Platforms: Xbox, PS5, PS4, PC

Outriders opens by giving players a brutal case of tonal whiplash. Its first 30 minutes or so are set on the verdant new world of Enoch, where the remnants of humanity have evacuated to after our home planet became seismically unstable. It’s a lush, beautiful, strange but optimistic intro, and although it’s largely devoid of action – perhaps a cardinal sin for a shooter – it does a wonderful job of setting the scene.

Or rather, setting a scene – one stereotypically English bad guy and an encounter with some weird alien energy later, your user-customised player character is injured and thrown into cryo-stasis. Awakening decades later, you find humanity’s bright new hope has descended into a hellish cross between Mad Max and the hellscapes of Doom, where the warring survivors battle each other for resources and try to survive against the hostile creatures that have been mutated by that aforementioned weird energy. On the plus side, you seem to have gotten superpowers out of it, so might as well go on a loot-and-shoot rampage while trying to restore some semblance of order to the new world.

Outriders

It’s easy to draw out the other games that have so clearly influenced developer People Can Fly’s new would-be epic. It has the cover shooting of Gears, the attempts at serious sci-fi of Mass Effect, the loot drops of Borderlands, and perhaps most obviously, the blend of superpowers, gunplay, and team based camaraderie of Destiny – although, thankfully, this is far more forgiving of and accommodating for solo players. Yet in blending them all together, Outriders becomes something richer than just a best-of collection.

Chiefly, its selection of supernatural abilities really set it apart. Split into four classes – Technomancer, Pyromancer, Trickster, and Devastator – the powers you unlock are a bit more interesting than the genre-typical four cardinal elements. You can’t switch classes once you’ve chosen one, though you can have up to six separate character builds to choose from, to experience the game in different styles.

It’s not going to win awards for originality, but at every turn it offers fun twists on a familiar genre.

Each class is specialised into preferred play styles too, emphasising range benefits, melee speciality, or various balance points. The Pyromancer seems likely to be a wide favourite, specialising in mid-range attacks and satisfyingly fiery powers, but the Trickster – with space-warping abilities allowing you to get up close and personal for rapid assassinations – will be an unexpected hit for a lot of players, bringing ninja-style mechanics for a really unique addition to a shooter.

The abilities of each class lead to an interesting gameplay loop too, where their use will feed back into how your hero regains health. As a Pyromancer, for instance, enemies can be marked by your flames, restoring your health when you kill them, whereas a Devastator’s powerful, more physical powers replenish health from enemies killed within an area of effect. A brief cooldown between power uses leads to a satisfying flow where players are encouraged to regularly switch between shooting and abilities, soaking up damage and then restoring health in clever, carnage-fuelled ways.

However, the gunplay in and of itself feels loose and sloppy. Aiming often feels like guesswork – especially on distant enemies that appear as specks – and early weapons in particular are a mess of shot-ruining recoil and terrible accuracy. The more loot you acquire, the less of a problem this becomes, but the shooting never feels as great or polished as in some of the games that serve as influence.

The biggest frustration currently is the always-online nature of the game. It takes roughly a full minute from signing in on the title screen to loading your character select screen, then a bit longer to get into the game itself. If you drop out of the “lobby” – if you lose your internet connection, put your console into sleep mode, or the servers themselves drop you – then you’re booted out, potentially losing loot and progress. There’s no manual save, so it always feels a bit random where you’re picking up when you return to the game, too. Hopefully, server woes will ease over time, but given that multiplayer is optional, it’s frustrating that players can’t have a local, offline experience.

Mercifully, there are no microtransactions or “game as a service” traits in Outriders, beyond its always-connected nature. That alone makes it more appealing than some other contenders in the field, and turns it into a game where you really do get more out of it, the more you put into it. It’s not going to win awards for originality, but at every turn it offers fun twists on a familiar genre.

Buy Outriders now from Amazon.

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