Better Off Dead
At first glance, Outbreak: The New Nightmare looks to have a lot going for it. Billed as a throwback to the glory days of the Resident Evil series on the Sony PlayStation, the game looks to deliver on that promise with its cinematic fixed camera angles, scores of viral ghouls, and back-to-basics survival horror mechanics.
Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving. And that’s certainly the case with this indie horror title from Dead Drop Studios. Like a puss-filled zombie feebly ambling to take a bite from your neck, Outbreak: The New Nightmare is ugly and seemingly falling apart at the seams. While it initially shows signs of promise, numerous bugs and performance issues wriggle beneath the game’s skin like hungry maggots to eat away at any semblance of fun that could have been found within.
Not Quite A Thriller Night
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Outbreak: The New Nightmare‘s story follows six survivors as they attempt to make their way out of a city that’s become infested with viral zombies following a global catastrophe triggered by a lack of hygiene due to water rationing. With the government powerless and society in shambles, you must fight your way through six chapters filled with scores of (presumably very filthy and flesh-hungry) undead and find safe refuge.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And if that’s the case, Dead Drop Studios is nothing if not enamored with developer Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise. Now, don’t get me wrong, when it comes to survival horror games, there’s hardly a more worthy series from which to take your inspiration. But Outbreak: The New Nightmare seemingly takes it to the next level. From the map and inventory screens that are carbon copies from the first two games in the series to a little piano melody that I swear has been sampled from Resident Evil 2, the similarities border on blatant plagiarism.
And you know what? If Outbreak: The New Nightmare were an enjoyable experience, I could more than likely overlook its glaring similarities to the granddaddy of survival horror games. After all, more classic Resident Evil is something I’d be the last person to complain about. The problem is that almost every aspect of this game feels haphazardly cobbled together and broken, making it a frustrating chore at virtually every turn.
Problems of Pandemic Proportions
Outbreak: The New Nightmare is host to an almost impressive number of technical problems and optimization issues that plague the entire experience. For starters, the only consistent thing about the game’s frame rate is its inconsistency. Want to shoot your enemy? Be prepared to wait a solid second as your PS4 proceeds to choke on the on-screen action. Are you going around a corner? Get ready for the performance to crater while the game transitions to the next screen. And it only gets worse as particle effects like idle flames and more enemies begin to appear.
Of course, the frame rate problems are only the tip of the iceberg. Like old-school Resident Evil games, Outbreak: The New Nightmare features a fixed camera. Now, I generally like this. After all, it makes for a more tense, movie-like experience. However, the way the game handles it here is nothing short of a train wreck. The camera is frequently situated in odd places that often completely obscure items or doors you need to access to move to the next area. While the camera could have gone a long way towards increasing the suspense, it does nothing to ratchet up the atmosphere and only causes frustration.
Oh, and speaking of frustration, there’s nothing more maddening than being attacked through a door as a ghoul’s arm clips through to take a swipe at your supple flesh. But alas, all of this and more are things you’ll have to get used to if you plan on seeing your way through Outbreak: The New Nightmare‘s campaign.
Outbreak: The New Nightmare‘s story takes place across five scenarios that run the gamut from sterile labs and office buildings to dilapidated urban environments. Players can choose from one of six protagonists, each with their proficiencies and starting items.
For instance, the undercover cop Lydia has good damage resistance and begins with her pistol, while the burly soldier hank can deal more critical hits to enemies and starts the game with a shotgun. These are novel ideas, but the way weapons and items are scattered all over the environment almost makes each characters’ starting equipment feel somewhat irrelevant.
The stages in Outbreak: The New Nightmare certainly look like they belong in a Resident Evil game. Sadly, they’re not nearly as compelling as their inspiration. Devoid of puzzles and featuring virtually zero narrative payoffs to speak of, they feel as lifeless as the ghouls that stalk them. Unless endlessly backtracking to uncover keys to proceed to the next area gets you excited, you’ll probably find yourself growing bored with the story relatively quickly.
In addition to the main campaign, the game also features an Onslaught mode. This is essentially a horde mode that forces you to scavenge for resources and survive against endless waves of zombies and other viral creatures.
The Experiments mode is a little more interesting. It introduces five new stages to make your way through, each with their own gimmicks and objectives to complete. These include killing all of the enemies on the map, exploring a darkened environment with only your flashlight and nearby flames to guide you, or fending off invisible enemies. I can appreciate what the developer was trying to do here. But the problem is these extra modes really don’t do anything to alleviate the core issues that make the game so frustrating to begin with.
Outbreak: The New Nightmare also features support for split-screen couch co-op for up to two players. Admittedly, this is a nice touch that I wish more survival horror games would do. The problem is this only exacerbates the already absurd performance issues the game has, which makes it incredibly hard to recommend. Still, credit where credit’s due to the developer for implementing this feature at all.
Pretender To The Survival Horror Throne
I mean it when I say I wanted nothing more than to like Outbreak: The New Nightmare. As a massive fan of the games that inspired it, it seemed to me like Dead Drop Studios was poised to deliver something special. Unfortunately, the scariest thing about this game is just how unfinished it feels. From its rampant bugs and performance problems to its uninteresting main story, the game is so bad it borders on parody, making it all but impossible to recommend to even the most scare-starved survival horror fans. If you’re dying for something new to get your heart racing, you’re much better off picking up the recently released The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters or Infliction: Extended Cut.
Final Verdict: 1.5/5
Available on: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC; Publisher: Dead Drop Studios; Developer: Dead Drop Studios; Release Date: August 27, 2020; ESRB: M for Mature; MSRP: $12.99Full disclosure: The publisher provided a review copy.