The much-hyped sequel to the demo of the year has piqued some interest but can it live up to expectations?
Developed by People can Fly, (formally Epic Games Polish division) Outriders looks on paper like a pretty strong concept. The trailers never blew me away but it looked polished and the gameplay in the demo was slick enough to leave me pretty optimistic. The fact this was released for free on Game pass was impressive given it looked pretty well fleshed out. As release day rolled around, I dutifully purged some space in my hard drive and loaded it up.
I must confess on day one I got no further than the tutorial cut scene due to the hard crashes on the Xbox One X, this almost curtailed my review. After the buggy mess of Cyberpunk and my previous review of Dungeon Defenders Awakened, I was about done with developers failing to test their games before release. I did return to try again with friends for a multiplayer run and in a stroke of luck it seems we managed to put in a relatively smooth few hours and get to grips with what was really on offer. Before I move on the developers have done a sterling job to turn around a very broken experience fast enough to keep me playing. Connectivity is still pretty broken in friend lobbies but when it gets going most game braking issues have been fixed, at least for me. On Xbox One X the frame rates were dropping to around 10fps and the audio sounded like white noise more than battle most of the time.
The premise of the game sets you up as the one surviving ship from Earth on the search for a new home planet. You quickly realise all is not well with the planet and it’s inhabitants. As time jumps forwards you re-join the action at the brink of despair for humanity, and unsurprisingly it is down to you merry few to save the day. There is, as you will see mentioned in most reviews, a rather cutting tone to the writing which does seem self-aware. The fact it does not take itself too seriously is mildly entertaining but perhaps not as good as lovingly polishing its narrative. The story has its good moments, but much of the important world building moments are left to NPC chat options which rather demotes their appeal or you can even miss them entirely. The direction seems to be trying to get the story out of the way of the gameplay as much as possible, whether skippable or optional you have to decide to be interested, this may be appealing to some and certainly will be helpful while replaying.
At the core of the game is its slick gameplay and gunplay. Moving rapidly about the small mission areas feels great until a small ledge or mantle stops you in your tracks and consigns you to your doom. But the game drops you back in and in seconds you are smashing through enemies, lifting them on spikes, superman punching them from the sky and blasting away in the meantime while your powers recharge. This is where the game shines as it’s fun to play, it can be as simple as you want with the very variable difficulty settings. Tactics and skill can really come into play when you ramp things up against bosses and with friends, the enemy attack phases are varied and keep you on your toes. The loot and modding of weapons is blissfully easy and there is no need to get a calculator out to make gear decisions. Weapons feel meaningfully different and your gear can be tuned to support your personal taste of destruction.
Graphically the game has improved for me and I know my friends on next gen have no major complaints, it cannot be said it really looks next gen but it has stopped looking like a PS2 game at least. The oddly juddery cut scene cameras are jarringly not a bug, and with the sound of a reel to reel projector in the background at points but no film grain or sepia it seems like there might have been some creative choice they half backed out of. There’s regular texture pops and vanishing NPCs but surprisingly when the chaos of battle descends the game really seems to stabilise, it would seem all effort went into solid gameplay and the rest is left to hotfixes and future patches.
All in all for a free game it did entertain me and I will dip in and out with friends. I ended up completing a mish mash of the story to the point I don’t even know what I have missed which is rather annoying. Yet even getting pulled into the final boss fight, which was a bit of a spoiler, it was enjoyable and even low level there was tactical help I could give to help us through. I trust that this game will get better pretty quickly and it does deserve a second chance.
Author: Joe, Bath store