Gamestyle Archive Intro: once the online gates were opened titles appeared eager to take advantage of this new avenue. Ultimately these rookies were trial and error with some interesting results including this Resident Evil adventure. The review dates from August 2005 and from Jason.
While Resident Evil Outbreak: File #2 represents the second instalment in the series, for PAL gamers it is the first opportunity to go online. The first European release was stripped of its online functions, and this unquestionably detracted from its appeal – thankfully, Capcom have put things right with the sequel and included online compatibility that’s not dissimilar to its Monster Hunter experience; of course this means navigating menus and options before going online, but given the alternative, this is something that Gamestyle can live with.
Once again you find yourself in Raccoon City, desperately trying to escape the havok caused by the T-virus outbreak. The attraction of this breakaway series is that the story is demoted in favour of various scenarios that you must overcome to escape the city limits. For instance, you may choose to venture into the Raccoon City Zoo (in the hope of being rescued by helicopter or using the underground transport network). Certainly, the city environs have been used to good effect, and Capcom have pieced together an imaginative choice of locations to terrorise fans of the series. The online experience doesn’t deviate too much from the successful recipe created by SEGA’s Phantasy Star Online: teamwork, communication and item management are the key to good gameplay. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line the formula has been diluted and served up with remarkable ineffectiveness. Whilst zombies are typically slow-moving and predictable, the pace has been livened up with some more unusual creatures. However, there is little character exposition or biographical information provided for the eight characters on offer: each has their own unique talent (strong melee, lock-picking etc.) and each carries their own signature item (which may or may not prove useful).
It is disappointing that Capcom have failed to introduce any new characters to Resident Evil Outbreak: File #2, as those featured were all in the first game. They have also tried to invigorate the narrative by placing files and documents around each area – but these lack the intimacy of the transcripts found in Doom 3, for example, and can easily be ignored. The lack of voice communication is a shame, given that the online portion relies heavily on teamwork and communication. At times the action can erupt quickly, and the last thing that any player wants to do is type messages (using a USB keyboard or the cumbersome virtual keyboard). Capcom have utilised the right analogue stick to allow helpful commands – such as ‘follow me’ or ‘help’ – to be uttered instantly; it’s a patchwork solution to a problem easily remedied by the SOCOM headset (as supported by other games). Resident Evil just wouldn’t be the same without the infuriating control system, and File #2 is just as inflexible as those that have come before: imagine the aforementioned difficulties of communication, but merged with one of the most despised control systems of modern times – it’s far from an ideal combination, and with noticeable load times and lag during expeditions, Resident Evil Outbreak: File #2 is not the slick and intuitive experience Gamestyle had hoped for.
Another major fault with the series is fixed camera angles: these online environments are expansive and contain dangers that often linger off screen until you stumble straight into their welcoming arms. Many camera angles are employed simply to show off the environment and hardly of benefit to players. Games such as PSO were spread across sizeable levels, but used natural or artificial barriers to allow you to follow, assist and defend teammates with ease; this benefit is lost as teams of four can run off in all directions – only coming together when the game calls for teamwork. And it’s these moments when you have to push an obstacle or open a door (in unison) that the only glimmer of satisfaction appears. There are some good ideas within the game, such as being able to swim during certain stages, but these asides are never exploited – they simply exist to get the player to the next point, and for no other reason.
The ‘virus infection’ meter shows how badly you are infected, and if the virus begins to spread the inevitable occurs. It’s a nice touch that is complimented by the on-screen quirks of your character (who slowly begins to lose pace before sinking to the ground). Resident Evil Outbreak: File #2 often plays and feels like a solo adventure, albeit with a few mates tacked on for laughs. This is its biggest drawback as the game has been touted as an online ‘multiplayer’ experience – but it just doesn’t deliver. In truth, Resident Evil was always single-player-focused, and somehow the atmosphere was more intriguing and unsettling because of it. Online you’re either left to guide rookies or follow experienced pros going through the level for the twenty-fifth time. Capcom have tried to inject some community feeling by organising special events where unique items can be collected – but all too often this just encourages greed and self-interest, particularly as the game is loaded with unique items for each scenario (and some specific to each character, although many verge on the ridiculous).
In summation, the game can only be seen as a disappointment for those expecting an online extravaganza (or for series veterans looking for something new). Gamestyle could argue that an online multiplayer Resident Evil game should never work – but File #2 suggests that with a solid design and grasp of what makes online games so enjoyable, the series could well thrive in the next online generation. However, if Capcom persists with the same cumbersome control system and predictable dynamics, then Resident Evil will remain true to form – best enjoyed on your own, and offline.
Gamestyle Score: 5/10