Gears of meh
Played on: PlayStation 5
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Windows, Stadia
Genre: Third-person shooter
Developer: People Can Fly
Publisher: Square Enix
Release: April 1, 2021
Outriders is an upcoming third-person shooter from People Can Fly, the studio that brought you Gears of War: Judgement and Bulletstorm, and it shows. While the game isn’t fully released until April Fool’s Day, a demo was made available in February for potential players to get an idea of what it’s like.
I went into Outriders with an open mind, despite any preconceived notions I had, and played it for roughly 3 hours before feeling that I had enough. Fans of Gears of War and possibly even Mass Effect could find something to like here, but other than that?
All too familiar
The narrative setup is exhausting.
It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. Earth has been all-but-destroyed due to some apocalypse event and understanding that chances of survival are slim, the powers that be send Earth’s best and brightest to another planet. Here the intention seems to be to colonise the new planet due to its human-friendly environment, but of course, shenanigans arise.
Over the course of what seemed like an eternity, the game cuts between an abhorrent amount of cutscenes and short gameplay sections. I thought to myself, “Okay, this is just the intro, this might improve.” but it took far too long to open up and get to the actual combat. The story didn’t feel interesting enough to justify the sheer amount of cutscenes and the associated loading screens were breaking what little immersion I had.
Much to my dismay, the opening chapter was a prelude to another prologue of sorts. In opening A, the basic premise is established and stuff happens. In opening B, things need to be re-established because the narrative moved at a rate the writing could not support.
Not a great start, to say the least.
Guns and powers and stuff
Mercifully, the combat is decent if un-inventive.
On the surface level, it’s your meat and potatoes, third-person shooter. It has chest-high walls, melee attacks, the works. What does serve to make it somewhat interesting is the special abilities you can use. During a point in the second intro, you get to choose a class. I chose the Pyromancer class because, well, fire. Other classes available include Devastator, Technomancer, and Trickster. They all seem in some way interesting, and for anyone who becomes invested in the game, it could be worth exploring these other options.
The Pyromancer class specialises in mid-range action and it was a lot of fun to use their powers. The combat seemed to involve common factors of any kind of online shooter you’d see these days—varying enemy classes, health bars, loot, etc. Again, nothing here reinvents the wheel but, it’s serviceable. Some of the abilities reminded me loosely of Mass Effect, and that is a point in the game’s favour.
Nothing groundbreaking, but could be a lot of fun for those who are inclined towards online, third-person shooters.
Technical issues and other gripes
Technically speaking it was fine, other than one or two hiccups.
The main issue I ran into was with audio desynchronisation and looping. It started early in my experience that audio tracks, specifically character dialogue, kept looping. A character would be halfway through a sentence and would start again, and ultimately become out of sync with the cutscene animations and subtitles. It was really jarring and I hope it’s resolved in time for the full release.
There were some minor framerate issues to be found as well, but nothing game-breaking. It’s important to bear in mind that this is the demo version and doesn’t resemble the final level of polish the game will have when it officially launches (well, hopefully).
On the non-technical side of things, most characters are stereotypes or desperately unlikeable. One character, who you see in two different states in different time periods in-game, f*****g hates you for no reason when you see them in the later time period and it’s not adequately explained. Things are quickly patched up and the player character naturally ends up doing their bidding, but it makes no sense whatsoever. Things change in the game world but it felt unnecessary and only happened to create artificial intrigue.
I can’t see Outriders getting great reviews, but it’s easy to see why it would sell well.
It’s an online co-op loot shooter, made by the Gears of War: Judgement and Bulletstorm guys, releasing during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s bound to sell well unless the final version of the game is awful.
I won’t be buying it, it’s not my thing, but there is certainly an audience out there for it no matter how familiar it feels.
All images are taken from the Outriders press kit here
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