17th Aug2021

‘Outbreak: Endless Nightmares’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Phil Wheat

[NOTE: This review is of the ORIGINAL Switch release of this game, not the recently updated/patched version… Mainly because I refuse to replay this game again!]

Created by Dead Drop Studios (in reality solo developer Evan Wolbach), Outbreak: Endless Nightmares is the latest game to grace modern consoles in the Outbreak series, this time mixing the franchises signature classic survival action with roguelike gameplay and a massive, semi-procedurally generated world that expands as the game progresses… In true roguelike fashion, things get more difficult each time you enter an anomaly. You’ll need to think carefully about which weapons, healing items, and other supplies you’ll bring along for the journey: If you’re lucky, you may find storage caches that give you access to your expanded inventory – and offer an opportunity to restock. But it’s up to you to scour the environment for supplies.

The game opens with players trapped within what remains of the Arzt Memorial Hospital. This becomes a central hub – a safe zone where you can organize your inventory and storage cache, level up your character(s) or just to take a breather before venturing out into the world again. There’s also multiple character options – each with their own abilities, upgrade paths, and more. Explore, scavenge for supplies, uncover clues, and fight your way through the anomalies – each consisting of semi-procedurally generated instances where both the environment and the undead are out to get you.

Well that’s what the official spiel for Outbreak: Endless Nightmares says… What about us? Well, if you want to play a game that looks and feels like a PC game from the late 90s – complete with wonky controls, bad quasi-3D graphics (and not of the GOOD “retro” variety) and a story that feels like someone has played too much Resident Evil and Silent Hill, well then this is for you.

I get the appeal of slightly off-kilter games, I do. After all I adored Deadly Premonition and its “broken” gameplay. But here it feels like the developer has purposefully tried to make something feel “off”, to make the game feel trickier than it – probably – is. And I really can’t get behind the graphical choice. To me it looks as though you’re playing an old 3D game on a modern TV – forget pixel-perfect, this is pixel overload. If you’ve ever tried to play a PSOne game on a 65″ television WITHOUT any sort of image processing or upscaler you’ll probably grasp what I’m trying to say. And playing Outbreak: Endless Nightmares on the small Switch screen in handheld mode makes it even worse visually.

Then there’s the semi-procedurally generated gameplay. That’s NOT what you need when playing this type of survival horror game! Although it doesn’t really matter that the game even is semi-procedurally generated. Why? Well you can LITERALLY “fly” the camera through rooms and areas to see whats ahead, defeating both the purpose of a survival horror (with no surprise there’s no horror) AND having a procedurally generated level! Speaking of camera, you can at least change between third and first-person mode – though the game also decides, willy-nilly, to change the view too sometimes, should you get too close to the scenery! But hey, at least in either of these views its actually easier to control your character and thus play the game.

Sans any sort of tutorial, or any real instructions on how to play Outbreak: Endless Nightmares you  – like me – may find yourself wandering around the Arzt Memorial Hospital “hub” for a good while. Let me help you out. Interact with ANYTHING that glows. ANYTHING. Then collect as many items as you can, in particular coins. Why? Because without coins you bloody well can’t even unlock the games levels! Stupid. Just stupid.

Like this entire game.

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