Reviews on Xbox Series X
The Top of the B-Tier Rung
*Update on 4/28/2021. I have given People Can Fly a chance here but their constant over the top balance adjustments have really killed my enjoyment of the game. Instead of buffing weaker builds they’re nerfing powerful ones, and it’s the wrong decision in a zero pvp game with no dlc to speak of. The power fantasy was everything, and the fun of it has been severely lessened for me. Between that and the non-stop server issues I am lowering my score from an 8.5 down to a 7.5.
Originally slated for a late 2020 release, Outriders is finally here. A demo of the first area of the game was released a month before launch and while it was interesting to have access to the early game it made me lose interest in the title. There was an emphasis on cover in the tutorial that went strongly against the game’s marketing. The cover system didn’t work great, and I was hesitant to pre-order. Thankfully, Game Pass came to the rescue and made the game available on day one. After completing the campaign in roughly two days how does the gameplay hold up and is the writing really as bad a mid-00’s Z-grade Euro-flick? (yes… yes it is)
A Game to Pass Up?
Outriders is an incredibly fun video game, though it has some of the worst writing I can remember. It isn’t just trope-filled and low quality, it made me genuinely hate every single character in the game. I don’t think there is a single character in this game that I like. Thankfully, the B button is always there to help one skip a conversation or cutscene but as I was playing for a review I sat through most of them. This is a shame as the world-building is genuinely good at times. There is a mediocre but ok mystery at the heart of things. The payoff is ok, not great, but the B-movie tropes that fill each cutscene that your protagonist is not a part of wear thin roughly 5 minutes into the game, and about that protagonist.
You are an Outrider. What that really is you won’t know unless you read the extensive and well-written journal entries that unlock as you either find them in-world or have them unlock through campaign progression. Know this, characters getting shot in the head out of nowhere during a cutscene is used roughly 400,000,000 times throughout this game and it isn’t used to great effect after the first time. Earth has fallen apart and you’re the only ship that made it off the planet. After decades in cryo-sleep, you’ve made it to the planet Enoch. Shortly after landing everything goes to hell, you’re hit by a crazy storm dubbed “The Anomaly” and end up being put in cryo-sleep again to try and save your life. When you finally wake up you have the powers of a God! The campaign follows you as you try to right the situations that have gone wrong in your absence. There were genuinely emotional moments for me in the campaign, but they would almost always be followed up by something ridiculous that reminded me what I was playing. A good B game, something we don’t get very often anymore. What makes it so good in the end despite how awful the dialogue is?
Devastatin, Trickin, Burnin, and Techno…mancin Your Way to Glory
The gameplay of this game is phenomenal. The aim acceleration with a controller still needs some fine-tuning but as you progress through the game and level your character up you’ll be having so much fun using your abilities that you’ll barely notice. For the review, I dabbled with the Devastator, Pyromancer, and Technomancer. My main character though was the Trickster. They control time and space, like a sadistic Time Lord. Each class feels different, has a deep skill tree, and a bevy of class abilities that allow you to tackle different fights in interesting ways. I played most of my time solo, but getting into some co-op play as a Devastator I used my Neo in the Matrix-like bullet catching ability so that my co-op partner could focus on damaging the enemies that were all focused on me. Co-op play supports up to three players at a time and runs on a peer-to-peer network infrastructure that seems strange at first but does mean that online play for this game should technically be available for a very long time.
To get back to those classes the Devastator and Trickster are primarily close-ranged focused. Pyromancers don’t want to be too far or too close, and the Technomancer excels at long-ranged sniping. There are no health pickups in this game as each class has a different way to regen health outside of having life leech on their weaponry. Devastators regen whenever anyone near them dies, Tricksters get large bursts of health and shields whenever they kill someone up close, Pyromancers regen when anyone dies while debuffed by their abilities, and Technomancers regen health on hit with their Anomaly powered weaponry. It’s a great system that made my Trickster main rarely use cover outside of a few “I need my abilities to come off cooldown” moments when I was low health.
There is an ebb and flow to combat that blends abilities and weaponry together in a beautiful way. Teleporting in behind someone, shotgunning them into chunks, and then teleporting back to my initial location is something I will never get sick of.
Tools for Murdering
The game features a solid selection of weapons though they are quite plain until you’re roughly level 15 (the max level is 30). There are SMGs, LMGs, Assault Rifles, Snipers, Rifles, Shotguns, and many variants of each type within its respective role. The real fun comes in the form of over-the-top Legendary weapons. In my run so far I’ve had a rock-covered assault rifle that slows down every enemy hit with it in a similar manner to my Trickster’s time lord powers. Also, a pair of dual-wield pistols that I modded to drop down incredibly powerful lightning whenever I struck an enemy. The crafting system is a huge selling point for the game as it allows you to upgrade and modify your guns and armor to maximize your build’s potential. This is key as this game can be incredibly hard, though like with everything else you have control over that. There are 15 world tiers that work much like the difficulty system of Diablo 3. Each tier gets you better gear, more experience, and a higher chance at legendary drops. The game’s complete lack of PvP empowers the developers at People Can Fly to let loose. There is no need to balance two different modes, and the power fantasy that affords helps make what would have been a mediocre game into something that I really loved.
Auditory….Not Bliss and Visual Bliss!
The protagonist’s voice acting is quite different depending on if you choose to play a typical male or female. The character creator is solid if not spectacular as you have a decent number of options but nothing mind-blowing like in a Fallout game where you can completely sculpt someone. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey was the first thing that came to mind for me though as the male voice actor in that game sounded like a big dumb beefcake and the female version was fantastic. It’s similar here though the male is even worse, and the female doesn’t quite reach “fantastic”. I’m happy I played through with her voice though as my Devastator was a male and I immediately regretted it.
The music is good if not a bit generic and occasionally mixed far too loud. I didn’t find any of it memorable, but it set the mood well for fights and tried its best to convey that the cutscenes were anything but laughable most of the time.
Graphically the game can be beautiful at times. A solid 60fps helps quite a bit, and the art direction has moments of pure visual splendor. Overall though it never reaches a level that screams “next-gen” to me. The size of the combat arenas and hubs clearly showcases that this game was in development long before the specs of these consoles were known. Areas are tiny and have constant load screens, which are hilarious because the SSDs in the new machines make these loads almost instantly if you skip the cutscene. If they do an expansion for this title I do wonder if it’s next-gen only and some sort of content that really takes advantage of what these new machines can do.
Crossplay is Cool!
While I didn’t get to test it out the game does feature crossplay between Playstation, Xbox, and PC through a code system. This seems easier than having an entire Square Enix login system to go through and from what I’ve seen on Twitch it worked fine when the servers were up. Yes despite it not being a service game if the servers go down you’re kicked out, even if you only ever play and want to play solo. It’s incredibly annoying that there is no offline mode to default to when the login servers are down as the entire game is P2P it should never kick you because others can’t login.
I ran into a few bugs but not many. They were mostly loading-based as things would crash during a load screen, though I did have a few crashes in my inventory as well. Overall for an AA title that is doing quite well player count wise I have been impressed at how well things have worked, which is sad considering there have still been several issues. Also, there is an endgame run-based system that seems decent enough at first glance. I’ll be back with a check-up on that in a follow-up impressions video/article.
Outriders has some of the most enjoyable gameplay I can remember in quite some time. If you’re reading or watching this a few months down the line then hopefully the issues with aiming sensitivity have been worked out, because once that is fixed this will be one of the better playing games, maybe ever. The story is ok, but the dialogue is horrendous. If you find it annoying just skip every cutscene and conversation you can and get back to that fabulously frenetic action as quickly as you can.
Outriders is available on the Xbox and Playstation consoles. It is available on Windows PC and is a part of Xbox Game Pass for console at launch.