Outriders Hands-On Impression
Up until now, Outriders has been an elusive game, a whisper on the wind. At E3 2019 we were treated to a cinematic sneak peek with little else to go on except some haunting and harrowing images, capped off with a title card. I was one of the fortunate few given the opportunity to get a first look at Outriders to see just what this game is all about and I definitely was not disappointed.
People Can Fly have been working on shooters for some time now with titles like Fortnite, Gears of War: Judgement, and Bulletstorm under their belt, not to mention plenty of other gritty shooters in their collective resume. From the outset, it is clear that Outriders is a passion project they have been working on for a number of years, but taking all of their knowledge and putting it together with the legendary RPG portfolio of Square Enix has created an amalgamation with something for everyone. You might be forgiven for thinking this is just another looter-shooter, but there is so much more to Outriders than meets the eye. Yes, you’ll team up in squads of three to unleash hell on your enemies to find better weapons and armor, but more than that is the heavy RPG system and engaging narrative that reinforces this as a game with a soul. Outriders can be played solo or with up to three people, but what I was able to experience was a game that reinforces that hefty single player narrative we crave and blends it with co-op gunplay. Characters felt real. They have unique motivations and personalities, and the developers at People Can Fly have hinted that the bonds you forge and destroy with certain characters may even have adverse affects.
An Epic Looter-Shooter RPG Hybrid
Outriders borrows the mix of powers and gunplay from titles like Destiny and Anthem. Whereas Destiny is about guns and featured powers, and Anthem is about powers and featured guns, Outriders seamlessly balances both of them together. Each class can equip up to three abilities at a time with their own individual – and notably brief – cooldowns, but you never feel like you need to rely on either powers or guns individually to win a fight. The complexity of using them in tandem comes naturally, and the fact that each player’s powers can stack on an enemy together makes for an explosive and visceral experience. I played as the Trickster, a nimble class that manipulates time and space. I was able to erect an energy field that slowed down time for enemies trapped within, charging them with electric energy and setting them up for the Pyromancer and Devastator in my squad to obliterate them with their respective powers in gloriously gory fashion. The effects of these attacks stacked on one another and made for a brilliant sci-fi spectacle before our eyes, and this was accomplished with only the beginning few abilities; I can’t wait to see what late game powers have to offer.
While I might normally play a destructive class like the Pyromancer, the Trickster appealed to my penchant for playing a rogue-like character. His melee strike will slow down time, making the target easier to hit. His starting ability is a wide arcing slash with an energy sword that electrifies the enemy with a decent range. My second unlocked ability was the field that slows down time. It felt like such a potent support ability to run into a crowd, slow them down, and unleash a hail of bullets while my allies destroyed them. The third ability I got to try was to teleport. The Trickster can point at any enemy on the map regardless if they are in view and immediately teleport behind them, slowing down time for the target and gaining a buffed energy shield with a chance for some serious damage. It took me far too long to realize this was the best time to have a shotgun handy.
As we explored the settlement of Rift City, the dire situation of humanity became apparent. Any tech more advanced than a grease engine has been wiped out, leaving humanity fighting for scraps. The post-apocalyptic styling is incredibly well realized and – most importantly – no part of the city or Enoch itself feels under-populated. Humans, creatures, enemies, they all make the world feel alive. Locations are designed to feel lived in and yet destroyed by the war. The environmental details were incredible, whether it was the re-purposed steel plating now used as a walkway, the eroded stone of the sniper tower, or the way the foliage moved in the breeze. No part of the game I experienced felt like wasted space, instead all culminating in telling the story of Outriders.
As my squad progressed through the game, the world itself would level up in difficulty alongside our performance and skill level. Varying levels of World Tier difficulties would change enemy strength and loot drops as expected, yet it is the host player who controls the World Tier setting. We only managed to get to the fourth level during the demo but it is expected to have around 15 levels of difficulty to unlock. As we explored the world and picked up loot we found the typical assortment of weapons: shotgun, sniper rifle, assault rifle, etc. Players will always have two weapon slots to equip their weapon – not locked by class in any way – however a third slot is reserved for handguns with unlimited ammo. I had an assault rifle with 600 bullets and often found myself running low, so the handguns were a great option as a back up until I realized their range and damage is JUST as viable as the standard weapons. I frequently found myself switching to these pistols in favor of their accuracy over the spray of bullets from a fully automatic. Combat felt challenging enough to be engaging and keep me on my toes without being rage inducing. I was in the moment at all times and thoroughly engrossed in my actions. While the game does retain the snap-to-cover system of the Gears franchise, battlefields don’t feel designed so you HAVE to use it. It’s entirely possible to play out a fight without using cover, giving you the freedom to play as you see fit.
Our hands-on time with the game culminated in an epic boss battle where we had to put our skills to the test. While it was easy enough to chip away at the bosses health, he had more than a few tricks up his sleeve. His abilities were catastrophic but we learned very quickly the key to defeating him: teamwork. More than ever I feel that Outriders nails the necessity for teamwork. Alone you are powerful, together you are unstoppable. Our powers were mighty, but it was only using them together at the right time and communicating that led to our victory. The battle went on for 15 minutes and every moment was brilliantly tense. Despite playing with controller in hand for hours, the rush Outriders delivered made it feel like half an hour at most. I went into this game knowing only the bare bones and came out of it wanting more. Since I put the controller down all I have wanted to do was dive back in, and from what the team at People Can Fly have told us, Outriders is shaping up to be a serious blockbuster to watch out for. Whether you love looter-shooters or engrossing sci-fi RPG adventures, Outriders seems to borrow the very best from Bulletstorm, Gears of War, Destiny 2, Anthem, and The Division 2 to create a genuinely captivating experience that I cannot get enough of. What do you think of the Outriders reveal trailer? Let us know your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, or the Comments section below. Outriders is expected to launch Holiday 2020 and will be available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC. For more information, check out the game’s official website.