Resident Evil: Outbreak – A game ahead of its time

In light of Resident Evil: Outbreak‘s online component recently getting new life by fans (I’ve been following progress on this from various people literally for years), I thought I’d post some of my memories of the game, which I enjoyed quite a lot despite its flaws.

In fact, Outbreak is up there in my list of favorite games of all time. Not because it’s one of the best games, which it’s far from, but because it excels at offering varied experiences with delightfully intense situations, something few other games can attest to, in my opinion. Basically, after I play Outbreak, other survival games feel incomplete.

I find Outbreak fascinating, because it was such a good idea. There was so much potential, and I think poor infrastructure choices were the primary factor that led to disappointing sales. The lack of voice chat, long load times, clunky servers, and the frustrating infection gauge/ timer/ thing were just a few annoyances, and there were other issues such as the European version not having an online component at all due to problems securing service providers in the region.

Outbreak was ahead of its time, trying to create an online experience with limited network technology, and I honestly believe it would sell better today. We’re living in the age of player-driven stories, with games like DayZ and Minecraft at the forefront. Although Outbreak has a linear story, the experiences it provides are so diverse. No two playthroughs of a scenario are the same, and it’s one of those games that you can play over and over and still enjoy. You can complete a scenario and want to do it again just to feel that rush again of being nearly dead, running out of bullets and dragging yourself to the end. We play games because we love that rush of adrenaline, when the survival instincts kick in, and this is exactly why DayZ is so popular. Every player will have a different experience each time they play, as well as a different experience from other players, and these experiences almost always involve intense situations. Outbreak delivers a similar package, but for a number of reasons, didn’t sell well at the time. I believe it’s time Capcom tried again. One more time, with feeling.

If you want to read more about what makes Outbreak so great, check out this memoir of Outbreak by a user on Reddit. It explains more about the gameplay, too, if you’re not familiar with it.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a story from my very short time playing the series online:

Back when the servers were active, I actually didn’t have DSL yet. My parents were still on dial-up, so the only time I could play online was when we went to my grandma’s house. We went most Saturdays for a few years while I was in high school, and I would bring my Xbox and PS2, and eventually 360, along with every online game I owned. Among these were Outbreak and Outbreak File #2.

The only scenario that ever had players in it was the last and biggest one in File #2, “End of the Road.” I had only played this one once with bots and it took me over 2 hours to complete, compared to the 30-45 minutes of the others. I joined a session with 3 other players, and picked David, the plumber. I don’t remember the other characters except for Yoko, the student who could carry extra items in her backpack.

The reason I remember Yoko is because she was involved in one of the only parts of the scenario I remember. I think one person had already died, and the three of us remaining were kind of just running around in circles trying to figure out where to go next. Or so I thought. Turns out, I had picked up a key item we needed to solve a puzzle, but I had no idea how to use it, or that it was even a key item. But Yoko knew exactly what I had and what to do with it, and was trying to get my attention through the limited dialogue system offered by the game:

“David. David. David. David. David. David.” She says as she runs circles around me.

Of course, I just thought she was being annoying. I tried responding with the ad-lib button, but David just kept complaining, “I need a gun!”

I think I finally figured out where to use the item after my two teammates mashed themselves against the spot the thing needed to go and just sat there, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t matter, because I never completed any of the online games of Outbreak I played. I don’t think I ever got to play as a zombie, either, strangely enough.

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~ by The Retro Gamer on January 17, 2014.

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