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Outriders Review

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Leading up to its release, Outriders had somewhat of an identity crisis. Developers People Can Fly adamantly denied that the title was a games as a service title, but trailers and marketing definitely gave the public the impression that it was. This confusion might have hampered people’s excitement for the third-person RPG, though a well-received demo went some way to rectify the situation. Well, if you haven’t decided to give this genre-blending shooter a try yet you’re doing yourself a disservice, as it’s a sleeper hit that doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but instead blends together existing ideas to create an endlessly satisfying looter-shooter. 

You play as a titular Outrider, a trained soldier whose job it is to protect the last human colony escaping a dying Earth in hopes of making Enoch, an Earth-like planet, their new home. Naturally, things don’t go according to plan and your squadron is torn apart by an aggressive, radioactive storm that disintegrates most living things it touches. As luck would have it, that doesn’t happen to you, rather your character is injured but is also bestowed with new, unnatural powers. A long rest in cryosleep later, your Outrider awakes to discover the once idyllic planet is now a war-torn mess filled with clashing factions and a whole host of superpowered folks like you called the Altered. That’s all I’ll cover as far as the story is concerned, not because it’s awful, it’s actually a fairly decent B-tier sci-fi romp (with some very shoddy voice acting), but it’s just not what you’ll stick with Outriders for.

Your trek across Enoch will take you to many exotic locations

Outriders is at its best when you’re knee-deep in enemies, blasting, burning, crushing and disintegrating everything in sight. At a glance it might seem like Outriders is another cover shooter that would find itself at home amongst the slew of similar titles in the early 2000s, with its brown and grey-heavy colour palette adding to that line of thought, but spend any amount of time in combat and you’ll be very pleasantly surprised that it’s entirely its own beast. True, this is a third-person shooter where the battlefields are easily spotted as they’re littered with waist-high walls and trenches, but those bits of cover are more likely to be used by the enemy than you. 

Unlike many of its contemporaries, in Outriders, you’re the aggressor. Every facet of this game encourages you to forego the comfort of cover and get into the mix. Your health will only find its way back to you when you deal damage and/or kill enemies, so you’ll constantly be on the move and clashing with bad guys. Luckily, you’re given an arsenal full of great weapons and some truly kickarse abilities to help you mow down the masses. 

You have your general weapons and armour, ranging from assault rifles, helmets, LMGs, body armour and sniper rifles, each packed with a bunch of stats and variations as seen in many looter-shooters, meaning you’re likely to swap between them as often as you would a pair of socks. Rarity levels will dictate just how powerful your gear is, with higher levels allowing for mods (which we will touch on later) and netting you higher amounts of damage. Legendary weapons, which are the rarest, offer exceptional mods like calling lightning down on enemies or freezing them in place. Most importantly, the design of these legendary items is top-notch, often incorporating organic-looking materials, making them look particularly badarse, which makes up for the fairly lacklustre character creation options.

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Fell free to hang around while I reload

Going together with the weighty, satisfying and varied weapons like vacuums and a dusty floor are the Altered abilities. During the opening moments of the game you’ll choose between one of four classes: Devastator, Trickster, Technomancer or Pyromancer. Each class will have access to three abilities at a time, choosing from a total of seven that you’ll unlock over time. The classes vaguely fall into brackets, with the Devastator being similar to a tank and the Technomancer stepping in as the long-range class, but with deep class trees and a boatload of weapon mods that transform your abilities you have the freedom to chop and change your character until you find something that fits your exact playstyle.

I can’t speak highly enough about the Altered powers; they make you feel like an all-powerful god, fulfilling a brilliant power fantasy, without overpowering you to the extent where it’s a breeze. Tricksters have abilities that slow down time, shoot you across the battlefield and displace enemies, Pyromancers set enemies alight and cause huge amounts of AOE damage, Technomancers summon turrets and douse their rounds in poison and Devastators soak up damage and reflect it back towards the bad guys. Genuinely, each of the classes are fun as hell to play as there isn’t a standout bad one, though the Trickster is the star of the show in my opinion. 

Best of all, the abilities you’re given to play around with are tied to amazingly short cooldowns, allowing you to string together powers in order to change the face of the battlefield without stressing that you’ve screwed your future self. Games like Destiny and The Division hide your strongest plays behind lengthy timers that cause you to squirrel them away until you hit a boss room, whereas Outriders wants you to use each of your cool powers as often as possible. This approach works an absolute treat and tied together with the damage dealing to heal you’ll often run into encounters where you’re moments from death, only for your cooldowns to hit zero, your abilities to wipe out a crowd of gun-totting maniacs and your health rocketing back to its maximum. Combat stays fresh, frantic and fun thanks to these outstanding abilities that truly are the best that I’ve encountered in similar games.

By the end of the campaign I looked more Mad Max than protector of humanity 

A short while into the campaign you’ll be able to start modding your gear. Using materials that you’ll find on enemies or as deposits in the world you’ll be able to raise the levels, stats and rarity of your weapons and armour, but more importantly, you’ll be able to bestow them with known mods. Discovering mods is as easy as dismantling a piece of gear with that mod attached. It’s a simple mechanic to get your head around and it’s one that pays dividends in a big way. Have a legendary sniper rifle with a great ability but you prefer LMGs? Not to worry, you can dismantle it and use the mod on a weapon of your choice. I had a great time Frankensteining my gear and ended up with some true bullet hose blunderbusses that tore through enemies at an alarming rate. While I’m on the topic, the inventory system is also simple yet effective and offers a choice to select all gear of a specific rarity, allowing you to dismantle your lesser items in an instant. All games with loot should have this and you can’t convince me otherwise.

The campaign can be played entirely in co-op with two friends or it can be played solo and luckily one doesn’t outshine the other. It’s true that playing with friends allows for some creative combinations of abilities and shooting bad guys while bantering is always great, but if you’re a lone wolf you’ll be just as well off. Even if you’re playing with others you’re encouraged to split up with a free revive that’ll get you back in the fight, so you’re not dependent on your teammates reviving you until you bite the dust for a second time. It happens all too often that you hear people say that a game would ‘be fun if you play with friends’ and Outriders absolutely is, but a co-op partner isn’t necessary to have a good time.

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Off-putting for some, Outriders does need a persistent internet connection despite not being a games as a service title. As you might expect from a new online game, there are a fair few teething issues at the moment. On multiple occasions I’ve spent upwards of five minutes on the login screen, waiting to play solo. I’ve also had a few crashes that ripped me from the game, but they were infrequent. Bugs weren’t too much of an issue, but they were present. Certain bits of gear freaking out during cutscenes, dreadful voice sync and the odd missing sound effect cropped up here and there, but nothing that takes you out of the overall experience.

Who ordered the Perforo skewer? 

Taking you roughly 20 hours to complete, the campaign will take you all across Enoch, showing off a bunch of varied biomes and enemy types. From desolate deserts and snow-capped mountains to demolished settlements and forests, there’s a great amount of variation on offer. Each new locale will introduce a new enemy type for you to clash with too. Your simple gun-wielding grunts will ease you into things in the opening of the game, but soon you’ll be pitted against Altered captains that conjure flaming tornados, hulking, minigun-wielding brutes that can turn you to paste and a massive array of twisted beasts that range from fast and nimble Crawlers to beefy Alpha Perforos (picture a warped ape with a spike for an arm) who can leap huge distances and slice you apart with their sharp claws. The mixture of humanoid and animalistic enemies keeps things fresh as you’ll often need to change your tactic depending on your foes.

Making your way across Enoch you’ll also butt heads with plenty of bosses that provide a real challenge. For the most part, the bosses are hard but fair, evolving multiple time during the fight and forcing you to adapt, but there’s one late-game boss that’s made of pure frustration. Overly aggressive and immune to many status effects, he’s just not fun or fair and you’ll know who I’m talking about when you encounter him.

It feels like a major accomplishment every time you crack a new World Tier

Luckily, Outriders employs an excellent difficulty system called World Tiers. This system lets the difficulty scale dynamically to how well you’re performing. If you’re melting enemies and avoiding death with ease your World Tier bar will begin to fill, moving you to the next tier once filled. Each tier raises the difficulty but also raises your reward for succeeding. It gives you a great incentive to become better at the game and progress through the tiers, but it also gives you the option to easily drop back a tier when you’re finding a particular section difficult. You aren’t punished for dropping back any number of tiers and you can change your tier whenever you like, even in the middle of a fight if you want. This system makes co-op play a breeze as well, as you can chop and change between tiers to find where you’re both comfortable, regardless of player level.

Once you’ve finished off the campaign you’ll be greeted with Expeditions, a timed post-game activity that leads you towards one final boss fight. These are a true test of experience and they’ll chew you up and spit you out if you’re not prepared, but if you’re happy with your build and know what you’re doing they’re a hell of a good time. Knowing that loot is a fingertip away as a clock counts down is thrilling and stressful in equal measure and I can see myself coming back to Expeditions on the frequent.

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Final Thoughts

Outriders doesn’t bring anything revolutionary to the table, but the ideas and mechanics that it blends together are so well executed that you won’t care. The weapons and mods are simple, to begin with, but provide a wealth of depth as you reach the twilight of the campaign. The aggressive combat that pushes you to use the excellent abilities on offer as often as possible makes for one of the best gameplay experiences in recent history. Technical problems, voice acting and the odd wonky boss didn’t stop me from finishing the game and then immediately starting again with a different class. Whatever you do, don’t sleep on this game.

Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher

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Outriders Review
Altered Excellence
While it might appear to be just another cover shooter on the surface, Outriders' excellent class abilities, aggressive combat and engaging loot systems allow it to stand toe to toe with some of the genre's greats.
The Good
Combat that demands aggression
Best-in-class abilities
Skill trees that offer huge amounts of variation
Great gear with a simple, effective mod system
Just as fun to play alone or with friends
A fun, albeit confusing sci-fi plot
Good post-game offerings
The Bad
Technical issues
Rough voice acting
Occasional unfair enemy and boss encounters
8.5
Get Around It
  • People Can Fly
  • Square Enix
  • PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X&S / Xbox One / PC
  • April 1, 2021

Outriders Review
Altered Excellence
While it might appear to be just another cover shooter on the surface, Outriders’ excellent class abilities, aggressive combat and engaging loot systems allow it to stand toe to toe with some of the genre’s greats.
The Good
Combat that demands aggression
Best-in-class abilities
Skill trees that offer huge amounts of variation
Great gear with a simple, effective mod system
Just as fun to play alone or with friends
A fun, albeit confusing sci-fi plot
Good post-game offerings
The Bad
Technical issues
Rough voice acting
Occasional unfair enemy and boss encounters
8.5
Get Around It
Written By Adam Ryan

Adam's undying love for all things PlayStation can only be rivalled by his obsession with vacuuming. Whether it's a Dyson or a DualShock in hand you can guarantee he has a passion for it. PSN: TheVacuumVandal XBL: VacuumVandal Steam: TheVacuumVandal

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