Outbreak: The Nightmare Chronicles Review

By Marc Hollinshead,
Survival horror is a genre that is held near and dear to many players. It is now somewhat of a niche in today's market, as the focus has primarily shifted to action and immediate gratification, which means that great survival horror games can be rare. Silent Hill and Resident Evil are arguably the founding fathers of survival horror, influencing much of the genre and evolving it into what it has become in this generation. The methodical gameplay of those early titles was revolutionary for their time, so it's no surprise that some may feel nostalgic as they look back on the genre's roots. In Outbreak: The Nightmare Chronicles, we get a game that has resurrected the core of what birthed survival horror. Unfortunately, it hasn't recognised what's worth resurrecting and what's best left buried.

02/05/2018 - Carousel

Outbreak: The Nightmare Chronicles is the third instalment of the Outbreak series that made its console debut almost a year ago. These three games have been arriving thick and fast, with Outbreak: The New Nightmare releasing only a few months ago. What Drop Dead Studios has attempted to recreate in these titles is an ode to the original survival horror game. Inventory management, limited resources, fixed camera angles, puzzles and challenging encounters are all part and parcel of what made the genre a success many years ago. It is a very specific set of mechanics that are rarely combined today due to the advancement of technology and ideas, so players who know little of the genre could be in for quite a shock.

Outbreak: The Nightmare Chronicles is divided into chapters. However, at the time of producing this review only chapter one was available. The premise of the story is very simple, and also eerily familiar with horror fans. You have lost your way from your friends and find yourself trapped in a creepy mansion with monsters on all sides. After explaining the initial story, the game throws you straight into the gameplay and expects you to already know the control scheme, whether you've played other titles in the series or not. There will no doubt be a bit of fiddling with buttons as you roam around the starting room in which you reside, but the simplicity of the game will cause you to get to grips with everything pretty quickly. If there's one thing you want to remember, it's the sprint button. It will save your life on many occasions.

As soon as you step out of this room, prepare to fight.As soon as you step out of this room, prepare to fight.

If you are not well acquainted with the way games like Silent Hill used to play in the early 2000s, then prepare to be educated. Outbreak works in exactly the same way and even prides itself on the implementation of these mechanics with a message from the developer upon starting the game for the first time. Initially, you will have very little in the way of resources, as other supplies are scattered around the mansion and hidden away in specific locations. Bullets can be scarce, so every shot counts. Even the old-fashioned tank controls are present here, but fortunately for those of us who have grown accustomed to fluid character movement (which is basically everyone), there is an option to turn this control scheme off. Even with a modern control scheme, though, the fixed camera can still throw you off which is a little irritating in some areas.

Outbreak also utilises puzzles and exploration throughout your time with the game. While the game regularly has you hunting down keys and codes to open locked doors, these puzzles aren't too difficult to decipher. You are never overwhelmed with the amount of rooms you can search and it is often a simple deduction of which door hasn't been opened yet once you discover a new key.

Floppy Discs that are also placed in specific areas are used to manually save your game at terminals within safe zones, so if death strikes when you haven't saved in a while, prepare to retread many steps. Hidden items such as these floppy discs, painkillers for healing and bullets are exactly that, hidden. You will constantly be spamming the interact button when coming into contact with shelves, cupboards and draws just to see if there is anything for you, but be careful, as you only have six inventory slots. This can sometimes feel too small an amount as there are so many different keys and weapons, so you may not even be allowed to try out a new weapon purely because you haven't found the door a particular key unlocks yet. It adds both an extra layer of challenge and frustration at the same time.

Now you're free to die without worrying about it!Now you're free to die without worrying about it!

Enemies are limited in Outbreak. Your regular zombie-like foes won't put up much of a fight, and other monsters will also require you to simply stand and shoot. It's hardly enthralling but like the rest of the game, it's faithful to the nostalgic experience its chasing, whether you like it or not. There are some notable occasions where camera angles can fool you into thinking you're safe or an enemy shadow on a wall will warn you of nearby danger but if you're careful, nothing is ever too dangerous. Be warned, though; these enemies aren't the most intelligent, as one decided to get stuck in a door and become invincible, despite the game demanding its demise before allowing the option of escape. It's not a smooth journey by any means, so there is an unusual sense of relief once you finally see the "End of Chapter One" message. When you complete the game, the desire to go back to it will be minimal at best.

Ironically, the developers have incorporated a mode that encourages return visits to the mansion. Battle Mode places you in the starting room, has all doors unlocked and gives you one objective; escape. Every enemy that you come across must be killed in order to proceed and if you die, you have to start all the way back at the beginning. For a survival horror title, especially with dated mechanics like Outbreak, this mode feels rather out of place and completely unnecessary. After a few quick stabs at it you won't feel any need to go back as it doesn't offer all that much value to gameplay.

This is where you should have a gun equipped.This is where you should have a gun equipped.

If Outbreak: The Nightmare Chronicles is to have one redeeming factor, it's the achievements. There are just 12 in total and to grab them all you technically don't even need to make it to the end of the game. Most of them will be earned naturally as you play, whether that's killing enemies, solving puzzles or healing yourself. However you will need to grind out the last couple as you will be required to kill 200 enemies and solve 50 puzzles. The total amount of puzzles doesn't even come close to 50 so this is an unusual achievement to have in the list, but nonetheless, after a few hours even a full 1,000G should be within reach.

Summary

Outbreak: The Nightmare Chronicles can be a great game if you look at it through a particular lens, that lens being from the year 2000. The game has managed to replicate the original survival horror mechanics that elevated games such as Silent Hill and Resident Evil to success almost perfectly, but its beguiling allure sadly melts away the more you play. Awkward controls and some irritating segments cause the game to be a chore on a regular basis, creating a genuine feeling of relief once you complete it. Encounters can most definitely be tense in some areas, so there is a sense of challenge to overcome, but the chance of glitches can ruin that immersion. As battle mode does little to bring you back, once you're done with your time in Outbreak, it'll probably be a nightmare you won't bother to relive again any time soon.
2 / 5
Outbreak: The Nightmare Chronicles
Positives
  • Faithful recreation of original survival horror mechanics
  • Encounters and enemies can cause tension in some areas
Negatives
  • Battle mode feels completely unnecessary
  • Game breaking glitches are present
  • The whole experience regularly feels like a chore
Ethics
The reviewer spent 4 hours shooting his way through zombies and other terrors, while earning 10 of the game's 12 achievements. A code for the title was provided by ID@Xbox for the purpose of this review.
Marc Hollinshead
Written by Marc Hollinshead
To summarize Marc in two words, it would be "Christian Gamer." You will usually find him getting stuck into story heavy action-adventure games, RPG's and the odd quirky title when he isn't raving about Dark Souls and Mass Effect. Outside the world of gaming, Marc attends and helps out in his church on a regular basis and has a not-so thrilling job in a supermarket.