Outriders is the new third-person shooter from People Can Fly and Square Enix. Vanguard of the evolution of the genre or a project like many others? To find out, it will be necessary to venture into the dangerous depths of Enoch.
Version tested: PS4
Outriders: an ambitious project
Outriders it is an ambitious project. And even if, compared to the games from which it seems to draw some elements, it has undoubtedly received a less aggressive marketing campaign, not for this it seems that less care has been taken. To some it may seem that it has, so to speak, "come out of nowhere"; but it was actually the fruit of ben five years of development and, as we shall see, it was five years spent pondering and balancing almost every element of this singular production.
When I say "singular" I mean that even though Outriders seems to draw almost with both hands from games that preceded it (both single player, such as Gears of War o Bulletstorm, both multiplayer like Destiny 2, The Division o Anthem), in reality it has its own identity, which clearly distinguishes it, for better or for worse, from all the other cooperatives with a persistent online component in circulation.
Every aspect of Outriders, from the plot to the gameplay, passing through the graphic and visual suggestions, deserves an in-depth examination: in which there will be comparisons with other titles, but there will always be something peculiar that this game does not do like the others.
The recurring theme of this article, however, will be the opposites. Outriders does nothing but compare profoundly opposing elements, which prevent him from resembling this or that too much and end up making them a game with a strong and original personality (although not without defects).
The rebirth of the Outriders
Let's start with one of the most significant features of Outriders: it is a game strongly narrative, having a intense texture it's a'carefully painted and designed setting, where nothing was left to chance. It is an important element because although Outriders is a persistent online game (you have to be connected to a server even just to play it in single player), actually you could consider it more a single / co-op experience than a full-fledged MMO. And in a certain sense, his audacity and his spirit of diversification lie precisely here.
Unlike what happens in Destiny 2 or The Division I & II , which also have strong plots and solid environments, but immerse everything in a structure filled with PvP or activities that have nothing to do with the plot, in Outriders the complex and articulated story of the game always seems to be at the center of attention.
Also due to the important role played by the plot and the excellent direction with which it is presented, I'll keep spoilers to a minimum, focusing on a couple of concepts which will then be studied in depth separately.
The two faces of First City
Outriders is a science fiction story and takes place in a not too distant future in which Humanity, after leaving behind a dying Earth, attempts the colonization of an alien planet named Enoch: this enterprise turns out to be full of turns, unexpected pitfalls and brutal upheavals. In it the body of Outriders, that is the vanguard of the explorers called to catalog and map the new world, will have a fundamental role.
It is natural to compare this system with that of other online video games with a persistent component, such as for example Destiny 2 o Anthem. Referring to other offices a more detailed analysis of these comparisons we just say that Outriders presents a more defined and less dispersive narrative than the games mentioned, focusing more on events and characters, but above all by adopting a completely different narrative register.
And here we are at first contrast between opposite elements exhibited by Outriders. The story is dark, disenchanted and imbued with a pessimism that seems to clip the wings of all hope; the events are brutal, the characters are even more so, embroiled in a war that has transformed even the mildest person into an unscrupulous hierarch, a murderer or a victim.
However in this macabre context there is still room for irony, over-the-top dialogues and surreal elements that not only make you smile, but also give an almost comical edge to the whole. Even if you think about it there is nothing to laugh about, but nothing at all. In addition to lighten the gloomy heaviness of the setting and of a story that does not give much to cheerfulness, this tone helps the characters stand out, to better define his own (albeit curious) personality, creating a sort of empathy between the player and the protagonists.
And with "protagonists" we do not mean only the anonymous Outrider they take on the role of, but the vast majority of supporting actors that, unlike the "extras" seen in other games of this type, they are at the center of the story as much as the player: even if they are "simple" NPCs seem defined and multifaceted as if we were in a role-playing game of BioWare. But be careful not to get too attached, we are still talking about a violent setting where the average life of people has dropped well below 40 years.
The Infinite War
The general backbone of Outriders is that of one third person shooter with covers. This basic structure mixes with a hint of tactical RPG progression: There are the levels and there are four classes, each with specific skills that need to be mastered and set as a profession "in the right situations".
Furthermore, each class has a tree of "talents" which also allows you to diversify the characters within the same class, to guarantee each player to be able to find the specialization closest to his style of play. The Destroyer will charge enemies in melee, Pyromancer e Technomancer they will annihilate them with devastating short or medium range abilities and the Mystery he will summarize the two things, with merciless and devious mastery.
In the general structure of the gameplay it also finds a prominent place inventory, with drop / loot dynamics e classification of objects by rarity similar to what is seen in Destiny 2 o The Division I & II.
Even the best-orchestrated and optimal specialization can benefit enormously from the right equipment and this not only by virtue of the firepower of a weapon or the protection offered by armor, but also of the "characteristics" or special skill changes e to the effects that the best pieces of equipment incorporate.
An extensive, but not too complex one crafting system allows the player to usefully recycle the many pieces they do not need and to carve out equipment tailored to their needs and style of play.
The gameplay also exhibits dynamics with strong contrast between opposing elements. At first glance you might think that Outriders be it simply a third person shooter with covers, in the style of Gears of War o The Division: but it's not that simple at all.
The enemies they are not singularly gifted with particularly brilliant artificial intelligenceindeed, their predictability is part, as we shall see, of a larger scheme: nevertheless they are many, diversified and endowed with a lot of resources. Most of which will be aimed at flush the player out of the cover where he is crouched, if he thinks he can stay there for the duration of the battle.
Whether it's a grenade, an enemy equipped with a shotgun and heavy armor bypassing cover or even destroying the cover itself, the Outrider will have lots of good reasons to come out and move continuously. One of these reasons is precisely the fact that a optimal use special powers of one's class (indispensable for achieving victory) can be put into effect only with adequate and quick footwork.
And here it is again opposites in conflict: at times the “shooter with tactical and reasoned cover” takes over, imposing the use of the most appropriate to the circumstances among the numerous and diversified weapons of the game (each with its own context and specific utility); at other times you have to forget about it to give space to the "brawl and wild scrum" in which to show off more than spectacular superpowers in the style of "Marvel's Avengers" that of refined war tactic with firearms.
More often, the two will be mixed in frantic battles, full of charisma and in which the determining factor that can lead to victory is dictated by a wise man knowledge of the area, of the sequences and combinations of enemies that you are about to face and the best set of resources that allows you to be right, given the abilities of your character (or your group if you play in co-op). In this the aforementioned "predictability" of the enemies helps build a winning tacticrather than representing a defect in the proper sense of the term.
Outriders' lights and shadows
Of course, it's not all roses and flowers. The enemies, even if "expertly repainted", they are very similar to each other and the fact of having to master the dynamics of carrying out a mission and then often find yourself repeating it (also for farming needs) All in all, the minimalist system of Outriders is very stressful, highlighting his simplicity and basic repetitiveness.
The missions, although diversified by the presence of apparently varied bosses and objectives, they all have the same structure, "corridor" maps with relatively little space left for exploration and only short shifts between one section and another to interpose between two consecutive battles.
Once it failed the powerful impulse linked to the curiosity to complete the story, the content is exposed to the drama of repetition: further reason to live Outriders more like a single player experience with co-op rather than as a persistent MMO-style online.
The balance between the various classes and skills isn't perfect either, but fortunately the specter of frustration, sometimes induced by decidedly difficult points to overcome with an inadequate class, it can be circumvented with a "desired adjustment" of the difficulty level.
In fact, once a World difficulty level has been unlocked, you can decide to play any point in the story preceding that reached with the "World level" achieved, or any of the lower ones. In this way it will be possible avoid getting bogged down on one point particularly difficult or to which one's class is particularly unsuitable and thus continue on one's path; or you can decide to retrace your steps, replaying previous missions with a higher degree of challenge and better rewards.
Company of Three Outriders
Outriders can be played alone or in one cooperative involving up to three players in the same team. The "casual" multiplayer it's not very fulfilling unless you want to dampen, with a challenge faced in company and the promise of better rewards, the monotony of farming. The speech changes radically if instead it is played in an organized group of friends, with which the individual builds are coordinated in order to create an effective team with valid synergies. In this case we can say that Outriders brings out the best in yourself, revealing the most valid aspects of his cooperative soul inserted in an exquisitely single player fabric.
Also from a technical point of view, Outriders it doesn't leave much to chance. Being a game cross-gen, Provides some degree of scalability, passing by very heavy requirements to have the maximum detail in the version PC to the more "modest" versions for PS4 e Xbox One and they still make a great impression on an aesthetic level.
Enoch is a diverse planet, whose panoramas range from post-cataclysmic human settlements, torn apart by poverty and war, to the wild charm of frozen forests and mountains: these teem with dangers and dangerous native fauna, but at the same time throbbing with wonders and alien suggestions, worthy of the best sci-fi context.
The visual rendering of the game in 4k is very good, but also at lower resolutions Outriders does not look bad at all and shows off noteworthy shots and visual effects at the height of the superpowers it proposes: flames that consume the enemies alive, who will shake furiously to try to extinguish themselves; lightning and electromagnetic storms, of natural or "anomalous" origin, sweeping the battlefield; toxins and freezing, for brutal and imaginative killings. Everything that becomes part of the balanced tactical alchemy of "states" and elemental attacks always (or almost, with a couple of uninspired exceptions) finds a visual counterpart up to the task.
What leaves a little to be desired, both from a graphic and "technical" point of view the textures of the scenarios seen closely and, in general, anything that has to do with uploading. Especially for those who play an old gen version (PS4 or Xbox One) the frequency of uploads, even of a certain importance, just to move from one point to another can be annoying. It would have required, as a counterbalance, a more imposing visual majesty of the whole.
The goodness of the visual sector echoes a valid sound component, with music of great impact, adequate sound effects (although not exceptional) e a generally quite convincing Spanish dub, even compared to well written dialogues, which perform well the crazy temper of the characters and the gloomy pessimism of the setting. Outriders therefore passes the "film test" with flying colors.
Also a relatively simple and functional control and interface let you focus on shooting, On three skills (chosen from eight totals in the endgame) available for your class and on what could be defined as the most important component of all: the movement.
It must be said, to be honest, that the launch of the game wasn't all plain sailing: even major bugs (like that of the inventory) e fluctuating server stability, which forced a temporary suspension of cross-play, have tarnished a little the joy of those who pre-ordered the game to enjoy it on Day One. However, these problems appear be addressed and fixed with timely patches and a general one post-launch care, which also bodes well for the future of the game.
First year on Enoch
The content offered by Outriders it is substantially similar to that of a full-bodied single player, also playable in cooperative. In addition to the missions that make up the main plot, there are numerous secondary, all with their narrative impact and their load of surreal irony. And naturally, there is no shortage of collateral activities such as hunting, bounties and the search for collectibles.
Where the very powerful initial narrative impact seems a bit lost in the inconclusive second part, the secondary contents try to limit the progress of boredom and repetitiveness, albeit unfortunately they are resolved in missions and battles of the same type as those present in the main path.
Only that they are different, they must be studied and mastered separately and therefore add "mass". All material Useful, even if not exactly conclusive, to make farming less burdensome to those who are tired of disintegrating enemies in spectacular ways that, although we have tried to diversify them visually, end up too soon to look a bit alike.
Outriders è un prodotto bold and ambitious, which tries to differentiate itself from the crowd by proposing an innovative hybridization between single player and multi, however, accompanied by proven gameplay dynamics, graphics in step with the times e a decidedly non-trivial sci-fi plot and setting. The latter express their potential in a story full of twists, unexpected twists and a narrative with a “variable register” as unusual as it is pleasant.
What the game sins, aside some venial bugs and programming ingenuity, it is a substantial minimalism in the structure, which exposes it to some degree of repetitiveness and a feeling of incompleteness. But the fact remains that it is not an absolutely tasty experience to play, both alone and in company.
Outriders came out the April 1 2021 to PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X / S e Google Stadia. On Official site is available a demo for those who want to try the game.