Outriders Xbox Series X Review

Outriders drops the ball on something that had a lot of promise but fails to live up to it.

By Grayshadow, Posted 05 Apr 2021

Outriders opens strong to a lush alien world and constantly provides new mysteries and lots of gear to obtain throughout the 20-hour adventure. However, that journey is often hindered due to vexing technical problems, huge enemy counts that break the game's lore, and flat characters. It's a shame as Outriders gameplay can be fun when everything is running correctly, with insane boss fights and many options to customize your character. But these fleeting moments are not enough to save Outriders from devolving into a sea of broken problems.

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Outriders stars the Outrider, a custom character that survives a deadly encounter with an alien substance. After leaving Earth after its destruction the settlers arrive on Enoch, a habitable planet and a second chance for humanity. It isn't long before the people encounter a deadly black goo that kills on contact and a massive electrical storm called the Anolmy that destroys most it touches and destroys all electrical-based equipment. Those who survive gain special powers, the most powerful being Altered. God-like beings capable of commanding the elements and being near immortal.

The planet is hostile and the remaining humans now live in constant war with one another, the 2 factions being the ECA who headed the odyssey to Enoch and the Insurgents, an unorganized and violent militia formed from the humans abandoned by the ECA after resources dwindled. The only hope being a signal from an unknown location far beyond anyone has traveled that may house the ability to call on the Flores, a space station housing tech and supplies humanity needs to survive.

The narrative attempts to keep the player focus with a constant stream of new information and mysteries but most of these are found in the optional journal entries and side missions. There's a lot of reading in this game, which I didn't mind, but you'll need to read all of this because the game will not explain anything you missed from these journals. In fact, the reason for leaving Earth is conveyed mostly through a journal and not in-game. The main story barely holds together as you just track the signal from one location to the next, with the cast of characters you're forced to interact with being bland caricatures. You have the symphonic doctor, the hardened soldier, bitter veteran, and the snarky person who curses every other word. The protagonist is just a combination of random personalities, sometimes they're kind, other times cynical, easy to anger, jovial, and the list goes on. Instead of just sticking to 1 personality the writers couldn't decide what they make them so they made them everything. This is a problem for most custom characters but developers often resolve this by allowing the player to decide who their character is but here they're whatever the situation calls for.

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The story itself, it's hard to discuss without spoiling the by the end it becomes painfully apparent where the writers took inspiration from. Using common cliches found in other stories similar to it involving humanity's greed and violence. With an ending that just ends things.

The gameplay is where Outriders tends to shine. The third-person combat is effective but not as tight as Gears of War or Mass Effect. The mobility options are limited and hit detection can be off, especially when trying to shoot behind 2 objects somewhat close together. It plays more or less similar to  Gunfire Games Remnant: From the Ashes.

Guns range from shotgun, rifle, assault rifle, sniper, and so on with rarity levels for each. You can further customize weapons with mods, different types of firing variants, extra upgrades, and even rarity for base stats if you have the resources for it with are easy to gather but not horde. This is the same with armor. Any useless item can be trashed for resources, sold, or stored for other characters. It's an effective system that works and since the game has a good drop rate you'll constantly get new gear. And the developers went further to ensure very rare items look amazing. I did wish that loot drops were picked up automatically and had a brighter coloration to them. This is a personal issue but often it's easy to miss these items since the glow is less apparent than other looters like Destiny, Borderlands, or even Anthem.

The character cosmetic options are limited but the classes are very diverse and often an array of distinct playstyles. You have the mid-range fire build, long-range healer, close-range time-focused abilities, and finally the tank. Each class has its own strengths and weaknesses with 3 distinct trees to suit multiple styles of play. You gain experience by completing missions and earn skill points to invest in any tree you wish. You're constantly encouraged to mix and use your abilities since they offer paramount benefits such as healing and added defenses which you'll need to deal with the armies you'll be facing. This makes combat thrilling and you use a combination of guns and supernatural abilities to kills hundreds.

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Outriders has a very painful time hitting that perfect difficulty balance. If you're properly geared and play to your character's strengths you'll come out victorious, with rewards determined by your difficult selection which increases as you play on the current highest option. This is a brilliant idea as you gain higher difficulty options the more you play and you can lower at any time if needed. This system encourages you to take on the increased challenge by offering better rewards. However, the sheer amount of enemies that flood the environment not only breaks the lore of the game but becomes a taxing battle of attrition. With you murdering the same enemies by the hundreds despite the game saying humanity is almost extinct.

The sweet spot currently is 2 players. Playing with an ally, if you can even get a stable connection, makes the game way too easy even on harder options. Playing with the maximum of 3 on the other hand creates bullet sponge enemies that would put the original The Division enemies to shame. And if you play alone be prepare to face dozens of enemies since the game does not allocate enemy count base on how many players are playing. Thankfully there's plenty of ammo available, despite the game's lore saying the opposite should be true. It just never feels fully balanced as the game leans on either too easy, too hard, or just overwhelming with specific sections. 

The enemies often repeat with different variants based on who you're fighting. Most are riflemen, snipers, and melee acrobats. Occasionally you'll face a heavy class that has other variants and unique attacks like calling in airstrikes or limiting mobility. Animals will also attack the player with some unique-looking creatures until they start just hurling the same ones at you. The enemies have an insane level of precision, it's so good that snipers can track your movement even when moving behind cover which is unfair. It's a shame because the enemy AI is actually smart. They will avoid sticking their head out if they know you're aiming at them, cover one another, suppress the player's position, and even go behind you if you rush forward to cut off escape routes. It's vexing to see just such good AI wasted with overly cheap aiming systems as enemy's hit and throw at near-perfect accuracy regardless of position or placement.

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The environmental variety is healthy with new areas constantly being introduced. Most of the biomes look like something on Earth with the exception of the final areas which take a sharp turn and highlight some creative areas. You'll travel through warzones, a forest, desert, and more with each zone consisting of a safe area where you can get optional missions and the combat zone where you can explore. If you wish, you can repeat old missions on higher difficulties including story missions which is a nice touch.

The musical score is well composed with complementary music for each encounter. The visual design is also incredible with fantastic cutscenes and detailed environments. The developers took a lot of time to ensure each area feels alive with unique economic situations to promote what's happening. Such as in the trenches where soldiers are given personal time with prostitutes in exchange for risking their lives daily and the workers avoiding conflict in exchange for this service. We see gangs operating in civilian areas due to lack of control and desperate need for supplies and much more. You'll notice some weird animations such as cloaks floating in unnatural positions, clipping, and other minor issues. It's nothing game-breaking but once you notice some of these flaws you cannot unsee them because they're everywhere.

You definitely feel like you're constantly earning new things and getting stronger. With gear, cosmetics unlocked through accolades and gaining new experience points. That sense of reward is where Outriders does succeed especially during boss encounters. These tense fights against deadly opponents yield great rewards and highlight the best parts of the game as you make progress on your journey. You'll constantly have new options for gear and if you wish dedicate resources to equipment you prefer. 

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Let's talk about the elephant in the room, the online issues. When it launched Outriders was in a terrible state. For some reason, this game is always online and no one could log in when the servers were inaccessible. Why this game does not have an offline option is strange. Even now the game suffers from massive connectivity issues, making it near impossible to group up with randoms and crossplay has been completely disabled because it causes the game to crash. More and more games are releasing like this and it's unacceptable, especially since the cooperative play was one of the major features in this title. No doubt it'll get better over time but this doesn't excuse the condition when it launched. 

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Outriders is has a lot of potential with great looting options and boss fights but everything between starts to showcase the many problems within the game. The massive disconnect between lore and gameplay, the unbalance difficulty that swings in both directions, extremely poor network issues, and bland characters are too much to ignore. Outriders could become a fantastic experience once certain things are tuned correctly but in the state now it's unacceptable and should be considered early access at best. Outriders drops the ball on something that had a lot of promise but fails to live up to it.
 

Adam Siddiqui,
Managing Editor, NoobFeed
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General Information

Outriders

55/100

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher(s): Square Enix
Developer(s): People Can Fly
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Science-Fiction
Release Date: 2020-04-01

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