Deep within the underbelly of a virtual city that was once home to one of the largest pharmaceutical corporations on the planet, is the story of Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise. From its humble beginnings on the PlayStation in 1996, Resident Evil has grown to be known as one of the greatest survival horror game series of all time. According to ranker.com, a site that provides top charting lists of movies, games and more, Resident Evil games are listed multiple times in its Top 51 Greatest Survival Horror Games, claiming top spot with Resident Evil 4 and eight other spots on the list. However in 2003, Resident Evil brought a different kind of survival horror to PlayStation 2 owners, with its first-ever online cooperative game, Resident Evil Outbreak. Outbreak later spawned a sequel in 2005, Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 and, since its release, the series has gained a cult following deep within the Capcom community.
Outbreak’s lack of sales on both games led Capcom to close down its online servers worldwide because of lack of players. A statement released by Capcom back in March of 2007 revealed that online servers for Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 shit down. This decision came a week after video game publisher Konami pulled their plug on their online servers for their video game, Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence:
“Capcom regretfully announces that the server for our PlayStation 2 online game Resident Evil Outbreak: File #2 will be closing at the end of March 2007. Since Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 was released in August 2005, Capcom has provided a server enabling consumers to experience the online element of this game free of charge. Regretfully, conditions now dictate that we must close down this server effective March 31, 2007. Naturally it will still be possible to play this game offline, but the online component will no longer be available. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who have been loyal members of the RE Outbreak community for the past months.”
Only a few months later did Capcom post on their blog on Capcom-Unity.com that the original Resident Evil Outbreak game would shut their servers down indefinitely on December 31, 2007, along with another title, Monster Hunter. This post further explains the reasoning behind the servers shutting down:
“This news was just confirmed internally, and I wanted people to know ASAP. After more than 3 years of online service, the external company providing server hosting for both Resident Evil: Outbreak and Monster Hunter has decided to exit the PlayStation online business altogether, with no possibility of outsourcing either the service or the technology. This means that online gameplay for both games will come to an end on December 31, 2007. Fortunately, the single player campaigns in both games will be unaffected by this change and will continue to provide hours of entertainment on both PlayStation 2 and backwards-compatible with PlayStation 3 hardware. Thank you for supporting Capcom’s online titles over the years! — And just so you know, although these are older titles, we did want to make an effort to keep the fans happy and continue supporting online play. We’ve tried to extend the contract, move it someplace else, etc. It’s not happening. The hosting partner (who I guess remains nameless here) is just quitting the business entirely and doesn’t want to mess around with the time/money involved in porting anything. Thanks to everyone who has kept these games fun online for so many years.”
A forum on Capcom-Unity.com has brought together fans of the classic two-part game series to voice their thoughts on the game, as well a petition to bring Outbreak back in high-definition (HD) to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles.
Chris Hodge (a.k.a. TwiGGy), is the forum discussion creator on Capcom-Unity.com, and created the forum pertaining to the discussion of the Resident Evil Outbreak games. Hodge said he wanted the Outbreak community to congregate and chat about their favourite series.
“The Outbreak games aren’t the most popular games in the Resident Evil franchise, but the do have some of the most loyal and die-hard fans out there,” he said.
So far, the forum has the largest amount of views and replies across all threads, racking in more than 2 million views and over 21,000 replies. That’s more outcry than all general discussions about the game’s main series combined.
The Resident Evil Outbreak series follows eight regular citizens of Raccoon City who get caught in the middle of the initial T-Virus spread caused by the Umbrella Corporation. Suddenly, the survivors are held up at the local bar and band together in order to fight back against the reigning terror that’s struck their once peaceful city.
The most common enemy in the Resident Evil series is the zombie, which are regular citizens of Raccoon City who have lost their battle to the T-Virus outbreak, or have been infected by the hordes of zombies enough that the virus has re-animated their bodies, and they hunger for the flesh of the living.
Graeme Arkell, also known as Zombie_Professor on the Capcom forums, is a senior member of the Support Outbreak campaign. Arkell studies History and English at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, British Colombia, and has been a member of the campaign team since 2009.
“I specialize in contacting game websites and spreading the word about our campaign,” said Arkell. “We are a strong team, consisting of over 700 members. We are the largest group of Resident Evil Outbreak supporters on the internet.”
Arkell’s campaign was featured in a January 2012 issue of a magazine called “Evil-Mag”, which is based out of Germany’s largest Resident Evil fan site, Resident Evil Zone.
Arkell said he enjoys discussion on his forum on Resident Evil Zone, which he has been writing on for many months. “It really has been a pleasure discussing the Resident Evil Outbreak series with fans who are as passionate about the games as I am,” he said.
Hodge said he really enjoys the Outbreak series, and adds that it was ahead of its time, “Playing games online with your friends is common today. But, back then, it was new and exciting,” he said.
In a world where online gaming has become the norm, many fans of Outbreak do feel that the game needs to make a comeback. Resident Evil’s style of framework has changed over the last few years, and it has shown in their games. According to Giantbomb.com, the early days of Resident Evil, including Outbreak, subjected players to a fixed camera angle in an area of the room that watched the player like a surveillance camera on the walls of a top-secret military facility. The concept added a cinematic perspective to each room, but made the controls slower overall.
When Resident Evil 4 came to life on the PlayStation 2 back in 2005, the series adopted a third-person-over-the-shoulder camera angle, which gave players a face-to-face approach with their enemies. Giantbomb.com adds that Resident Evil 4 not only went in a new direction with the camera angle, but there were no more zombies, only parasites. The “Las Plagas” became an even greater threat for the protagonists of Resident Evil 4 and 5, which required more than a bullet-in-the-head approach to defeat.
The inaugural multi player installment to the horror franchise, Resident Evil: Outbreak challenged gamers to team up with three others online in an attempt to escape the T-Virus and Raccoon City, as stated on Resident Evil Outbreak’s page on Giantbomb. Online play offered a completely new experience to Resident Evil — the chance to play as one of the infected. When players died in an online server, the player could play for a few minutes as a zombie, and mimic the movements and moves a zombie makes within the same servers as their friends, and therefore asked an extra-challenging question: would you kill your friends, the same friends you just played with and worked together with? One could choose not to attack their friends, but really, that’s not the concept Capcom was going for.
Arkell states that, along with the online petition in place, fans would enjoy seeing not only a sequel to the Outbreak series, but ports of the original Outbreak game and Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 to consoles such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
The petition created to bring the Outbreak series back to life has gathered close to 8,500 signatures since 2007, and the Support Outbreak campaign hopes to hit 10,000 before sending their petition results to Capcom directly. The petition states:
“This is a petition asking to please continue the Resident Evil Outbreak series. Many fans would really like to see a File #3. We really enjoyed playing Resident Evil online and would like to see another game. All we really want is all 20 levels including the levels from File #1 and File #2, We would also like for the loading times to be fixed so that they can be shorter. Perhaps if you make it for the PlayStation 3 then you will have everything you need to make the game perfect. You can make a lot of money with Resident Evil: Outbreak if you just give it one more chance.”
Hodge said that he doesn’t believe in online petitions, but feels the Outbreak petition could turn heads.
“I do feel that the petition is at least doing better than nothing, and at the very least, could bring to the attention of Capcom executives that there is a fan base for this series.”
Arkell adds that he encourages players to join the campaign and to share their thoughts on the series.
“With a few more fans of the series voicing support, our campaign may succeed in convincing Capcom to bring back Resident Evil Outbreak,” he said.
Capcom sadly could not be reached for comment directly on this story. E-mails and phone calls were sent out over the course of this story’s development process, but to no avail. Many fans on the forums suspected that Capcom shut their servers down because of “hacking issues.”
Hodge tells the fans that continued support is necessary to grab Capcom’s attention.
“Keep supporting Outbreak! Capcom has been known to give their fans what they want,” Hodge said, as encouragement to the many fans of Outbreak that have yet to raise their voice.
Hodge adds that the discussion forum he runs is a great place to start in having one’s voice heard.
“The best way to have your voice heard is to get on the Outbreak Discussion topic on Capcom-Unity.com and let them know how you feel.”
With files from Ranker.com, Giantbomb.com, Kotaku, and Capcom-Unity, as well as interviews with Chris Hodge and Graeme Arkell