Developed by Dead Drop Studios LLC
Available on PC through Steam
Rated T for Teen
Here’s a fun experiment: show of hands, who remembers Resident Evil Outbreak? For all seven of you that do, kudos. For the rest of you, Resident Evil Outbreak is the often forgotten original multiplayer Resident Evil game. Four years before Left 4 Dead popularized co-op survival horror and five years before Resident Evil 5 brought multiplayer into the main franchise, Resident Evil Outbreak had four players coming together to murder zombies across five different levels. Oh, and it was a PS2 exclusive. Because when you think multiplayer, you think of the PS2 network adapter.
Despite the questionable platform exclusivity, there was a considerable fan following for Resident Evil Outbreak. Enough to garner a sequel even, File #2. Which is hilarious, because not even Capcom thought this game would do well. It’s budget was cut so hard and release delayed so far, that the second game was actually mostly just levels cut from the first. Well I guess buy one, get one free is a nice way to develop games as well.
It’s been 11 years since the last Resident Evil Outbreak release, so it’s pretty fair to say that the series is dead. It’s sad, but not unexpected. Resident Evil has long since moved away from tank controls and fixed cameras. Though ahead of its time in many ways, REO was unfortunately rooted in mechanics that would spell its doom. It came right before Resident Evil 4 was hotter than Natalie Dormer covered in magma, and the next 10 years of survival horror were locked into replicating that. The most recent multiplayer Resident Evil game was Umbrella Corps, to which the kindest thing to do is quietly pretend it never happened.
I’m mentioning all of this because Outbreak is a spiritual successor to Resident Evil: Outbreak. It would be pointless reviewing the mechanics and gameplay without this background. This is a game meant to appeal to a very specific crowd. There are horror fans that long for the old school days of survival horror. Those that long for the year and a half when REO brought that online is a much smaller subsection.
Let me be clear when I say that Outbreak is definitively old school. The perspective is constrained by the top down view, but everything else is classic Resident Evil. Tank controls are back, meaning you can only move forward and backward without slowly turning. Inventory slots are limited to four, meaning working together is imperative to reaching the end. If this sounds like the kind of game that you’ve been waiting years for but no one has bothered to make, then Outbreak might just be for you.
There are a few other things that you should keep in mind before buying in. First off, the game is basically unplayable without a group of friends. There’s too much complexity to the item trading and working together that if you don’t have voice chat it all becomes too cumbersome. That’s assuming you could find a group of random people available to play with anyway. At time of review, I found exactly zero live sessions during regular daytime hours.
Which is a very bad thing considering that the game is almost impossible to play single player. Due to the four item limit, you can carry a gun, ammo, and healing item with just one slot left for keys. It’s not impossible, but close to it. Given that a lot of the best items are found through exploration, this limitation removes a huge part of what makes the game enjoyable. If you have a group to play with, I’m sure the experience is far more fun. As a solo experience, it’s a chore.
Even if you have a group, I’m not sure that this is the game that you want to play. The objective of every map is to get to a landing zone, while infinitely spawning zombies assail you from all sides. It’s a very Left 4 Dead style without the same fluidity of gameplay. Outbreak’s controls feel like they’re actively trying to shit in your cornflakes. I get tank controls, but by god does this game feel like ass. It recommends you play with an Xbox controller, but even then it feels like you’re trying to teach a brick to figure skate. Scouring rooms for secrets and items, aiming at zombies, and even running through hallways is a constant struggle against the mechanics to squeeze some fun out of the experience.
I feel bad shitting on the little guy. This is clearly an indie dev with no funding just trying to revive their favorite unique gaming experience. There’s absolutely nothing cynical about this game, no market they are trying to exploit for a quick dime. This is a game that the devs made because they wished that more games like this existed. For that alone am I giving this some leeway.
I want to say that my experience was just skewed due to playing alone, but that would be lying. Playing with friends, I struggled to keep the group interested long enough to finish a single level. Maybe this would be remedied if they made a solid solo mode with an expanded inventory and set spawns. At the price of $15, I can’t recommend Outbreak. If you are absolutely dying to relive Resident Evil Outbreak, I guess this game might work. It won’t introduce anyone new to this style of gameplay, and it probably won’t even satisfy diehard fans.