Codename: Outbreak tries to bring some new ideas to the FPS genre. Unfortunately, execution is the final judge, not good intentions. Despite the interesting elements thrown into the mix, Codename: Outbreak is ultimately like every other less-than-great shooter to glut the market in recent years.
During gameplay, you switch between first- and third- person viewpoints, though the reasons why aren't profoundly clear. One distinct style would have served the game better, instead of what feels like a mishmash of arbitrary ideas to force you in and out of specific perspectives.
The real hook, though, is the supposed teamwork required as you lead two characters through the levels, trying to keep both alive. Like many games, the idea looks good on paper but execution-wise it falls flat, becoming a nuisance rather than a welcome feature. The AI behind your computer-controlled teammate is simply awful, as he'll negate any use of stealth by running around with guns blazing, shooting at everything. As much as you might want to see him eliminated, you must keep him alive by watching his back when he enters a room, ignorant of any cover that sensible commandos would utilize.
To make matters worse, navigation is a real chore due to the horrible AI path finding. Your mate gets stuck on doors, can't figure out how to maneuver a corner, and generally fails to go where you need him to go. Thus, you have to manually switch back and forth between characters just to get them from one room to the next. It's a frustrating hassle that makes you wish the dual-character aspect had been canned in development.
Although you have many choices at the start of each mission in terms of characters and armor, it's difficult to notice any real difference between them during gameplay. Characters feel like they move, take damage, and react similarly in nearly all cases. It makes for uninspired gameplay, since the attributes appear to have little bearing on the outcome.
Beyond the hassles and disappointments, Codename: Outbreak is quite average, with very little in the way of innovative enemies, architecture, or weapons. While the same gun can be changed to be used a different way, it almost feels like a lazy approach instead of a well thought out design, and adds nothing to the game. Levels are straightforward, utilitarian, and offer none of the surprises now expected in first-person shooters. Even cut scenes are bland, with static shots and horrible voice acting.
The one redeeming feature is co-op play. Other multiplayer functions play like other also-ran shooters, but co-op is moderately enjoyable, being a feature so underused in the current crop of shooters. Even so, it doesn't hold a candle to the co-op action in the cheaper Serious Sam games, but should receive some recognition for its availability.
At its core, Codename: Outbreak is average, with the intended innovations making it worse, not better. Dozens of shooters currently (c.2002) on the market provide better choices for players at all skill levels. Even at a discounted price, the investment isn't worth it unless you're hard up for co-op play.
Graphics: The visuals, while not bad, don't reflect the expected standards of the genre at the time of release. Models and environments are simply not cutting edge.
Sound: Occasionally creepy, the soundtrack is mainly just droning background noise. While it doesn't get in the way, it fails to add atmospheric ambience.
Enjoyment: Frustrating gameplay due to the basic design problem of guiding two characters who can't seem to find their way through a door, much less through enemy fire. Gameplay is frustrating on many levels.
Replay Value: Co-op play is the only redeeming replay feature of the game.
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