|Resident Evil Outbreak|
North American cover art
|Developer(s)||Capcom Production Studio 1|
|Engine||id Tech 3|
Resident Evil Outbreak, known as Biohazard Outbreak (バイオハザード アウトブレイク Baiohazādo Autobureiku?) in Japan, is an action-adventure / survival horror video game with online playability for the PlayStation 2. Initially released in 2003, it was developed by Capcom Production Studio 1 and was the first entry in the Resident Evil video game series to feature cooperative gameplay and online multiplayer support, although online support was not available for the PAL versions of the game.
Outbreak was produced by Tsuyoshi Tanaka, and depicts a series of episodic storylines in the fictional location Raccoon City, set during the same general time period as Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Outbreak was followed by a standalone expansion entitled Resident Evil Outbreak File #2.
The controls and gameplay are similar to the Resident Evil remake, which was exclusive to the Nintendo Gamecube, with quite a few adjustments. The player chooses a scenario, difficulty level, and a character. The difficulty level is tied to what enemies and items the player encounters as they progress through the scenario. The game has five scenarios, each of which has an event checklist consisting of special actions that the player must perform to reach 100% completion. Upon doing so the player will unlock "Infinity Mode" in which all the player's weapons never break or run out of ammunition.
Each scenario also has "SP" items. These are invisible items hidden throughout the level, and are randomly generated on two paths. There are 20 scenario items for each scenario, and twenty items specific to each character hidden across the five scenarios. If acquired, these items unlock new costumes and the option to listen to their ad-libs.
Players could connect to the internet servers using a broadband connection and a network adapter. Account registration and login were required. Once players connected and logged in, they could then choose between Free Mode and Scenario Mode. Free Mode took place in a lobby and allowed players to create their own games, scenarios, and difficulty level. Scenario Mode would choose the scenario and players automatically. When a player first started online, they would begin on the Outbreak scenario and progress from there. If the player wished to stop playing, they could save their data and start off from the scenario they were up to at the time. If the player had beaten a scenario, they acquired a star by their name.
Capcom shut down the American servers for Outbreak on December 31, 2007, and the Japanese servers on June 30, 2011, thus ending the online capabilities permanently.
The beginning of Outbreak is set a couple of days after the initial outbreak of the T-virus in Raccoon City, moments before the crisis erupts into complete chaos. The game starts with the eight characters at J's Bar, unaware of what is happening until a lone zombie wanders into the bar and attacks one of the employees named Will. After that the characters must make it through the city. The game ends in the final moments of the same incident, with the player attempting to escape Raccoon City before the U.S. government launches a missile strike to eliminate the threat posed by the T-virus. The player controls one of eight characters, in order: Kevin Ryman, Mark Wilkins, Jim Chapman, George Hamilton, David King, Alyssa Ashcroft, Yoko Suzuki and Cindy Lennox, along numerous supporting characters who can be selected in their place. Gameplay events transpire across various regions of Raccoon City and span over a period of several days.
There are five individual scenarios in this game, though they are not set in chronological order. The first, "Outbreak", takes place at the beginning of the outbreak, as the police prepare to destroy the zombie horde through explosives. "Below Freezing Point" deals with the events in the former underground laboratory of Umbrella before the events of Resident Evil 2, where a rogue virologist, Monica, attempts to steal bio-weapons research and deal with her former co-worker, Yoko Suzuki. "The Hive" involves the survivors taking refuge in the Raccoon General Hospital, which is also featured in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, while it is under assault from a colony of infected leeches. "Hellfire", set the same day as "Outbreak", involves a group of survivors fleeing into the Apple Inn hotel that turns out to be on fire and swarming with lickers. The final scenario, "Decisions, Decisions", consults the survivors' search for a cure to the T-virus, which sends them to Raccoon City University, in which the eight different characters must wisely choose a decision in order to survive the puzzling secrets hidden in the university; they must then escape the city before it is destroyed.
According to an interview with producer Noritaka Funamizu, the first concept of Biohazard Outbreak, as it was known originally, was before the release of Resident Evil 2 in 1998. With growing interest in the concept of network gaming over consoles, Shinji Mikami, the director of the first Resident Evil, suggested to Funamizu that he should have a try. Early on in the design, Funamizu made a small multiplayer minigame where the player must survive the longest; the team decided to remove it due to its failure to encourage team work (players would instinctively run away from the horde and be slaughtered rather than help one another to ensure their own survival), arguing that what made Resident Evil scary was its lack on multiplayer, forcing gamers to play on their own. The team then chose that the game would follow its own story like the other games in the series, but keep the option for multiplayer. The game development was later put on hold.
Some time prior to 2002, Capcom decided to revive development of the game, based partly on the research gathered from the first attempt; Production Studio 1 began its development of the game, as opposed to Mikami's Studio 3. In February 2002, a Sony press conference regarding the PlayStation 2 revealed the game - previously unheard-of to the public- which was working at the time under the title of "Biohazard Online". This led to confusion amongst the audience, before Capcom released a statement confirming the existence. Resident Evil Outbreak was a part of a initiative from Capcom's Production Studio 1 to develop three network focused games on the PlayStation 2. The other games were Auto Modellista and Monster Hunter. Capcom's plan was that at least one the games would become a million seller. Both Monster Hunter and Resident Evil Outbreak eventually became million sellers.
The game made an appearance at Sony's conference on May 21 at E3 2002, with a video showcasing real-time 3D backgrounds (as opposed to pre-rendered); revealing four of the characters and demonstrating the ad-lib system and character communication. The ad-lib system was chosen over conventional microphone chat because the development team argued that it would ruin the atmosphere. Instead, limited chat options were used for conversation between users - a player would walk up to another and deliver a line from a particular conversational category (e.g. "help" and "go" categories). No solid release date was given just yet.
Later that year the game was renamed "Biohazard Network". By October, eighteen different scenarios were in-development, with even more in the concept phase. In November, Capcom released various pieces of media, showing eight playable characters and familiar-scenarios such as "Flashback". The occupations of the characters were also given.
In January 2003, further information was provided, mostly regarding interactive NPCs. Capcom boasted such actions as enemy NPC characters who would attack the player and ones that would run away when approached. Screenshots of "Flashback"; "Underbelly"; "The Hive" and other scenarios were released.
By May 2003, the game's title had been changed once again. This time, it had been changed to "Biohazard Outbreak" (Resident Evil Outbreak outside Japan), and the number of scenarios was reduced to the five scenarios closest to being finished. Another five scenarios that did not make the initial cut, though were complete enough to be featured in the E3 2002 trailer, were developed into the sequel Resident Evil Outbreak File #2. In September, doubts were raised as to Outbreak's online gameplay in Europe, though Capcom was adamant that it would at least try to find a way to solve the problem in time for release.
The European release was set back heavily, finally released in September 2004 - nine months after Japan and the United States. Back in March Capcom had given in on securing Outbreak's network due to the numerous problems faced with establishing a network in a region simultaneously for dozens of languages and securing service providers, as well as the usual PAL/NTSC differential.
|This section requires expansion. (September 2013)|
Outbreak' received a C+ from 1UP in their review. The staff referred to it as "another typical entry in the RE canon", and as a "competent game" with "controls [that] are actually functional and somewhat intuitive". However, they had a number of problems with the game, notably Capcom's choice to not install voice chat in favour of the ad-lib system. They found the game's five scenarios to be short, and AI partners to be "chock-full of repetitive and annoying sound bytes".
Eurogamer was disappointed with Capcom's failure to establish online support to the European market at a time when the PlayStation 2's online community was threatened with the expected rise in the Xbox's popularity with the upcoming release of Halo 2, continuing that an Outbreak was "designed from the ground up to be a co-operative multiplayer game for four players" and questioning if a networkless game would interest players. Another problem was with the real-time START menu, which meant that file-reading and item-trading would make the player vulnerable to a random zombie attack, making the game "[feel] light in the story department" as a consequence of not becoming immersed in the environment. Long load times for the PAL version was also noted in the review.
The game received average reviews and sold about 1.45 million copies.