So damn, does this game want to be Resident Evil. Even the title has been used in a previous game in the series, which is pretty ironic given that it’s Resident Evil Outbreak’s gameplay that Outbreak shares the most similarities with thanks to the extended focus on co-operative survival horror gameplay. A lot of the similarities the games share are great (especially for a Resident Evil fan like myself), but unfortunately a lot of the series’ flaws have come through too.
Outbreak is set in a hospital that has been overrun by flesh-eating zombies. You’re tasked with taking one of four survivors through five stages to find a way out and evade the monstrous threat. It’s got a very ‘been here, done that’ sort of feel to it, but it’s competent at providing an actual premise for the events that are going on in the game.
The tank controls of classic Resident Evil games are present in Outbreak and whilst they’re not entirely awful, it’s certainly not the most appealing control scheme to find in a top down game. They just feel a little awkward and clunky – whilst you will eventually adjust to them over time, they’re certainly a bit of a pain during the game’s more action focused sequences. Capcom ditched this control scheme a long time ago so its appearance here does little to benefit the game but rather acts as an unwelcome reminder of just how awkward Resident Evil could feel to play compared to modern titles.
Fortunately the game does capture the Resident Evil vibe in more positive ways too. General gameplay is oozing with the classic horror feel thanks to the tight corridors and darkened rooms, whilst there’s also a plethora of locked doors that you’ll need to locate keys for to make your way through adding a puzzle like element to the game – something long time players of Capcom’s classic horror series will feel at home with. You’ll also uncover a lot of documents that expand upon the lore of the game too, whilst there are plenty of little nods to find hidden throughout the game that’ll bring a smile to Resident Evil fan’s faces.
For all of its similarities with the classic Resident Evil games, Outbreak has a somewhat different approach to its enemies. Sure, there are a ton of zombies present, but rooms get absolutely swarmed with them from all directions as opposed to a small few that try to isolate you in place. They keep coming too, ensuring you’re kept on your toes from the start of a level right until the very end. In a way it takes away from the ‘survival horror’ element of the game, instead offering a more action focused experience that feels a bit more like Left 4 Dead than anything. I’m used to knowing there are a certain amount of enemies to watch out for with a focus on managing your inventory in a way to work out which ones are worth pursuing. Do you evade an enemy or does it make sense to take them out? These sort of strategic decisions feel less pivotal here when you know a ton of enemies are going to come your way regardless of what you do. By no means is this a flaw, but rather a surprise given the game’s focus on imitating Resident Evil in almost every other facet of design.
That doesn’t mean you still won’t have to manage your resources carefully though. You’ll be flicking through your inventory often with the limited space forcing you to decide what items you need and what you don’t. You’ll have to decide which weapons you carry around, as well as which coloured herbs- sorry, I mean ‘salves’, that you’ll keep for healing. You need to keep on top of all of this – you won’t want your condition to drop, after all…
Managing all of your items can feel a little awkward though. The co-operative element of the game means there’s no pause screen to use as a safe haven to plot things out, so you’re left doing everything in real-time with the constant threat of enemies attacking. It leaves a sense of immediacy in every action you complete in the game, meaning sometimes you’re left rushing as opposed to carefully co-ordinating each action you complete. I suppose it lives up to the game’s ‘survival horror’ billing, but it could be a pain when simply trying to manage your resources.
Thankfully the game does have its own interesting gameplay dynamic in the form of barricades that you’re able to drop to stop an enemy pursuing you for a brief moment of respite. When being chased down by a zombie in a desperate situation it allows you to momentarily halt their pursuit, which is incredibly useful when in one of the constant sticky situations the game throws your way.
One of Outbreaks most important features is its online co-op mode that allows up to four players to play together. The problem is that I’ve yet to find players online at the same time as myself. It’s often common place for an indie title to have a small online community, especially close to launch, but I’ve yet to be able to play an actual co-operative game on Outbreak due to this reason. The worst thing is that I think that playing the game with other players would offer a whole new gameplay experience that’s a lot more enjoyable. There’s fun to be had in the single player mode and Outbreak alone is far from a bad game; I just think that it was designed with a focus on playing with others, meaning playing solo just isn’t as tight and refined an experience.
Outbreak really, really, REALLY wants to be Resident Evil, and in so many ways it manages to capture the vibe of Capcom’s survival horror series albeit from a top down perspective. For all the good points of the series it captures though it also brings over some of its issues too – did we really need tank controls?
Still, there’s a lot to like here and Resident Evil fans will play the game with a smile on their face. Outbreak has a few of its own unique ideas too, so it’s not just a copy and paste job with nothing new going for itself. It’s just a shame I’ve not been able to try out the online play yet because I think it’s going to offer a better experience as a whole.
Fans of Resident Evil should definitely give the game a look, though I’d recommend trying to convince some of your friends to join in on the action too if you want to experience everything the game has to offer. Here’s hoping the online community for the game doesn’t remain dead for too long…
Developer: Dead Drop Studios
Publisher: Dead Drop Studios
Release Date: 17/01/2017