Outriders (PS4) Review

Richard Walker

If you were to ask me to summarise the story of Outriders in a few sentences, I'd struggle. A lot. After its opening scenes, in which you and your crew exit from a dying planet Earth and arrive on a new, supposedly hospitable Earth-like place, named Enoch, you become a godlike ‘Altered’. Even after your character’s transformation and subsequent awakening, I found it nigh-on impossible to give a solitary shit about any of Outriders’ peripheral cast, or, indeed, the narrative thread they're all bound to. It took all of my wherewithal not to jab the skip button at the appearance of a cut-scene, because Outriders' is about as generic and unremarkable as it gets, with strange characters sculpted using Unreal Engine clay, eye-rolling dialogue, and woolly shooter mechanics. But, despite all of that, Outriders does have a few redeeming features.


This image makes Outriders look better than it actually is.

Upon arriving on Outriders’ picturesque planet of Enoch, the first thing you'll do is work through the game's prologue (unless you already beat the demo, in which case you can pick up where you left off), before choosing your class and experimenting with your powers. There's the Technomancer, a support class armed with deployable turrets and useful squad-healing abilities; the close-range Trickster with a teleportation skill and twirling laser blades; the tank-like Devastator with its own line in earthquakes, boulders, and defensive, bullet deflecting abilities; and my chosen class, the Pyromancer, with a variety of flame-based attacks, including walls of fire, a red-hot 'FASER' beam, and a mini volcano that erupts from the ground. There's a lot to like in the game’s marrying up of gunplay and magic powers, with looted weaponry providing a buffet of assault rifles, SMGs, LMGs, shotguns, sniper rifles, and pistols, but it's disappointing to see a lack of explosive weaponry like rocket launchers (unless you count one of the Technomancer's skills that temporarily grants one), grenade launchers, or anything too exotic. Save for bio-organic guns that fuse lumps of meat and/or an ethereal glow to legendary weapons.

Chief among Outriders' simple pleasures is its range of 'skills', granted to your character upon being struck by Enoch's 'Anomaly'; a phenomenon that ravaged the planet but left you alive with elemental powers. You're told that your character is among a lucky 0.003% of people hit by the Anomaly to be imbued with said powers, rather than being killed, which makes it all the more incredible that you're able to assemble a three-player fireteam of Outriders. Either way, you'll soon find yourself embroiled in developer People Can Fly's dark looter-shooter RPG, journeying through a checklist of standard biomes – the desert one, a mountainous snowy zone, the forest region, a swamp, and so on. Outriders does very little that's actually new or innovative, but what it does do, it does reasonably well. That's assuming you manage to make it into a lobby and remain there for any significant amount of time – in its current state, Outriders' servers make joining a co-op game a real chore, with constant crashing, random disconnects, and a litany of other issues that hamper the experience.


But even if that all worked in the way it's supposed to, you're still left with a bland and generic game that fails to be genuinely interesting or novel, boasting a woeful narrative that's poorly scripted, badly paced and not even remotely compelling. Say what you like about Destiny 2 or Marvel's Avengers; at least their main campaigns were vaguely engaging, and while the latter's endgame proved dull and repetitive, Outriders' endgame 'Expeditions' prove even worse. Essentially a horde mode with better rewards the faster you complete the mission, Expeditions offer new missions that boil down to providing even more shooting – if you enjoy Outriders' core shooter mechanics and are driven by the unending lure of loot, then you'll no doubt revel in further processions of boring enemies, relentless bullets, and powers. And while I understand that some people live for the quest to acquire increasingly powerful loot, for me, it's simply not enough of a draw. I’m all for earning a lovely new helmet or a nice pair of gloves, but not when it demands hours upon hours of thankless grinding - acquiring Legendary weapons and gear by farming endgame Drop Pod Resources takes an absolute age.

In Outriders, the nuts and bolts of the minute-to-minute gameplay are perfectly fine, and the class-based abilities are enjoyable enough. However, the story fails to deliver in almost every way imaginable; there's little in the way of variation in your objectives; and at times the experience feels off-kilter, with an insurmountable number of enemies to wade through. The difficulty is dictated by a 'world tier' that goes up alongside your character's level, and you can scale things back at any time, the trade-off being that the loot drops are considerably worse. But by the end of Outriders' campaign, I was bored enough to knock the world tier down from level 9 to 1, just to get through it. I didn't care about Zahedi or Bailey, Tiago, Channa, or anyone else, and, while the shooter mechanics and powers just about provide adequate propulsion to get to the end, I can't say that I particularly enjoyed the journey.


Have you flossed?

There’s the kernel of something in Outriders, when your game isn’t cut short by crashes, and you manage to hit its sweet spot, gaining mastery over your powers and weapons. At times it can be good fun, though it struggles to gain enough of a foothold to keep you truly hooked, especially taking into account the slew of server issues that have plagued the game since launch. Flitting between being a cover shooter one minute and a power fantasy the next, Outriders' biggest problem is that its mechanics are serviceable, but ultimately, uninteresting. As for its attempt at creating a compelling narrative to tie the whole thing together, we'd rather People Can Fly (a studio that injected Bulletstorm with colour and personality to spare) hadn't bothered. Put that alongside a fairly lacklustre endgame offering, and Outriders feels like a missed opportunity.

[Tested on Xbox Series X]

Outriders (PS4)

Outriders is a looter-shooter built upon solid enough foundations, and its blend of gunplay and powers can prove intermittently enjoyable. But it's also a game lacking an engaging narrative heart, characters that you'll care about, and any sort of exciting long-term content. The quest for loot will only sustain you for so long.

Form widget
50%
Audio
60%

Hit and miss orchestral music, somewhat dull voice acting, and the snarls and growls of enemy fodder. Perfectly fine.

Visuals
60%

Some truly lovely environments that are unfortunately a mite inconsistent. Some nice-looking vistas are marred by the odd shabby texture, while character design is fairly unimaginative. The art style, too, is rather generic.

Playability
55%

While the fundamentals are serviceable, the cover system feels fuzzy, most weapons can seem quite feeble, and your character's powers aren't enough to provide enough of a twist to proceedings.

Delivery
45%

Server instability is but the tip of the iceberg. Outriders has its fair share of bugs and other issues, as well as combat that's been done better in other games and a poor excuse for endgame content. Yes, there are no in-game microtransactions, but who cares?

Trophies
70%

For a game of this type, Outriders' list is mercifully light on grind, and there's a good spread of tasks and milestones to reach here. As far as trophy lists for this genre of game are concerned, this is a pretty decent one.

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