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Outriders Gameplay Impressions – A Better Balanced Looter-Shooter

Can it beat Destiny and The Division?

by Kyle Hanson


Outriders was one of the bigger surprises for me at PAX East 2020. Coming into the game, I hadn’t really followed much about this shooter-RPG from Square Enix and People Can Fly. Right out of the gate it was clear we’d be following the looter-shooter mentality of firing shots, using abilities, and steadily climbing the invisible tree of better and better weaponry until we reached that mythical land called “postgame”. But while that formula has only sparingly worked for me before, something about Outriders clicked a bit better. Was it the story? The shooting? The abilities? Actually, it was all of the above, and how the game blended them all into what feels like a much better balanced looter shooter.

Outriders Gameplay Preview

I got to spend a lot of time with Outriders at PAX East 2020. Through my few hours I experienced a good portion of the opening hours, playing the tutorial/prologue and the missions that followed. The story wasn’t anything unique in the scifi genre, with the seemingly last vestiges of humanity moving to the starts to avoid an apocalypse back on Earth. Their destination is Enoch, a lush world full of life and unknown death. As an Outrider you have been sent ahead of the larger refugee group with the task of determining if it’s safe. Spoiler alert: it’s not.

After discovering some of the dangers that face humanity on this new world you are put into cryo sleep following a dibilitating injury. Awakening long in the future you find that your encounter with the mysterious energy of this planet has changed you, you are now Altered, which means you have gained abilities which will be different based on the class you chose. Also the new paradise of humanity has gone completely to hell. Whoever hasn’t been killed by the wildlife and energies of the planet has either been altered as well or is likely at war with other factions among the survivors. This sets the stage for some very interesting scifi action, with a touch of western elements as well.

But as I said, the story isn’t the only reason to hop on the Outriders wagon. The gunplay was solid as well, offering nice third-person action with all the cover shooting you can take. While it’s not impressive on its own, what Outriders gunplay does better than most looter-shooters I’ve experienced is offering a nice balance with the abilities that typically augment it. Rather than being mainly shooting with a few abilities to supplment, Outriders feels like it wants you to use your powers often.

Outriders Gameplay Impressions

I noticed early on that the cooldown period for my initial, and very powerful abilities, was faster than I anticipated. I was hiding behind cover waiting for the imaginary timer in my head that had been honed to a fine point by games like Destiny, The Division, and others, to reach zero. Yet everytime it did the abilities had already been available for some time. Once this clicked, that I should be shooting, using abilities, recovering, and repeating much quicker than I anticipated, the gameplay loop became much more engaging. And this is before we get into co-op.

There were three classes on offer in this demo. I chose the tanky Devastator while my eventual co-op partners chose the others that were available. These amounted to a time and space warping ninja and a pyromancer who could light enemies on fire from a distance. I had a nice AOE attack, a mobile cover ability, and a devastating (hence the name) slam attack that propelled me into the air to choose and demolish my target. This was all fun by myself, but once we teamed up as seen late in the video below, it was truly something to behold.

We would enter an area, fire shots at nearby enemies, wait for our ninja to freeze a large group, then slam them with everything we had. Taking out groups of three to five enemies at a time is always satisfying, but the seamless way we gelled together was impressive. Veteran teams who communicate better and tailor their abilities to suit the mission will find some really great combat waiting for them.

While no one thing stood out in my time with Outriders I found myself constantly thinking back on it as the show progressed. When you’re at an event like PAX people often ask “what’s the best thing you saw so far”. I usually struggle to answer amidst the chaos of the event, with demo after demo rolling through my head. And while my answer may not definitely be Outriders, it was often one of the first things that came to mind. Be sure to watch out for Outriders to hit Xbox One, PS4, and PX later this year, and check out the gameplay above along with more of my immediate thoughts on the experience. I also got to sit with the writers behind the game. You can check out that interview right here.

- This article was updated on:March 10th, 2020

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