Roughly a year ago, Capcom delivered its first attempt at bringing the Resident Evil series online with the flawed but mostly playable Resident Evil Outbreak. Now it's back with more of the same in the aptly titled Outbreak File #2, which is essentially a full-priced expansion pack for the original game that has new scenarios, some minor mechanical improvements, and not much else. Outbreak was an interesting experiment a year ago, but since we've now seen the Resident Evil series finally move on with its incredible fourth installment, dealing with the archaic gameplay conventions of File #2 today feels a little like taking a step backward.
File #2's marginal improvements don't do much to obscure blemishes that have lingered since the original Outbreak.
That's not to say File #2 is worse than the original Outbreak. If anything, you could call it more of the same. The premise is certainly familiar: Eight citizens of Raccoon City have survived the zombie outbreak and must work together through a series of dire, unrelated situations to defeat the walking undead and make their way to safety. They come from all walks of life. For instance, there's the token police officer, Kevin, who starts each mission equipped with a handgun; Yoko, the hapless student whose backpack affords her double the inventory space; Mark, the burly security guard who's good with melee weapons; and Alyssa, the newspaper reporter who's handy with a lock pick. Each of the eight characters is different enough that who you play and who you take with you into a scenario makes a significant difference.
File #2 plays identically to the first Outbreak, which is to say it plays pretty much like every Resident Evil ever made (except for RE4). You'll move through each dilapidated environment looking for weapons and health power-ups to keep you alive, while searching for items and clues that will help you solve puzzles and escape all the madness. The classic Resident Evil gameplay has always been methodically paced, with a lot of swapping items around in your inventory and readying yourself to take a shot at encroaching undead threats. Like its predecessor, File #2 feels like a mix between an adventure game and an action game, since you're still required to muck around in your inventory, as well as read lengthy files left behind by survivors, all while the menacing creatures of Raccoon City are still stalking you.
A game like Outbreak File #2 demands that you consider everything about the environment and the clues and items you've picked up as you figure out how to solve puzzles and proceed. So it's vexing that the action keeps running in the background while you're trying to combine herbs or study the map for a door you may have missed. It's obvious why this is necessary in the online portion, because it wouldn't be much fun if you had to wait every time someone wanted to reload a pistol. But it would be nice if the offline mode let you off the hook a little, allowing you more freedom to explore and puzzle on your own without having to rely on occasionally incompetent artificial intelligence-controlled allies.