The idealistic view that the future will be all roses and delight is usually deluded. Well, at least in the video game world it is. Anarchy, destruction, and famine are usually the flavours of the day. Mankind is doomed, and it’s usually down to our selfishness, so more fool us! Outriders runs with this grisly picture, and those of us that are left alive must fight for scraps as we try to survive our grim existence.
Developed by People Can Fly and Square Enix and published by the latter, this is a third-person looter shooter set on an alien planet. Brought to us by the team that made Bulletstorm, this has the potential to build from their 2011 project. I was excited when I saw the game was being released straight to Gamepass and downloaded it at the first opportunity. But with opening weekend gremlins, I allowed the dust to settle before strapping myself in for this futuristic ride.
Outriders is a weird blend of other titles.
With Borderlands looting mechanics, the look of Destiny, and the movement of Gears of War, this has the potential to be a unique experience. Yet, I found that the eclectic blend didn’t amount to the height of each of its parts. Yes, each element is good, but it doesn’t evolve beyond what has already been experienced. You’ll dive around, hiding behind the scenery as you snipe or blow your foes to pieces. Sprinting and rolling is smooth and enjoyable, but the process becomes repetitive quickly. There is a lot of fun to be had when annihilating enemies, yet it plateaus pretty early on.
The almost dated 2D plain in which the action takes place screams Gears of War. Now, there was nothing wrong with this mechanic on the Xbox 360. Yet, times have moved on and palettes have developed. Failing to make the most of each situation made each fight feel flat. The epic scenery was at odds with the action and I wanted it to flourish, but it failed to materialise.
A great story that is a slow burner.
Life as a badass hero can be a lonely existence. Being the last Outrider alive sends this message home! You’ve travelled to an alien planet with your band of brothers, completed your mission, and prepare to return to base. Unsurprisingly this foreign land throws up some horrendous surprises! The ground rises, electrical storms devour you, and a few lucky people are granted superpowers.
Struck by the anomaly you think you are as good as dead. Placed in cryo sleep, the world goes dark and years pass. When you awaken, the landscape is scorched and people are dying. Only a hero can save the day and the people turn to you to fill that void.
I loved the story, the husky characters, and the twists and turns. The well-timed boss fights added depth, but I couldn’t get away from the slow flow of the narrative. Each main battle was interesting, and I genuinely enjoyed the variety in the cast. Sadly, the rinse and repeat nature of jumping from each blockade was underwhelming. The potential is there for all to see, but Outriders falls short.
Outriders is all about skill trees and moded guns.
With four class types to choose from, a vast skill tree to unlock, and weapons to find, buy or mod, there is a lot to personalise your experience. Each class has buffs and negative effects that mildly adjust your gameplay approach. But at the beginning the impact is negligible. As you focus your abilities along the skill tree, you see where the developers want their game to go. With bonuses applied for close-quarter combat or long-ranged weapons, you get to choose how you want this title to play out.
I liked how you were free to decide your fate, but the winner was the highly detailed weapon design. With insane mods and weird looks, each gun was a delight to look at. People Can Fly have spent a lot of time creating some amazing rifles, and you’ll be in awe when you stumble across something truly unusual. Yet, what strikes me as strange is you rarely get to see your gun from the third-person perspective. With so much time invested, I would have loved to see my beastly equipment up close and personal.
Crafting and this genre go hand in hand. It was pleasant to see that the usual drawn-out process was relatively user friendly. Weapons can be broken down to gain resources and any mods are retained for use of future guns. This was a nice touch, as your favourite additions never went to waste, and altering your arsenal on the fly was a simple task.
Vast sprawling landscapes that you never explore.
We all crave a full and interesting world and Outriders delivers that and then some. The grim world is incredible to look at. The massive sprawling landscape makes your jaw drop, and you will be desperate to get exploring. Sadly though, the gameplay forces you into a linear path. Each mission sells a portion of the world and slowly you’ll piece together each section. Yes, you get to see some amazing locations, but you’ll be desperate to rummage around and this never materialises. This doesn’t help with the aforementioned flat nature of each stage. So, though you’ll be in awe of the surrounding world, you’ll equally be left frustrated by the lack of exploration.
The audio enhances the doomed situation you find yourself in. The booming sound effects and aggressive soundtrack emphasise your hero status. It was easy to lose yourself in each battle with explosions left ringing in your ears. There were no complaints from me regarding how well the all-action portions played out. However, I was disappointed by the disjointed NPC conversations. Key information was often drowned out by someone complaining about their situation. There was no way to repeat the dialogue, so you always felt as if you’d missed out. The gruff acting and manly narrative was borderline absurd and weakened the delivery of the plot. It was enjoyable, but it flirted too closely to OTT ham acting for my liking.
Familiar mechanics ensure there are comfortable controls.
Fans of the genre will feel right at home with the comfortable controls. Rolling to cover and leaping into the battle was smooth and easily achieved. A large cursor makes aiming easy, and the drift and flow of the weapons ensured fighting was a joy. With the developers pedigree, it didn’t surprise me they got this element spot on. As a fast-paced action game, you won’t find much better, even if the other elements don’t make it to this level.
Like Borderlands, Outriders focuses a lot of its energy on making this a fun co-op game. Every mission can be tackled solo or with friends and strangers. This is where it excels, and it’s truly enjoyable when working in teams to hunt down your foes. Killing and looting are a team effort and creating a plan to succeed isn’t as easy as you’d think. This approach vastly increases the replay value, as does the end game Expedition missions. Take on fifteen challenging levels with a sliding difficulty scale and loot based on how well you do. You’ll lose yourself for hours in this mode alone, and the tougher stages will test the best players.
Outriders is a good game, but it leaves you with more questions than answers.
With so many layers and influences, I can see what the developers were trying to achieve. As a concept, each element works, but they never reach their full potential. You’ll enjoy playing it, but there are better, albeit older titles available. It’s free on Gamepass so you have nothing to lose. I recommend you download it and if you like it buy it here! Being a hero is tough, but someone has to do it.