Outriders PS5 Review – Outriders is by far the game I have experienced and played the most ahead of release, playing a lot of the demo and being lucky enough to check it out at two preview events. And, every time I have played it I have loved the experience but had concerns about whether to not People Can Fly can make the whole experience fun, rewarding, and consistently interesting.
Well, now that the game is here I am thrilled to say that Outriders is one of the best looter shooters in years, offering dynamic and blood-pumping combat, with a vast collection of weapons and powers for you to wield. Whilst, not flawless, what is here is some of the best in its genre and undoubtedly People Can Fly’s best game.
Outriders PS5 Review
The Future Of Humanity
Outriders opens up with you, one of the Outriders, landing on your new home planet of Enoch and being tasked with exploring and documenting the landscape to ensure it is safe for the rest of humanity to land. Currently, those humans are up in the ship you dropped from in Cryo Sleep.
But, after landing you discover that Enoch isn’t as peaceful as you had hoped, as a large storm (referred to as The Anomaly) sweeps over your location, causing sporadic weather events and killing some of your team members. Before long, you find yourself back in Cryo Sleep and wake up 31 years later.
After waking up, you find out humanity’s attempted colonisation of Enoch didn’t work out and war has ravaged the land. But, after encountering The Anomaly you become changed. You are now Altered. As an Altered you are imbued with energy from this anomaly granting you special powers and abilities. Not long after, you learn about a signal coming from beyond the walls humanity has explored. So, you go off to find out what is at the source.
Along that journey, you will meet a collection of characters, some that pop up for a mission and others that stick around longer and form a part of your crew, acting as a crating specialist, vendor, etc. Meaning, you always have what you need at all times, with no need to load back into a hub or town from earlier in the game, which is a huge positive in my book.
I mentioned in my impressions from last week that the first 30 or so minutes of the game are by far the least interesting, focused on exposition and have you walking around for most of it. That is still true after finishing the game. But, I also mentioned that the carrot on the end of the stick (finding what was at the signal source) was what was keeping me invested in the story.
Unfortunately, the payoff to that doesn’t end up satisfying and feels mostly uneventful, apart from one twist in the middle of the game that ultimately doesn’t go anywhere. By the end of the game I was like “Oh, that’s it. Well, then, back to shooting.” The whole narrative is comprised of a lot of interesting ideas and threads that ultimately disappoint in the end.
It isn’t really bad per se, but it certainly isn’t good either. In fact, it feels pretty on par with People Can Fly’s previous work, although Outriders doesn’t have any of the humor or charisma Bulletstorm did, opting for a more serious tone which ultimately doesn’t help its cause.
On top of that, the characters in the game aren’t particularly memorable. For most of the game, I couldn’t remember my crew’s names outside of Jakub and anyone who I met in passing or in a town was about as memorable as the cashier who served you at the supermarket three days ago.
Paired with the very bland character archetypes is some serviceable voice acting that is hampered by poor character animations in cutscenes that make the game feel outdated and from two generations ago. Cutscenes also frequently glitched for me, with the camera not focusing on the right people or wildly swinging around. The final boss of the game suffers from the plague of gaming where the difficulty exponentially increases, which is annoying. Luckily, being able to change World Tiers at any time alleviates this somewhat.
People Can Fly have never really been strong in the character and story department, but here it really lets down the excellent gameplay experience and I hope they are able to improve on this in the sequel (which the game’s ending heavily sets up).
Fighting For Survival
But, despite lacking in the story department, I am pleased to say that Outriders combat is entertaining initially and gets better and deeper the further into the game you go.
As a pretty standard third-person shooter, you can do everything you’d expect: shoot, dodge, take cover, blind fire, run, melee, etc. But the extra aspect that helps Outriders stand out is the vast assortment of powers you can wield and utilise against foes.
During the prologue, you get the option to pick one of four different classes in the game. The Pyromancer wields fire to mark enemies, with the Devastator acting as a tank, rushing into battle. The Trickster is all about hopping into the fray, stunning or slowing enemies and then escaping quickly. The final class, the Technomancer is based around weaponry and tools, using long-range gear to lock down chokepoints and unleash a barrage of firepower on enemies taking cover.
I chose Devastator for my main playthrough, as it is the class I have spent the least time with at preview events and the demo. Each class has eight powers, three of which you can equip at a time, able to switch them out whenever you want after unlocking them. Alongside that, a huge, sprawling skill tree, which can be customised freely after reaching max level, adds passive bonuses to your Outrider like extra health or additional boosts to some of your powers.
All of this creates a malleable character that you can fine-tune exactly how you want and to your liking far more than something you would see in Destiny or The Division. These powers also are integral to the experience, rather than complementary to your shooting. Outriders is just as much about its abilities as it is about its shooting.
Both of these systems then work together to create a wonderful ebb and flow that has you using your powers to disrupt enemies and then firing at them to finish them off or cause explosions or reactions thanks to the effects of stunned enemies dying or the various mods you can find equipped on your guns. For example, you might stun an enemy as a Disruptor, and then fire a shotgun with fire-imbued shells burning a whole group of enemies as, you move on to the next group.
While cover has its uses, Outriders isn’t your typical cover shooter. While you will need to perch behind a wall or box occasionally, you can just as easily place yourself right into the middle of the chaos and gun down waves and waves of foes, thanks to each class’ unique healing method.
As the Devastator, I healed by killing enemies who were within close range to me. This meant I frequently opted for an SMG or shotgun and placed myself right in the middle of a dozen enemies, obliterating foes and constantly healing. I felt like a goddamn superhero and like I was living the power fantasy I always wanted.
The need to consistently kill to heal makes combat far more dynamic than something you would find in a traditional cover shooter. Often, I would jump into a battle shoot an enemy, dodge, use a power, dodge, shoot another enemy, focus on an Elite mini-boss and then take cover to do all of that over again. That sequence of events is also completely dynamic, meaning I could have done any of them in any order and combat always felt fresh and exciting. The ability to disrupt enemies as they charge up special attacks also keeps everything fast-paced and intense.
Combat really is the shining star of Outriders, as it should be, but while the loop is thrilling and consistently evolved thanks to new bosses and enemy types, such as monsters and beasts native to Enoch, everything is elevated by top-tier sound effects. Whether it is the thump of a shotgun, the clink of gear being picked up and the clunk of a headshot, or the distortion of time being slowed from a Trickster’s power, the whole experience sounds phenomenal and Outriders might be the best playing and sounding shooter sci-fi shooter I have played.
Deepening The Experience
When it comes to how Outriders deals with progression and customisation, I have to say it is stronger than most in its genre. Beyond loot rarities and chasing Legendary, unique weapons, most of the progression and the feeling of getting stronger comes from the game’s crafting system.
The goal of creating the build and weapons you want comes from crafting and customising which mods are equipped on your pieces of armor and weapons. The more than 125 mods in the game can all be swapped out and equipped on whatever you like. These range from imbuing bullets with status effects, creating explosions on enemies that die, dealing extra damage to an enemy every 10 seconds, or creating an electrical aura around you as you reload. For armor, these mods boost your powers and strengthen your ability to compete in combat, through passive buffs.
These mods come in three rarities and get stronger as you go up each tier, with the highest being super powerful abilities that can help you dominate the battlefield. For example, one Legendary LMG I had came with two mods, one which froze nearby enemies in ash when one of them died, and the other doing the same thing but creating an electrical explosion.
This combination meant that every time I killed an enemy I would either kill or freeze all those around them, allowing me to pull off a combination of powers or escape to heal. It was borderline overpowered during the middle section of the game, but once I reached the end it balanced out perfectly.
These mods are the main way you become more powerful in the latter half of the game and are integral to the experience, adding a third aspect to the gameplay loop. Your weapon, your powers, and your equipped mods. They are all vital to how Outriders plays and mastering them has been a lot of fun as I have dug deeper into the endgame.
Speaking of endgame, after completing the main story Expeditions open up, which are the main end-game activity in Outriders, outside of sidequests to clean up from the main game. Expeditions are 20 to 30 minute long gauntlets that put you against waves and waves of enemies as you make your way to a drop pod with resources for your crew and the rest of humanity.
These Expeditions are tough fights that put everything Outriders has against you and are not for the faint of heart. As a reward for completing these and achieving certain time milestones (like completing them in under 12 minutes), you get a deluge of loot which you can pick up at the end and Drop Pods, a separate currency for the endgame that can be spent on gear from the end-game vendor.
These Expeditions are one of the better examples of end-game activities we have seen from a looter-shooter. There is a good number in the game, just over a dozen or so, and the three active expeditions constantly rotate, meaning you will never play the same one twice in a row. These Expeditions also take place across the game’s many environments, whether it be the snow-tipped mountains from the early part of the game or the deep, winding forests full of ruins from the middle.
I have played a fair bit of these Expeditions and they have remained fresh so far. The time rewards also help encourage you to race through them and learn each layout, so you can be better prepared for the next time. These are split into difficulty tiers which increase as you complete more, consistently making the experience more challenging as you get more powerful.
There is even a final, final goal to Outriders, which is one final Expedition mission only unlocked after you get 40,000 Drop Pods (the currency, you don’t have to complete 40,000 missions). I haven’t got there yet, but I fully intend to, so I can see just what Outriders is hiding as a final challenge.
This will take a long, long time. But, I think these Expeditions have a lot that will keep me playing and so far they have been tough, yet thrilling challenges that are tough in solo and co-op. You do want to pair up with other players though, as the experience is really quite difficult on your own, where you can’t take advantage of power synergies.
Laying The Groundwork
To put it quite simply, Outriders is the best looter in a long time. Nailing the core combat loop and having ideas of its own, People Can Fly have crafted their best game and an experience that I hope provides the foundation for a franchise that will only get better with each iteration.
Despite its poor narrative, I am so, so happy that Outriders fully achieves what it intended to do, without containing any predatory and schemy microtransaction or “gacha” systems. I have had so much fun with the game so far and there is at least 35 hours of content here for you, even if you don’t want to touch the endgame.
Outriders is a game we don’t get too often these days. It is a complete experience from beginning to end, filled with activities to complete and deep, varied, and interesting combat that easily allows for multiple playthroughs so you can master every class in the game. It isn’t too flashy, it isn’t the prettiest game on PS5, it doesn’t utilise the PS5’s feature all that well (outside of excellent trophy tracking), but my god Outriders is a bloody excellent video game.
Outriders is available now on PS5.
Review copy provided by publisher.