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Star Wars: Outlaws Hands-Off Preview (PS5) – A New Hope For Star Wars Games?

Star Wars: Outlaws Hands-Off Preview (PS5) – For every really good Star Wars game that exists, there’s always a few more not so good ones that balance it out.

The long-running franchise is wrought with games that are both classics and the kinds of games you wish you could forget. So naturally with Star Wars: Outlaws on the horizon, the question is which pile will it fall in to.

I have to say, when Ubisoft announced its Massive studio would be taking on a Star Wars project, my mind jumped to one glorious thing, and one thing only: Star Wars Battlefront but make it The Division.

A third-person action game with the strategy and co-operative play of The Division paired with the storytelling and world of Star Wars, all made to look pristine, is still a game I pray gets made one day.

That’s not nearly close to what Massive have actually ended up making. Outlaws is a single-player story driven third-person action game that makes the galaxy your open-world to explore.

A story is told along the way with new characters introduced, but the main pitch (at least as I’ve seen it) is to feel immersed in this open-world type game that’s dripping in Star Wars atmosphere and sci-fi goodness, and hopefully have some fun blasting at whoever gets in your way.

For PSU, ahead of it appearing at the Ubisoft Forward event I got to check out a chunk of gameplay from Star Wars: Outlaws to see what we can expect to play when it arrives at the end of August.

Coming away from it, I’m a little more than impressed. In fact, Outlaws could be the next step towards more polished and well-executed Star Wars games. A new hope to set a new standard for Star Wars games to come.

Star Wars: Outlaws Hands-Off Preview (PS5) – A New Hope For Star Wars Games?

“Hey! I Recognize That”

With a franchise that spans decades, and stories from it told across multiple mediums, it’s impossible to represent every aspect of that. And why would you even want to? The end product would probably be more of a convoluted mess.

There are of course a few mainstays in Star Wars that is seen everything that grew from the original films. One of the biggest is the rotating console that astromech droids like R2-D2 use to access a door, a ship’s systems, security protocols, you name it.

It’s a fun and very recognizable thing in the Star Wars universe, so when I saw that Massive had created an unlocking puzzle using that console, it immediately looked cool. It was an initial sign to me that the team is doing its best to pay attention to smaller details, and interweave the world with gameplay as much and as fluidly as possible.

That’s at least the best-case scenario I took from it. One puzzle mini-game does not a whole atmosphere make, but I had more than a few moments like this watching the gameplay presentation where I recognized elements of Star Wars that felt like call outs in the right ways. Call outs that leaned into the franchise and its world to elevate the gameplay experience.

This also includes things like the GTA-style wanted system that’s been implemented, tracking down top experts in the galaxy to learn something new, the fact that you can dock into different stations in space as a quick getaway, and get some much-needed intel at the same time. These smaller parts of the Star Wars universe we know exist but we rarely see used effectively in games.

For me, these are the kinds of things that can really make me feel like I’m living in the world, like I’m actually immersed in it.

I’ve Got A Cautiously Optimistic Feeling About This…

I want to be clear, I still have a lot of concerns going into Outlaws, but I would be lying if I said some of those concerns haven’t been lessened or in some cases dashed away by this latest gameplay showcase.

My main problem is that it looks like Ubisoft Massive have done an excellent job of making the parts of the game we’ve seen so far feel like Star Wars, through-and-through.

The look of the environment, the characters, the sounds – everything looks spot on. The reason that’s a problem right now if because I’m unsure the gameplay will sustain the same quality bar.

Will it be varied enough that it won’t get repetitive over the course of the campaign? Is every world you visit going to be as dense and feel as ‘lived in’ as what we’ve seen in this gameplay demonstration? And will the writing and performances stack up with it all to keep the story grounded, even when you’re getting sent on fetch quests?

It’s common for open-world games across the industry, not just Ubisoft ones, to answer incorrectly to any or all of these questions. Which is why it’s so worrying that everything I’m seeing is getting me excited to play it.

But without having that controller-in-hand experience with the gameplay, I can’t exactly say the same. As someone who has played many a Star Wars game in their day, there wasn’t anything I saw that I hadn’t seen before.

Combat involves stealth gameplay, your blaster with two firing modes (one for organic enemies and one for droids), rifles and other weapons you can pick up from your fallen foes and the classic knuckle sandwich.

It all seems solid, but even if it is the bigger worry is whether or not the mission structure will be interesting enough each time to make the combat shine brighter.

A New Hope For Star Wars Games

By now I’m sure a few of you readers have spent this entire preview thinking about why I’ve made no mention of Respawn’s excellent Star Wars Jedi series.

Sure, Respawn has been the team charting a path towards better Star Wars-based action games with arguably two of the best Star Wars games ever.

But Star Wars is much more than just lightsabers, and Ubisoft Massive has the chance to deliver a different kind of Star Wars game that we almost never get.

I’d just like a story with its highest stakes to be a little lower than “we need to do this to save the galaxy.” Kay Vess and her companion Nix just trying to do ‘one more job’ to get their freedom sounds perfect in that regard, plus anything even remotely heist-adjacent always adds a level of fun for me.

To have that all wrapped in Star Wars and just feel like I’m living out this adventure following likeable characters who aren’t named Skywalker sounds like a blast.

I’m just a Star Wars fan, typing words on the internet, asking for good storytelling and gameplay in a Star Wars game that doesn’t ever have to involve a lightsaber. My best-case scenario would be I start reminiscing about Andor while playing because Outlaws is hitting the same quality bar.

I can’t help but be hopeful for new Star Wars anything, and Outlaws is no exception. I think there are reasons to be hopeful for any Star Wars fan, but at this juncture I wouldn’t say the same if your attraction to Star Wars is middling-to-low but you’re looking for a new action-adventure game to sink time into.

More than ever though I’d love to eat all my negative or cautious words about this. Hopefully I’ll have a full plate of them ready on August 30, 2024 when Star Wars: Outlaws hits PS5.