Resident Evil Outbreak PlayStation 2
Developed by Capcom
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99
After a fairly impressive series of remakes on the GameCube and a good light gun game on the PlayStation 2 the Resident Evil series is as popular as ever. If you've read any reviews from the US of Resident Evil Outbreak you'll have been intrigued to find it's a little different from the usual kind of Resident Evil games that we're used to. One of these key differences is the inclusion of an online mode for up to four players. However those of you buying a PAL version of the game will find that the online mode has been cut out and us Europeans will only get to play the single player mode of Resident Evil Outbreak.
Resident Evil Outbreak is actually based around events taking place in Resident Evil 2. As the game begins in J's Bar, Zombies are already terrifying the city. This time however you won't control anyone from S.T.A.R.S. but instead you'll get to control a member of the public. Actually you'll have a choice of eight characters to control. Kevin Ryman, a Police Officer; George Hamilton, a doctor at Raccoon City Hospital; Yoko Suzuki, a student; Mark Wilkins, a Vietnam Veteran; Cindy Lennox, a waitress; David King, a worker; Jim Chapman, a Raccoon City subway agent and Alyssa Ashcroft, a journalist. Whoever you choose you'll get two other (randomly chosen) characters to accompany you. To make things interesting each character has their own special ability. Kevin Ryman is a crack shot who causes maximum damage with guns where as Cindy Lennox has a special ducking action that helps her avoid enemies more easily. This is a novel addition and helps add replay value to the game.
Outbreak, whilst similar in some respects to the previous Resident Evil games, has quite a few differences. As we've just mentioned you get to choose the character with which to play the game and your character will also be accompanied by two other AI controlled characters. The game itself plays out over five different scenarios. These scenarios are more or less isolated and don't really hang together as a continuous story as such. You still have to solve various puzzles, hunt down keys and find the herbs with which to heal yourself. The character control has at last been altered and now feels much more intuitive (which will feel strange if you were a fan of the old control scheme I suppose). It's also worth a mention that the game no longer pauses whilst you take a herb or reload or equip your weapon. Should you be attacked the menus will disappear to allow you to fight back.
The game certainly feels different to other Resident Evil titles and it's unfortunate that the main problems with the game have a lot to do with the changes that have been made. Firstly the AI for your two comrades is very poor. The main idea is that they stand by you and defend you but this only happens occasionally. One of the characters who was my companion disappeared regularly and it was more of a surprise to see him than to not see him. You'll also notice that these companions run around like headless chickens and don't have an ounce of cohesion about them. It's a real disappointment to see the AI is not up to scratch. I suppose the idea was that most would play online where the companions would be human controlled which if done properly would make for a much better experience. As it stands though the AI companions are more hassle than help. It's also rather annoying being able to be attacked when looking at your inventory. This is made even more annoying by the fact that the zombies, when killed disappear and then later re-emerge to attack again.
Graphically Resident Evil looks OK and the cutscenes in particular are on a par with those in the GameCube Resident Evil remakes. What lets the visual appearance down though is the camera angles and the animation of the characters which still isn't up to today's standards. Moving around isn't as smooth as it should be as the camera angles are as inflexible as they have always been in games of this nature with their position changing whenever you move to a certain position in a room. Moving from room to room means loading times and unlike the GameCube Resident Evil games, which were quite quick in loading up rooms, Resident Evil Outbreak has long load times which really break up the action and give the game a staccato like feel which does a lot to harm the suspense that's meant to exist. When compared with other games such as the magnificent Onimusha series, which proves the PlayStation 2 can do so much more, the game lacks polish.
Previous Resident Evil games have had the misfortune of not being subtitled and I was prepared for the worst when I found that there was no subtitle option before playing the game. However most of the dialogue in the cutscenes and the main game are subtitled. I say most because not all the speech has been subtitled. Whilst this is a little disappointing it's still a big improvement on previous Resident Evil games. The information on the characters that you can choose from is shown in text too as are the help messages that you come across when you first start playing a game.
PlayStation 2 owners will no doubt be delighted to see the Resident Evil series back on their console but it's a shame it's not up to the quality of the earlier games in the series. The main problem is that essentially we have a game that has been designed for online play that has had it's online component taken out. In it's place lies a rather basic single player experience that at times can be infuriating because you have to suffer the poor AI of the companions who are there to supposedly help you. If you can forgive the insufficient companion AI and all the other problems you might just find a lukewarm experience here but for a series that defined the survival-horror genre this is a big disappointment and certainly not a Resident Evil game that will live long in the memory.
Game Rating: 6.0/10
Resident Evil Outbreak has obviously been built from the ground up as an online game. Without the online play the single-player game feels weak and suffers from lacklustre companion AI.
Subtitles are there at long last but it's just a shame that the game wasn't a more enjoyable experience.