Android Central Verdict
Bottom line: Outriders can offer great fun to anyone who likes third-person shooters with crunchy, fast-paced combat. However, the story is a letdown and a series of gameplay and design pitfalls keep it from being great.
Both gunplay and abilities keep gameplay fun
World tier system rewards good play while giving control to less proficient players
Mods and loot system are rewarding, not overly complicated
Story is forgettable with wooden dialogue
In-game camera can be annoying
Level design skewed in favor of multiplayer
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Outriders is an enjoyable, if slightly formulaic, looter shooter that is at its best when it remembers to be fun and at its worst when it tries to tell a story. A solid core of fun gameplay, a simple but rewarding mod system, and a responsive difficulty curve do a lot to save the game from mediocrity, and Outriders is much better than mediocre.
That said, a panoply of peripheral issues hold the game back from being a true delight. The problems with the gameplay are small, but once you notice them, they're very difficult to ignore. And if you want an engaging story, you can forget about it, because almost everything about Outriders' story and setting is forgettable.
Also, as a side note: I don't want to address the server issues in great detail since I'm optimistic they'll be fixed over the next couple of weeks. However, they were there when I started playing, and have only marginally improved at the time of this writing.
Outriders: Good gameplay, versatile mods, and a world that scales with you
|Developer||People Can Fly|
|Genre||Third-person looter shooter|
|PlayStation Version||PlayStation 5|
|Game Size||46 GB|
|Play Time||20+ hours (so far)|
|Players||Single-player and online co-op multiplayer|
In Outriders, you play one of the titular soldiers of fortune who, with a group of human refugees, are trying to hack it on an alien planet called Enoch. However, some anomalous storms imbue some with superpowers (including you) and trap the rest of humanity in a valley. It all devolves into vicious faction warfare.
The gameplay loop is typical looter-shooter fare: The character is sent on missions by the leader of their hub area. They get there and pump thousands of bullets and/or space energy into a gaggle of enemies, pick their bodies clean of useful armor and ammo — lather, rinse, repeat.
It's great then that Outriders' gameplay is so buoyant that it lifts the game up and makes what would otherwise be a dull affair into something more guiltlessly fun. The powers with which your character is imbued make each combat encounter interesting and fun. You have four-player classes to choose from, each of which grants you unique abilities to use on your enemies. Each of them are cool in their own way, and cater to different playstyles, though the movement-and-power-oriented Trickster was my favorite.
The first time I encountered an enemy group after getting my "Hunt the Prey" ability, which allows the Trickster to teleport behind an enemy, I ran straight into the group of common enemies around me, activated my Slow Time ability, trapping them in a bubble. I then used my new ability to teleport behind a troublesome sniper, sliced through him with a Temporal Blade (which is a sharp hand wave that makes enemies disintegrate), picked up his gun, and picked off every one of the grunts still trapped in the bubble on the other side of the battlefield. I managed all this within about 15 seconds, and could not stop the grin that spread across my face. This sort of play is not only possible in Outriders but it's also encouraged by the level design and enemy AI behavior. All the classes have complex mechanics that only become visible the more you play, which makes for versatile gameplay.
While Outriders may look, at first glance, like a Gears of War-style cover shooter, the chest-high walls are mostly there to catch a few bullets while you race around flinging your supernatural powers everywhere. And when those fail you, you have a selection of hefty guns at your disposal, with gunplay that feels pretty weighty and enjoyable, especially through the DualSense's haptic feedback. During one mission, in which I lured several enemies onto a bridge and merrily sliced through them with my hand-wavey space magic, I realized I was having more fun with this than I had with a shooter in a long time.
The world tier system, which allows you granular control over the game's difficulty, also helps keep things competitive. Every successful enemy encounter that pushes the world tier meter up feels like a triumph, just as much if not more so than that chunky bits of enemy that litter the ground around you.
It takes a little while for the game to really get going, but it picks up around the time you unlock weapon and armor modification. The Outriders loot isn't terribly intricate (not to mention some of the armor sets are crimes against good taste), but the system being simple works in your favor: Pick a gun, upgrade its stats, stick a mod on it so you burn/freeze/cannibalize your enemies, and when you're ready to upgrade it you can dismantle it for parts.
While the game does occasionally dip into boring character and enemy design, the fauna and scenery of Enoch is the real draw. On PS5, the environments have a kind of harsh beauty, a natural brutalism that, while perhaps not as spectacular as other games on the console, is pleasing in its own way.
Outriders: Boring story, terrible voice acting, and a grab bag of gameplay problems
So when Outriders is in full, self-indulgent, looty-shooty swing, it's a blast. It's the in-between stuff that lets it down.
For starters, the game is dotted with short, unskippable cutscenes, usually when the Outrider is opening a door or when a new miniboss shows up. Even the opening menu forces me to sit through the same 10-second cutscene before I can even log in. Another problem is that, during the in-game conversations with friendly characters, the camera is constantly bobbing and wobbling all over. This was not intentional, as I understand it, but it's still a problem.
The game's characters and conversations are also forgettable, with only one or two exceptions. Unfortunately, Outriders' strength isn't in its storytelling, and I really wish it realized that. There's an abruptness to the story that's quite jarring, like the game's writers fed its script into some kind of machine that generates cutscenes but never quite captures the intended emotion. The wooden voice acting doesn't help, either. It's actually kind of fascinating to try and guess which emotion the characters are trying to convey.
In general, Outriders has a tone problem. For example, there's an early sidequest where the Outrider rescues one of their boss's lieutenants, who's stuck in a foxhole with a member of the rebel faction. The rebel says they've made friends in their dire situation, only for the lieutenant to shoot him in the back and then be shot dead by an offscreen hostile seconds later. The Outrider throws up their hands and says, "Why do I bother?" I honestly can't tell if this scene is meant to be funny, or a dramatic comment on the horrors of war. It's neither, but the fact that I can't even tell is perplexing. If Outriders was a bit sillier, and took itself less seriously, it'd be much more fun.
Even the gameplay is not free of its pitfalls here and there. I swiftly grew tired of the camera jumping from one shoulder to the other without any input from me while I was aiming down the sights. My character would also occasionally take my command to dodge to mean "vault on top of a chest-high wall several meters away." Also, whenever I died, the game would not-so-subtly ask me if I'd like to go down a World Tier, and there's nothing more irritating than a game that won't take your first dismissal of that notification for an answer.
Finally, one last thing that kept me from really enjoying the game: The difficulty is obviously designed with co-op in mind, meaning if you're playing single-player, there will be levels where you'll suddenly hit a prohibitive difficulty spike. And before anyone tells me to "get good," I'm perfectly capable of taking down the bosses without a scratch and yet die 20 times to some grunts, even I'm able to break through the haze of self-deprecation and suggest there might be a flaw in the balance somewhere.
Outriders on PS5: Should you buy it?
If you're into looter shooters, then you'll probably find Outriders to be an enjoyable diversion worth sinking your teeth into for the fun, fast-paced gameplay alone. But if you're here thinking you're going to get some kind of involving sci-fi yarn, I don't think it has much to offer you.
2.5 out of 5
Outriders has plenty of fun to offer, and I suspect it'll have multiple future updates that expand on the story and lore. I think I'd like to revisit the game in a few months' time and see how it's improved because at launch it doesn't really have a lot of flavor outside of the combat encounters. I suspect it'll be more fun to play with a group, so if you are ready to tackle Enoch with a posse, this will definitely be more appealing than it was to me as a solo Outrider.
Rachel Kaser is an Android Central gaming contributor, who's been writing since 2013 and gaming since the age of five. She's covered everything from gaming news, reviews, and analysis -- if it exists in gaming, she knows about it. She also contributes to Future's other sites, iMore and Windows Central. If you want to hear her opinions on games, pop culture, tech, and everything in between, follow her on Twitter @rachelkaser
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