As October chills the air, I find myself craving horror. Bring me blood, guts and gore till November and I’d be a happy boy. I start off the month with a slice of retro zombie survival; Outbreak: The New Nightmare. Let’s see if it can jump the chopper to safety or if it gets torn apart by bloody fingers.
Outbreak: The New Nightmare draws heavily from classic horror survival games like Resident Evil 1 & 2. It uses fixed camera angles, but blessedly allows for updated controls over tank controls, but be warned this may be the first and last favour this game has for you.
There are three modes of play: Campaign, Onslaught, and Experiments. Each mode has five chapters to complete. Campaign takes you through the story of six survivors trying to escape the outbreak to safety. Onslaught allows you to pit your favourite survivor against an endless horde of the undead. And Experiments explores some alternate perspectives of the apocalypse than are seen in Campaign.
There are six playable characters to choose from, they range from an undercover vice cop to a fashion idol, a firefighter to a burglar and former espionage assassin, quite a mixed bag you could say. Each has specific traits that can help or hinder them, for example; Harry the firefighter has the largest inventory but cannot combine healing items.
As you play with each character they gain experience points and skill points. Skill points can be used to unlock and equip 5 upgrades from a choice of 15. These upgrades range from passive buffs such as increased damage, or may equip your character with an improved starting weapon, and even make you immune to poison damage entirely.
Outbreak: The New Nightmare’s chapters and gameplay follow much of the tried and tested conventions of the games it is trying to emulate. There are simple find and fetch puzzles, numerical codes hidden on statues, keys, keys and more keys. There is nothing really new or original being brought to the table here.
Likewise, in the game’s weapons, items, and combat. There is the usual selection of melee weapons, pistols, rifles, and some high power weapons such as grenade launchers and magnums. But none of them feel particularly satisfying or engaging. Items are minor healing aids that can be combined to make stronger treatments, and key’s or puzzle parts. Combat feels disjointed and finicky, not much more than point and click.
The visuals and sounds of the game are a little rough and uninspired, I have seen far worse but I’ve seen far better. I would have liked to see more environments that I haven’t seen a hundred times before, but if you are going to use cliched locations like mental asylums and underground labs, they need to be polished to a high mirror shine.
There are some pretty serious quality of life issues I should mention. The game has a passable map system, but does not indicate locked doors or the key required to open them. Combine that with the lazy issue that keys do not disappear after use or have any notification that it is no longer needed, and you have the recipe for frustration. Even the earliest Resident Evil games did not burden you with these issues.
Another problem lies in the fixed camera angles. Don’t get me wrong, I love fixed camera angles, when done right, they are wonderfully cinematic and can add palpable tension and horror to environments. But when done wrong or with minimal thought, they can be truly heinous.
In a great example of fixed camera angles, let’s say Resident Evil 2, you can tell every angle has been considered and thought about, what it can add to the location, what it can obscure, how it feeds into the next angle. Sadly, It doesn’t feel like this level of thought has gone into every location of Outbreak: The New Nightmare.
On more than one occasion I found myself knowing the location of the exit to a room via the map, but it being completely obscured by the preceding camera angle. This never felt like a clever trick or sneaky move, just lazy and frustrating. If you choose to make a fixed camera angle game, please give the placement of cameras the thought and attention they need and deserve.
There are four difficulty levels to choose from: Normal, Hard, Biohazard, and Nightmare. For me though, none of them really hit the mark. The lower settings are too easy with an abundance of items, the higher settings are too hard to the point of redundancy. This difficulty “Goldie Locks Problem” is heightened by Outbreak: The New Nightmare having no save or check points at all; when you die you start over. This gives every chapter of the game an isolated and contained feel, kinda ironic considering the game’s title.
There is also no real sense of progression or achievement in advancing through the chapters, I didn’t really feel anything when finally reaching the exit point of every chapter, it just ended and another started. The story in this game is literally separate to the actual playable chapters, you can read it if you wish but it doesn’t come alongside the gameplay.
A lack of originality is this game’s chief problem. The perfect example lies in the enemy variants, they contain a carbon copy of the Hunter from the Resident Evil series. Why copy such an iconic and distinctive enemy so closely? Make it your own, change it, put your own mark on it. If you emulate something so closely, you have to live up to its quality or face criticism. But if you push out and bring something new, it can stand on its own feet and be judged purely on its own merits.
As a huge fan of the games that Outbreak: The New Nightmare draws from, I can see all the good elements and potential here. But, ultimately a lack of originality and polish is its downfall. Don’t try and copy your heroes, it’s too big a shadow to step out from under. Learn the lessons they can teach us, apply them to your own work, and bring us something new with only the hint of what we already love.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Outbreak: The New Nightmare Review
Gameplay - 5/10
Graphics - 5/10
Sound - 5/10
Replay Value - 5/10
User Review( votes)
As a huge fan of the games that Outbreak: The New Nightmare draws from, I can see all the good elements and potential here. But, ultimately a lack of originality and polish is its downfall.