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Outriders review: Once you pop, you can’t stop

(XO/PS4/PC) ****
Age: 18+





Ask a non-player to describe a prototypical videogame and Outrider ticks all the boxes. Ultra-violence, gruff soldiers in stocky armour, a flimsy plot with sweary dialogue and swarms of bloodthirsty alien enemies.

Outriders gathers all these clichés and more as you find yourself on a new planet bristling with aggressive wildlife and trigger-happy natives. But this polished co-op loot shooter needs to be played to be understood. The interplay of its systems make it more than the sum of its parts, which have been liberally borrowed from genre touchstones such as Destiny, Borderlands and The Division.

Central to its novelty are the four separate classes available to each player in co-op, corresponding roughly to tank, pyromaniac, teleporter and technogeek. Without them, Outriders would be no more than a plucky Gears of War clone, pitting you against waves of grunts, elites and bosses among wide-open arenas carefully littered with waist-high cover points.

The swarming foes show little enough intelligence, keen to rush at you or stop’n’pop from behind a wall with just their heads conveniently exposed. But with your class abilities (a wave of flame or a time-stopping teleport, say), firefights become an enjoyable exercise in crowd-control, zipping between cover while your powers recharge and then mixing it up with your ludicrous weaponry.

As a loot shooter, the blizzard of RPG numbers (health stats, gun strength, etc) means little but the variety of weapon mods introduces some much-needed and useful variety. You might find one that enables you to reload with a dodge roll, or freeze enemies, or turn a hostile into a mobile bomb.

Outriders seems to have overcome its early days of shaky servers but its longer-term stumbling block will be getting players to return after they’ve finished off the story missions. The endgame currently offers little more than a horde mode of recurring waves for the reward of epic gear.

For now, the opportunity to play with pals through the missions again using a different class is the kind of untaxing dopamine hit that might keep Outriders alive.

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