Thursday, June 17, 2021

Outriders (for PC)

The looter-shooter genre isn’t as prominent as it once was during the mid-2010s, but that hasn’t stopped publishers from developing new games in the vein of Destiny and The Division. People Can Fly, the crew behind Painkiller, Gears of War: Judgment, and Bulletstorm, present their own spin on the genre: Outriders. This $59.99, Square Enix-published PC game isn’t entirely original, but it delivers a better-than-average, sci-fi, shooter experience.

Fight to Survive

In the distant future, humanity leaves a devastated, post-apocalyptic Earth to voyage to a new home on a planet called Enoch. Things go well on Enoch until a mysterious, powerful storm spreads across the planet, disintegrating or altering anything it touches. 

There’s a tense scramble to flee the storm, but it eventually sucks in your custom character. Your character gets placed into stasis for 30 years, and when they awaken, humanity’s remnants are at war, and the ecology is dying. More importantly, the storm gives your character strange powers. You’re tasked with discovering the secrets behind the storm and preventing mankind from destroying itself.

Outriders gameplay

Outriders contains elements from the aforementioned People Can Fly projects. In fact, it resembles Gears of War with its cover-based, third-person shooting. Your primary assault rifle even feels and sounds like Gears of Wars’ Lancer. But after you awaken from a 30-year stasis, you gain access to a wide range of devastating powers and weaponry. This is where the Bulletstorm influence seeps into the gameplay. If you’ve played third-person shooters released in the past five years, you’ll instantly acclimate to Outriders’ basic controls and gameplay mechanics.

Like Destiny and The Division, Outriders has a hub area where you accept main missions and sidequests. The hub is also where you purchase and customize your equipment. This ramshackle headquarters is similar to the one in Anthem—only done right. Unlike Anthem’s hub, Outriders’ hub feels alive and lived-in enough to make it believable, at least on the surface. As with most games, Outriders doesn’t let you interact with every NPC.

Enoch is anything but friendly. Despite the storm’s growing intensity, the human factions continue waging war over the few scraps of land and resources not destroyed by the anomalous weather. The battles take place in muddy, bombed-out trenches not unlike the ones in World War I. The wartime vibe combined with the eerie storm creates a distinct visual identity that sets Outriders apart from most shooters. Enoch is both alluring and frightening.

Combined Arms

Outriders features numerous weapons, such as assault rifles, shotguns, handguns, and sniper rifles. Each feels distinct, and works well in specific situations. For example, you’ll want to use a sniper rifle for picking off enemies from a distance. A shotgun, on the other hand, is a powerful tool for taking down nearby foes. You can carry two primary weapons and a sidearm; this ensures that you’re prepared for any situation. Gunplay is responsive, and the weapons carry weight. That’s something many games don’t bother portraying.

Outriders path selection

Complementing the weapons are powerful class-specific abilities. The Devastator class leverages earth-based attacks that hurl rocks at nearby foes. This class can also create a protective shield around itself and allies. Pyromancers, as you may have guessed, use flame-based attacks to set foes ablaze and make them explode into glorious chunks. Tricksters can slow time, which is an extremely useful skill when enemy swarms threaten to overwhelm you. Finally, the Technomancer is a support-based class that heals allies and uses long-range gadgets, such as turrets and missile launchers. Having a balanced party is paramount to survival.

You level up by defeating enemies and completing missions. Each earned level rewards you with skill points that are used to unlock new powers and skills. The skill tree contains many divergent paths. Unfortunately, the demo only gave us a small sample of what the full game offers. That said, the skills should afford you great flexibility in terms of building the perfect character.

Outriders skill tree

Outriders features drop-in/drop-out, co-op play for up to three people. Friends can join your main missions or sidequests and, thankfully, they’re lag-free experiences. Like the full game, the demo featured cross-platform play between the major consoles. This means you can buy Outriders on PC (via Epic Games Store or Steam) and play with friends on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One. Cross-platform play is an excellent marketing tool for an untested, new IP. Even The Division 2, a long-running looter-shooter, lacks cross-platform play.

Unstable Powers

To play Outriders on PC, your rig needs at least an Intel I5-3470 CPU, a Nvidia GeForce GTX 750ti GPU, 8GB of RAM, 70GB of system storage, and the Windows 10 operating system. Considering that Outriders is a AAA production, these are relatively modest system requirements.

My gaming PC, with its Intel i7-4790 CPU and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU, ran Outriders relatively well on Ultra settings. I say “relatively,” because the frame rate fluctuated wildly between indoor and outdoor environments. Outdoors, the game runs between a silky 90-105 frames per second. Indoors, the game runs between 30-45fps. All cutscenes run at 30fps.

The display options include Vsync, FPS Limit, Field of View, and Resolution. Advanced options let you tweak Antialiasing, Effects Quality, Texture Quality, and View Distance Quality. 1080p was the demo’s maximum pixel resolution. We’re unsure if this cap will change upon the game’s release.

A New Destiny

With so many prominent games facing delays, Outriders has the potential to become your go-to, co-op title. Its cover-based shooting mechanics are fluid and responsive, and the overall action feels brutal and immediate. If you’re a fan of Destiny or The Division and want to play a shooter with a similar feel, Outriders is worth keeping an eye on as it approaches its April 1, 2021 release date.

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