Previews

Outriders Preview: Another bland GaaS?

Ho-hum.

Outriders’ demo is now available, giving those a chance to try the upcoming looter shooter on PC, Xbox and PlayStation. I’ve opted to try before I buy on Xbox Series X and after my trial, I’m probably going to give its full release a miss.

That’s not to say that Outriders is bad; it’s simply okay. Just like Avengers’ pre-release beta — another Square Enix game that was meant to launch a giant games as a service (GaaS) franchise, I might add — I’m finding that this demo hasn’t grabbed me in any way.

It really didn’t help that this demo — something I’m assuming was meant to be a grand showcase of what the looter shooter had to offer — starts off with a fizzle instead of a bang. Characters are one-dimensional and dialogue is stilted and “edgy” in that way where you’re actually required to throw up air quotes when you say the word. Cutscenes run at a random 30 frames-per-second (FPS) cap and end up looking absolutely horrid in comparison to the actual game itself, which runs at a resonably smooth 60FPS on Xbox Series X. It’s not only cutscenes that adopt the random FPS cap, but anything in-game where you’re interacting with other NPCs or dialogue trees. The end result is super jarring, causing you to bounce back and forth between smooth and choppy visuals. Thankfully, People Can Fly has already confirmed this cap will be removed from the finished product.

Outriders tries to set the scene but instead throws together random bits of shooting and cutscenes in an attempt to tell 31 years’ worth of story. It doesn’t work. Between the jumpiness of the cutscenes, wooden delivery of dialogue and just a lot going on, I don’t exactly know how the anomaly and my new Altered powers came to be, but that doesn’t really matter — I have powers now! Quite honestly, it would have been better for People Can Fly to start Outriders at this point, roughly 40-45 minutes into the game.

I ended up picking the Trickster class, one armed with time-altering powers and meant for close-range combat. One power, a lance, cuts through enemies within range and basically causes them to (temporally?) implode. Another sets of an area of effect bubble that will slow down anyone who enters it. The final ability that I unlocked let me jump through space (and time?), magically appearing behind a targeted enemy. These powers are great against a handful of enemies, but as I played alone against larger groups I ended up feeling like they were support abilities, meant to be combined with other players (and more importantly, other classes). When it came to the demo’s big boss, I basically just had to get behind cover, wait for my three powers to cooldown and then use them one after the other. Rinse, repeat.

I did try to matchmake with others, attempting to take advantage of cross-play, but couldn’t find a single match. That’s a real shame, as I would have liked to have put my “Trickster as support” theory to the test.

Gunplay comprises a large part of Outriders, with a style reminisent of Gears of War (when it comes to cover) or The Division (for general shootiness). It also, frankly, seems off. On Series X, a weird snap-to-chest kicks in whenever I want to aim and very much bothers me. While I can adjust aim sensitivity in settings, I couldn’t find a way to toggle the snap on or off. Having to adjust your aim after putting your reticle where you want it go to is very annoying. Aim is also extremely crucial when it comes to general survival; you can only heal 1/4 of your full health bar while taking cover, leaving the remainder to be replenished from success in combat.

While this is only a small chunk of what Outriders has to offer, I’m frankly uninterested in the full product. The muted browns and greys of the very closed-world, instanced areas that I’ve been able to explore and fight within so far feel representative of Outriders overall blandness. I couldn’t tell you the name of any supporting character at present because I don’t care about any of them. None of the loot that I collected in my playthrough caught my eye — and worse still, I’m shocked at the prospect of having to hold down X to open loot chests and then mash X to pick up any items found within. While there might be something in something in here for die-hard looter shooter fans, it doesn’t feel like there’s anything for me.

You can try the Outriders demo for yourself on PC, Xbox and PlayStation; you can also get another take on Outriders from Jay and a playthrough he had pre-coronavirus.

Outriders heads to Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S & X, PS4, PS5 and Stadia on 1 April.

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.