Drop Dead Studios has developed somewhat of a cult following with their Outbreak series, in which they have successfully replicated some nostalgia-fueled tributes to the original Resident Evil series, and done the unthinkable by adding some of the ever-popular roguelike bits into their newest entry Outbreak: Endless Nightmares. This was only my second attempt at dipping my toe into their bloody pond, but I enjoyed the previous game enough to warrant some legitimate excitement when they offered us a review code for the newest entry in the series.
If you’ve ever played the original Resident Evil games, you’ll feel right at home pretty early into the adventure. Everything you love, or in some cases hate, about the earlier offerings is present and accounted for: fixed camera angles; heavy focus on inventory management; healing herbs; wonky aiming mechanics with tank-like controls. With the exception of some mild visual upgrades, a plethora of options for quality of life changes, and the whole roguelike aspect, it’s easy to feel like you stepped into a time warp back to the late ‘90s. At least, that’s the case when you play in the standard fixed camera setting, which was my preferred way to play, and arguably the best way to enjoy the game. This is not just because of the nostalgia factor, but because the other methods are kind of terrible for one reason or another.
The gameplay loop leans much more on the roguelike element with more of a survival horror finish on the backend, as you begin each attempt in a well-fortified area, which depending on the difficulty you choose, may or may not be filled with ammo and weaponry. You’ll also find this houses some ominous ghouls that like to throw out insults, words of encouragement, and everything in between, as well as a piano that stands out like a sore thumb. Interacting with it sends you into the depths of the Arzt Memorial Hospital. It’s here that you’ll be tasked with clearing rooms, solving the standard “move the statues on top of the obvious target” puzzles, or evading traps. The goal here is to make it from start to finish acquiring as many coins as possible, as these can be traded with the ghouls and allow you to unlock additional areas within the hub. This is much easier said than done thanks to the fact that this is probably one of the most difficult retro-style survival horror games I’ve ever played. And I am pretty sure I’ve played them all at this point. As of this writing, I’ve made it to the third floor, where even on the easiest difficulty option, I get destroyed fairly quickly. I may have been at a disadvantage because this is a game that appears to be intended to be played cooperatively, but since I have yet to get a second PS5 controller, and my PS4 is collecting dust in a closet, I was only able to experience this in a single-player setting, as online play is completely missing in action.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say this is Dark Souls level difficult, but with all factors considered, it’s pretty damn close. The very nature of survival horror games is to make the best with the most limited of resources, and this experience is no different, but there are some added layers to this that take this theme and run as far as possible with it. You have to plan to have just enough ammo for just the right gun, or be damned to an eternity of evading the same enemies that you’re locked into an enclosed space with until they actually get you, since there’s no way to leave the current room until the objective is complete. Additionally, your weapons gradually degrade and must either be repaired or replaced. When it comes to healing, you’re just about as screwed as when speaking in terms of ammo, since the precious green herbs are the equivalent of putting a Band-Aid on a .50 caliber round to the head. These are challenges I expected and accept; however, once you add some of the not so intended flaws into the mix, it can make your runs more frustrating than terrifying.
I spent most of my time in the standard fixed camera setting, not only because this is what I remember most about the games that inspired this title, but because the other options just feel completely off on every level. The first-person mode is much more in line with probably one of the worst REverse games, Resident Evil Survivor, and far from what the series has evolved into with the most recent numbered titles. Not only is it really freaking hard to look at, with your gun running at a weird angle like it’s shooting out of the avatar’s elbow, you still play the game with tank controls, limiting your aiming ability to up, straight ahead, and down, with nothing in between and feels really clumsy overall. The third-person mode is slightly better but suffers due to the way your character’s torso blocks a large portion of the screen. Regardless of the option you select, the control mode seems stuck in tank mode, despite the “modern” option in the menus, and is totally in line with what you’d expect from a classic survival horror game, it just hasn’t aged well. Even though it was just released.
Across the board, the visuals are what you would expect from a title that aims to capitalize on late ‘90s nostalgia, with lighting, textures, and assets that are occasionally on par with the early 2000’s remake of Resident Evil, and at their worst, something that belongs in a PS2 era game. It didn’t distract me from enjoying this game for what it is, and honestly, probably put me more into the “good ol’ days” mindset, but I want to be clear – this is in no way a modern game. At all. In any way. The character models all look kind of stiff and at times, move or explode violently in ways that would make a time traveler from 1999 wince – particularly when you land a well-placed headshot. We’ve all played enough video games to know that a headshot, at its best, will result in a lovely spray of red mist as the headless carcass hits the ground. In the realm of Outbreak, this is treated with a glorious fountain of blood that has some confetti-style intestines raining down as the head remains intact.
I know that this review probably seems overly negative, and I will be the first person to admit this game has some issues; regardless of these, I enjoyed my time, but maybe for the wrong reasons. Much like the previous Outbreaks in the series, it really tickled my nostalgia gland and triggered all of my fond memories of being a pre-teen, sitting late into the night playing Silent Hill in a dark room. Outside of the technical issues that push the difficulty to the max, and the complete lack of online play in a co-op game being released in 2021, I can forgive them. They not only showcase just how far the genre has come, but remind me of what made it great in the first place.
Outbreak: Endless Nightmares is a hard game to recommend, not because it’s downright terrible because it’s not, but it is a niche game that will only appeal to a smaller crowd with a list of prerequisites. Do you really love roguelikes? Great. Do you love survival horror? Splendid. Do you have a second controller and something with opposable thumbs that share these interests? Spectacular. If you said no to any of these questions but love old-school survival horror, I would highly recommend checking out the other relatively wallet-friendly Outbreak releases, especially since they, as well as this new release, are also offered in a bundle on the major platforms.
6 out of 10
- Loving Tribute to ’90s Era Survival Horror
- Can Be Played in Local Co-Op
- Everything You Love About the Genre
- Infinite Replayability
- Everything You Hate About the Genre
- Weird Spawns
- Really Difficult
- Lack of Online Play
Outbreak: Endless Nightmares was developed and published by Dead Drop Studios LLC. The game is available for NS, PC, PS4, PS5, X1, and XSX. The game was provided to us for review on PS5. If you’d like to see more of Outbreak: Endless Nightmares, check out the official site.
Here at GBG we use a rating method that you are more than likely familiar with – a scale of 1 to 10. For clarification, we intend on using the entire scale: 1-4 is something you should probably avoid paying for; 5-7 is something that is worth playing, but probably not at full price; 8-10 is a great title that you can feel confident about buying. If you have any questions or comments about how we rate a game, please let us know.