Resident Evil Outbreak - PS2 - Review
Anyone out there see the recent movie Dawn of the Dead? As I sat in the movie theatre I actually remember thinking how cool an online multiplayer game would be if it involved a city full of zombies coming after a group of harried survivors. Then my thoughts shifted to the new Resident Evil game which I had begged to get for review. Would it be as cool as I had imagined? Would there be a real feel for teamwork as puzzles may require multiple people to complete? Would there be voice chat?
Good questions all really, as you would imagine the potential for some very intriguing game play could be par for the course. So then what was the game really like?
Years ago I had a lengthy discussion with several other hard core gamers and developers about which titles had the legs to continue to pump out new and exciting sequels that not only one-upped the previous title but continued to reinvent itself in both style and substance. Well as much as I love the Resident Evil titles I just couldn't see the series making it to a fifth title. Boy was I ever wrong, not only is the series waaaaayyy past five titles, but it seems to be going as strong as ever.
Starting in a bar, the game's timeframe takes place as other events are happening in the other games. The T-virus has been unleashed on the population and only a select few have managed to not become infected, yet. Drinking to unwind you are totally unaware of the events unfolding around you until the bartender goes to help what appears to be an ill customer who just stumbled in from the outside. The bartender is bitten savagely and an evening of drinking takes a sudden hard right turn, are those people outside drooling?
The game's first stumble is a fairly unimpressive load out screen where you can select which player you want to play as, and in case you did not know, you can play both offline in a single player game or online which the game is really based around. The load out screen is as about as inspired looking or clever as your average DOS game (remember DOS? Didn't think so.) it's no where near as cool looking as a next generation system should look like. Yeah, I realize it's the load out screen but man does it look bad. So then you can select from the limited characters each with it's own specialty, a couple of characters start out with guns, one starts out with a tool kit which is used for repairing items, one character has a backpack so as to carry more items (you get the point). All of the character's essentially control the same way with in terms of movement and combat, so the only real difference is what "special" items the character's start with, and just so you understand, these items can be very, very important. Something of note, as I was playing as David, the plumber, I picked up a broom and was using it as a weapon and the darn thing broke, but I kept hitting the zombie that was there and it briefly became a spear, so I kept hitting it and the spear kept breaking and getting shorter until finally I threw this little seven inch knub at it. I know this may sound silly, but this was actually very cool since it introduced a new aspect of the game, in this new Resident Evil game, items are no longer eternal, there are consequences now, to your actions. Plus the whole scenario just seemed so real with how the broom broke and my character seemed to get more desperate as his weapon was becoming nothing more then a twig.
Controls have always been a sore subject with gamers in the series, one of my good friends would honestly love the series, but just could never get over the fixed camera angles and directional controls. Well, the game finally has the analog stick become a useful member of the controls. I personally never had a problem with the controls and if anything, trying to re-learn the game's control scheme did not appeal to me, it did however answer my friend's beef with the controls and I can happily say that he has now played the game more then three hours in one sitting (an eternity for some). As in some of the more recent R.E. games, the characters have been able to execute some sort of special move in order to avoid an attack or permanently stop a baddie. Well Outbreak continues in the tradition with all players having some sort of "move" that can be used in one scenario or another. One character has a kick that can be distributed liberally in order to knock zombies down, one can tackle and even one character can play dead in order to avoid becoming one of the undead... did I say undead? Yes I did. In Outbreak, players have a virus gauge constantly racking up as the dreaded T-virus (the virus that turns people into zombies). It seems that if the gauge reaches 100% or a player has been abused a bit too much by the critters in the game, they will turn into a zombie themselves and for a brief time, you actually control your new zombie self and can (if you like) go after your fellow players. A novel idea and something to add a new dimension to the game.
Veteran players of the series will find lots of familiar territory here. The game still has herbs (red, green, purple), first aid spray, knives, handguns of varying power and besides countless weapons it still has the paint by number puzzles. Nothing new or brain challenging that I found, but where the simple puzzles don't deliver, the feeling of having just avoided the proverbial train wreck does, let me explain. You and the other three people you are playing online with find yourself in a situation where running simply isn't an option. Ammo is sparse but everyone goes back to back with one another in order to fend off the oncoming horde. You begin firing away with your handgun while others begin attacking with knives and pipes. You drop two zombies before they get hold of you as one of your team begins beating him with a pipe in order to help you out. You repay your teammate by switching to a nail gun and put another zombie to better use as drywall. Your other two teammates have been working together as one of them knocks zombies down by pushing them and the other sits there and slices anything laying in front of her. The whole scene takes just over two minutes but the panic fueled situation has left you drained health wise. A member of your team walks over and gives you a health spray. You all lived and are none to worse for wear. Good teamwork and skilled players prevailed and you all continue on your journey to escape Raccoon city. It's an honest-to-goodness situation that unless you align yourself with people who want ALL to survive, will be its own reward. This is what the game is about. Problem is...
The problem is that already there are lots of people playing online who have already beaten the game and either have no patience for a rookie player, or think they are too good to have to help out others, or want to run through the whole game without letting others explore or complete the tasks, or any other number of problems that the human element brings to the game. I sat and watched the chat room for about twenty minutes the other day, and read some of the posts going back and forth. The dominate subject that I saw that night was how certain veteran players want to play the game through to the end, but only want to do so with other veteran players. To me, if I beat the game (I have not yet) and chose to play it through again, I think I would want to play with people who had not beat the game but had a good understanding of how to play. Only because the challenge would be to see if I could help everyone survive, and that it would be fun to watch others try and figure things out on their own. But hey that's me and I'm one of those kind of guys that likes to play fair.
If I had one real legitimate beef with the game, it would be the fact that Capcom chose to not include the ability to actually communicate with my fellow players. If ever a game begged for the communication headset to be part of the action, then this is it. I can only imagine the tension level being ratcheted up as one of my fellow survivors is yelling for help as he went off to explore some offices in the police station (the one from R.E. 2 and 3) and I'm desperately trying to get there in order to try and save him... but not today because Capcom apparently thought the game would be better without it.
As an added bonus I will give you my top 5 best zombie movies (I was a video answer man at one point in my life):
1. Dead Alive http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103873/
2. Re-animator http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089885/
3. Evil Dead II http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092991/
4. Night of the Living Dead (original 1968 version) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063350/
5. Dead and Buried http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082242/
|Resident Evil Outbreak Review Scoring Details|
Apparently, if you buy the hard drive and play with others who have the hard drive the game's load times are drastically cut down and to be honest with you, they do become tedious. The controls were fine for me, and the introduction of the analog stick should make others happy. What I didn't care for though, is the way the game syncs up when players are in different rooms and trying to walk through doors. Slapping zombies around with a pipe will never get old to me.
The game still pretty much looks the same as some of it's earlier titles and nowhere near as good as the two Gamecube titles, but it gets the job done. The loadout screen is pretty much atrocious but I can forgive it. If anything Capcom, must be letting veteran players start with some familiarity in terms of look and functionality.
OK, I can't say anything about the bad voice over work that hasn't already been said. It's pretty much a given now. Where these titles really work is the subtle use of sound effects. The shuffle of someone coming down the hallway you can't see, the sudden glass shattering of a zombie trying to get you through a window. The almost hypnotic, soft music that plays as you walk around.
If you team up with people who know how to dole out 9mm justice then the game may not seem all that difficult. Likewise if you play with a cowboy who shoots at anything that moves, then it's gonna be a long night. The mental side of the game isn't all that difficult but sometimes the strategic parts might be a bit hairy.
I said it at the top, we need more multiplayer titles that involve zombies. I am almost thinking this title's release is more then a coincidence with the new Dawn of the Dead movie. The mere fact that you play to survive as a group adds a whole new dimension to the survivor horror genre. In fact I think this is what the series needed to kick it in the pants.
I had to really rethink my scoring on this one. The game has so much going for it that is right, but has a couple real things that are wrong too, the missing communication headset, the load times to sync up players. Rogue players out there who are not embracing what Capcom wanted this game to be and instead are making life difficult for others. Now I know that's a fact of online gaming, but still, don't invite someone to your room to try and play the game and then pull a 180 degree and play to infuriate the other players. Word of advice for players picking this title up. Practice on the single player game first. It will help you tremendously.
It's the biggest leap in the series so far. Breaking the mold of the survival horror genre and making a spry title to boot. I wouldn't run out and buy the Hard drive for this one alone but if you plan on playing to find every little thing the game has hidden and unlocking all characters, you might consider it. Ultimately, eight characters to play, five scenarios to try and beat and an experience that is at this point one of a kind. Not one for the kids as my nine year old nephew had some bad dreams after I reluctantly let him watch me play late one night.