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Zombies online

After the impressive display witnessed at Capcom’s E3 Producer Day, noone could wait to get their hands on the demo version of Resident Evil Outbreak . With only four kiosks in the Capcom booth, however, and plenty of excitement surrounding its brand new projects, it wasn’t an easy process, but it was definitely worth it.

Setting up is pretty easy. Simply click on the new online game option and sit back to wait for your connection to go live. Once all four players are ready they’ll have eight different characters to pick from with informational blurbs and artwork representing each of them. As an added bonus, no two characters are the same and each has their own strengths and weaknesses: some personalities posses stronger guns, monsters attack other characters less frequently, some can heal much more rapidly, and there’s even someone who claims to be ” the master of unlocking ” (Jill Valentine might have something to say about that). Once the selection has been made, the game begins.

One aspect of the first scenario’s presentation that really grabbed us was the fact that players have their own introduction. Different but chronologically linked, each characters setup is unique and gives you a hint as to the type of person they are. Taking place inside a populated bar, the normal everyday lives of its patrons is suddenly interrupted when zombies storm the premises and begin eating everyone. Once the cut scene ends and gameplay begins, players are on their own to find a way to escape the onslaught of approaching undead. An element that doesn’t seem fully implemented yet is the rescue of an injured security officer and other hurt NPCs. Though you’re supposed to pick him up and help him through the zombie invasion, the security officer will still follow you through to the next room whether he had help from players or not (from what we understand, keeping him alive is an important part of this scenario). Luckily, the team-based gameplay is already apparent with basic phrases such as ” run ” and ” follow me ” informing the other gamers which is the proper way to go.

Finding which way to go is another matter entirely. Appropriately, there are no hints as to where to go next (other than up and away), so navigating your way through the mess of undead isn’t as easy as you’d first think. It’s this factor that makes the game so open-ended — as players can try and find whichever way they can to escape and try and survive. Some doors may be locked, others could be open; the routes will ultimately take you to the same place, but not all are as safe as you’d hope. And while it may prove to be an issue for some skeptic inquisitors, the classic Resident Evil control scheme works quite well in these situations, though disenchanted users may not approve of the return to the same old control scheme (it didn’t bother us).

As far as latency and similar Internet issues go, everything ran quite smoothly and without any hitches during battle or room transitions. On a more bizarre note, there were a couple of delayed moments when trying to grab items or weapons — especially in the first room of the bar. A quick glance to the other player’s monitors revealed no problems though, so it appeared to be an isolated incident with our connection only. Our solitary complaint thus far is that we had yet to play the zombie that Capcom boasted of at its press conference — as the virus meter that controlled it was filling slowly, and in thirty minutes time, we had only 50% infection. (Sigh)

Despite our disappointment in that regard, the meat of Resident Evil Outbreak was very promising indeed. With a refinement of NPCs, a fully implemented communication system, and some basic visual polish, Capcom’s latest could compete with the best of them.

Maybe Spring really will be the Dawn of the Dead…

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2002.

Gentle persuasion

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