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Exoprimal's airborne T-Rex attacks and unstoppable raptor swarms have slammed straight into my heart

Capcom's mechs vs dinosaurs game could be one of their best multiplayer games to date

Battling a T. rex in an Exoprimal screenshot.
Image credit: Capcom

I’ve been excited to play Exoprimal, Capcom’s upcoming multiplayer dino shooter, ever since it used the phrase “unstoppable raptor horde” in one of its trailers. It is a completely unhinged combination of words that makes me giddy just thinking about them. I’ll often find myself muttering them out loud when I’m unloading the dishwasher or folding laundry. “Unstoppable raptor horde”. It’s like the season finale of language. It’s perfect.

Admittedly, prior to the existence of that phrase, I was feeling a little sceptical about Exoprimal’s existence. Not only does Capcom have - let’s say - a less than favourable track record when it comes to multiplayer titles, but as a long-term fan of Dino Crisis I was a bit miffed to see them creating a game featuring prehistoric creatures that wasn’t some kind of lavish remake of my beloved PS1 series.

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Still, all fears were tossed aside the second I blew up a group of Raptors with a grenade launcher as they crawled out of a big purple orb. You see, Exoprimal is silly. Really silly. It has that certain Capcom je ne sais quoi, that familiar tone that makes a game feel like a quintessential PlayStation 2 title despite launching 20 years after the fact. Put simply, if the recent closed network test I was a part of is anything to go by, Exoprimal is shaping up to be something very interesting indeed.

Exoprimal is all about taking down groups of dinosaurs while wearing powerful mech suits. Dubbed Exosuits, all available options are divided into three classes (assault, tank and support) with each offering players a completely different set of weapons and abilities to play around with. The closed beta gave me four to try out, with more promised for the final release next year. Deadeye controls like a classic third-person shooter, capable of chewing through hordes of raptors with their assault rifle before popping off a grenade to thin the crowd further. Zephyr, on the other hand, feels like they’ve been ripped straight out of a Platinum game. Wielding dual blades, this suit is all about slashing dinos to bits before launching their pals into the air to execute a devastating juggle combo. Roadblock uses its massive shield to stop dinos in their tracks, bashing against it to force larger enemies to focus on them instead of their pals. Finally, there’s Witchdoctor, the beta’s sole support class capable of stunning enemies with a big staff and providing healing safe havens for their teammates to gather within.

A huge horde of raptors pours towards a mech suit aiming its rifle towards them
This is what an unstoppable raptor swarm looks like, by the way. I assume this is what Alan Grant dreams about when he has the flu. | Image credit: Capcom

Although the more combat-focused Deadeye and Zephyr were definite highlights, I was surprised by how enjoyable each of the four suits felt to control. Assault suits feel nimble and precise, capable of dispatching dinos with ease, whereas Roadblock’s slow yet weighty strikes were immensely satisfying. You’re never locked into one specific suit, either. During a match your pilot is able to pop out of a suit’s surprisingly gooey innards before hopping into a different one, allowing you to shake up your tactics on the fly.

Brilliantly, teams on the back foot can take control of one of these behemoths, forcing the T-Rex to perform an ariel spinning attack that is truly phenomenal to behold.

The result is a co-operative experience that feels significantly looser and more relaxed than other titles in the genre. Sure, you have to work together to survive, but at least in this closed beta, Exoprimal seemed keen to ensure you’re having a good time over forcing you to communicate with one another. If a team member isn’t pulling their weight, it’s not necessarily the end of the world.

Well. I guess it sort of is the end of the world, in a sense. The city in which Exoprimal’s beta maps are located is being constantly invaded by a lot of dinosaurs. Like, more dinosaurs than you’d want to invade an urban centre. Raptors are the game’s cannon fodder enemy, hurtling towards you in swarms that are - in some glorious instances - literally unstoppable. They can be cut down with ease, but let them surround you and they’ll chew through your health bar like your suit’s made of sausages. A Triceratops and a T-Rex appear every so often as mini-bosses, their devastating attacks and huge size making them trickier to defeat. Brilliantly, teams on the back foot can take control of one of these behemoths, forcing the T-Rex to perform an ariel spinning attack that is truly phenomenal to behold (unless, of course, it’s targeted at you).

Then there are the less historically accurate enemy types, which are easily my favourite. Gas Neosaurs explode when they get too close, while the impeccably named Sniper Neosaurs (!) spawn on buildings before launching long-range goo balls at your team. A special mission that combined both teams into one group of ten pitted us against a Neo T-Rex, a mutated monstrosity that generated black holes and sprayed beams of energy out of its jaws. Dripping with dark ooze, it was a formidable foe that was as dangerous as it was ridiculous.

This beta also included a single game mode, Dino Survival, an asymmetrical multiplayer gauntlet that pits two teams of five against each other in a series of challenges. Said challenges are randomly selected by Leviathan, an AI designed to gather combat data (and is definitely in no way the true villain of the piece), and range from killing a set number of dinos to defending a plane from being chomped to bits. The first eight rounds are a race against the other team, whereas the final round pits you all together in the same arena.

At this stage, the game becomes a full PvP experience, with teams forced to contend with each other directly while attempting to complete a final objective, such as escorting a payload or collecting 100 batteries. Structurally, Dino Survival is a refreshing take on the standard multiplayer playbook. Racing against an invisible group of foes to reach a final objective is genuinely tense, and having human-controlled players burst into your game unexpectedly right at the very end makes for a truly dramatic finale. It feels a little like Left 4 Dead crossed with Destiny 2’s Gambit mode, and it’s properly exciting.

It turns out that shooting raptors while wearing a mech suit is also just really funny. It’s equally amusing to watch a T-Rex wriggle its way out of a giant purple sphere at the behest of a sinister AI that says stupid shit like, “Dress like the job you want - to survive”. We all knew Exoprimal was going to be a bit dumb, but I didn’t expect it to also be so charming? Its entire vibe is deeply nostalgic, harking back to the early 2000s when Capcom seemingly greenlit every wild idea that was pitched internally. It feels like it was made specifically for me, and it rules.

A tall digitized figure known as Leviathan stands alone in an inky void
I'm still not sure whether or not Leviathian is responsible for the dinosaur attacks, or if he's taking advantage of them to gather as much combat data as possible to create a weapon capable of fighting back. Either way, I'm convinced he's 100% evil and I'm perfectly fine with that. | Image credit: Capcom

Still, as excited as I am for the full game to launch at some point next year, I’m already concerned about its longevity. In an era of live service behemoths, it’s easy to worry that Exoprimal could be another solid multiplayer game that doesn’t gain the player base to support its ambitions. There’s also very little information about what this game even is. Is it secretly going to be a live service game, a la Square Enix's Babylon's Fall? Is it going to be free to play? Does it have a single-player component? In an era of constant content, I’d personally prefer it to be a full-priced product with a finite amount of things to see and do, but is that enough to draw people in and keep them playing? To ensure those servers are populated past its first week of release?

Worries aside, I’m desperate to play more of this. My time with Exoprimal was tremendous fun, and I can’t wait to dispatch new dinosaurs with a fresh set of exosuits when it launches at some point next year. Time will tell if the final release is compelling enough to find that all-important audience, but as it stands, I'm feeling very positive about Exoprimal's specific take on prehistoric carnage.

“Unstoppable raptor horde”. I'm saying it out loud right now. Magnificent stuff.

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