I respect Outriders, a looter shooter that pushes precisely zero boundaries. In fact, it pushes them backwards. It says, "See all these boundaries?", then points to scuffed copies of Gears Of War for the Xbox 360 and the original Destiny, exclaims "Well get a load of this!", and slaps the two together.
Having played the demo last night with a couple of friends, I can confirm that I like this reverse direction the devs have taken. I had an okay time. And I was totally okay with that. Not everything needs to be brilliant nowadays, sheesh.
The moment you lay hands on Outriders it feels like you've travelled back in time to the early noughties. It is 2021, but on your monitor it is 2006, as your character ducks into cover like Marcus Fenix, right before they crack open a juicy loot chest.
"The moment you lay hands on Outriders it feels like you've travelled back in time to the early noughties."
It is remarkable how Outriders feels like it's been constructed from papier-mâché. Like, the base is Gears of War's over-the-shoulder-beefy-lads slathered in PVA glue, and then the inventory menu has been torn out of Destiny and slapped on, and over the top goes the shooting from The Division.
But hey, Outriders seems pretty okay. Principally it is a game where you and up to two other players inhabit a world and make numbers pop out of enemies with your guns. You do this repeatedly, putting on powerful gear like "Tarnished Pants" so you can, well, do this repeatedly even more, but with the promise of more powerful gear like "Slim Fit Pants" dropping on your next run.
I can't speak for the story, as I skipped most of the big cutscenes. They were difficult to watch. Often, there were cutscenes for when I jumped across a gap, or opened a door. These triggered every single time I needed to pass through those areas too. That's Outriders, baby.
I played as this tank character who could cover themselves in rock to absorb more punishment, slam the earth to send a damaging shockwave at enemies, or jump into the air and rocket into a group of baddies. My two buds Dean and Jake were Techno Wizards, or something? I mean, one of them had turrets, and the other had this fun ability which made everything caught in its radius go slow-mo, so we could murder with ease.
Yet, Outriders made our supposedly remarkable space warriors feel like solid 7/10 ones. There was nothing outstanding about us, or the chaos we caused - but Dean, Jake and I still had grins on our faces. Sure, no teeth on show, but smiles to indicate that this was a satisfactory experience, just what we needed to fill time in our evening.
So many games nowadays try and push the boundaries, you know? Like those super fancy restaurants that'll likely serve you a deconstructed tomato soup by slapping its ingredients into your mouth using a flexi-ruler. Or making you put on egg yoke lip gloss before serving you an actual egg, but the egg is made of croissants. Either you love it, or you hate it. Or some of it is outstanding, but most of it is terrible, and vice versa.
Outriders, on the other hand, is a staple dish that neither excites nor disappoints. A Dolmio bolognese mixture that borrows from the past to provide an average meal when needed. Sometimes, it is elevated to good when you are particularly hungry.
Right now, most evenings I do not want to concentrate on some deep and meaningful story, or participate in a next-level shooty bang. Mainly, I just want an average time with some friends where I can switch off, and explode some baddies.