These days, the term “live-service game” makes us sigh. That’s because, in theory, the idea of a game that is constantly being enhanced with new content, to be enjoyed for years to come, is great. In practice, we’re left with Marvel’s Avengers-style disasters that use all manner of anti-consumer tricks to keep our attention. This is the realm of micro-transactions, repetitive missions, stretched content and the expectation of free DLC that we’ve been promised for too long.
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That’s when Outriders comes in, a third-person cooperative shooter with loot, special powers and endless post-game content that has all the qualities of those famous “live service games”, while eliminating most of their flaws. The best of both worlds.
Climate change has reached a point of no return and natural disasters are becoming more and more frequent. Humanity has no chance of survival unless it goes in search of another habitable planet (In the game too!).
Like real-life Charles Patenaude, you arrive on a promising planet only to suddenly face an energy storm that kills some of the crew, and gives you special powers. Futurism-style, you’re cryogenized frozen and woken up 31 years later, when the planet is in chaos: wars, powerful creatures, aliens with mysterious pasts, in short, everything is in place to give you a reason to pull out the arsenal and take head shots.
It may be classic sci-fi, but Outriders really manages to keep our attention thanks to increasingly attractive mysteries, but above all, very short and clear cinematics: no Destiny-style lore thrown in your face.
The missions consist of a series of levels in corridor format with multiple branches. The gameplay is like Gears of War (the latter was co-developed by People Can Fly, the studio responsible for Outriders), so it’s all gunfights behind low walls, but with more dynamism thanks to special powers with Borderlands-style cooldowns.
Outriders has been available on Game Pass since its release
We know, we often praise Game Pass, but once again, we’ve come across a perfect example of the service’s advantages. Because for the past year, I’ve ignored all appearances of Outriders in press conferences. I never liked Gears of War or Destiny.
On the day of its release, I told myself I was going to try it anyway: I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to get my hands on a brand new $80 game, if only to cross it off my backlog permanently, to confirm that it wasn’t for me.
Three days later, I had devoured the entirety of Outriders’ campaign, and even continued to do optional missions after the credits rolled (rare for me, I often tend to move on). Not only did its inclusion in Game Pass push me to try a game I would have totally ignored, but in the end I loved my experience and made my subscription worthwhile.
But what is it about Outriders that hooked me, as someone who quickly tires of this kind of game? At least 1001 details that improve the game experience.
Variety in enemies, settings and gameplay
Nothing is more depressing than fighting the same enemies in the same way in the same settings for dozens of hours. Outriders seems to be aware of the usual repetition of shooters with RPG elements and makes an effort to keep it all alive.
The environments are ridiculously different from one area to the next. You go from post-apocalyptic slum to snowy mountains, to the inside of a volcano, to rainforest, to desert, in short, it feels like a Mario Kart. It makes for an exciting and memorable campaign, unlike the infinite science bases of Marvel’s Avengers. It certainly requires more budget, especially as the sets are still beautiful, Hats off to the team.
The same goes for the enemies, who alternate between armed soldiers and alien creatures. While the former are best dealt with by hiding behind low walls as they do the same, the latter run towards you, forcing you to be more mobile. You have to change your approach to each new situation.
There are snipers that encourage you to stay hidden, and thrown grenades that will make you move from one wall to another. Amongst these two groups of enemies, there are bosses and mini-bosses with special powers, which also spice up the fighting. Obviously, this is still a shooter.
Note that there are four classes available, each offering a huge and unique skill tree, which will definitely change the way you play.
A very elastic duration
The structure of the game is exemplary. On the one hand, you have a campaign that lasts about fifteen hours, no more and no less, when you focus solely on the main missions. For those who don’t want any more, there are optional missions that are beautifully integrated into the player’s journey.
By talking to NPCs, you can activate these quests and they will be on your way: just follow the arrow to make a small diversions, complete the objective (often less than fifteen minutes), and then be teleported back to the main path.
The campaign can therefore be doubled in length (around thirty hours) for those who want to, without feeling like a filler. The optional content really fleshes out the game’s universe with sometimes touching, sometimes comical dialogue.
Then, of course, there’s the post-game: endless missions to keep improving your character and get better equipment. It is therefore as satisfying for those looking to play a short campaign, as it is for those for whom Outriders will be their only entertainment for weeks (or even months).
I wanted to die when I played Watch Dogs Legion, and at the end of each mission I had to wait for a minute or more of dialogue before I finally knew which direction the next objective was. A timeout in which I found myself standing around and waiting, to avoid going any further.
Outriders’ dialogue continues even if you go into the menus to change your equipment, because it’s 2021 and we’re able to multi-task. The same goes for the objectives, which are always displayed on screen, present on the map, and easy to find, since the levels are corridors. As if that wasn’t enough, you’re even given an extraordinary guideline that traces the path you need to take to reach the selected mission: just click the joystick…much better than the traditional imprecise compass that doesn’t take obstacles into account.
These are just a few examples to make it clear that irritants are kept to a minimum throughout the game. I have rarely felt so many good game design decisions: it was enjoyable.
- Bullets on the ground are automatically picked up by your character when you walk by them
- Pickup items are visible from a distance, glow with the colour that corresponds to their rarity, and their stats appear when you walk by, so you know instantly if you should pick it up. They automatically equip themselves if you don’t have any!
- Inventory large enough to rarely be full
- Lightning speed loading with SSD on new consoles
Even in terms of accessibility, Outriders is great. It offers you 15 difficulty levels . The higher you go, the more interesting the loot and the tougher the enemies.
The length of the game sessions is flexible, as you regularly come across save points, which also allow you to teleport elsewhere on the map.
There is some inventory management, but not too much. It’s fluid and uncompromising, as you can always dismantle an item to get resources if you have a full pocket.
Good solo experience
I played Outriders only in single player. The experience was no different from a standard offline game except for one annoying inconvenience. You can’t put the console to sleep and resume your game later. Since you always have to be connected to the server (even in single-player mode), the session expires and you have to restart from the main menu. This is particularly sad on Xbox, as it prevents us from enjoying the quick resume feature.
There were complaints at launch: server issues, cross-play temporarily unavailable, demanding PC version. PC gamers might want to wait a few weeks before diving in.
Outriders does not invent anything. Nothing at all. Yet the experience is sublime thanks to the elimination of many of the irritants usually present in these kinds of games. I recommend it to everyone, especially Game Pass subscribers, who have literally nothing to lose. Otherwise, a demo version is available on the majority of platforms where it is available, namely PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, PC and Stadia.