Resident Evil Outbreak Uses the T-Virus to Make a Scary Multiplayer Experience
Resident Evil Outbreak showed that the series formula still worked well when friends were playing with you. When I first played it, I was a bit hesitant to bring a bunch of people into a horror game with me. Things are rarely as scary in a group as they are alone, after all. Some great design decisions really amped up the fear in this game. A change in how menus work. How quickly you can die. Making the T-virus actually means something to the player. In doing these things, the developers created something terrifying and new. Yet it was still something that felt like a great entry in the series
The game is a multiplayer take on Resident Evil, bringing players to the streets of Raccoon City. You and a handful of other online players will have to work together to survive, teaming up to deal with undead and puzzles. You can choose from a handful of potential survivors, each with their own special traits that can help heal your team, carry more stuff, or turn the tide when zombies get the drop on you. There’s five different scenarios to play through together as well. While they only last an hour or two, they offer a variety of places to meet a horrible end.
Resident Evil Outbreak makes the T-Virus means something to the players. Being bitten has always been a bad thing in all of the Resident Evil games. However, in those, you just take damage. You won’t turn into a zombie like most people do. In this game, those bites are more meaningful. You have a Virus meter as you play through the game. It acts as a sort of timer, steadily rising as you play through each round. If it fills up, you lose the scenario and turn into a zombie. Not a great end, but at least you can bite other players for a while.. This timer is already running when you start a scenario, so you’ll want to move fast. On top of this, injuries raise this meter. The worse you get hurt, the more likely it is to significantly raise the meter.
This means that your health isn’t the only thing you need to be watching. You’re on a hybrid health/time limit, which results in some immense pressure to keep moving and take risks. You might be able to heal your way through a brutal encounter with some of the game’s monsters. However, you’ll likely find that your Virus meter has risen a great deal, leaving you with little time to finish the level. There are items that can stall the virus, but they show up infrequently. As such, a screw-up at the start of the stage can kill you when you’re about to beat a level. This makes every encounter feel meaningful and frightening, as a few bad fights can add a dangerous amount to your Virus meter.
You’re more likely to get bitten in Resident Evil Outbreak, too. Using your inventory doesn’t pause the game. So, while you’re fumbling for an item for a puzzle, switching guns, or trying to heal, you’re vulnerable. Hopefully your friends can surround you and keep you safe. They’ll have to protect you from unseen dangers as well. In this game, zombies and monsters can break down doors and get into different areas. Just because there’s no monsters in a room doesn’t mean that things will stay safe.
Many Resident Evil games create this divide while accessing the inventory, looking at items, or solving puzzles (especially back when this game was released). This gave you a bit of a breather to get the item you need or to think about the puzzle you’re doing. Here, you need to move and think quickly. This often results in a bit of scrambling that can make it easy to mess up a puzzle or grab the wrong item. This increases the amount of clumsy mistakes you make, which continues to drag out that Virus meter. Gives more opportunities to get bitten.
You probably won’t need to fumble for items for long, as most characters can only carry four things in Resident Evil Outbreak. However, only carrying four things means you don’t get to bring a whole lot of stuff with you. A gun, some ammo, a healing item, and one special item. Each character does get to carry one unique item for free that can usually come in handy, but it’s still not much stuff in a series that loves to load you with keys, gems, and other oddball things. You need to really work with your team to figure out what items are necessary and which to leave behind. There’s no item box here to store everything in, so you might have to take a long walk back if you leave something important behind.
Knowing that, you’ll often have to make hard choices about what you carry. Do you leave the shotgun behind since you’re low on ammo and need to carry a vital item? Drop the healing in favor of more ammo for a good gun? Leave the key item and try to clear a path to where you need to go? Make someone else lug it and protect them? This highly-limited inventory forces you to make hard decisions where the consequences could be disastrous. And you need to make them fast. That Virus meter is always rising.
Sharing items between characters can take some pressure off, but what if someone dies? You can access their inventory on their body, but only by going back to where they died. If you lose a character, your item-carrying capabilities take a huge hit, making it far more likely that you’ll all die. By the way, Resident Evil Outbreak has very limited communication. Beyond a few specific in-game phrases, you won’t be talking to one another. Hope you don’t get split up and walk so far apart that you can’t hear your online allies crying for help somewhere else. Hopefully you actually know where they died to even find their body and items.
That’s not even factoring in the ease with which you can just die outright in this game. Wander too close to a window? Dead. Climbing on a balcony and get buzzed by a bird? Dead. The former happened to me after spending hours on the final scenario, actually. Made me afraid to get anywhere near a window ever after, as I was so scared of being grabbed by a zombie and killed instantly. There’s no saves on these runs through each scenario (well, only temporary saves that let you take a break and come back later), so if you die, you have to play the scenario all the way through again.
Dying from a high Virus meter, getting separated from your friends, making poor inventory decisions, or just walking too close to a window will cost you an entire run at Resident Evil Outbreak. All of these details form a high-tension race against the clock and the undead, injecting all kinds of unease into the game. You’d think having friend on board would make everything light and funny, but these elements all come together to make this a tense, frightening journey for a couple of online pals. One you could maybe look into playing even now.