Resident Evil, in the beginning, stuck to many staple gameplay mechanics like tank controls and it’s unique puzzles and inventory management.
These are the staples that made the PS1 RE games so good (except Survivor). With the change to the PS2, they did some new things. Code Veronica exchanged the pre-rendered backgrounds for actual environments, and RE4 change it completely to an over the shoulder perspective. Outbreak was a transition game in this time.
Let’s explore some of the best parts of Outbreak…
Resident Evil is full of awesome characters, from Leon to Jill to Carlos and Hunk. RE has a memorable cast that has so much personality. Outbreak broke away from the idea of having a couple of main characters to having 8 playable main characters and numerous supporting characters you can substitute in their place. You can play eight characters in every scenario and have small interactions with each other, and unique character specific actions in each game. Each had a unique item that was based on the characters personality or profession, Kevin had a .45 and David had a toolbox. The characters were great because they ditched the over-optimistic heroism of people like Leon for a more human character like the failed S.T.A.R.S officer Kevin. Kevin drank at bars in uniform ( a big no-no) and was less motivated than other officers around him. Each character had their own flavour and made Outbreak a way better experience. The 4 person squad almost felt like a Dungeons and Dragons party at times with their interactions.
Outbreak had you playing in 5 different scenarios that had wildly different locations. This was nice because you didn’t see the transition the characters took going to the different places. It allowed you to switch who you wanted to play as in each one. Each area felt like a full game in its own right, having puzzles and unique enemies really brought each one to life. Also being able to see familiar places from the Ps1 RE games in full 3D was amazing. It brought a level of nostalgia to the game. Having scenarios require certain characters to do things was also a great touch. Nothing that was essential, but being rewarded for having David with you when picking up a broken gun and him being able to repair it was such a memorable moment for me.
Inventory and the Infection
Bringing up the inventory screen in older RE games meant a bit of relief from the monsters hunting you. You could take your time and prepare for the next section. In Outbreak, this wasn’t allowed. Outbreak is meant to be played online with 3 friends, and because of this, you can’t pause the game. This means switching weapons or healing had to be done quickly or only when out of danger. The first time I played it, this stressed me out way more than anything else. Zombies could follow you through rooms and having to pull up my inventory to heal when a zombie is breaking the door down still haunts me. Another addition made due to its online focus was your infection meter. This was a visible measure of the infection growing inside of you. You could slow or stop it for a little while but it would always start back up. Making you beat the scenarios quickly helped keep stress down on the servers. Unfortunately, this made my stress levels rise. Having to keep track of your infection while trying to survive was a nightmare. It made the game feel so real and made it have an extra level of horror. Knowing that no matter what you did you would become one of those shambling corpses.
Raccoon City was always one of my favourite places in any game. The setting is what made RE2 and 3 such good games. We see a little in the opening cutscene of 3 how the residents of Raccoon City fared against the infection. In Outbreak, you got to see the struggle and desperation of the civilians and the local police. It felt very real how they were trying to survive and the struggles people faced in the first hours of the infection. This really added a new level to the extended RE universe. Being able to see this from an average person made it feel more like something that could actually happen.
RE Outbreak is my favourite RE spin-off title. It gave a new depth to RE and paved way for online 4 person games like Left 4 Dead. I really hope Capcom will remake this in the RE Engine and bring back the 4 player co-op. Playing through this on current consoles would be a blast, especially on the new RE Engine. Let me know in the comments below if you think they should remake Outbreak or not. This could bring so many more people into the Resident Evil community and create a thriving presence for Resident Evil.