Outriders doesn’t feel like a game that should be launching in 2021. Sure, it has the loot system you’d expect from similar games like Destiny 2 and Marvel’s Avengers, but its gameplay formula is noticeably archaic, like it was pulled from a vault of Xbox 360 shooters that never once saw the light of day. It’s drenched in excessive masculinity, with a narrative setup dreamt up by a child playing with sticks and stones in the back garden.
It’s a product of the past in many ways, which is probably why it has immediately cemented itself as an online shooter with thousands of hungry players – despite the ongoing server issues, which are a right of passage for live-service titles nowadays. But I love its dedication to lovably old-school gunplay and cringe-inducing dialogue, even if some of it is delivered with the acting grace of a plastic mannequin.
Outriders is a comforting blanket amidst similar games which expect you to soak up their dense lore and convoluted world-building like a good little gamer and play along until the next big update. I feel like I could dip back into this in a couple of months and still feel at home despite having only played a couple of hours, instead of being lost in an avalanche of new additions which has put me off many online shooters in the past.
The opening of Outriders is akin to older shooters like Gears of War or Fracture (remember that one?). You’re introduced to the circumstances behind this world and its characters before being thrust into a tutorial firefight. It all feels a tad clunky, like you’re being forced through some tedium before People Can Fly can show you the good stuff. Unfortunately for you, the juicy innards are stuck behind a bunch of uninspired cutscenes and a villain so stereotypically evil that I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. I bet he was a tory, too.
Once he’s dead and the planet of Enoch descends into chaos, you’re awakened in the future and christened with magical powers thanks to a mystical storm. It’s called the anomaly if you want to give the mechanical plot device a smidge more humanity. Once I’d selected my class – the teleporting Trickster – I immediately fell in love with the ebb and flow of Outriders’ combat. It feels incredible to play, partly because it’s a deliberate window of nostalgia into the shooters I devoured as a teenager. Battlegrounds are a nonsensical labyrinth of chest-high walls for me to hide behind, crouching in wait until a foe is silly enough to waltz into my sights.
Upon entering a new area you take cover, wait for enemies to charge in, and take them out one by one. Each locale is relatively small, and once cleared you’ll move onto the next in a strictly linear fashion. You’ll stumble upon fast travel points and momentary distractions into unknown territory, but for the most part, it resembles a traditional shooter campaign with only a few small exceptions. The addition of loot and character customisation prevents firefights from descending into monotony, as does having a couple of co-op buddies along for the ride.
Stopping at base camps to assemble your party and gather new equipment is arguably the most modern aspect of Outriders. Beyond this, it feels like a mid-noughties corridor shooter in the purest of ways, and part of me welcomes this nostalgic change of pace after years of grinding through the likes of Destiny 2 and Fortnite. People Can Fly has nailed a formula it knows perfectly, and hopefully won’t stray too far from its successful components with the arrival of future expansions.
Next: I’m Still Not Over What Fire Emblem: Three Houses Did To Bernadetta
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Jade King is one of the Features Editors for TheGamer. Previously head of gaming content over at Trusted Reviews, she can be found talking about games, anime and retweeting Catradora fanart @KonaYMA6.
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