Resident Evil Outbreak: first play, movie!
4th Sep 2003 | 14:21
While GameCube fans have been inundated with Resident Evil goodness, the PS2 has thus far been devoid of zombie-thwarting thrills - hardly fair, when you realise that the series debuted and established itself on the original PlayStation.
Thankfully, PS2 players will eventually be able to play a new Resident Evil game, even if not in perhaps the way it's creators originally intended.
Chances are you're already aware of the whole online-offline debacle, but we'll leave that aside for the time being. We managed to play Resident Evil Outbreak last week on a LAN-style network - so what's it like?
It's like Resident Evil. Amazingly so. Back when we first heard about the concept, our initial reaction was "cool... but how the hell is it going to work?" Not to put to fine a point on it, the whole Resi Evil gameplay dynamic just didn't seem suited to online play.
We assumed the developer would take the title in a markedly different direction, and as more info about the game spilled out, so we became more excited - it did sound different. However on the strength of what we've played so far, this is going to be immediately familiar to anybody who's ever had any dealings with the nefarious Umbrella corporation...
On beginning a game you're confronted with a character selection screen that lists various bits of info about the characters as well as a suitably moody portrait of the characters- one of the guys is the dead spit of Tom Cruise.
Each character has various strenghts and weakness in an RPG-lite kind of way - because David is a plumber for instance, he's got the knowhow to combine several different objects, while George's abilities as a doctor allow him to mix herbs in a skillful fashion (presumably strictly for medicinal purposes).
Make your selection and you can watch some immaculately rendered CGI sequences of you and your fellow characters sat in a bar in Raccoon City. It's a typically visually impressive intro that falls down, as usual, when it comes to dialogue. "What a strange customer!" notes one observent drinker as an obviously terrifying, rotting zombie shambles into the bar in search of fresh flesh.
Once the story-establishing cut-scene has been got out of the way though, gameplay is immediately very typical, with the same unsettling camera angles, the same equip gun, take item, 'R1' to aim gun gameplay dynamic, even the same collect items to progress gameplay.
To begin with, and perhaps a little understandably, gameplay was confusing rather than intimidating - the constantly changing angles of the game may be deliberately disorientating, but with a zombie attack in full flow and a bunch of co-players on screen as well as undead guys, it was tricky to keep track of what was going on.
Pretty much every staple from previous games was included - herbs to heal you, strange items whose purpose would doubtless become clear as you journeyed further into the level, and of course weapons.
One difference is that this game seemed more concerned with the need to take out your enemies rather than strategically conserving ammo; it will be interesting to see if the developer intends to make this more of a splatter-fest than previous Resi games.
We also happened upon a key during our travels, which raised questions about how other players would progress, when just one player had the key.
The answer was that you could kick down doors - it took longer and left you vulnerable to attack, but it was a way around the problem - and also, conversely, made the hassle of searching for such items seem a little redundant when there was an obvious alternative.
Cut-scenes would be triggered by one player and would appear on each players' screen; it seemed slightly clumsy when we were greeted with "meanwhile", but then again there doesn't seem to be a way around this, short of removing cut-scenes altogether.
On the plus side, the visuals were as outstanding as ever - Resident Evil aficionados will probably just be happy to have a version of the zombie-fest on PS2.
There were some cool additions to the gameplay. Take too much damage and you'll be reduced to dragging yourself around the floor in an attempt to escape your attackers. Should a zombie embrace you for a quick munch, you can throw him off and then shoot him right in his stupid zombie face all in the same move, which was a very nifty touch.
Oh, and watch your zombie gauge in the corner - once it reaches 100 percent, you'll become a zombie, at which point you can play for approximately two minutes, using your time to savage your former playmates.
Our true feelings are that, at the moment, Capcom seems to have shoehorned an online experience onto a game that isn't particularly suited to online play. It's a great sounding idea, but the reality was a little clunky.
Of course, this wasn't the finished version - at one stage we ran straight through a zombie - and there are definitely ideas in the game that are very cool, not least the option to play as a zombie. But we can't help but feel that the title needs a lot more work if it's going to convince people to try to play online. A problem which may not apply to European gamers in any case.
Resident Evil Outbreak movie (PS2)