David Low
11 Nov, 2005

Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 Review

PS2 Review | File this one under 'Evil'.
When the original Resident Evil Outbreak came to PAL territories, there were two problems. Firstly, the game made heavy use of the PS2 hard drive, which as we all know has not been released in Europe or Australia. Playing without the hard drive meant extremely long load times, and when a game loads for ten seconds every time you go through a door, and there are often several doors in quick succession between you and your destination, this can get very annoying. But even more importantly, Capcom decided to remove a feature that was the entire point of the game's creation – online play. What PAL gamers were left with was a painful offline only experience.

Well, Outbreak: File 2 is now out for us in PAL land, and Capcom have addressed these two main issues. For the first time we can play a Resident Evil game online, and the reliance on the hard drive has been removed, making load times far more bearable. But was it worth the wait?

The story and concept of Outbreak: File 2 is the same as the original Outbreak. Set during the viral outbreak in Raccoon City last seen in the main series in Resident Evil 3, it tells the story of eight varied characters' efforts to escape the city. There are five scenarios (one must be unlocked) that you can complete in any order, and you chose a character and two AI controller partner characters (or three human controller partners for online play) and try to escape from the scenario via teamwork. To add replayability, there are a few ways to complete each level, and unockables like characters, costumes and art for good scores on each level. One of the great things about Outbreak: File 2 is that it fleshes out the world of virus infected raccoon City, allowing you to see the effects of the disaster from a number of perspectives. Chapter 4 is especially interesting, since it shows what went down at the R.P.D. Station before either Leon, Claire or Jill got there.

The graphics are niceley done

The graphics are niceley done
The gameplay of Outbreak: File 2 is very similar to classic Resident Evil. You traverse a zombie infested environment, solving puzzles, killing enemies, and managing youy inventory and ammo to progress. The environments are fully 3d, but are shown from semi-fixed camera angles, like Code Veronica. The controls are still based on the old school Resident Evil, up on the d-pad is still always forward, R1 to aim, and only three levels of vertical aiming, but a Devil May Cry esque control method has been mapped to the left analogue stick, where movement is based on the camera position It's good to have both as an option at all times, because in certain situations one works better then the other. But both are severely outdated compared to the third person aiming goodness of Resident Evil 4.

The main difference from classic 'Evil is that because of the game's online focus, there is no real pause function. When you switch to the inventory, files or map screens, the main game continues in real time. To make this work, all sub screens have been made transparent, showing the main action underneath the whole time, and if an enemy attacks, the game instantly reverts to action mode. This lends the game a more realistic sense of survival, since you often have to make decisions quickly, or at least find a safe place before you can rest and heal yourself, but it can be a real problem trying to re-load while under attack. The other differences are the co-operation options. You can only communicate with your partner characters with set phrases mapped to the right stick and triangle button, and some menu options like 'give item' and 'request use'.

The characters are a bit generic, but at least they have good names

The characters are a bit generic, but at least they have good names
After watching the excellent introdution movie, and jumping into a level to check it out, the first thing you'll notice about the game is that despite reverting to the fixed camera angles, Outbreak File 2 looks great. The environments are not very interactive, but they're nicely modeled, and include some great effects like reflections and fake environmental lighting, and the characters are also niceley modeled. It's not up to the standard of Resident Evil Zero's increadible pre-rendered scenery, or Gamecube Resident Evil 4's magnificent geometry, textures and lighting (PALGN's review of the PS2 port is coming soon), but it's still quite nice and full of the details we've come to expect from a Resident Evil game. And it runs well, with a stable framerate (apart from lag in online play) and no notable slowdown. The only real problems are the lack of real lighting on characters, so they're sometimes in-appropriatley well lit for the dark alley you're walking down, and out of date stiff animations, so it looks a lot better in stills or when nothing's happening then in motion. There's a decent variety of environments and enemies, ranging from a T-virus infected zoo to the usual lab and mansion type areas, but this is now the fifth game set in Raccoon City during the outbreak (including two of the light gun spin offs), and it's getting a little old. Sonically it's fine, nothing special, but the repetitive nature of the canned voice commands can get on your nerves.

One for the Resident Evil old-schoolers.

One for the Resident Evil old-schoolers.
After trudging through one of the most tedious, text heavy training missions in gaming history, you're choose a scenario and your characters, and you're off. To begin with, it seems like a great trip down memory lane, and it plays like some shorter, intense bursts of Resident Evil 2 or 3. In a similar way to the The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, Capcom has taken what previously existed as a sprawling, multiple hour epic style of gameplay, and distilled it down to bite sized chunks so it works in short sessions. Unfortunately, unlike Four Swords, Outbreak: File 2 hasn't had the gameplay changed to suit multiple players. There aren't any real co-op tasks, and it's pretty much just Resident Evil with the item carrying slots spread over three or four players. If you're trying to collect coloured gems to open a path, it's extremely frustrating to only have four item slots, but even worse if another AI or human character has got one of the items you need, but has run off and is no-where in sight. It's just not a style of game that's suited to multi-player, and for the offline mode, a character swap ala Resident Evil Zero would have worked much better.

The puzzles are as zany as ever. You may begin to wonder if every person in the whole of Raccoon City leaves cryptic clues on how to unlock their safe, or names every door and key and puts matching symbols on them. It made (some) sense for the crazy Umbrella guys like Wesker and the R.P.D. chief to do do this, as it was all supposed to be an elaborate trap for the STARS team. But for these 'normal' characters? Why would the zoo keeper leave a named key to the lion cage in a safe hidden behind a painting that can only be opened by raccoon medals? What's worse is that you still need to read text files like the janitor's notebook to work out how to solve most puzzles – but the real time action means a zombie dog may be knocking you out of 'read mode' every time you get to page three. These could be seen as keeping series tradition, but in this context, and day and age they should be considered problems. Unfortunately, that's the least of them.

For offline play, the AI of partner characters is almost non-existent, meaning your only real option is to continually hit the 'follow me' button to drag them around with you, hoping they don't get too badly hurt while you take care of pretty much every enemy yourself. Apart from the 'follow me', 'help', and 'take' commands, the AI will pretty much ignore everything you ever say to them. They'll grab the best weapon and waste all the ammo. They run to the healing items and use them all up when they barely need it, even if you're close to death yourself. And it's so difficult to give them a healing item when they actually need it, since it leaves you vulnerable just standing there with your hand out for them, that you'll almost always be getting yourself in trouble just trying to get them out of it.

There are some 'realistic' elements added to the game that create a whole host of problems on their own. The real time inventory screens mean you'll often be in a situation where there are too many enemies for you to do anything without being bumped back to the game screen, even if you're near death and need a herb or a key to escape. There are some 'fragile' doors that can only be opened by force, but they often take literally three minutes of melee attacks or a whole clip of ammo to open!

A rare instance of co-operation when fighting

A rare instance of co-operation when fighting
But worst of all is the communication system. The five or so canned commands would make sense for the single player game if the AI did what you asked all the time, but they don't, so it doesn't. But it actually gets worse in online multi-player, because, almost unbelievably, the canned commands are all you have there too. No voice chat, no keyboard support, no soft keyboard, just ultra basic communications like 'follow me', 'sorry' and 'Kevin!'. With gameplay that involves solving puzzles, the omission of any reasonable communication options is unforgivable. There's a human player over there, there are no enemies around, you've read the memo that says we need to find the three fuses to re-ignite the boiler, but you can't tell him to look for the fuses. All you can do is wave your shotgun around and yell 'help me' 'David' and 'Thank you'. Unless you organize a game with someone you know (not an easy task itself since the lobby is hardly user friendly) and then physically ring them on the phone to talk while playing, this is not a multi-player game. It's just a group of four people fumbling around an awkward single player game at the same time. And even then the network code is patchy – teleporting zombies are a common occurance online.

So how to conclude? Resident Evil Outbreak: File 2 is a decent looking game, and in a lot of ways is a decent effort in bringing the Resident Evil style gameplay to a multi-player environment. It's a different sort of online game to everything else out there, but the lack of voice or even text chat renders the effort the designers have made irrelevant. Offline and online it has it's moments, but when the AI screws up or you really can't solve a puzzle without the help of someone who doesn't understand what you need at all, both can also it's a chore to play. Apparently some Outbreak players in the US have taken to using their Xbox or PC for voice chat while playing, and it makes it quite an enjoyable game. If that's an option for you, and you like the older style Resident Evil gameplay, you may enjoy this game. It has a reasonable amount to offer hardcore Resident Evil fans even in the offline mode, since there are so many ways to complete each mission, it has some good (although small) insights into the game universe, and a huge number of unlockables. But it's hard to recommend the game to anyone else. It's a single player game crippled by multi-player design, or a multi player game crippled by single player design and lack of communication.
The Score
Broken in both single and multi player, Resident Evil Outbreak: File 2 is a barrel full of missed opportunity. This is espescially damning given it's already a sequel of a spin-off. It is best to wait until either Capcom or Sony get their online act together. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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8 years ago
Sounds like little has improved when compared to the original Resident Evil Outbreak instalment.
8 years ago
Welcome to last year.
8 years ago
It came out in September this year dude...
8 years ago
Dam thats late, it came out ages ago everywhere else, dam aus sucks.
8 years ago
i didn't really like the 1st one
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