In case you didn’t know, People Can Fly (Gears of War Judgment, Bulletstorm) released a full-fledged demo out on all platforms for their upcoming game, Outriders, which is a third-person cover shooter that seems to have taken quite a bit of inspiration from some of the most popular franchises out today, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The demo starts with the prologue which acts as a primer for the story, and as a quick tutorial section where players are shown the basics. It can’t be skipped, and it’s relatively short (especially if you don’t puruse dialogue options and the like) which is good, since the controls are pretty much your standard third-person actio game mechanics. Triggers will have your character ADS (aim down sight) and shoot, while the face buttons are used to reload, take cover, dodge, switch weapons and so on. Those who played games like The Division, Gears of War, etc., will feel right at home.
Immediately after the prologue though, is where the real fun begins.
Start Your Altered Engines!
After the prologue and a few cinematics, players will be asked to choose the class they want to be locked into. There’s the Technomancer, Pyromancer, Trickster, and Devastator. While we won’t go into detail for each class (that’s what the hyperlinked videos are for), I can say from experience that each one varies greatly in terms of play style, abilities, and how you approach encounters.
Clearly, People Can Fly poured a lot of thought into each class’ abilities. In the demo, players are limited to just four class abilities each, but even then, you can get a good grasp of how each class plays, and how different they are from one another. All in all, I’ve played through the demo from start to finish (all the content available in the demo) about three times, and I have to pick the Trickster class as my fave, and the one I’ll be playing as when I play the game for fun (or review) come launch. The Trickster can not only teleport to enemies, but the character even has a blade slash move that disintegrates enemies into bones and guts! Add in the class’ chronosphere bubble ability that slows down everything inside, and well, the class just feels badass.
Not to say the other classes don’t feel as powerful. The Technomancer might feel “gimmick-y” at first since the class relies on turrets and whatnot, but proper implementation of it can prove to be invaluable given that not only does these turrets fire at enemies and distract them, but they have abilities themselves too.
Adding more depth to classes are the class trees that splinter into three different ways. So, not only do you have four main classes (roles) to choose from, but each one has a specific sub class they can excel in, which greatly adds to the depth. Unfortunately, in the demo, we can only use two skill points which meant we couldn’t even try the other sub class skills/buffs, etc. Check the image above! Yeah, a little daunting, right? Don’t though, as the game slowly guides you to each tree, ability, etc.
Aside from classes and whatnot, most of the time, players will be doing a lot (and I mean a LOT) of shooting. There’s your usual armaments like an assault rifle, shotguns, sub machineguns and so on. The choices we have in aren’t the most varied lot, but the gunplay feels satisfying. It bears mentioning that there’s loot in the game (more on that later) that should shake up whatever monotony players might feel with the gunplay. And when you’re shooting, using abilities on the fly, running from cover cover and such, against throngs of baddies, you’ll be glad that you’re using weapons that you’re familiar with.
As mentioned before in this article, the movement and cover system feel similar to games like Gears of War, The Division, Uncharted, etc., which is a good thing. What’s not good, however, are the ledges, metal blocks and such that look like you can vault over them (there is no jump mechanic in the game), but you can’t. They are the same height as other stuff that you can vault over, which makes no sense to be honest. Equally annoying sometimes is how your character will suddenly be pushed out of cover, and it takes quite some fidgeting sometimes to get them back in, which means you soak up damage that you shouldn’t have taken in the first place.
These quibbles aren’t game-breaking or anything though, and once you get used to it, becomes second nature to watch out for these things (at least I did). Still, this is something the devs can take a look at and tweak post-launch.
An interesting mechanic that People Can Fly implemented in Outriders is that players are pushed to be aggressive. In your standard cover shooter, players are usually taught or conditioned to take cover, pick your shots, flank, pop for a few shots, and then go back in cover. That’s not the case in Outriders.
Here, you are rewarded for being aggressive! Need some HP (health points) for your character? Your auto-heal can only heal until a fourth of your life bar. Want more? Go deal damage, use your abilities to kill enemies so that any damage you dealt, will be transferred to you in the form of HP! It’s a clever gameplay design that ensures gunfights won’t become boring, and teammates will all rush in guns (and abilities) a-blazing. Speaking of which, your weapons have specific abilities as well. There are burn rounds (that incinerate enemies upon contact), weapons that have the life leech ability in order to steal life as you deal ’em, and more. Safe to say, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what the game’s weapons, mods and abilities are given we’re locked to World Tier 5, and locked to level 7 of each character.
Quacks Like a Duck BUT Not a Duck?
Possibly the most confusing thing in Outriders is how it’s not a live service game. People Can Fly reiterated that over and over — that Outriders is not a Games as a Service title, though it definitely feels like one. While we know there will be endgame content (called Expeditions and shown below in the video), we don’t know for certain whether we’ll see post-launch stuff, seasonal events and the like. People Can Fly has not promised anything, other than this game will be a finished product from beginning to end, which is a good thing to hear. I mean, I’d rather get a full-fledged complete game, than have to wait for the promise of extra missions, content, and whatnot that are usually promised by games that have a thin layer of content at launch.
Even in the game’s main hub (that kinda feels like Anthem’s but in a less confusing way), it feels like it’s opening up to something more. Think of weekly, daily quests, vendor resets (which are already present in the demo) — all staples of GaaS titles, of which Outriders is again not a part of.
Time will tell if this feels like a complete game, and whether People Can Fly can pivot to give gamers more content (assuming the player base is there). But for now, we’ll have to take the studio’s word on how content-packed the game is.
We haven’t even touched on the game’s story in this Outriders demo review (we’ll talk about that spoiler-free in our main review), but from what I’ve seen so far, it’s intriguing enough that I want to know more of the characters, what’s in store, who Seth is fighting, and more. The fact that your character isn’t some goody two shoes helps as well, since it gives the protagonist a little bit more attitude than your standard hero or anti-hero role.
One major thing we noticed right off the gate are the audio issues. There are multiple instances wherein a cinematic will have a character repeat a word twice for some reason, and the lip sync issues are there from start to finish (of the demo)! It does pull you out of the immersion, though I’m hoping this is something People Can Fly can patch up at launch. In addition to audio issues, we’ve noticed some graphical inconsistencies as well, though that’s something that we’ll be discussing in a separate article (keep an eye out for that).
Make no mistake about it, the Destiny inspiration is evident, as is with titles like Mass Effect, and even People Can Fly’s own Gears of War. Sure you can knock the game down a bit for those, but, as a whole though, Outriders shines on its own right, and more importantly, what I’ve played so far from the demo has made me look twice at a game I wasn’t that interested in before, and dare I say it, it made me anticipate the game’s launch which is a good thing.
Outriders demo downloaded and played on PS5.