Disclaimer: Square Enix provided our travel and hotel for our Outriders preview event. You can watch 20 minutes of gameplay footage we recorded at the event below.
Last week, I flew out to Los Angeles where I got to play People Can Fly’s first new game in 7 years: Outriders. As far as I’m aware, this is one of the first PlayStation 5/Xbox Series X titles that anyone outside of developers has played. We didn’t play it on either of those consoles, the game was running on high-end PCs but we were told Outriders will launch on next-gen as well as Xbox One and PS4.
I came into the event with tempered expectations, expecting another version of Destiny, The Division, or Anthem. What I came away with was a strong belief that People Can Fly is about to deliver one of the best games that’ll be available for early adopters of next-gen. On the surface, it is very easy to draw comparisons to those aforementioned games but once you really see what it has to offer and dig just a bit deeper, you realize Outriders is something really special.
It’s worth noting that People Can Fly heavily stressed Outriders is not a “games as service” title, it has all of the general gameplay concepts you’d expect from that genre but it leaves out the monetization schemes.
That means no loot boxes and no microtransactions. They also noted the game is about 40 hours in length with some endgame content thrown in there. There are no concrete plans for post-launch content (or at least any they wanted to share) but we were told if the game is well-received, they’ll develop more content.
You play as an “Outrider”, one of the strong-willed folks tasked with saving mankind by evacuating Earth and colonizing a new planet known as Enoch. It sounds like a story we’ve heard before, one way or another, but it quickly takes a turn. Enoch is not the paradise that they had envisioned despite its lush beauty. A mysterious storm quickly consumes Enoch with catastrophic effects that tear the planet apart and reduce life forms to mere molecules, you narrowly escape but are deeply affected by some of the storm’s strange elements.
You end up going into cryosleep until you can get proper help but no one comes… you awaken 30 years later. The green plains of Enoch are replaced with bleak, brown, firey trenches and it’s borderline unrecognizable to how you originally found it. The booming society that was promised collapsed, it’s utter chaos. You essentially woke up from a dream world to a reality that reflects a nightmare.
A worthwhile story is at the forefront of Outriders. With games of this nature, we usually see these incredibly realized worlds but they ultimately fall apart in creating a compelling story. Your character is never a character, it’s just a vehicle to listen to other people deliver exposition while you stand there with a blank face and stern posture.
Outriders does away with all of that. You create a character at the start of the game but they’re fully engaged and essential to the narrative. People Can Fly have crafted a story and world that isn’t window dressing for shooting galleries or bullet sponges, it’s fully realized. Something you don’t see as much in these online RPGs is a sense of agency.
You can have branching conversations with characters which helps you learn more about the world, the people, and grounds you in the humanity of the story. In a game like Destiny or Anthem, you can get lost in all the sci-fi and lose the perspective of the fact you’re there to save mankind. That’s not the case in Outriders.
It’s almost a true RPG that you’d see from the likes of Bethesda or Bioware. The only thing missing is a morality or branching narrative. This is still very much a linear story, the ending you get is the ending everyone else will get. It feels like a “real” story and not like a series of quests that just link together a loose narrative to give some sort of reason for the gameplay.
In what is a miraculous feat, People Can Fly has seemingly begun to deliver on all the potential a game like this can have. Where Destiny or Anthem fall flat, Outriders strives. Where Destiny or The Division 2 strive, Outriders excels beyond those standards.
Gameplay is king in games like these. It needs to be fun because they want your time, they want you to replay missions, they want that grind, and since there’s no PVP, the PVE needs to be fun. At the start of the game, you’re able to choose a class that specifies the powers you can use.
You can choose from a pyro, a heavy-type class, and a character who can manipulate space and time called Trickster. There will be at least one other class in the final game but it wasn’t specified what their powers are at this time. I spent my time as Trickster which seemed like the most fun of the bunch.
You can send some sort of energy towards your enemies which causes them to slow down and then literally violently implode with guts, bones, and all. You can create a force-field of sorts that slows down anything that goes through it including bullets and enemies themselves. The third key ability available in our time is perhaps my favorite and it allows you to teleport behind enemies, slow them down, and then you can unload bullets in them.
It was endlessly satisfying to teleport behind someone, pull out a shotgun, and blow their head clean off. It’s a non-stop adrenaline-pumping experience that doesn’t reward you with fancy, colorful loot but a narcotic-esque kind of gunplay. It triggers all those sensors in your brain that make you giddy in your seat as you play.
People Can Fly made one of the most fulfilling shooters with Bulletstorm in 2011. They’ve plucked some of those core feelings you get from playing an involved shooter like that and infused it into the multi-layered gameplay of Outriders. It’s really nothing short of wonderful.
At the time of writing this, I don’t know what games are going to launch on PS5/Xbox Series X in that launch window. However, I can safely say that I feel like whatever is out at that time, Outriders is going to be a worthy competitor and must-have title for the new-gen and also deliver a significant bang to help wind down the current-gen.
Outriders releases this holiday season for Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, PS5, and PC.