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The Time Is Right For Capcom To Revive Resident Evil Outbreak

It’s time for Capcom to dive back into the archives

After playing my fifth and final match of Resident Evil: Re:Verse before uninstalling, I wondered how it had gotten so bad. How could Capcom put out hit after hit of Resident Evil single-player titles (even if half of them were remakes) but fail so miserably when it came to multiplayer experiences? Re:Verse isn’t even their first flop, with other attempts like Resident Evil Resistance and Umbrella Corps having failed hard and fast. As a result, there’s a stigma that has permeated the series’ multiplayer offerings to the extent that fans are writing them off before they’re even released. Though to be fair, even blind Freddy could have seen Re:Verse’s demise coming. Yet somehow, someone at Capcom keeps rubber-stamping these projects.

In Capcom’s defence, both Re:Verse and Resistance are free-to-play titles, costing players nothing more than time and effort (both valuable commodities) provided they own either Resident Evil Village or the Resident Evil 3 remake. However, the solution to Capcom’s Resident Evil multiplayer woes has been sitting in front of them the whole time – Resident Evil Outbreak – a game that fans have been hoping Capcom would revive for many years now.

Resident Evil Outbreak was a spin-off multiplayer-focused series that graced the PlayStation 2 and featured online four-player co-op (except in PAL regions). The series had two entries, Resident Evil Outbreak (2003/2004) and Resident Evil Outbreak: File #2 (2004/2005), both of which had five scenarios where players could either work together to survive or go solo with AI-controlled characters assisting instead.

Survive Raccoon City together

Set during the early outbreak of the T-virus in Raccoon City, the title featured a new cast of characters, each of whom had their own gameplay perks and background story, plus hilariously plain names for the most part. Kevin, an RPD officer who had failed the S.T.A.R.S. test twice, started the game with a high-powered handgun. Handyman David could craft and fix weapons while journalist Alyssa could pick locks and access areas other characters couldn’t. Not to be outdone, waitress Cindy could carry more herbs than everyone else (not unlike Snoop Dogg), and security guard Mark had bolstered health reserves. Subway worker Jim had a ‘luck’ mechanic and could play dead, while uni student Yoko boasted the largest inventory. Making up the numbers was George, a surgeon who could craft medicines.

The gameplay followed the original Resident Evil blueprint of fixed camera angles, limited resources, and boss fights. One of the series’ unique features was that all of the characters were already carrying the T-Virus, with the infection slowly increasing over time or rising rapidly when bitten. Players could slow the rate at which it increased with pills found in the world, but the aim was to complete a scenario before it consumed them.

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Critically, Outbreak fared well enough with a Metacritic score of 71, however File 2 was a backwards step with a score of 58. Regardless of the mixed reception, the games built a solid following and when servers were shut down in 2007 (America) and 2011 (Japan), the community rallied together and got the Japanese version back online in 2014, which you can still play today.

So why does a new Outbreak make sense? Cashing in on old IPs is not something that Capcom is shy about doing, with the company’s coffers benefitting nicely from remakes, remasters and re-releases over the years. No series exemplifies this more than Resident Evil, with Capcom fully committed to moving the series forward but also modernising and reimagining its legacy titles so that new generations of players can experience them.

Plumbers are always handy to have around

Rather than fluffing about with PvP multiplayer titles that are effectively doomed the moment they’re announced, Outbreak offers a PvE experience in the Resident Evil universe built around the series’ signature survival horror gameplay. Best of all, it provides Capcom with the opportunity to tell new and different stories within Raccoon City, with characters who aren’t weighed down by history, lore, and fandom. I love Leon Kennedy as much as the next person (actually I probably love him more), but it’s good and necessary to get new characters every now and again.

As an old-school Resident Evil fan, I’d love for Capcom to remake the original Outbreak titles, but a new spin on the series is the best way to revive it for today’s fans, with a fresh cast of characters and scenarios that have been designed for modern hardware. Despite Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil Village’s success with a first-person perspective, a new Outbreak game would be best served by the over-the-shoulder, third-person viewpoint. The idea of playing through classic RE-style campaign missions with improved visuals and gameplay alongside mates or other human-controlled characters is super exciting. I’d be very keen to see how Capcom could merge the series’ atmosphere, survival horror mechanics and puzzle-solving elements with a modern, story-driven co-op experience.

Rebooting Outbreak would also give Capcom the chance to show off more of Raccoon City, a setting that we haven’t really been able to explore enough. The original Outbreak titles took us to places like the Raccoon City Zoo, the Apple Inn hotel, the city’s hospital and the subway system, which would be great to experience again with some more pixels and fresh gameplay. I’d also love to see more origin stories from those caught in the city at the time of the T-virus outbreak. Plus, we’ve seen how good Raccoon City looks in the RE Engine in Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3, which gave us a taste of what this iconic location has to offer, but there’s still so much more to see.

Don’t feed the alligators

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A new Outbreak even has the potential to be a live service game similar to Final Fantasy XIV, where Capcom continually adds content over time, such as new scenarios, locations and characters through season passes. While it’s unlikely to have the mass appeal of something like FFXIV or Fortnite, Capcom could have a Dead by Daylight on its hands, drumming up consistent interest from fans who are hanging out for a new way to play Resident Evil.

If it’s not obvious to Capcom by now that PvP multiplayer games are not the right fit for Resident Evil, then I don’t know if the penny will ever drop. Not only does reviving Outbreak make sense, but it’s a concept that feels made for modern audiences that would fit the market if done right. Capcom needs to focus on Resident Evil’s strengths and design the experience around them – fans have been calling for the return of Outbreak for years, maybe it’s time Capcom listens.

Written By Zach Jackson

Despite a childhood playing survival horrors, point and clicks and beat ’em ups, these days Zach tries to convince people that Homefront: The Revolution is a good game while pining for a sequel to The Order: 1886 and a live-action Treasure Planet film. Carlton, Burnley FC & SJ Sharks fan. Get around him on Twitter @tightinthejorts

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