For years fans were looking forward to an online Resident Evil, and when it rolled around many were disappointed by Outbreak. The single player was a simple set of five missions that, for the most part, required little to no real cooperation in. There was also the lack of solid communication, the limited weapon set and other complaints. Because of the general unrest over the many little problems present, Capcom put Outbreak File #2 into development weeks after the original?s release. While some of the finer details have been improved upon, the core remains flawed but fun.
Like the original, there is no real plot. Outbreak File #2 uses the same cast of eight ordinary Raccoon City citizens found in Outbreak 1. There are only four disjointed missions (and a tutorial), with no real connection between them. Characters still remain mostly undeveloped, having no established relationships with each other or any past Resident evil characters. On top of that, the normal RE cast, like Chris, Jill, and Wesker, are omitted except for a brief cameo by a couple of old favorites (which is more disappointing when the list of unlockables is considered). Lastly, like the previous game, there is nothing that connects any of the events to the series? overall story, except for the inclusion of an obscure character in the final mission, which is once again disappointing.
The character setup remains virtually unchanged. The only real overhaul is that now, on top of their standard personal item, each comes with an additional ?extra? item, also automatically equipped before each mission. Generally, the extra item compliments the character?s personal item. For example, in addition to Kevin?s exclusive-to-him .45 auto pistol, he also has a seven-bullet clip for easy reloading, while Cindy has bandages that can stop the bleeding of herself and allies which goes along nicely with her Herb Case and makes her especially handy as a healer. Very regrettably, there aren?t any new characters. The role of ordinary citizens is emphasized, so Capcom simply dropped the ball by limiting the cast to eight characters (the unlockable characters look different, but use a main character?s item and special abilities). To the game’s credit though, The characters have unique personalities built into their AI, which is interesting, realistic, and adds to the single player game — though it can be annoying when people run off on their own, or ignore calls for help.
The main improvement over the previous installment is the level design. While there are only four, each is broad and expansive, and numerous starting points make for a less repetitive experience on the non-linear levels. While this adds to the multiplayer by necessitating real cooperation and enhances the single player by cutting back on repetition, it ends up leading to the two greatest problems. The single player mode, though still entertaining and full of unlockables, is diminished by the mediocre AI. Simply put, there are situations requiring teamwork and the game-controlled characters just aren?t up to the task. The second major issue is in the multiplayer. Like the original, there’s no real way to communicate with teammates; no headset, no keyboard, just a poorly done, slapped together set of ten general commands which don?t get the job done. Now that the levels are more elaborate, this really holds things back. While these flaws keep Outbreak 2’s online play from being held at SOCOM or Splinter Cell quality, the multiplayer is still incredibly fun and allows for dozens of hours of cooperative zombie slaying.
Outbreak 2 does look great. The number of enemies has been increased compared to the previous installment, and all of them are highly detailed and usually very gross. The characters are still all nicely detailed and look realistic. The sound leaves things to be desired, though. While the sound effects create an eerie effect and the music is nicely orchestrated, the voice acting isn?t particularly great. Each of the preset commands have two or three statements that go with them, so the things your allies say can occasionally get annoying. Also, the unlockable characters aren?t well voice acted, since most of them are voiced by only four or five people. Still, the music and sound add enough to the gameplay to make the game more than palatable.
While Outbreak File #2 is still a good game, it’s indisputable that it could have been better. The new levels are all simply great and have some genuinely scary moments (thankfully, since the original was never scary). However, nothing much else has been improved. Whether or not this is a must-have depends on the player. Resident Evil fans will wet their pants over the new levels and loads of great unlockables available. People who want a decent co-op shooter on the PS2 may want to rent before buying, just to confirm whether it?s enjoyable enough. For single players, well, this is only a rental — at best. As a whole, Outbreak 2 is imperfect but offers a solid co-op experience for broadband-owning, network adapted PS2 gamers. If you aren?t a fan of the series, or can?t do broadband-only online games, be wary of shilling out for this one.