Review: Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 (PS2)

Resident Evil Outbreak File #2
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Genre: Survival Horror
Release Date: 04-26-2005

A better, more honest name might have been ‘Resident Evil Outbreak… Again’, or, ‘Resident Evil Outbreak: Wringing Blood from a Stone’.

It’s really strange, Resident Evil 4 was a hit, deviating from previous games in terms of play and plot to bring something new to the series. To see Outbreak File #2 in action just seems painfully derivative. An improvement over the first online foray, but that’s not saying much.

Story:

Eight survivors, ranging from schoolgirl to plumber to police officer, band together to try and escape zombie-infested Racoon City.

The player chooses a main character to control, along with two supporting characters controlled by AI. Each character has a special ability to make them useful to the team. Kevin – a police officer, starts with a gun and has strong offence, David – a plumber that can use his tool set to build things, Cindy – a waitress that can heal other members of the team, and Yoko – a student with a bag to carry extra items, etc. Yep, women sure are useful. For carrying things. Excellent.

Each character has ‘ad-lib’ comments that serve as communication. These comments reveal a bit about each character’s personality and also clues about the task at hand. Sometimes genuinely useful (ex. “David, help!” “Here, take this”), sometimes just there (ex. “I have something to tell you.” … and that would be??). Also, when playing online with other Racoonites, many of these ad-libs will be your main source of communication.

The story brings little revelation to the series. Like the rest of this game, it’s just more of the same.

3/10

Graphics:

The opening cinema is quite good and movie-esque. Gets you in the mood for survival horror fun. It’s complemented nicely by the music and gets your hopes up for the game like a good demo should. Cinemas following in the game are also for the most part pleasing.

The graphics sort of follow through in the game. Certainly nothing shabby, but nothing special either. The character art is appealing and well done, however, the characters themselves vary from okay to rather bland. Not really high on detail, they move awkwardly, Kevin in particular is suffering from a permanent hunch.

The backdrops enjoy the same range of meh to bleh. Sometimes they’re decent, rich in colour and detail. Other times you stare at the screen thinking ‘wasn’t I just here before?’. Like the characters, it isn’t so much the backdrops are bad so much as they don’t ‘wow’. You know the ‘wow’ moment, when you are playing and think ‘Damn. This is a fine fine game.’ There is a moment of awe, and then a hearty renewal in enthusiasm. That never happened for me in Outbreak File #2.

Beyond the execution of the graphics, the style behind it is also lacking. Never have monsters looked less scary in a survival horror game, especially a Resident Evil game. Outbreak File #2 is suffering under the weight of impressive predecessors. Skinless dogs, lickers, the eye-socket-lovin’ crows, come on, that was freaky shit the first time you saw it. Outbreak File #2’s enemies are just boring. Even the zoo’s much acclaimed zombie elephant lacks any interesting details. It’s disappointing to see a cool cinema of zombies feasting on dead zoo buffet turn into a completely lame elephant running and flailing past your team or – the very worst – laughably waving its trunk about through a hole in the wall. Everything reeks of a complete lack of innovation and creativity.

5/10

Sound:

Oh baby heavy breathing. Our heroes first and best defense is to make the zombies all really really uncomfortable by constant and loud heavy breathing.

Oooh, aaaah, jogging up the stairs, mmm that’s right, huff huff huff.

Besides the breathing, the voice acting is carried out quite competently. Each character is distinct as they call for help or offer you their healing gun for the hundredth time (why don’t you f*cking keep it, George, and oh, I don’t know, HEAL SOMEONE). This is one area where a marked improvement can be seen over the earliest games.

The music for the opening is good and sufficiently creepy/moody to match the cinema. In game music is alright, it suffices, but does little more. Like most of Outbreak File #2, it was ‘fine’. Yes, the same type of ‘fine’ that means they really do care that you want to go out with your friends instead of staying in for the evening.

For a zombie game, it was kind of lacking on the spooky sounds and the groans. I like my zombies noisy, preferably dragging a body part or a pipe or some chains and so on. Besides the occasional noise an enemy made, or your partners shouting at you for whatever reason, the game is rather silent.

6.5/10

Control & Gameplay:

Ugh. Old school, in a bad way. The movement is particularly unpleasant as direction remains the same no matter what way the character is facing (universal up, etc). It’s a step backwards and after playing with other, better, systems of control in survival horror games, the gameplay feels sadly out of date.

The camera angle is for the most part pleasing, it follows nicely and comes in often enough to get a good grasp of the surroundings. The only time I found it to be really annoying was in close quarters with teammates or a large opponent, it was hard to discern where my character was, how to get away or fight. Some of the characters look a lot alike, so trying to find David in between Kevin, George, and a masked axe murderer was sometimes frustrating.

Another frustrating point was trying to make use of combining, be it herbs or just reloading the gun. The screen for accomplishing these tasks is transparent and the action keeps on going in the background. It’s understandable that this lends an element of realism – the enemy isn’t going to wait around while you load up some shotgun shells, but it doesn’t work for a few reasons in Outbreak File #2. First, every scenario has a boss of sorts that you encounter throughout the level but can fight and evade as necessary. The problem is they can burst in on you at any moment and in some scenarios are a pain in the ass to lose long enough to do anything. Running around evading the enemy takes a lot of focus away from other parts of the game like puzzle solving, combining, exploring and so on. Even trying to look at the map or reload a weapon is a total hassle. It would be preferable to have more small enemies and clear an area to work in, even just temporarily. Second, the mildly frustrating AI of the partners leaves them constantly running away or snatching items and trading them while you are trying to perform a task on screen (maybe not such a problem online, depending on who you play with). It’s confusing and distracting to the task at hand.

The problem isn’t so much that the gameplay is bad as that it is behind the times. With controls like this, why would someone play Outbreak File #2 over any of the other new survival horror games? They have more advanced control, as well they should considering how far the genre has come since the first few Resident Evils.

Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 is playable, certainly, but it’s hard to find a compelling reason why it wouldn’t be more fun to pick up Resident Evil 4, or play the first couple games over again.

4/10

Replayability:

There are bonuses to completing scenarios, the one with the most value for replay being the accumulation of points. Points can be used to purchase original game art, new outfits or playables, cinemas, sounds, and extras. If you find play palatable enough, then this is definitely something to go back for time and again.

The online play would have more replay value with better communication. You pretty much get the same ad-lib in game.

The game offers various modes of difficulty, So there is the ‘pat on the back’ factor as the play-through becomes more difficult.

There are quite a few variations in partners to choose, and their different abilities will affect each stage differently. For instance, the lockpick will mean access to different rooms unavailable to other characters. The backpack will allow more special items to be carried, meaning no sacrifice of one side event for another. The sheer force of the melee fighter combined with the offence and speed of the police officer allow for a smash and bash approach to levels. If you enjoyed the game enough on the first play through, it’s worth it to have a go again with a different variety of characters.

7/10

Balance:

Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 had all the components for a good survival horror, but felt lacking in direction and action. Each scenario placed the characters in survival mode, but they were often wandering with little purpose. Sheer stupidity makes up the bulk of the driving actions. For example, the phrase “I have a really bad feeling about this, but it looks like I should go in.”, this after reading a post to wait outside. Awesome. Scenarios start out with a vague introduction, the player is treated to little setup for the scene.

With little to no objective beyond ‘don’t die’, it’s hard to really get into the puzzles. Trying to care about getting into a particular area is hard when it seems like there is no point to it. Certainly more work could have been put into the mythos of each area to peak the player’s interest.

The different characters are fairly well balanced, or at least, can balance each other out well. Support characters can still wield weapons and so on. Still, woe to George and Kevin who had to depend on sra to lead them to safety.

The initial scenarios are balanced in relation to each other, but this is more a result of repetition than difficulty.

There is a good supply of items, often more than the character can hold. As far as being able to find weapons, ammo, healing and various other support items the game is balanced well. Sharing is a useful component of online play, but trying to keep track and trade around the items in the AI’s inventory can be vexing. Often the player will find themself trying to get the right item in the right person’s hand while they are being attacked by an enemy. Oh hell, trading with the AI’s is vexing while standing still in an empty room.

6/10

Originality:

This game does not have a single iota of originality. The characters, monsters, scenarios are essentially all ‘been there, done that’. From the turns-out-to-be-evil NPC to the comic relief weakling and the dumb-yet-still-alive blonde. After Resident Evil 4, this is a kick in the nuts.

The character and monster designs are completely uninspired, the items, puzzles, and fights bring nothing new to the table. Instead of coming up with something original, the game is filled with things that seem ‘mandatory’.

Making a survival horror? Let’s get our list out:

1. Really stupid heros? Check
2. Flimsy ineffectual schoolgirl? Check
3. Badass male character with blunt object or gun? Check
4. Generic zombie bad guys? Check check check
5. Unimaginative plot? Oh baby, check

It may sound harsh, but this game is intensely disappointing as far as originality is concerned. Even if playing for bonuses is super fun, it’s been done. And it’s certainly not enough to save the rest of the game.

1/10

Addictiveness:

Bonuses will keep some players coming back for more, but the gameplay doubtfully will. Many gamers, at least, are willing to suffer for their extra cinemas and costume incentives.

Trying out different partner combinations could hold interest to those wanting to replay. The game isn’t totally painful to play, no one should be trying to stab out their eyes, or throwing their controller. It’s playable, but can get boring if the player becomes frustrated with lack of communication online, AI ineptitude, or any of the outdated design flaws.

This game falls flat using the same interest peaking techniques every single Resident Evil game before it has. Everyone has already read the journals and notes detailing a strange person/plant/dog encountered, the curiously direct guidance (‘I sure am going to miss my wife, little Amy and Josh. I sure wish I could put the red star-shaped jewel into the lion statue’s right eye to gain access to the staff room before I died.’).

Unless repetitive, unoriginal gaming is your particular drug of choice, this game will not leave you jonesing for another hit.

3/10

Appeal Factor:

Resident Evil has definitely been rejuvenated by the release of Resident Evil 4. Any fans expecting the new ideas that game brought to the series are going to be sorely disappointed with Resident Evil Outbreak File#2.

The online play is one of the most appealing factors, for newness alone, but suffers from many of the same drawbacks the first Outbreak did. While there was potential to be a massively appealing game, Capcom squandered each opportunity through lazy visuals, uncreative delivery, and painfully rehashed gameplay. Nothing new is brought to the table here.

Unless a new, unexplored element of Racoon City and its inhabitants, citizens, Umbrella personnel, and various viral creations, can be discovered and further distinguished, Capcom needs to drop it. Go in a new direction like Resident Evil 4, plan an alternate universe, explore the ramifications in a T-virus infected Saskatchewan. It really doesn’t matter, people will eat up all the new information they can get, Resident Evil has spawned a series of games, books, action figures, and two movies. There is interest, but churning out a game that is essentially a replica of what has become before is hardly a good way to cultivate it.

3.5/10

Miscellaneous:

One of the main complaints in the first Outbreak was ridiculous load times. Players of the first may notice an improvement, but the load times between rooms is still irritating. A heart beat sounds while you stare at the title of the screen wondering whether there would be enough time to go pee and come back before it’s done. Loading scenarios is one thing, but considering the amount of exploring and backtracking in a Resident Evil game, this is nigh on unforgivable.

A lot of the factors I found genuinely enjoyable were present in the first game, a large roster of characters, points for extras, and the possibility of online play. It’s too bad these positive features drown under what is otherwise a rather plain and unremarkable game.

Survival horror is a special sort of genre. It’s more cinematic than other types of games, and there are higher expectations on a variety of levels. The graphics need to be excellent, the player has to believe that blood spatter and cringe at the sight of creepy enemies. The music and sound effects need to reflect heightened senses and a dangerous situation. Most of all, the player should be on the edge of their seat. Couch. You know. They have to feel that horror movie feel, waiting to jump out of your skin. Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 has virtually none of that, killing the game.

2/10

The Ratings:
Story: 3/10
Graphics: 5/10
Sound: 6.5/10
Control/Gameplay: 4/10
Replayability: 7/10
Balance: 6/10
Originality: 1/10
Addictiveness: 3/10
Appeal Factor: 3.5/10
Miscellaneous: 2/10

Overall Score: 41/100
Final Score: 4/10