I’ve only played a bit of Outriders so far, and not really enough to comment on the game itself. With its arrival on Game Pass, I switched from playing the demo on PlayStation to starting afresh on Xbox, so I’ve only just caught up to where I was before. It seems a little dull so far, with a bit too much brrap-brrap-pew-pew and not enough character development – plus the lighting is still awful – but I’m willing to give it more of a chance before I tear it to pieces over that. Lots of great games start off slow, and while the generic sci-fi plot doesn’t fill me with confidence, I’m willing to be surprised.
One thing that’s already annoying me though is the menus. Much like with Destiny, Cyberpunk 2077, and a handful of other games, you don’t use the D-Pad to move around the menu; instead you use the analogue stick to move a cursor to wherever you want to go. This mechanic is how menus typically work on PC, where players will use a mouse and keyboard over a controller. Here, the mouse is freeform, so it’s much easier to use a cursor that lets you go anywhere and click whatever you want, rather than using single buttons to bump up, down, or across the menu.
However, console players aren’t using a mouse, and the analogue sticks are far less precise and harder to manoeuvre, meaning the cursor often falls short of where you’re aiming, flies past it, or skims along beneath it. I don’t mind when bad aim means I get myself killed in the middle of a shootout, but it’s a bit much that I can’t even pick my favourite hairstyle without my lousy aim getting in the way.
I understand that it was designed for PC, and that it’s easier to transfer over the PC cursor to console rather than a button click menu to PC – at least, it seems like it was designed for PC. Destiny is one of the earliest examples of this system being used, and that began life as a console exclusive title, so exactly why this trend started is anyone’s guess, really. If we go with the ‘it’s for PC’ angle, then online looter shooters typically have more longevity on PC, so it’s easy to see why those players would be catered to, but this is not an indie studio with limited resources. Outriders was published by Square Enix, and I don’t think a console friendly menu system is asking too much. Just please don’t shout at the team on Twitter when the servers are down – that’s not cool.
All in all though, this feels like a bit of an empty complaint. “This game uses one menu mechanic when I prefer another one.” Big deal, get over it. But it’s not as easy for other people to get over – the reliance on analogue navigation means that certain disabled gamers who use adapted controllers have unnecessary difficulty when it comes to cycling through the menus. It’s a minor fix (and it would only have a minor impact on me, despite my complaints), but it would have huge benefits for a significant section of our community. It feels like this could be patched too – Outriders has a somewhat comprehensive accessibility menu, but even in High Contrast mode and the subtitles as big as they can be, it can still be difficult to make out captions at times. However, closed captions are included along with dialogue, so People Can Fly will likely be open to further tweaks to enhance accessibility further down the line. Outriders’ official Twitter has even given a couple of updates on accessibility tweaks since the demo launched.
It’s great to see more devs taking accessibility features seriously, and taking the time to patch and improve them after launch, not just rely on doing the basics and calling it a day. There are still improvements to be made – in gaming in general, not just Outriders – but we’re heading in the right direction, and that’s wonderful to see.
It’s a small change that could have a big impact on a lot of people, and I’d finally be able to click the exact thing I want every time I use the menu. I haven’t played enough of Outriders to really say much about it yet, but the menu is already my biggest bugbear. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that such a minor issue is the game’s only standout feature at this point, to be honest.
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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