Those of us old enough, remember way back in the 90’s when a certain Resident Evil dropped into PlayStation, with its voiced cast of S.T.A.R.S members in a creepy and isolated mansion, and the iconic yet sinister Umbrella Corporation, right? Back then, it was genuinely creepy, and downright amazing. These days, games have advanced so much further in quality, and developers have since managed to get to grips with how 1st and 3rd person cameras should work efficiently. Along comes developer Drop Dead Studios with Outbreak: The New Nightmare on current generation platforms to deliver another zombie apocalypse for us gamers to get to grips with. But why did I reference Resident Evil’s first incarnation? Read on.
What I want to address first and foremost, is the game takes a huge influence from the iconic series with its camera angles, which back in the day where positioned as such to create tension, panic and hide a threat wherever possible. In this day and age, it’s more of a hindrance to any gamer than a help. A shame really, as it makes advancing through the game rather difficult. Especially when having to deal with more than a couple of zombies at once. Another obvious resemblance to Resident Evil, is only being able to tackle the zombies in a stationary position. Not only is this game mechanic old and outdated, but it makes for a frustrating combat scenario whereby you will take damage and quickly find yourself surrounded before you know it.
That aside, Outbreak: The New Nightmare is actually an enjoyable romp, and doesn’t make the rest of the time spent with it hard to deal with. A short introduction regarding the backstory, along with some information regarding the 6 playable characters, each with their own benefits. Once you’ve decided which of our protagonists you want to play as, it’s time to choose game mode and difficulty. There’s a total of 3 game modes; Campaign, Onslaught and finally, Experiments. Each of these offers 5 maps in which you play out as a sole survivor who you need to keep alive. Given that games that feature zombies like Dead Island, Left 4 Dead and Dead Rising, all have a cooperative mode that allows a friend, or friends join you in the action, it comes as a surprise that Outbreak features nothing of the sort. Zombie games are my thing when it comes to some team based gaming, and I do feel a trick has been well and truly missed here. It’s entirely possible that it could feature in an update at some point in the future, but we have to remember that this game was created by one person. A lot of work goes into a game when you’re on your own. Still, it would make taking on the hordes far easier.
The maps are all of a generous size and will see you kept busy as you attempt to reach the end goal, which is never anything too difficult on paper. Unless you’re playing on Nightmare mode, which suddenly turns the game into a real nightmare. Yes, it’s hard and unforgiving. Taking into account the mechanics of the game regarding camera and controls, you will be in for a challenge that almost becomes cynical. The best piece of advice I can offer you right here, is choose lower difficulties at first, get used to how the game plays, and once you feel comfortable, crank it up a notch. While map layouts remain the same, weapon and consumable items randomly shift about each time you play, keeping it fresh and forcing you to keep an eye out. Not that they’re too hard to discover, and flashes of pale yellow indicate when something is nearby, and don’t forget inventory management. You can only carry a small amount of items, which in turn forces you to carry a single weapon with ammo, and maybe a back up weapon in case things go awry and finally some health regenerating pick up. I do think that 6 item slots would have made it more manageable than the current 4 slots.
A point to note, is that this is the work of one man over the last couple of years, and even though it may look a little rough around the edges, and have an outdated gameplay mechanic, Outbreak: The New Nightmare is fun to play, and quite addictive. When you “almost” make it through the level, I personally felt challenged to have another go and try and beat my previous attempt. I wasn’t going to take it on the chin and quit, I wanted to say I beat that level. Maybe not so much on Nightmare difficulty, but I do want to say I have managed to beat it at least once on the hardest difficulty setting. Although this may take some time.
I’d love to have seen a cooperative mode included, whether that be online or local, which could have upped the stakes and made the game more manageable when it a corner against the unrelenting horde. Although, if you pick it up on Steam, this is a reality. So pick your platform wisely if co-op is more up your street. Xbox One X owners are given an upgrade, and even though I've not been able to acquire said console, I’ve found footage on YouTube which shows the difference and I’ve been assured that it is far better when played on Microsoft’s latest console. So worth remembering if you intend to pick the game up.
Overall, Outbreak: The New Nightmare is a decent Indie title, and solo developed no less. So I’m prepared to cut a little slack here, as I’d be in over my head attempting a project like creating my own game. It’s runs well enough, has 3 game modes, 6 maps and 6 characters to choose from each with their own skill set, giving you plenty of combinations to pick from. With more attention paid to the camera and controls, this could have been a fantastic title as it does feel outdated in this sense. Not that it’s a terrible addition to the platform, but I do prefer modern methods.
Overall Score 7/10
Developer: Drop Dead Studios
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
Release Date: 3rd January 2018
Price: $8.99 only available in USA, Canada and Mexico
File Size: 9.68GB
Xbox One copy provided for review purposes
Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 & Steam