People Can Fly is a studio known for its mastery of gunplay, previously contributing to the Gears of War series and the first iteration of Fortnite, as well as creating cult classic shooters like Bulletstorm and Painkiller. So it makes sense that their latest project, Outriders, is playing to their strengths while biting on a recent trend.
Outriders is a third-person looter shooter where you can team up with two other friends and push through a roughly 15-hour long narrative experience, levelling and tuning your character as you go. At the start, you’ll choose between a set of four classes which complement each other in battle. One choice is the Devastator, a walking tank that heals by killing enemies in their proximity, incentivising aggression. They pair well with a character like the Technomancer, who hides in the distance, using gadgets and long-range attacks to control and debuff enemies.
A World-Tiered approach
As you might expect given the studio’s pedigree, Outriders feels fantastic to play. Rolling around a combat arena and struggling to stay alive as you pump out abilities and blast your way to victory is an utter thrill. The game’s combat feels exquisitely paced thanks to the World Tier system, which offers players an adaptive difficulty meter that scales as you progress, growing higher as long as you complete fights without dying. If you falter it will drop down to help you acclimate and find your sweet spot. This is a really smart fix to one of the looter shooter genre’s most existential problems, executed with flair. And because later World Tiers offer a higher chance of access to Legendary loot, there’s always an incentive to learn to play the game better. But even so, you can always knock the difficulty down and just enjoy it at your speed until you reach the endgame. Every playstyle is accounted for!
Outriders is trying to roll with the big dogs that dominate the genre, and if you’re familiar, you’ll definitely see a lot of crossover with games like Destiny and The Division. Yet Outriders’ commitment to deliver a contained narrative also has some neat consequences that make the game differ from most looter shooters. For example, there are no microtransactions or loot boxes, which will be music to the ears of many scorned fans. There’s no PVP either — it’s a purely cooperative experience for now. This is a bold decision, but fortunately, the game doesn’t lack longevity because of it. The endgame in Outriders is particularly meaty, asking you to embark on tricky Expeditions designed to test the mettle of overconfident teams.
An unexpected twist on sci-fi storytelling
Ultimately, it’s a strange hybrid game that is trying to bring its own unique ideas to an overcrowded genre. Its narrative focus is admirable, given that most games of this style dodge it almost entirely. Bucking the trend, Outriders is full of charming characters that you will come to love – and grieve for – across the course of the campaign, which whisks you between dilapidated cities, lush jungles and arid deserts. Accompanying the environmental atmosphere, the soundtrack isn’t much to write home about but the sound effects are stellar. This is where People Can Fly’s Gears of War experience really shines — shotguns crunch and snipers pop, delivering jolts of sinister satisfaction.
The premise isn’t anything groundbreaking (humans colonising an alien planet as a last resort) but it’s definitely coming at this kind of story from a different perspective. The game is inspired by Polish folklore, and the character/enemy designs are consistently diverse and interesting. It toes a very careful line between true grit and aloof humour in its writing too, which is refreshing. It really isn’t afraid to subvert side quest conventions, which often leads to cute narrative surprises for players, who may be tired of the dull fetch quests seen in other games. Outriders has them, but at least People Can Fly is self-aware about it.
Off to a – fairly – good start
Outriders is definitely rough around some of its edges, but it counteracts that with some really lovely bits of flair. Every piece of armour you unlock and every weapon you find has custom aesthetics, which really does a lot to prolong my interest in a looter shooter, as I turn my character into a powerful shotgun wizard, or a stealthy sniper. It’s Fashion Souls at its core, and it could be seen as unnecessary, but it’s one of the game’s several pleasing small touches. Alongside the tight movement and sticky gameplay loop, they really work to tie the Outriders experience together.
The servers have had a wobble over the launch weekend, but that’s par for the course for a big online game like this, one that has clearly resonated with a large audience — I’m sure it’ll smooth out. I got booted out literally during the ending cutscene and I still came back to Outriders, which says a lot about how captivating its combat can be… definitely check this one out if you’ve got service shooter fatigue!
Does all this sound interesting to you? Outriders is available now on our store, get your digital PC copy here.