The year is 2004. Teenage me had spent the last few years enthralled with games like Serious Sam, Quake, and Doom. They were far too entertaining. I needed more. I remember sitting down on a warm summer’s evening to install the next chapter in my gaming adventures: “Painkiller”. This high-octane slaughter-fest from developers “People Can Fly” blew me away and gave me a taste for over-the-top action shooters. 16 years on, imagine my excitement when I saw a fresh AAA PS5 title from the same team who brought me the gun that fires shurikens and lightning.
I was not disappointed.
Outriders is a third-person shooter with RPG elements and customisable class abilities. You play as an Outrider: An elite soldier who is tasked with scouting Enoch; an Earth-like planet, to ensure that it is safe for colonists to start a new world. Why? Well, we have already wrecked the place so now is a good time to set-ship and bail. The problem is that you soon find out that Enoch is home to the Anomaly. A deadly storm that threatens to wipe everyone out before the first kettle has even boiled. After inevitable disaster, you find yourself put in cryo-sleep for 30 years where you wake up to a world ravaged by civil war (and angry wildlife). Luckily for you, the Anomaly has granted you (and a few select others) special powers. These powers are what sets the game aside from the standard “run and gun” formula that some third-person shooters are guilty of. You have four distinct classes available: Technomancer (sniper/support), Trickster (stealth/close-range), Pyromancer (fire-wielder), Devastator (tank/support). Aside from the plethora of guns at your disposal, you make use of your class abilities to weave chaos and destruction across Enhoch, whilst also supporting your teammates. This mechanic borrows from games like Destiny and Mass Effect but it also gives a flexible/adaptable difficulty option that allows comfortable solo-play. There is a matchmaking system available, but it is up to you to use it. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing with people but sometimes, there’s no harm in some time alone.
You also have a lot of optimisation available in your guns and gear. For example: your helmet can grant you extra summonable rockets or your boots can give you extra grenade damage . These elements are what gives the game depth. For me, having the ability to customise your gameplay style through your gear is what makes an RPG worth playing. But where is the icing on the cake? The cherry on top? Well, Outriders prides itself on being a game that punishes a defensive playstyle. Much like Bloodborne, the game allows you to regain health through dealing damage (in one way or another; every class is different). My Technomancer gains health through a set percentage of damage dealt. This forced me to start thinking about my flanking patterns and ability usage to keep my health ticking up while the denizens of Enoch try their very hardest to bring it down. It is this core mechanic that keeps the fun-factor high. Unfortunately, the big counter to this is the online-only gameplay experience where you are at the whim of the servers. These online shackles can be infuriating when the server can kick you out of a session at any time it sees fit, especially when you want to play by yourself. Still, it is nice to be able to run head-first into combat and be a literal god-on-legs. This isn’t a game where you pick your battles. They pick you…and you end them.
So now that we have an alien world, powers, deadly storms, a civil war, and lots of guns, it is time to ask the key question: does the game look the part? The answer isn’t a fist-pumping yes, but it certainly does look like a PS5 game. The combat is as smooth as anything and the world is beautiful, with each monster designed to be as imposing and fearsome as possible. The insurgent soldiers are mostly copy-and-paste but the boss-battles are spectacular. The graphics also show a good degree of varation. In the first hour of gameplay, I was worried that I would be subjected to the same beige-buffet colour palate of third-person shooters but once the game started opening up into new, diverse areas then the graphics were able to kick into fifth gear. This does not mean that the visual experience is perfect; there were some frame-rate drops and a surprising amount of graphical glitches. This, coupled with inconsistent graphical quality during cutscenes left me feeling polarised. Luckily, the sound design is superb with inventive creature sounds and distinct sonic variation in your guns. Your powers all have a unique aural signature and I love the crinkling-crunch of my Cryo-Turret freezing some poor sap who decided to get too close. You are also treated to a musical score from legendary video-game composer Inon Zur. I was excited to be immersed in one of Inon’s worlds again and the opening 20 minutes contained some jaw-dropping musical moments.
But, It is this opening 20 minutes where the game struggles. The story is entertaining (albeit peppered with some cheesy dialogue) but the pacing is far too erratic for an opening sequence. You seem to be in constant danger of information overload. The game tries to introduce key characters, a new world, a new story, multiple big events, a tutorial, a betrayal, a time-skip, and another new society all in the space of those 20 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, it was exciting to be thrown head-first into the wasteland of the future but the stop-start nature of the cutscenes and the breathless pace of the action did not help to establish the plot. I would have preferred if the story would have started 31 years later and you learn your past through flashbacks (which happen anyway as part of the plot.) With this being said, the side quests are entertaining and add a significant amount of depth to the areas. I have a lot of time for a game that makes me want to complete the side-missions, not just blast through the main story.
So, how does it rate?
This is a game that has more rough edges than a sandpaper convention. The game combines elements of some of the industries’ big hitters but ends up not quite excelling at all of them. Is this a huge problem? Not at all. We as gamers strive for perfection and sometimes it can make us lose sight of the core values of a game. Outriders is at its core, a relentless shooter which has enough content to keep you engaged for hours at a time. The main gameplay mechanics are fun to use (and abuse) and the gear optimisation options gave me plenty to think about in-between missions. The story pacing and technical issues melt away when you are taking on a 70ft, lava-spewing worm inside the core of a volcano. I tend not to find myself picking apart small details when I’m weaving this much destruction. If you are looking for a subtle gameplay experience then this isn’t it; I just wish that it didn’t take itself too seriously sometimes. Still, Outriders is a game that knows its limitations but presents them anyway. I look forward to seeing where People Can Fly can grow from this.
I give this game 8 dystopian futures out of 10
GameRev was provided with a digital download of the game for the purpose of this review.
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