DEMO REVIEW: ‘Outriders’ is Fast Paced Action but Layered With Frustrations (XBX)

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Outriders is a cover-based third-person view shooter developed by People Can Fly and published by Square Enix. As the Earth drowns under humanity’s abuse, two colony ships are sent out into space in the hopes of a brighter tomorrow. But as one fails to even escape the system, all of humanity’s hopes rest on the one remaining ship and its crew of colonists. But when the planet they strike out for turns out to be the home of brutal storms that rip the young colony to pieces, the situation deteriorates rapidly. This review specifically covers the Outriders demo.

As the eighty-three-year voyage to their new home comes to a close, the advanced setup teams land on the planet Enoch to establish a base so the rest of the colonists can start getting thawed out. The primary contingent of this first wave is made up of the recon group dubbed Outriders. Originally intended to be the most highly trained soldiers that could be gathered, the destruction of the other colony ship has left it in a rougher state. More hard-edged mercenary than elite fighting force, this group is going to have its hands full if it’s to succeed in its job.

Since the name of the game is Outriders it will come as no surprise that the player takes on the role of one of these troopers. As you begin the game, you are allowed to customize your character. While the customization options present here are far from being the most robust, it gives players a good variety of ethnicities to choose from, along with a solid number of hair options, and a handful of other smaller touches. Once you have your character set it’s time to meet your new home.

The introduction to this game does a great job of bringing the player up to speed on the world, characters, and gameplay mechanics in a way that is fun, interesting, and never overwhelming. The gunplay is smooth and responsive on my Xbox Series X. With the early combat moments setting the player against some local wildlife, there is ample opportunity to get a feel for how the game handles. While searching for some nearby downed probes, your team of Outriders encounters a strange form of an atmospheric anomaly. As the team attempts to escape bolts of strange energy strike many of them, leaving behind only clouds of ash. A near miss from one of these energy bolts leaves the player wounded, but alive.

As the anomaly follows the team back to base a confrontation between the Outriders and the colony leader leaves the colony in turmoil. As this all plays out, the player is slowly dying. To save the player, a scientist named Shira places them back into cryostasis.

The next thing the player knows the pod is opening again and everything is different. Scavengers of some sort are sacking the facility you are in and everything appears to be in ruins. How long you have been out, or what has transpired in the interim is a mystery. But one thing is for sure, none of the answers are happy ones. The player is taken prisoner by the scavengers and thrown out into a no man’s land just as the anomaly is returning. Instead of the certain death that is expected the player discovers their previous exposure to the anomaly has somehow gifted them with extraordinary powers. It is here that the Outriders demo truly begins.

It is at this point that the player is given the option of choosing one of several classes they want to take. Each class has its preferred range, power style, and means of healing. As I plan to spend my time in the game solo I go for the Pyromancer class. With a medium-range power set, this class seems like the best since I will need to be as flexible as I can. And I love this class’s healing.

Instead of going with the shooter standard of healing, hiding behind cover till your life refills, Outriders goes for a more aggressive approach. While hiding can grant some of your health back, the majority of it is gotten through a certain kind of kill. This kill type is dependent upon one’s class. As a Pyromancer, health is earned by killing enemies I have previously hit with my abilities. As opposed to the close-range Devastator class that earns health from short-range kills.

As previously mentioned, Outriders is a cover-based shooter. The cover mechanics brings some interesting innovations to the table, though some of its execution is a little lacking. The innovation it brings stems from how one moves from cover to cover. By pivoting the camera around while in cover an icon will appear if the camera points at another cover spot. By holding the A button the character will run to the indicated spot. This expands upon similar, more limited systems from previous cover-based shooters, allowing the player easier access to cover.

Where the cover mechanics stumble is in how frequently I struggled with getting my character to enter cover when not using the previously mentioned system. The game seems to be too particular with when it lets the player enter cover. This is especially noticeable for me as a long-time Xbox owner, and fan of the system’s long-standing master of cover shooters Gears of War. While I wouldn’t say the glitchiness with cover is game-breaking, given how frantic the firefights can get it adds a level of unwelcome frustration.

Once I survive my first encounters in this new world it is time to set about the task of saving it. The main narrative flows smoothly with missions being delivered by your standard quest giver, and objectives being indicated clearly on your minimap. There are both the main story and side missions that the player can partake in. And side missions can be done multiple times in the hopes of earning different rewards.

Outriders Demo

As you fight your way through both storyline and side quests you will come across a fair amount of loot during your battles. While the guns and armor don’t drop at the rate of many loot-based shooters, I generally saw two to four pieces of gear per mission. And while not every piece of gear was better than my current weapons, I never got anything that was total garbage either. If this wasn’t just luck on my part, but a design choice to go for quality over quantity where gear is concerned I’m all for it.

As I progressed through the story I come across my first boss battle. Like me, this character has their own superpowers. This individual wields electricity. While this confrontation does a good job of establishing how powerful characters who have these abilities can be, it fails in most other departments. Right off the bat, the first problem with this fight is how long it goes on. This boss is your classic bullet sponge. While I have no way of knowing precisely how much health they had, I would be shocked if the number wasn’t hovering around a thousand. By comparison, my health was a mere 110.

While trying to survive this marathon fight, the boss would frequently unleash electrical orbs that would randomly move around the battlefield. Trying to keep track of these, while keeping cover between myself and the boss, and fighting him often became overwhelming. And the orbs weren’t even the only area denial trick the boss had access to.

Huge pools of electricity would sometimes be summoned to chase the player for a brief time. Running from these were tricky alone, but if orbs were floating around it was often a matter of pure luck as to whether or not the player would survive. And all the time the boss has a lightning cannon they are blasting away at you with. While I eventually overcame this foe, little joy was found in the victory.

Beyond this boss battle, there are more missions and battles to fight as the player strives to overcome the many enemies the game throws at them. While there are certainly cool moments to found, the game’s many encounters are hampered by the struggles I mentioned earlier.

Along with its fantastic shooting, Outriders also delivers on the visual front as well. Characters, locations, and props throughout the world all look great. My only complaint where the visuals are concerned is the lack of an option to put a black box behind the subtitles. Often the subtitles became all but unreadable when bright colors would wash them out.

When all is said and done the Outriders demo displays a fair amount of promise. While I have a few complaints about the game, some of these, such as boss length, may be chalked up to a focus on multiplayer. While I can certainly understand why others may find more to love here than I did, this demo has only shown me that this isn’t a game for me.

Outriders demo is available now with the full game currently scheduled for release on April 1st for PC, Playstation 4|5, as well as Xbox One and Xbox SeriesX|S.