Outriders is a chaotic third-person looter-shooter. You can play it in single-player mode or as part of a three-person co-op. (It should be noted right out of the box, however, that even when playing alone, you are always required to connect and play via an online server.)
The story here starts well after Earth has succumbed to many years of purported human abuse. Before the end, colony ships were sent out to find a more habitable home planet to where humanity could start over. And after 83 years of cryosleep space travel, those colonists awaken to find themselves orbiting Enoch, a seemingly peaceful, lush utopian world.
Upon touching down on the planet’s surface, however, they soon discover things aren’t as peaceful and utopian as they’d hoped. For one thing there’s a mysterious and deadly storm, called the Anomaly, surrounding the landing point that quickly destroys many of the colonists. That tragedy leaves survivors confined to a small section of this new world.
That deadly storm has the power to completely cripple technology, turn the laws of physics inside out and turn flesh and bone into so much scattered ash. But … for a few rare human victims, the storm’s lightning strikes actually imbue them with supernatural powers and abilities.
You play as one of those Altered humans. After waking up from cryosleep 30 years after the landing, you find that the remnants of humanity are at war over scarce resources. And it’s up to you to battle through all obstacles and find a way to save mankind.
Gamers custom-build their characters from one of four different classes, with each offering unique powers and skill trees. For example, the Trickster class has the ability to manipulate time and seemingly teleport around a battlefield. Members of the Devastator class are tank-like characters who can control gravity and unleash seismic attacks. The Pyromancers manipulate fire. And the Technomancer class can magically materialize enemy-blasting turrets and rain down attacks from the sky.
The game environments are verdant and green, and there are many hours of story play through both the central storyline and dozens of side missions. (Though the writing here can feel rather clunky and disconnected at times.) Game mechanics are relatively smooth and fluid.
Players use their newfound abilities to help others in need—which is obviously the main positive takeaway here.
Like other shooter-looter games, what makes Outriders’ gameplay compelling is the variety of weapons, armor and skills that can be attained and applied to your character. And that mixture of special powers, defense and armament continually reshapes what your character can accomplish.
Thus, disciplined strategic thinking is rewarded, because battling large beasts or human foes requires different tactics depending on who or what you’re facing.
For all of Outriders’ gameplay and creative plusses, however, this is an incredibly bloody and messy game. It’s clearly designed to give shooters the “joy” of seeing enemies explode and be ripped apart in gruesome ways.
Your expanding arsenal of weapons—including evermore destructive versions of machine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles, pistols and revolvers—is destructive enough on face value. But then when you add in the ability to, for instance, cause a foe’s bones to explode or the power to freeze an enemy solid so he can be smashed into pulpy chunks, the messy destruction onscreen grows exponentially. On top of that, your character’s Altered abilities add even more flesh-burning or crushing havoc to the gameplay mix here.
Your character can, of course, be torn apart quickly as well. In a frenetic firefight with dozens of enemies, the air is filled with bullets and blazing attacks, and you’ll likely die within seconds of leaving cover.
Some on-field attacks and story cutscenes depict grisly impalement, decapitation and dismemberment of characters. Body parts lie on the ground amid pools of gore. There are also areas filled with hanging or stacked corpses.
In addition to all that, the language and story dialogue can get similarly foul. Uses of f- and s-words are commonly mixed with exclamations of “d–n,” “h—,” “b–ch” and “a–hole.” And God’s name is abused repeatedly, too. Some character interactions also suggest sexualized situations (though we don’t see any of those firsthand).
Outriders will definitely draw in fans of the shooter-looter genre. But parents and discerning gamers should note that this game fully earns its M-rating with a cacophony of raging action and profane dialogue.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.