We're in the middle of a pandemic, and a lot of people are having a hard time, but there's a saying about how in the Chinese culture—ironically, we know—a crisis brings an opportunity. That's why it's no surprise to see a game developer capitalizing the situation to release a game about the coronavirus, and so, we had to test COVID: The Outbreak... but is it any good?
A Game That Screams ‘Cash Grab’
Granted, if you wanna make an impact and develop a video game about the ongoing pandemic, you gotta act fast. For obvious reasons, you won't be the only one with such an idea, but at the same time, people may lose interest once they get used to the situation—plus, you never know how things will play out. On the other hand, you need to be extremely cautious while dealing with sensitive topics like global panic and death, and people definitely will call you out for trying to make some money out of such a grim situation.
There are a lot of games about pandemics already, and all of them are about closing borders, researching the always-evolving pathogens, creating a vaccine before it's too late, and ultimately saving the world. In that sense, COVID: The Outbreak is everything you would expect... with a twist.
It may be hard to take it seriously and ignore your own instinct. In fact, we could bet most people downloading this game are all about a morbid interest in COVID-19 or the search the validation to call it a cash grab. Once you get those feelings behind, COVID: The Outbreak is actually quite interesting, and most importantly, it's notably challenging and complex.
Fake News Play a Big Role in COVID: The Outbreak's Gameplay
One of the things we enjoy the most when playing this game is dealing with fake news. Other than building research facilities and helping all countries work together, you also need to make some decisions, like canceling some important events (Rio de Janeiro's carnival, for example) or being completely honest with the world's population at the risk of causing more panic and riots. Sometimes, though, you need to debunk some myths, some of them directly based on stupid fake news you probably saw on TV or social media.
It's a complex game, and we could even go the extra mile and say it's hard to master, but it's also funny. That's what makes it entertaining and not just tedious and avoidable for a casual player. That being said, being so hard it's also frustrating, and there are a lot of players saying this could be a game design failure... but hey, that's not fair to say. Most of us are still locked in our homes, a lot of people have died because of COVID-19, and some countries don't even know how to stop it. To make it worse, there's no effective cure yet, and making a vaccine available for the whole world is no easy task either. Those are just facts, so how could a game about COVID-19 be 'easy'?
If you enjoy RTS games, then we totally recommend Jujubee's COVID: The Outbreak (released on May 29 and available for PC via Steam). Truth be told, we're not good at games like this and we're not even close to solving the tragedy in our virtual world, but at least we're happy after spending 14 dollars on a game we thought was gonna suck. Cheers to low expectations and a so-much-needed vaccine!