Outbreak: The New Nightmare is a survival horror game developed and published by Dead Drop Studios. It was originally released on Steam and Xbox One in January 2018 and has now been ported to PlayStation 4 which is the basis for this review. The PS4 version includes improved lighting and animation, superior frame-rate, and split-screen co-op. Despite these new features, this is a hard game to recommend due to some technical limitations that affected my enjoyment of the gameplay.
Paying homage to the classic Resident Evil Outbreak games, Outbreak: The New Nightmare is the first fully 3D title in Dead Drop Studios’ Outbreak series. The New Nightmare is a sequel to 2017’s Outbreak which was a top-down 2d game, so the 3D graphics are a welcome upgrade from the developer, but the quality leaves more to be desired. Three game modes are available when entering the game – the Campaign, Onslaught and Experiments modes.
The campaign mode contains a tutorial and five levels to play through as you work towards escaping the quarantine zone. Onslaught has five different missions where you are tasked with finding supplies and surviving for as long as possible against hordes of zombies. Experiments have another five missions but each has a unique scenario to complete. As an example, the first mission is called Blackout with the only lighting being from fires in the hallways and your trusty torchlight.
There are six main characters to choose from – Lydia, Kane, Ivy and Harry are from the original release, and added in this new PS4 version is Hank and Elena. Each character has unique strengths and weaknesses. Lydia has some damage resistance and starts with a firearm while Kane starts with a lockpick but is weak against attacks. Ivy starts with a healing item and has a boost to healing, and Harry has a larger inventory space but cannot combine healing items. Hank starts with a shotgun and has improved crit chance, while Elena is immune to poison but has a lower crit chance. Characters can also be upgraded once they earn XP by killing zombies. I’d recommend playing as Harry first while you get used to the lack of inventory space overall.
Being a throwback to older Resident Evil and watching the trailer, I wasn’t expecting a full AAA experience but the controls and visual quality were below average. The character walking animations felt a bit stiff, though running was better. The zombie movement was to be expected from a walking corpse, and the zombies lying down didn’t pose too much of a threat. Shooting the zombies felt more like pushing them back than shooting them point-blank with a rifle. Sometimes the dark lighting in corners of rooms that had desks or fallen filing cabinets were sometimes difficult to navigate. The torch helped a lot but that went out the window when I was frantically trying to outrun zombies.
Outbreak: The New Nightmare utilises fixed camera angles, instanced rooms, linked storage caches, restricted saving and strict inventory management. Unfortunately, it’s some of these systems that restricted the fluidity of gameplay and became a nuisance. Fixed camera angles can work really well in games like this if executed properly. Despite some good lighting affects, especially scenes with fire, the corners and whole sides of rooms were sometimes too dark, making navigation difficult. I had to feel my way around them to get through them, but this really only happened when I was farthest from the camera.
The most jarring thing for me however, was when I transitioned between rooms/scenes. I would be moving forward towards the next room away from the camera location. The scene would change and the camera might then be located in the middle of this new room, so I’m now looking at myself entering this new room. If I keep holding up on the stick I would keep moving forward. However if I took my thumb off the stick or stopped to look at an item, I would then have to pull the stick down so that the character moved toward the camera. Even after playing for a while, each transition still messed with my head as I tried to move with the transition. This was made worse if I was trying to run away from one or more zombies on my tail.
Limited inventory space is a good feature in these survival games, making you choose wisely what you keep. Some characters had a starting weapon or item, which took one of these slots. This meant I sometimes only had three free slots to play with. Considering a weapon and ammo takes two slots, I really only had one flexible slot to play with. I had to be really selective as to which weapon I wanted to use at a time. I was often dropping items to pick up a new weapon and it’s ammo. One time I dropped a handgun and some ammo to pickup a new shotgun; it took a couple of attempts to get the shotgun given the handgun and ammo had dropped on top of it. I did like the ability to combine some items, such as healing items. I didn’t get a chance to try split-screen co-op, but I’m already thinking two inventories would be much better than my single one.
Overall, Outbreak: The New Nightmare is hard to recommend in it’s current state on PlayStation. It is a decent effort and continuing the Outbreak franchise and hats off to the developer for moving from top-down to full 3D action. The premise is there, and it does capture the feel of some of the older survival horror games. There is decent variation in the three different game modes, along with the various player characters options to try different gameplay tactics. It just suffers in some areas such as the fixed camera making transitions and navigating difficult, and the player/zombie movement could be improved.
Written by: @LukeyBangerz