the same way that you’d fire the gun. Also if you do not have any weapons equipped you can still hold R1 and press X to push or knock down a zombie with your bare hands. X also controls opening doors, picking up items and interacting with the environment. Circle controls running or canceling out of menus. Triangle will bring up a map of the area. Square is the ad lib button which causes the character to say a phrase which is supposed to be related to the situation you are in but is generally just nonsense.

I’m glad that they added analog control, but like everything else in the game for every one thing done right there are several things done wrong.

Loading is done by pressing the L1 button and is done very slowly. Don’t think about going around this by combining the weapon with the bullets in the inventory menu since it takes even longer. This can get pretty frustrating when you’ve got some zombies surrounding you and you need to reload.

Talking to the computer controlled teammates is done through the right joystick. Pressing it in a different direction will use one of the four default commands, Go there, Help, Come Here, or Thanks depending on which direction you choose. Holding the L2 button and using the right joystick will have you call to a specific teammate. Offline, this is pretty worthless since no matter what I have said to any of them on any scenario they just do their own thing. This same communication scheme is also used online since you can’t use the headset. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how much this hurts the online game as it makes it nearly impossible to effectively communicate with the people you are playing with. Who the f*ck thought it would be a good idea to make a team based co-op game where you can’t communicate with the other players except for Go There! and Come Here! It kills the feeling that you are actually playing with other people online instead of just more intelligent computer controlled characters. You can talk with other people while in the lobby waiting for the game as long as you have a USB keyboard but that does not make up for the fact that while you’re playing the game you can’t talk to any of them.

Pausing the game is different this time around. Before when you paused the game you could manage your inventory, this time the inventory screen is done in real time. While sometimes this adds a feeling of more excitement to the game overall it is another thing that becomes very annoying. There is no way to switch weapons quickly outside of going through the inventory screen, so if you’re fighting off zombies and run out of handgun bullets you’ll have to pull up the inventory screen and equip a different weapon which takes up seconds you don’t have. This is even more noticeable if you are playing as Yoko and have to switch items out of her backpack. Another annoying thing about the inventory screen is the game is that you can only hold 4 items (unless you are playing as Yoko). So if you are carrying around a handgun, bullets, and a health item, that leaves only one space left. A lot of the game you’ll spend juggling what is in your inventory and trying to figure out what you don’t need. You can also give items to your teammates, but offline they’ll sometimes switch items you give them with other items. You can still pause the game with the select button.

In some ways it improves on the outdated Resident Evil control scheme, in others ways it manages to be a new frustrating experience.

5/10

Balance:

There are several difficulty levels to choose from easy, normal, hard, and very hard. There is a noticeable difference to them including different monsters and changing the locations of key items and monsters on the harder difficulty setting. Although for the most part once you learn what you need to do to get through a level it’s just a matter of locating the item and getting out of there, except on Very Hard which extremely hard.

All of the eight characters and there abilities are well balanced. Each has something they can contribute but none of them have a special ability that completely overpowers the other characters which gives the players to mix and match different characters online to form the best team. Offline you’ll have your teammates chosen for you depending on the scenario and character you’ll choose. Here’s where one of the biggest imbalance issues of the game comes from, you’re offline teammates happen to be complete morons. How they survived climbing out of bed in the morning is suspect, much less surviving a zombie attack.

Capcom included a brief explanation of why your teammates act as they do. Apparently they all have distinct personalities that determine whether or not they’ll attack enemies, help you, give you items, etc. Which is complete bullshit. Talking about the teammates AI would be a joke since it’s almost completely nonexistent. I didn’t even know where my teammates were for some of the game as they’ll run in and out of rooms at random occasionally stopping by to ask you ‘Did you find it?’. Sometimes they’ll pick up items you need from other rooms and you will not know they have it. They’ll run around zombies shooting them whenever it is convenient for them to do so. I hid in a locker and watched as one of my teammates just ran around a zombie who occasionally attacked her. She had a weapon equipped but did not use it once and eventually died. I can go on and on with different stories of AI related incompetence in this game.

Enemies aren’t much more intelligent on the first couple difficulty levels as you can run by a majority of them. At least they have the excuse of being undead or infected.

The puzzles in the game are more direct in Outbreak than in many of the other Resident Evil games. It is obvious in most situations what it is you are supposed to find although for the first time you play a scenario you’ll still be doing a lot of backtracking just to find the exact item that you are supposed to be looking for. While not as complicated as some of the ‘look for this object’ puzzles in other Resident Evil games, I thought they made more sense than some of the puzzles in the previous games. Once you know what it is you’re looking for the game does get much easier.

The only real balance issue is the stupidity of the teammates that you are saddled with offline. I don’t see how that got past quality assurance as they are perhaps the biggest annoyance outside of the load times in the game.

6/10

Replayability:

This is a mixed bag. Outbreak rewards replaying the game with harder difficulty levels and just a ton of extra stuff such as extra costumes, CG character still, movies, unlocking the music from the game, etc. The game gives you points that depend on how you played the scenario which you can spend in a separate collection mode. There are eight different characters to play through and playing as different people will unlock separate paths. There are also hidden special objects you can unlock and collect that can only be found by playing as different characters through each scenario. If you like collecting stuff than this gives you a huge reason to replay the game over and over again.

There are only five different scenarios however and the couple of different character paths and abilities do not change the fact that it feels like you are playing the same thing over and over again. I really wish they had added more of a story to be unlocked for each character as that would give more of incentive as well to play though as all eight characters. The scenarios aren’t very long either after you know how to go through them.

Online adds some more to the replayability but you are still just replaying the five scenarios with other people that you can’t talk to. Yipee. The sheer amount of stuff to unlock will still give people who can ignore all of the games other glaring issues many reasons to go back again and again.

6/10

Originality:

Resident Evil: Outbreak will go down as the first attempt at an online co-op survival horror game I’ll give it that. The games scenario styled structure and team based gameplay is very different than any other Resident Evil games before, and I’m glad to see them at least trying to do something different with the franchise.

9/10

Appeal:

There has been a ton of advertisement for this game, and the idea of killing zombies with other players online is going to appeal to almost anyone with a network adaptor. Just by having the name Resident Evil helps it appeal to fans of the franchise and its differences from other Resident Evil games will spark the interests of survival horror fans.

Tons of advertisement. Well recognized series. Online zombie mayhem. All of that equals a game that will appeal to a wide variety of gamers no doubt about it.

Too bad the game sucks.

10/10

Addictiveness:

I didn’t want to play this game ever again after playing it for one hour. I felt the same after spending 4 hours on the game. Still felt the same after playing the game for eight hours. I spent over eight hours playing this piece of crap just to do a review on it. At least I got my moneys worth from renting it.

If you are a HUGE fan of Resident Evil games than you are already used to overlooking some problems in the gameplay and most likely this game will be very addicting as you try to find every costumes and secret item.

If you are just a casual fan of the series or new to the series than you’ll probably find it hard to want to even continue through the first couple of scenarios much less find everything. Online it is one of the least addictive games available to me since you never feel like you are really playing with other people instead of just less annoying more intelligent (and silent) versions of the computer controlled characters. Part of what I like about online games is the feeling of playing against other players, and that is really missing from the online version of this game.

2/10

Miscellaneous:

Time for the final rundown of bitching that I couldn’t fit in other areas. Be prepared.

Holy loading time Batman! I clocked my games at around 15-18 second of loading time BETWEEN EVERY ROOM. What makes this even more pronounced is the fact that you’ll occasionally only spend a couple of seconds in a room or hallway so often you’ll be waiting for a room to load for longer than you’ll actually be in the room. ARRRGH! There isn’t anything to look at while the rooms are loading so be prepared to sit and look at the black screen of pain. This game is compatible with the PS2 HDD (Hard Disk Drive) that will cut about 40% of that waiting time down. If you do end up getting the HDD and decide to take your game online you’ll be restricted to only playing with other people who also have the HDD online. That ain’t a lot of people right now.

The save system is horrible. Whenever you save within a level you get booted back to the main menu. Once you load from where you saved your progress is then deleted. If you die you have to start the whole scenario over again from the beginning. Who thought this was a good idea?

How can sports games and shooting games have such great online interfaces but everything else have such crappy ones? Outbreaks interface isn’t that bad, but the options of what to do online are very slim. You can choose to either play the Downtown server, which puts you into a random scenario with random players for a quick game online, or you can choose the Uptown server, which has room which shows you how full they are and the difficulty and scenario the people are playing. Uptown gives you the chance of talking to the other players via a USB keyboard if you got one while you are waiting for the game to begin. You can at least try and plan a strategy here, of course what actually happens in the scenario is something completely different. I can’t say enough how the lack of ANY kind of communication online really hurts this game as it becomes mostly guesswork as to what your teammates want you to do. Downtown just plops you into a scenario with 3 other random people. All you can do online is play through the same five scenarios with people you can’t talk to in two different modes of play.

0/10

Final Scores:
Story: 2/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 2/10
Controls: 5/10
Balance: 6/10
Replayability: 6/10
Originality: 9/10
Appeal: 10/10
Addictiveness: 2/10
Misc: 0/10

Overall Score: 50/100