The long and storied history of the “Resident Evil”
franchise has recently been marred by uninspiring sequels, remakes,
prequels and wretched spin-offs. While the Gamecube remake and
prequel offered gorgeous new visuals, both games provided little
innovation to the tried and true formula of the series. As Capcom
refined 3-D action with “Devil May Cry,”
“Resident Evil” retained its rudimentary controls,
limiting gameplay to a slow and methodical pace. Now the series
steps boldly onto the Internet.

TV/New Media Reviews
Must … buy … Dave Matthews CD! (Courtesy of Capcom)

The concept seems innocuous enough: take the puzzle-solving,
zombie-shooting game online. “Outbreak” features both
cooperative and competitive modes, portraying gamers as people
working together to fight the undead or as zombies once the player
succumbs to death. The latter aspect breathes new life into
“Outbreak,” though it’s frustrating to move the
plodding zombies. There are multiple types of characters to choose
from, each with different attributes.

The scenarios in “Outbreak” are initially
interesting; however, the storylines lack the depth and complexity
of its offline brethren. Considering that horror often functions
most effectively because of tension in the plot, the scenarios
hinder the chilling atmosphere. Overall, though, the environments
and enemies do produce the creepy ambiance expected from the
series.

Gameplay is both the biggest flaw and greatest attribute of
“Outbreak.” The teamwork aspect and playing as a zombie
brings a freshness to the otherwise stale and stagnant game.
Players are still inhibited from full 3-D movement, an inexcusable
offense at this point in the series. While the clunky controls
sometimes heighten the sense of fear, more often than not they
prove maddeningly difficult in close quarters combat.

“Outbreak’s” graphics are slightly better than
the Dreamcast’s “Code Veronica” but fall far
short of the Gamecube installments. Character models are not nearly
as refined as in those games, featuring jagged edges and lack of
detail. Because there are so many to choose from, these playable
characters suffer from a lack of real identity. The environments,
as always, are strikingly rendered but lack much interaction.

It’s time to revamp the “Resident Evil”
franchise. The core of the game is essentially the same as the PS1
original. While the online components offer enough to lure in
diehard fans of the series, there isn’t enough to convert new
players here. The upcoming Gamecube “Resident Evil 4”
must rejuvenate this franchise or else it will simply fade into
mediocrity like Capcom’s own “Megaman.”

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

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