Outriders review: ferocious combat and shiny trousers make for a compelling loot-shoot
You are one of these ‘Altered’, able to go into battle with warring factions and toothy monsters as a variety of classes. These range from the tank-like Devastator, rogueish Trickster and long-range Technomancer. The majority of my playtime has been as a Pyromancer, a mid-range assault demon who can hurl a current of flames, turn defeated enemies into devastating mobile grenades or encase every nearby bad guy in ash. The powers you wield are nicely varied. My second build is as a Trickster who has a time-knife and can teleport behind groups of enemies and wreak havoc before flitting away, for instance. But the real boon is how each different class changes significantly changes your approach.
The well-worn level design tends to suggest Outriders is played as a cover shooter. Quiet, narrow corridors bulge into arenas peppered with waist-high barriers to snuffle behind. But it soon becomes clear that the cover is for your enemies, not you. You snarl into combat, quick cooldown times allowing you to overwhelm groups of skittering assailants. The cover is there if you need to retreat, but even recovery tends to be tied to attack. For my pyromancer, every enemy I set aflame with one of my powers is ‘marked’. Any enemy killed while tagged gives me a welcome health boost. The Trickster replenishes HP with up-close and personal kills. Each class has a different healing technique, but all are based on aggression. Of course, a varied team while playing in co-op reveals the very best that each has to offer as you trade off each other’s strengths.
It leads to a game that is ferociously good fun as you dance around the arenas, finding a rhythm as you flit between volleys of bullets and devastating powers that keep your health topped up. In opposition, Outriders seeks to overwhelm you. Battles can be fabulously intense and, while you are set up as the aggressor to be feared, Outriders gets pretty tough, pretty fast.
But one of Outriders’ other successes is that it knows games like this work best when they are accommodating rather than obstructive. Your difficulty is governed by both your current level and the overarching ‘World Tier’, which can be changed at will once each tier is unlocked. Progress each tier by killing enemies to fill a bar at the top of the screen to unlock the next level, die and the bar will drop. Higher tiers offer better loot but you can drop it down any time you are feeling overwhelmed; start tearing through your current tier and you can get back to working at the next one.