People Can Fly are making a major comeback with their upcoming shooter: Outriders. Published by Square-Enix, Outriders blends elements from popular shooters and delivers something that is both familiar and fresh. I recently attended an event in Los Angeles where I got to play the game. Based on my time with it, I’m impressed with the direction things are headed. Even if it isn’t wholly original, Outriders is a hell of a lot of fun.
Taking place in the distant future, Outriders sees humanity leave a devastated Earth behind to seek a home among the stars on a planet called Enoch. Things go well at first until a powerful storm sweeps over the land. This is no ordinary weather phenomenon as the storm disintegrates or alters everything it touches. 30 years later, humanity’s remnants fight each other and the local ecology in a desperate bid for survival. In this ruined world, the player character must discover the secret of the strange storm while doing their best to keep humanity from wiping itself out.
People Can Fly are responsible for shooters like Painkiller, Gears of War: Judgement, Bulletstorm, and even the original version of Fortnite. As such, it should come as no surprise that Outriders shares the DNA of its predecessors. Initially, the game is a Gears of War-Esque third-person cover-based shooter. It isn’t long before the player character gains access to a range of fantastical powers and weapons. This is where the over-the-top Bulletstorm influence kicks in. If you’ve played any third-person shooter in the past five years then you’ll feel at home here.
Like Destiny or The Division, Outriders features a hub area where players can accept main and sidequests. The hub is also where one goes to buy and customize their equipment. This ramshackle headquarters immediately made me think of the hub world in Anthem, only done right. Though I didn’t spend much time there, the hub world felt lived-in and bustled with activity. I couldn’t interact with everything or everyone in the hub, but it felt like I could. That went a long way to making it believable.
Post-catastrophe Enoch is not a friendly place. Various factions wage war against one another as the anomalous storms tear everything apart. I soon found myself out in the wild and had to contend with the planet’s dangers. Battles took place in and around trenches; giving Outriders a World War I feel. The environments I experienced — while containing Earth-like elements — felt appropriately otherworldly. They are equal parts alluring and frightening.
Like I said up top, the cover-based action is straight-up Gears of War. Since I’m a huge fan of that franchise, I quickly acclimated to the controls. Whether it was an assault rifle, shotgun, or handgun, each weapon felt great to use. My personal favorite was the shotgun since it could tear enemies apart at close range. There were some enemies which were effectively bullet sponges, but most went down without too much trouble (provided I aimed for their heads).
Speaking of armored enemies, I took them on more effectively with the use of my Pyromantic abilities. These powers let me unleash deadly fire-based attacks on foes. It was (literally) a blast setting enemies on fire and watching them explode seconds later. Regular enemies couldn’t do much to withstand my powers, which made me feel like a total bad-ass. Bigger foes could take more punishment but they eventually fell too. Using my Pyromantic powers alongside standard weaponry was natural and made each encounter feel exciting.
Though I went with Pyromancer, it wasn’t the only available ability. The Devastator class uses earth-based attacks that launch boulders at foes. It can also generate protective shields around the caster and his/her allies. This is effectively the game’s tank. Then there’s the Trickster class, which has the ability to slow time down. As you can imagine, making enemies move at a fraction of their normal speed can come in very useful in a pinch. There will also be a secret fourth class, but we’ll have to wait for People Can Fly to divulge more information on that at a later time.
Outriders features drop-in/drop-out co-op for up to three players. Friends can join you for any one of the main or side quests. You and your buddies can traverse Enoch’s various locales on customizable vehicles. I didn’t get to experience either of these features but it’s good to know I can play the entire game with friends. Though one cannot freely drive vehicle, it’s awesome that you can cover vast distances in a ride you designed.
One of the most surprising things about Outriders is that it’s not a games-as-a-service (GAAS) title. Since its inception, People Can Fly wanted to deliver a complete package. A full gaming experience on day one sounds preposterous these days, but it’s also quite refreshing. It’s possible Outriders may get additional content if fans demand it. But for now, you’ll get a whole game at launch.
On the surface, Outriders has the markings for success. Its cover-based shooting action is fast and brutal, while its customization options and skill trees allow players to craft a character that suits their individual playstyle. Veering away from the well-worn GAAS path similar games now tread, the game will give users their money’s worth right from the jump. We can expect to learn more before Outriders releases on both current and next-gen systems this holiday season.