Outriders Review – Riding Out
Developed by People Can Fly
Published by Square Enix
Available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S
I feel like a review should be honest, so let me start with an honest statement. Outriders was never really on my radar. It looked fine, but it wasn’t a video game I was actively anticipating. However, when it showed up I decided to give it an honest shot. Was it worth riding out to meet Outriders?
I’ll just spoil this now, but I really enjoyed Outriders. The problem is that the first hour or two doesn’t give that impression at all. The opening cutscene is full of awkward cuts and constantly changes aspect ratio from widescreen to fullscreen every time it cuts. This is followed by overly long tutorials, dull cover-shooter segments, a pair of bullet sponge boss fights, and a very long truck ride. It’s an awful first impression that had me deeply worried for the rest of the game. Then I got my powers and everything was okay.
It’s strange how much of a switch was flipped, but as soon as the powers came in, Outriders dramatically improved. The game lets you pick from one of four classes, each with their own powersets and quirks. For example, the technomancer can deploy turrets and heals every time they deal damage. On the other hand, the devastator can manipulate earth and gets health back for killing enemies in close range combat. I personally went with the pyromancer, which meant I was throwing walls of fire and turning my bullets into little flaming rounds. It was rather awesome to witness.
The general plot has a group of people evacuating Earth on a colony ship after it becomes uninhabitable due to humanity polluting it. You play as an Outrider, who is among the first to step on the planet of Enoch. Unfortunately, things don’t go quite as planned and you get shoved into cryosleep, spending another 30-ish years out of it. When you wake up again you find Enoch has devolved into endless wars and the exact same destruction that forced humanity off Earth is happening again. In addition to this, there’s storms that kill most people, but give a very small percentage super magical abilities. Thankfully, you’re among that small percentage.
What follows it you trying to figure out what happened while you were asleep, what you can do to save humanity, and attempting to get to the bottom of the magic power storms. The idea is fine, but for the most part it’s just b-movie schlock. You’ll meet some characters that hang out with you for an extended period of time, but as soon as they were off-screen I forgot their names. Weirder still, halfway through the game almost all the plot threads are just dropped and never brought up again, with a bunch of new ones showing up. It feels like two halves of unconnected stories awkwardly stitched together.
Then I turned a man into a living bomb and honestly stopped worrying about the story.
In an absolutely basic sense, Outriders is a third-person shooter where you can equip three abilities that can help you in combat. However, that’s selling it a little short. In a single firefight I’d jump from cover to cover, not really using it as cover but instead as a way to travel quickly around the battlefield. I would fire some rounds into an enemy, dodge roll, toss a wall of flame up, then dive for cover before jumping out of it and making lava spew from the ground. It’s fast, frantic, and simply feels great. A lot of this is helped by a smart decision the game also makes: you can only heal by dealing damage. For the Pyromancer I only got health back if I hit marked targets, and I could mark targets by hurting them with my abilities.
For those who played Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, the concept of healing by hurting may sound familiar. However, while that game had you locked into awkward finishing animations that you could still get hurt during, the pace in Outriders never slows down. You’re always jumping around, gunning down enemies and performing rad special attacks. It helps that the game also has an extremely smart difficulty setting that allows you to adjust how hard you want the game to be. I found out which difficulty I found acceptable playing solo, when I needed to lower or raise it, and what I could bring it to when I invited friends to play.
You need to do this occasionally, as Outriders sometimes likes to throw extreme difficulty bumps at you. One fight saw the game spawn several bullet-sponge behemoths in an arena that was already flooded with other enemies. A late game boss fight kept causing me to bash my head into a wall, especially since it was multi-part with no checkpoints. Thankfully, there were always options if I wanted to do something else for a while.
Many of these options included loot. Being a looter shooter, there’s plenty of looting to be done in Outriders. There’s a steady supply of new guns and armor to be found, each of which looks just a little more unique than the last one did. However, it’s not just the loot giving you more numbers to go up. A lot of the game’s loot had unique effects. I could modify my bombs so they’d freeze nearby victims, or give my life leech the ability to steal ammo as well. At one point I had a gun that dropped mines with every shot, and another that would create portals to other dimensions upon kills. All of that is pretty rad, and I had a good time finding more loot to give myself more weird loadouts.
With a solid 40 hours of story and side quests, there’s quite a lot of content to shoot your way through. I was impressed with how much of the game there seemed to be, and how rarely I was bored of it. A lot of this is thanks to a rather surprising addition: Outriders is hilarious. There’s several side quests that just had me nearly rolling on the floor in laughter. Someone sets up a game of Russian Roulette with an immortal being, a powerful magic wielder can’t handle his girlfriend asking him to clean up the house, a collector of Earth artifacts has you grab a copy of Bulletstorm, and more.
There’s plenty to love about Outriders. If you’re just looking for a game where you can shoot a lot of people while dropping magic all over the place, that’s here. Likewise, there’s plenty here for people who just love seeing numbers go up. However, I really came away impressed by the whole package, just how much I loved the fast-paced combat and the humor. Plus, like I said before, I turned a dude into a living bomb. When he exploded he took out a few of his buddies. It was rad, and that’s the best thing you can say about Outriders. It’s rad.