Outbreak: The New Nightmare pays homage to the classic survival horror games of years gone by, most notably Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil Outbreak. That alone is something to be excited about, but don’t get your hopes up just yet. Despite a surprisingly positive reception over on Steam, the game lacks basic optimization and plays like a title that belongs in Game Preview. There are so many issues with Outbreak: The New Nightmare, it simply cannot be recommended in its current state. Out of fairness to Dead Drop Studios, the game suggestively plays much better on the Xbox One X due to the improved hardware capabilities. That being said, Outbreak: The New Nightmare does not support Xbox One X Enhancements, make of that what you will. In my own opinion, if you’re going to make a game for a family of devices you need to ensure that it’s satisfactory, right across the board.
The story follows on from its immediate predecessor and sees the undead infection rapidly spreading across the city. Law enforcement has fell victim to the hellscape, and all but a handful of survivors are now mindless zombies, hungry for flesh. It’s up to you to scavenge supplies from the environment and do whatever it takes to make it out in one piece. My comparison to the classic titles in the Resident Evil series was for a number of reasons. Chief among them being fixed cameras, optional tank controls, limited inventory space, and several elements of the gameplay itself. The problem however, is that almost every aspect of this experience fails to live up to the quality that’s set in those 20-year-old games. Die-hard fans of the formula may well enjoy what’s on offer, but you would do well not to approach this game with high expectations.
The Xbox One version of the game is identical to the Steam version bar one glaring omission, it does not have multiplayer co-op support. Outbreak: The New Nightmare on Xbox One is a “special” single player-only experience and one that runs at a “lower quality level” in comparison to the Steam build. Right off the bat this is a game that is clearly best played on the PC, and for good reason too. Straight from the main menu, the game does prove to be quite accessible with the numerous options that players can select from. The entirety of the story can be read via a selection of screens, along with character bios too. Mercifully several control options can be tweaked, which I recommend doing seeing as though turning your character in the game (when running) is overly sensitive by default. The UI is very reminiscent of Resident Evil, right down to the style, font, and the creepy voice that pronounces the title of the game when you dive in.
When selecting to play, there’s yet another layer of options to choose from. Here you can cherry pick what scenario you wish to play throughout the Campaign Mode, the Onslaught Mode, and the Experiments Mode. Nothing is gated here, you can literally jump to any point in the game you see fit. You can also choose from a host of difficulties, ranging from Normal to Nightmare. There’s a total of six characters to utilize, all of which come with their own sets of pros and cons. Furthermore, individual characters can be upgraded with the use of Skill Points. This will grant you access to a collection of abilities such as increased damage output and being able to start the game with specific items at hand. Once you’re all set toying with the parameters you can get stuck in, or at least when you get past the lengthy loading screen.
One of the few things I will say in defense of Outbreak: The New Nightmare is that its heart is in the right place. It’s easy to see the passion and commitment that has gone into making this game an authentic throwback to the old-school roots of the genre. Dead Drop Studios clearly don’t care about how dominant their inspirational material is, which is apparent from the get-go. Pressing B brings up an inventory screen that painfully mirrors Resident Evil 2, including an overlaying heart-rate animation that sits inline with your Health Status. Inventory space is dangerously limited, which helps to promote careful consideration when picking up new items and weaponry that are scattered across the game. Items and weaponry take up a set amount of space in your inventory, with a certain character packing a larger inventory capacity than others. Safe to say, the game manages to nail this concept well. Though I can’t help but feel as though Capcom should be getting the credit for my appreciation of that.
Unfortunately, it took just a few moments of play to witness some of the game’s biggest problems. The frame-rate is disgustingly inconsistent. I was not able to walk for more than a handful of seconds at a time without the screen chaotically stuttering in the process. On top of that, the character animation is ridiculously comical. Each and every character walks in such a way that I can only describe as the cross between John Wayne and a heavily pregnant woman. The character animation when running is much better but still doesn’t look quite right. Regardless as to which scenario – or map to be more specific – you choose to take on, the gameplay typically remains the same. You’ll be loaded into your starting point and expected to work out what the hell you’re doing, and where the hell you’re going.
Items and weaponry will be everywhere in sight and far too hard to miss, due to the miniature firework animation that each gives off. One thing in particular that struck me about this was that the whole point of classic survival horror was to outnumber and under power the player. Here however, ammo and weaponry appears to be quite generous. That still wont do you any favors, because several other faults with the game tends to get in the way of a fluid run. Playing as Lydia, I was able to spawn with a handgun in my inventory along with a total of nine bullets at my disposal. The first zombie to cross my path took six bullets to bring down. During this fight, the flash animation of my gunshots were wildly out of sync with the sound of my gunshots. I had hoped that this was an isolated occurrence, but truth be told, there were several moments throughout the game in which the sound effects didn’t tally up with what was happening on-screen.
The beginning of the Urban scenario, for example, my gunshots didn’t carry any noise whatsoever. This wouldn’t have been a major issue in itself, but when you factor in that the camera had panned in such a way that I could only see the backs of three zombies, made the issue all the more irritating. It perhaps didn’t make matters any better that the controls, despite how you tune them, don’t respond very well at all. Turning on the spot can take quite a while, and when you’ve got zombies on your six, the last thing you want to see is your character doing a truffle shuffle as they slowly turn around to face the threat. Granted, you can rely on the auto-aim feature, but this doesn’t prove to be helpful when you have more than one foe at a time to contend with. When you’re not wrestling with the dodgy controls, your next issue will be with the fixed cameras.
Camera behavior in any game is of vital importance. In Outbreak: The New Nightmare, the camera placement can be a nightmare in itself. Many of the fixed positions are passable, and in these moments the camera work does its job well enough to see you through. However, there are times in which the camera placement and panning of said cameras, can directly lead to your downfall. Some cameras are positioned (and pan) in such a way that you cannot see where you are going or what you’re walking into. This again wouldn’t be too much of an issue on its own, but when you’re killed off-screen because you simply cannot see what’s going on is frustrating and unfair. It would be nice to say that you can rely on melee/melee weapons to get you out of a tight spot like that, but even this functionality is poorly designed. If you strip yourself of any weapon or equip a melee weapon such as an axe, don’t expect anything good to come of it. Melee attacks take far too long to execute and tend to be sluggish, irrespective of your aim.
The aim of the campaign is to make it through each scenario with just one life. If you die, you’re sent back to the main menu. There’s no option to retry your failed attempt upon death, you must go back to the main menu and re-select your options to try again. The game comes with a light progression system that rewards you with XP for each kill, and once you’ve accumulated enough XP, you’ll level up. Character levels are independent, meaning you’ll need to level up each and every character separately, rather than rely on an overall progression system. It’s not a bad thing by any means as it promotes the replay value, but one does question whether or not players will endure all of the issues above, several times over. You don’t have to stick exclusively to one mode to build up your rank, as XP can be earned across all three of the aforementioned modes.
When you’re done with the campaign, onslaught will provide you with a horde mode that sees you battling the undead in waves at a time. Much like the campaign you can select whichever scenario takes your fancy. Once you have done that, you will be dropped onto the map and will have a set amount of time to collect weapons and items before your first wave begins. The technical issues found in the campaign are present here too but are thankfully not as dominant, which can also be said about the experiments mode. In experiments, you’re again able to select a scenario of your choosing. Once the round begins you’re given an objective to complete, such as killing a boss or escaping to an evac point with invisible enemies on the prowl. I found this to be the most interesting mode simply because of its structure, but again the issues drag it down from being fun.
It’s not only the gameplay from old-school survival horror that Outbreak: The New Nightmare tries to capture, but the visuals and map design too. Whilst the visuals are far from impressive, the game does a decent job at relaying that classic concept. The same goes for the map design too, offering up environments that are linear yet well crafted. I cant quite commend the enemy design or the enemy variants, as there’s just not enough variety here to prevent the game from becoming repetitive before long. Sure, there’s enough firepower within and no shortage of things to shoot, but the lack of puzzles (which is a strong element found in classic survival horror) means you will barely be doing anything other than that. I really wanted to like Outbreak: The New Nightmare. It has the appeal, it has a good portion of content, and the price is very well set. It was a big shame to see so many issues present, issues I hope are remedied in a post-launch patch. As it stands, even at its low cost, this game is a waste of hard-drive space in its current state.
Do not be fooled into believing that Outbreak: The New Nightmare brings back old-school survival horror. It may well house many of the elements, but the truth of the matter is that this game is merely a poor imitation of a 20 year old game that’s much better. It lacks optimization, personality, and comes with a heap of technical problems and poor design choices.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.