The Looter Shooter (or Shlooter if you prefer) genre is one that has positively exploded over the last generation. Whereas it was almost entirely dominated by Borderlands in the past, it has grown to be a massively popular genre filled with successful games over the last few years. The emergence of Destiny and The Division and the success of Borderlands 3 have shown that the genre is here to stay and that there is still room for more games and franchise to jump in. The latest addition comes in the form of People Can Fly and Square Enix’s new IP, Outriders. Set in a post-apocalypse and alien world, the game combines an aggressive gameplay style and interesting abilities to create a game that is exhilarating to play, but is unfortunately let down by poor writing, a bland story, and an incredibly rocky launch.
First, let’s talk to the technical issues that Outriders has faced since launch. Given the game is an always-online title, any server issues it faces are inherently debilitating to the experience. That was definitely the case early in, with frequent server issues causing me to lose progress and have to restart missions early on. I was also largely unable to complete multiplayer online missions, as the game would frequently lose connection and boot me from the session. Combine this with issues even connecting to the game’s servers in the first place (frequently requiring multiple closures and relaunches of the game) and my early time with Outriders was inherently frustrating. Thankfully, the servers are more stable now, however, they’re still far from perfect and I still run into the odd issue here and there.
The main reason these connection issues are so frustrating to me is that the game itself is fantastic to play. Unlike other cover shooters, you’re rewarded for being aggressive. You heal by dealing damage to enemies, so you’re rewarded for getting into positions where you can quickly unleash hell on enemies. I played as a Pyromancer in my time with the game and there was nothing more satisfying than turning an enemy into a corpse-bomb and having them obliterating anything within the explosions radius. Early on, I found the game frustrating as I hung back in cover like I would in any other cover shooter, but eventually I realised that I was playing the game wrong. The cover isn’t necessarily there to protect you from your enemies. The cover is there to protect your enemies from you. With that realisation I changed my play style, getting in more aggressive positions and running and gunning wherever possible, minimising my use of cover as much as possible. Doing that, I felt rewarded, with my aggression reaping rewards causing the gameplay to flow so much better than it did before. It left me wanting to keep jumping in and playing more, which is exactly what I want gameplay systems to do in a game.
In between your bouts of combat, you’ll learn more about the Outriders, humanity and their story. The game begins as you arrive on a lush alien planet. The remnants of humanity have fled earth, as the planet dies due to their actions, to seek new beginnings and an opportunity to avoid the mistakes of the past. Instead, a strange storm appears, wiping out the majority of your crew before you’re placed in status. Awakening decades later, you find that humanity has, of course, reverted to the ways of the past and are a giving fighting over the scraps of what’s left. It’s up to you, the last Outrider, to take your new found powers as an ‘Altered’ (a god-like being who was granted abilities by the storms instead of obliterated) and try to save what is left of humanity from themselves. There are the occasional interesting moments as you learn more about the new world you’re on, but beyond that the story leaves a lot to be desired.
A big reason for this is its presentation and characters. The game’s cutscenes are weirdly framed and recorded, with sudden camera movements that can sometimes be nauseating. It’s characters are largely abrasive or bland, with little character growth to endear them to you. It leaves them forgettable and without much depth or growth some of the game’s more dramatic moments fall completely flat. Similarly, much of the game’s voice acting ranges from average to terrible, and rarely seems to convey emotion or weight during scenes. It seems that a lot of this comes down to direction, as the game often tries to portray a 90s-esque attitude that just isn’t engaging. There is the very odd moment where the planets align and it hits well, but for the most part you wouldn’t lose a lot by skipping through Outriders cutscenes.
Visually, Outriders is somewhat of a mixed bag. It’s roots as a last-generation game are clear, with none of the bombastic visual features we’ve seen in other titles such as ray tracing. With that said, the game looks largely good on a technical level, with plenty of complexity to its textures and locations. Where it slips a bit is in its art style. While abilities can create some pretty cool visuals, the game often takes you to muddy or crumbling ruins that aren’t interesting at all to look at. It all makes sense from a thematic perspective, with humanity repeating their mistakes and ruining the world around them, but it sure can be boring to look at. There is also a lack of variety in enemy type, with the same enemies repeated frequently and quickly losing relevance. This is somewhat balanced by the unique boss fights and the more unique locations of the game, but it doesn’t completely overcome its other issues.
In the end, Outriders is a mechanically fun game held back by its other elements. A forgettable story, technically good but artistically uninteresting style and early technical issues stop the game from being as great as it feels it could be. If you’re looking for a fun time looting and shooting, and don’t mind skimping a little on the trappings, than this is definitely worth giving a chance to.
Outriders was reviewed on PlayStation 5, with a review copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. For more information, check the official website.
- Combat is interesting and exhilarating - Game runs at a consistent 60fps - Abilities look super bombastic
- Plenty of early server issues - Story and characters are largely forgettable - Environment art style is often boring