Resident Evil: Outbreak

I love zombies. The undead in their various and sundry forms are all quite compelling — vampires, mummies, etc, but none more so than a freshly risen corpse with a hunger for warm flesh. I think every game could use them. Can you imagine how much more cool some of the classics would be with an infusion of zombies?

Donkey Kong– 3 words: Giant. Zombie. Monkey.

Grand Theft Auto: Transylvania — “Oh yeah? Eat $%^# you undead motherf**&^r!”

Super Mario Brothers — “Thank you, Mario, but our Princess is ? Oh God! Oh no! What is it? It’s eating me! Sweet mother of mercy!! The pain!!”

I urge you to come up with your own. Post them in the forums. It will be fun.

With my undying love (I couldn’t resist) for the undead, one would think that Resident Evil: Outbreak was custom tailored for me. Despite going live and bringing multiplayer to this venerable series, it made my PS2 feel like rigor mortis had set in.

The entire experience is frustratingly episodic, without the tangle of mysterious plotlines so popular in its predecessors. There are a total of 5 levels, all of them only marginally related. They’re barely even cohesive as a whole and are forced into the standard Resident Evil play-style. You and your group must solve simple puzzles while under siege by the undead. Unfortunately, nothing new is added to the trite key-hunt formula exploited by the series for the better part of a decade.

That said, it does harness the feel of the series and appends it with a few interesting, if minor, flourishes. Assisting teammates who are nearly devoured by the mindless hoards is exhilarating. As is a staple in horror movies in general, there are 8 stereotypical characters for each of the four players to choose from, each with their own unique ability to contribute. One has a lock picking ability. Another has medical training. Yet another has a backpack capable of storing more than usual. As is always a treat in movies featuring the living dead, those fallen comrades will rise with a hunger for your own skin. You won’t find that in Counterstrike, although that idea begs for realization. Counterstrike: the Living Dead Edition. But I digress. . .

Without the PS2’s new hard drive, don’t bother even attempting to play Outbreak. Take the worst load times you’ve ever experienced: Sin, for instance, or maybe the original Legacy of Kain. Multiply those load times by an order of magnitude. Then play Resident Evil 0 through Code Veronica. By this time, Outbreak might have finished loading the next screen. Hyperbole aside, it’s that bad, crippling what is otherwise a very promising game. The load times were so dreadfully long I began to question if my trusty console was finally shuffling off its mortal coil.

On the upside, the controls, legendary in their awkwardness, are different. The bane of every game in the series is now resolved. Ding dong the witch is dead! The clumsy move forward by pressing up schematic is replaced with a more comfortable, standard analogue control.

The real-time generated environment allows for this renovation in controls. Many minute details that bring a dash of verisimilitude to previously cardboard world. It’s much more immersive and the animations for the characters are quite fluid. When it comes to cutscenes, Outbreak continues the tradition of giving zombie cinema a run for its money. Some are staggeringly good in their depiction of the horror.

The audio portion of the game has its high and low points. Familiar sound effects are there as well as predictably wooden voice-acting. A subtle soundtrack that runs just below the surface of the game adds tension to already nerve-wracking moments. Many would argue that the lack of voice communication is the games biggest drawback in the audio department. I for one was looking forward to cutting loose with bloodcurdling screams as the flesh-eaters pulled me apart. Now, I scream and no one but the neighbors hear me.

Once finished with a few run-throughs of the game, there is very little reason to revisit it. Unless you want to try it with each of the characters, there’s little more variety to be had. Even completing the game with each of the 8 won’t take long. There are many un-lockable Easter eggs, such as bizarre secondary costumes, but not enough to make most players stick around to unearth them. Without Capcom providing a steady stream of downloadable episodes, all but the most diehard RE fans will shelve this one before too long.

As a whole, it isn’t a bad game, but the squandered potential holds it back. Unlike what many expected when the game was announced, it just isn’t apocalyptic. The vast scope of an undead Armageddon is where many players rightfully expected this title to take the series. After the somewhat personal horrors of the previous entries, the only logical step is to expand the story into a cataclysmic epic. Hopefully, Capcom will continue trying to bring fans a bigger, more terrifying multiplayer Raccoon City . In the meantime, ?File #2′ is right around the corner, as well as Resident Evil 4.

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