|Resident Evil Outbreak|
North American cover art
|Developer(s)||Capcom Production Studio 1|
|Engine||Unspecified Capcom Proprietary Engine|
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 a 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 story lines in the fictional location Raccoon City. It was 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 game play 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[clarification needed]. 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 were able to 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 would 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 restart from the scenario they were up to at the time. If the player had beaten a scenario, they acquired a star next to their name.
Capcom shut down the American servers for Outbreak on December 31, 2007, and the Japanese servers on June 30, 2011, ending official online capabilities. In 2014, private servers became available to Japanese editions of Resident Evil Outbreak.
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 further escalates into complete chaos. The game starts with the eight characters in J's Bar,who are 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 with numerous supporting characters who can be selected in their place. Game play events transpire across various regions of Raccoon City and span over a period of several days.
There are five individual scenarios in this game, which 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 using 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[clarification needed] 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", regards the survivors' search for a cure to the T-virus, which sends them to Raccoon City University, where the eight different characters must wisely choose a decision 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 known 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 multi-player mini-game in which the player must survive the longest time possible; the team decided to remove it due to its failure to encourage teamwork—players would instinctively run away from the horde and be slaughtered rather than help one another to ensure their own survival. They decided that what made Resident Evil scary was its lack of 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 multi-player. The game development was later put on hold.
Prior to 2002, Capcom decided to revive development of the game, based on the research gathered from the first attempt. Production Studio 1 began its development of the game, as opposed to Mikami's Studio 4. In February 2002, a Sony press conference regarding the PlayStation 2 revealed the game—previously unheard-of by the public, it had a working title of Biohazard Online. This led to confusion amongst the audience, before Capcom released a statement confirming its existence. Resident Evil Outbreak was a part of an 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 goal was to have at least one of the games reach a million sales. Both Monster Hunter and Resident Evil Outbreak eventually reached this goal.
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 at that time.
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 (non-player characters). Capcom boasted such actions as enemy NPCs who would attack the player and other 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. 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. Another five scenarios did not make the initial cut, although they were complete enough to be featured in the E3 2002 trailer, and were developed into the sequel Resident Evil Outbreak File #2. In September, doubts were raised as to Outbreak's online game-play in Europe, but 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 heavily delayed, finally released in September 2004—nine months after Japan and the United States saw its release. 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[clarification needed] differential.
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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 cited a number of problems with the game, notably Capcom's choice of not installing 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 for 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, stating that an Outbreak was "designed from the ground up to be a co-operative multiplayer game for four players" and questioning if a network-less game would be of interest to 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.