I'm now several hours into Exoprimal, a multiplayer PVEVP game where two teams race to obliterate hordes of rabid dinosaurs as quickly as possible. And I'm sad to report I'm having a miserable time. It seems like yet another cursed game I've had to review this year, and I don't know what I've done in a past life to deserve this. The chickens - which as far as I'm aware, are dinosaurs or distant relatives to the large lizards - have come home to roost.
On paper, Exoprimal sounds like a hoot. The year is 2040 and the world's under attack from swarms of dinosaurs, which certainly isn't ideal for all involved. A corporation has developed an AI called Leviathan that can predict when these dino-outbreaks will happen, alongside the technology needed to kit humans out in dino-beating exosuits. As one of the enlisted, you fight waves of dinosaurs in competitive races to the finish line. Depending on whether you choose PVE, PVP, or Random, you might have to fight against your fellow humans towards the end of a match because… combat training? Who knows.
I'm a few hours in and so far, I'm only allowed to play one mode: Dino Survival. Like I've mentioned above, you're led through an overgrown city in teams of five and shuttled through regular intervals of "kill the swarm of raptors" or "we've summoned a slightly larger dinosaur with a complex Latin name". Between intervals the red apparitions of the other team flash up, alerting you to how they're getting on, alongside an onscreen message that says whether you're clearing the hordes faster or slower than them. Eventually, you reach a final stage where the objective seems to switch. I've heard there's others, but so far I've only experienced Escort, where you push a payload to an end point a bit like Overwatch's equivalent.
Complete matches and you'll either be graced by some story cutscene where folks in parallel universes discuss why the dinos are bad, or a slideshow with accompanying dialogue that provides 'insight' into the mystery of Leviathan and his wargames. It's an odd attempt to push a story into a competitive multiplayer game, where most of the time they're left purposefully thin so fans can pad them out. Right now, I think the story only compels me because I need to understand why it's as absurd a premise as it is. Maybe it's the one driving force keeping me going.
Normally, I don't mind playing the same game mode over and over if the core of what I'm doing is a rip roaring laugh or dangles enticing rewards just out of reach. The trouble with Exoprimal is that it hasn't ticked either of these boxes. If anything, it strikes me as overconfident and underbaked, both in the hero shooter thing it's got going on and the typical live service traits it's adopted.
With roles split into tank, DPS, and support, the game does instil a sense of comradery and a level of teamwork - I'll give it that. And a couple of the classes have abilities which play off each other nicely, with my fave being a samurai who's able to deflect damage, then channel what they've absorbed into a powerful slash upwards. Combine it with a grappling hook into a falling spinny strike and you've got yourself the equivalent of an Edo-period tombstone piledriver. Otherwise, though, most classes seem limited by abilities which work fine as separate bursts of healing or quickfire strikes, but don't ever seem to soar to the heights of cohesion.
By "cohesion", I mean in the most literal sense: a cool play. In Exoprimal, all I have to do is bash buttons or aim vaguely at a swarm of dinosaurs and they go down without too much of a fight. Not once has an ability struck me as a great big twist of the can-opener, which I can then follow up with a spoon to scrape its innards out. Maybe later on this will change, yet it's worrying that after several hours I've had Love Island or Wimbledon on my second screen to keep my brain engaged, as everyone largely acts in their own self interest and gets away with it.
Then there's the whole completing a match, which nets you… guff. Suit levels, battle pass levels, BikCoin, all the most tedious of incremental stat boosts or skins. I keep moseying about the menus, looking for something to work towards, anything to latch onto! There isn't anything! It seems confident in its setup to have me play the same scenario, seemingly forever? I guess I'll play the same game mode over and over and over again for a green hat and a skull emblem hahahakillmehahaha.
This review is based on a review build of the game provided by the publisher Capcom