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The PS5 needs a great new co-op shooter - and Outriders isn't it

Outriders
(Image credit: People Can Fly / Square Enix)

Outriders is the most forgettable looter shooter I’ve played in a long time. Playing the co-op shooter looter’s prologue, as part of the free demo, I felt nothing but sheer boredom. Every bit of lore fed to me poured out of my brain immediately, every character’s name a fleeting memory and every bit of gear as beige as the last - there’s something to be said about a game that loses you within the first few minutes. 

The Outriders demo has done nothing for me except guarantee that I absolutely won’t be buying it upon release – I won’t even be picking up the demo again if I can help it. 

But what stings most about Outriders’ lackluster offering is that Square Enix had such a big opportunity in its lap. As one of the few brand new co-op shooters landing on PS5 and Xbox Series X, and one of the very first of 2021, Outriders could have cemented its place as the PS5’s must-have co-op shooter. Instead, it was a wasted opportunity.

Let's play together

The co-op shooter is seeing a resurgence. In a time when people are most wanting to feel connected, there’s nothing that achieves that goal quite like teaming up with a friend a couple of nights a week to take on some ‘Big Bad’. And, given how oversaturated the PvP market is, it’s a smart move for developers to make. 

2021 looks to be the year of co-op shooters, with the likes of Halo Infinite, Back 4 Blood and Alien: Fireteam all slated for release. So Outriders is in a very fortunate position, being the first horse out of the gate on both PS5 and Xbox Series X to offer fans the brand new next-gen shooter experience they’ve been after. But while Halo Infinite is likely to claim the must-have co-op shooter crown on the Series X, the coveted title remains up for grabs on the PS5.

Sure, there are a handful of co-op shooters on PS5 already, many of which are either PS4 games being played via backwards compatibility or PS4 games with next-gen enhancements, but there’s nothing new. With the Outriders demo, Square Enix was presented with a chance to get those co-op shooter fans under its wing, to rip them away from the likes of Destiny and The Division and offer them a brand new cooperative shooter to sink their teeth into.

And a demo is a fantastic idea. It gives players the chance to try out the game before they drop their hard-earned money on it and to provide feedback – but it’s also meant to grip us.

Frankenstein’s shooter

Outriders

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Outriders may be new but its ideas aren’t. Between its low-grade Mass Effect style, Gears of War roadie run and Destiny-like mission structure, it feels like a game I’ve played a million times before - some sort of Frankenstein mix-match of co-op shooters. 

"Between its low-grade Mass Effect style, Gears of War roadie run and Destiny-like mission structure, it feels like a game I’ve played a million times before - some sort of Frankenstein mix-match of co-op shooters."

That’s not to say that this can’t sometimes be a good thing, innovation in games is lauded but the key to it is adding your own stamp. While Outriders tries to do this with its inclusion of Class Skills, essentially super abilities that let you set enemies aflame or teleport, it’s not enough to prop up an overall quite underwhelming game. The combat is often one-note, despite these abilities, the story and its characters uninspiring and the weapon choice leaves much to be desired. Don’t even get me started on the cutscenes.

The only time I found Outriders to be somewhat bearable was when playing with others and, frankly, I think it was more the company than the game itself that made it a somewhat enjoyable experience. I happily had a chat with TechRadar’s finest, while mindlessly spraying down hordes of enemies. The only benefit was Outriders’ mindless gameplay made it easier to focus on the conversation: simply gunning down hordes of enemies one after another, maybe set something on fire, more gunning. While sometimes you want a low-pressure task while playing games online with friends, there’s a difference between fun low-pressure (like navigating a jellybean over a series of seesaws) and low-pressure boredom.

And while you could try to chalk this up to what I’ve played just being a demo, Square Enix emphasized that this was a polished demo rather than a beta and the game itself will remain largely unchanged upon release on April 1 – save for some bug fixes and quality-of-life improvements. 

Playing the demo on PS5, I was expecting a shooter that would utilize the console’s raw power, delivering stunning visuals, smooth frame rates and speedy load times, but it doesn’t. Instead, Outriders managed to go back a step and look more like a PS3 game than a PS5 game.

Laying down the gauntlet

Outriders

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Outriders isn’t what I hoped it would be, but it does leave the door open for another co-op shooter to become a PS5 must-have. 

While the likes of Destiny and The Division still thrive on PS5, they aren’t the most hospitable games for new players, and there’s room for a brand new cooperative shooter to land on the new console, creating a new community - with a clean slate - that both shooter veterans and newbies can enjoy.

Right now, that is lacking. But who knows, maybe Outriders could claw it back? At this point, with an official release encroaching in a matter of weeks, it doesn’t look likely and Outriders looks to befall the same fate as Marvel’s Avengers: becoming another forgettable looter shooter. Let’s just hope another developer takes up the gauntlet and runs with it.