On a recent visit to the online area of the PlayStation Experience event in London, we got a chance to play a demo version of Resident Evil Outbreak along with a number of other players. It's difficult to know for sure if all eight of us that were playing were in the same game, or whether perhaps there were two games for four people running simultaneously--either way, our experience in Raccoon City was as entertaining as it was surprising.
After choosing to play as a subway conductor named Jim who, according to his profile, gets attacked by enemies less frequently than the other seven playable characters, we found ourselves in a drinking establishment named J's Bar that was under attack from zombies. Our first job was to barricade the doors to the outside by moving large pieces of furniture, but it was only a matter of time before the undead found a way in and started causing problems.
As we progressed through the game, we found a number of items such as keys, herbs, and the like that suggested that Outbreak is a lot like previous Resident Evil games, but in fact the version of the game we were playing felt more like a Resident Evil deathmatch. At the start of the game, none of the players are actually able to attack each other, but as we each started to take hits from zombies it became clear that the virus infecting Raccoon City was getting into our bloodstream. A microscope-style indicator in the lower right corner of the screen gave us an idea of just how infected our blood was, and as the percentage rating neared 100, our character first began to limp, eventually could do nothing but crawl along the ground, and then died.
Nothing surprising in that, you might think, but seconds later we were back in the game--as an undead version of our former character. Unsurprisingly, our only goal at this point was to track down more-fortunate players and do our best to ruin their day. The gameplay wasn't radically different in terms of character control, although one nice touch we noticed is that because zombies can't open doors they just have to hit them until they can take no more punishment and swing open.
Another neat touch we noticed at one point in the game was when a player who was in the process of beating a zombie with a broom found himself armed with a long stick when the head of the broom came off. It's a minor detail, of course, but if it's any indication of the thought that's gone into the game as a whole, then there's a good chance that survival horror fans are in for a real treat when Resident Evil Outbreak launches next year.