Resident Evil: Outbreak is a survival horror game that adheres to many conventions set forth by its genre, but brings online play into the mix. The game offered simultaneous online play for up to four players, with eight differing, balanced characters--each with abilities and specifications all their own. The game itself takes place during the same time span as Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis in Raccoon City--even featuring a number of familiar locales to series veterans. A sequel, Resident Evil: Outbreak File #2, was released only a year later. The game was also one of the very few PlayStation 2 titles to utilize the hard-drive add-on. By installing game information on it prior to playing, load times would be decreased significantly.
The game begins only two days following the T-Virus arriving in Raccoon City. The story picks up with our initial eight characters in a fated bar just as the situation escalates beyond all control. Although all of the five scenarios are at least somewhat relevant to the overall plot, they are not specifically interrelated to one another.
The game was played much like previous Resident Evil titles, but with a more dynamic character and a slightly more novice-friendly control scheme. Offline play was available, which usually added two specific AI partners to interact and assist your chosen character throughout each scenario. The online play allowed for play with three others, with each of the players choosing one of eight possible characters. Each player is subject to the virus meter throughout any of the scenarios. The virus meter measures the character's susceptibility to the rampant T-Virus that's overtaking the remaining Raccoon citizens, and continually rises as time goes on. While this does inhibit the exploration factor, it does ensure that all players are on track and all striving to complete each scenario in time. Healing items can effectively stall the meter for a short time, and as it culminated, players would be killed. Players who die are reanimated in the form of computer-controlled zombies which then attack the other players; watching yourself become a zombie is the game's equivalent of a 'game over'.
The foundation of the game is based on progressing through the five scenarios, one by one. Each scenario allows the players to investigate more of the T-Virus outbreak, and are all canonical to the overall mythos. Some environments and locations are taken expressly from the second and third games, with only passing references in other situations.
Much of the replayability of the game involved a mesh of altering the difficulty level and utilizing the Checklist system. The available difficulty levels in the game challenged players by limiting supplies drastically with each step up, and even changing the amount of weapons available. Experiencing certain events and satisfying certain conditions allowed players to complete each scenario's Checklist, which would eventually unlock "Infinity Mode"--a mode which allowed gameplay to run undeterred with unbreakable weapons and unlimited ammunition.
The network mode of the game featured broadband-only access for up to four players taking on the undead. Some of the more obvious exclusions from online play was the lack of voice chat functionality and text chat in-game. Some believed the lack of these added a more engaging aspect to the game, while others claimed it was an obvious mistake to not include the features. It should be noted that text chat was still available in pre-game chat rooms and lobbies.
After creating an account and logging into the game, two options were available: Scenario Mode and Free Mode. Scenario Mode is considered a matchmade process, where the scenario and players are chosen at random and would begin at the first scenario of the game. Free Mode allowed players to join lobbies in order to organize players and play under their own specifications.
The North American online servers for the game ceased operation on December 31st, 2007.
The game featured eight characters, each with diverse capabilities and uses. Every character began with a unique starting item, as well as having special physical abilities.
Height: 182 cm
Weight: 96 kg
Occupation: Raccoon City Police Officer
Personal Item: Special .45 Automatic Pistol
Special Abilities: Kick, Take Pot-Shots
Overview: The most well-rounded of the lot, Kevin begins with a powerful handgun and has more speed and agility than his companions. He is able to take a more-than-average amount of physical damage, making him the most flexible character.
Height: 185 cm
Weight: 101 kg
Occupation: Security Guard
Personal Item: Mark's Custom Handgun
Special Abilities: Guard, Full Swing
Overview: A fifty-two year old Vietnam War veteran with an enduring spirit, Mark is the slowest character of the eight but is able to take more physical damage and deal it out more effectively than the others. As the most powerful character, Mark often finds himself fending off enemies as others regroup and assess the situation from supporting roles.
Height: 175 cm
Weight: 64 kg
Personal Item: Herb Case
Special Abilities: Duck
Overview: Cindy is a waitress at J's Bar, which is where the first scenario--Outbreak--is set. The most actively evasive of the characters, Cindy is able to dodge attacks with her Duck ability as well as outrun them with her higher than average running speed. Her Herb Case allows her to act as a field medic to injured players, and support them in combat.
Height: 185 cm
Weight: 92 kg
Personal Item: Tool Box
Special Abilities: Lug Wrench Throw, Continuous Knife Attack
Overview: A mysterious visage shrouds David King's presumably violent past. His skill with a knife is no coincidence, surely, and his ability to improvise item combinations via his tool box shows he is quite industrious.
Weight: 79 kg
Personal Item: Medical Set
Special Abilities: Tackle
Overview: The top surgeon at Raccoon City Hospital, Dr. Hamilton is a kind person who is able to easily gain the trust of all he comes across. The Medical Set he keeps in tow allows him to easily mix different herbs for healing items that can be distributed to partner characters, making him essential for survival.
Height: 176 cm
Weight: 62 kg
Occupation: Raccoon Times Journalist
Personal Item: Lock Picking Kit
Special Abilities: Back Step, Take Pot-Shots
Overview: Always resourceful when it comes to collecting stories, Alyssa employs her journalistic traits with her in-game tactics. With her Lock Picking Kit, she is able to grant quick access to previous inaccessible areas in order to bypass certain passages and uncover supply depots. She has an offensive side as well, with her sharing the "Take Pot-Shots" ability with Kevin. Her defense is more oriented toward evasion than anything due to her ability to quickly back step from enemies.
Height: 176 cm
Weight: 70 kg
Occupation: Subway Attendant
Personal Item: Coin
Special Abilities: Playing Dead, Item Search
Overview: The overwhelming nature of an outbreak of the undead is too much for some to handle, and Jim is no exception. He is friendly enough but eager to express his fear through cursing the rising dead. Through his Playing Dead ability, he is able to cower in fear from enemies, even though it's at the cost of his infection meter.
Height: 160 cm
Weight: 58 kg
Occupation: Raccoon University Student
Personal Item: Backpack
Special Abilities: Escape
Overview: Yoko is adept with computers and puts this trait to use in due time. Her most enduring feature, though, is her ability to carry four extra items via her backpack. Should she find herself in a swarm of enemies, she can escape by quickly stepping away.
The game was comprised of five base scenarios, each fully fledged stories of their own. They all were composed of differing environments, some of which were new to the series and some of which had been featured in past installments.
The scene is set with all of the eight primary characters present at J's Bar in downtown Raccoon City. Suddenly, things go awry when the threat of the T-Virus epidemic becomes clear and patrons begin to feast on one another. It's up to the survivors to work together to escape the bar and find shelter.
Below Freezing Point
The group now finds themselves in the underground laboratory from the climax of Resident Evil 2. A mysterious woman by the name of Monica with a previous connection to Yoko is here ahead of the group. She steals Yoko's access card, forcing players to take an alternate route to escape from the laboratory.
After seeking refuge at the hospital, everything seems to be fine--at first. A doctor by the name of Hursh Walks introduces himself to the survivors and offers his help, but still expressing his desire to leave. After attempting to activate the elevator, he is attacked and killed by a monstrous enemy the group never expected: The Leechman. Their only option is to proceed through the hospital and into the sewer...
Firemen are attempting to dowse a fire at a local hotel. The group has found their way in, but now must find their way out of the hotel, while avoiding the dreaded Lickers, and something even more horrible than they ever imagined; it seems the infection has spread far wider than they ever expected.
Everything comes to a head as the group finds their way to Raccoon City University, where they hope to learn the truth behind the virus. What has drawn them here is a letter from George's old comrade Peter Jenkins, who says he has "vital information" on the crisis that only he can understand. An old face from Resident Evil 3: Nemesis appears, and it seems their activities during that game were not quite as limited as it once seemed...