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Give 'Resident Evil Outbreak' Another Chance Capcom, You Cowards

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Give 'Resident Evil Outbreak' Another Chance Capcom, You Cowards

If you asked your friends to list some Resident Evil games, there's a good chance they'd give you the usual suspects. Resident Evil, Resident Evil 2, 3 and 4. If they're particularly well versed in the franchise they might offer up something like Resident Evil - Code: Veronica or Revelations. One might say Silent Hill. Delete that friend.

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What they likely won't say, is Resident Evil Outbreak. An overlooked and underloved oddity from 2003, Outbreak worked the popular tropes of the Resi titles, but was decades ahead of its time in utilising something we now take for granted in modern games: online play.

Resident Evil Outbreak / Credit: Capcom
Resident Evil Outbreak / Credit: Capcom

There are many reasons why this didn't work. The online capabilities of its launch platform, the PlayStation 2, were comparable to that of my nan, for example. It was also met with a general shrug of apathy amongst critics for not offering enough new features, releasing between Resident Evil Zero and Resident Evil 4. In other words, it was kind of just there.

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But does that mean that Outbreak and its subsequent follow up (well, standalone expansion), Outbreak File #2, were bad games? Not at all. In fact, it's my staunch opinion that if Capcom gave them a fair crack of the whip now, they could represent the Resi experience fans have been pining for since day zero. Let me explain.

Resident Evil Outbreak / Credit: Capcom
Resident Evil Outbreak / Credit: Capcom

Let's first discuss the fact that Capcom have consistently and methodically shat the bed when it comes to transferring the tight and tense Resident Evil experience to an online environment. Operation Raccoon City, Umbrella Corps (and to a lesser extent the recent Resident Evil Resistance) have fallen far short of fan expectations for one key reason: they fail to tap into the fear factor of survival horror.

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To be fair to Capcom, online games are dominated by shooters and RPGs, with games series like Call Of Duty and World of Warcraft being behemoths in the space. But in the end, players would arguably have preferred being shot in the face by a spec-ops mercenary working for an evil global pharmaceutical company in real life, than donning the online moniker of one themselves. Metacritic scores of 52, 38 and 64 respectively tell you what you need to know about the aforementioned, bed-shatting titles.

Resident Evil Outbreak / Credit: Capcom
Resident Evil Outbreak / Credit: Capcom

This is where Outbreak got it so right back in 2003. Up to four friends working together to solve puzzles and escape the Raccoon City outbreak in a variety of realistically grounded and fresh locales. Each character having their own strengths and weaknesses to consider, battling in tandem with team members to survive would be a beautiful experience on modern consoles. The real kicker would be maintaining no voice chat once the game starts. A limited number of character-specific callouts are all you have to communicate. If you wander off on your own and get lost, sucks to be you buddy, you're dead.

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Keeping the voice chat limited would enable players to feel isolated together, and would build a more tangible sense of fear as the legions of undead begin to muster on your location.

Speaking of characters, Outbreak was different from mainline Resi titles because it filled its cast with veritable nobodies, not super-slick action heroes. And when I say nobodies, I mean nobodies. Walk into any Wetherspoon on a Thursday afternoon, and you'd likely find a similar cast propping up the bar. University students, waitresses, handymen and subway drivers pad out our plucky, average joe team. Living the infection through the eyes of these normal folk would help ground the horror aspect of the game like never before.

Resident Evil Outbreak / Credit: Capcom
Resident Evil Outbreak / Credit: Capcom
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You could even take this one step further and throw in some RPG elements, allowing players to make their own characters with a few classes to balance skills. There's a lot of room for customisation in there, too. You could make digital survivor versions of yourself and your friends and laugh maniacally as you all get picked off one by one. As we would surely all do in a real zombie apocalypse.

Add to this the fact that Outbreak has no mainline Resi story connections, and you're beginning to unlock real possibilities. It's effectively non-canon. You can do what you like and Chris Redfield will still end up punching a boulder to smithereens in a volcano in Resident Evil 5. That would give Capcom free rein to either write new lore for characters, allow players to write their own stories if you went down the RPG route, or leave it as utter gobbledegook like it is now. Whatever works.

Resident Evil 5 / Credit: Capcom
Resident Evil 5 / Credit: Capcom

While the online potential for Outbreak is huge, I'm in no way suggesting it becomes an online-only title. Far from it, I'd expect it to be first and foremost a single-player experience with the option to take it online. Heck, why not even throw in couch co-op for sh*ts and giggles?

Something with the depth, polish and slow-burn methodical pacing of the Resident Evil 2 remake played on new and interesting maps with new characters is something I would be 100% on board with.

With Capcom seemingly working through their entire back catalogue of Resident Evil games in search of remasters and remakes, I'd love to see them try something a little more left-field like Outbreak. With the next console generation looming, why not seize the opportunity to introduce a new generation to the franchise in a different way? At the very least get in there before Hideo Kojima comes up with the concept of social scaring or something and claims his new horror game has revolutionised the genre.

Featured Image Credit: Capcom

Topics: Resident Evil, Capcom

Mark Foster
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