Outriders for Xbox review: A genuinely fun looter shooter in spite of itself

Some tedious mechanics don't stop Outriders from being a blast.

Outriders Review Hro
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Outriders has some serious issues, from an absurd number of arbitrary loading sequences with awkward three-second cutscenes to a disjointed and painfully cliché sci-fi narrative, I was consistently baffled by many of the design choices People Can Fly settled on with this third-person looter shooter. However, despite all my complaints and the occasional bout of genuine hair-pulling frustration, I just can't pull myself away from the game. Much like Destiny 1 and the original Borderlands I've been fully hooked by Outrider's loot loop.

The core action-oriented gameplay and diverse pool of unique class abilities ensured plowing through hordes of enemies remained engaging and satisfying throughout the entire 30+ hour campaign, even though Outriders suffers from a severe lack of distinct enemy variety. The moments of undeniable greatness buried under the rough layers of middling sci-fi exposition are why I see myself continuing to play this game for quite some time.

Outriders: What's good

Outriders Desert

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
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DeveloperPeople Can Fly
PublisherSquare Enix
GenreThird-person looter shooter
Xbox VersionXbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S
Game Size47GB
Play Time50+ hours
PlayersMultiplayer 1-3
Xbox GamePassYes
Launch Price$60

When it comes to the overall gameplay experience, Outriders absolutely shines. While I initially found player mobility and weapon fluidity significantly floatier than genre contemporaries like The Division 2 or Destiny 2, I eventually appreciated the speed this offered during enemy encounters. With elements of cover-based shooting, waves of viciously aggressive monsters, and AI programmed to flank at all costs, this ease of maneuverability allowed me to stay agile in combat. As someone who isn't always the biggest fan of hunkering down in cover waiting for a chance to take the occasional potshot, I really appreciated Outrider's emphasis on player movement.

The general feel of gunplay in Outriders is fairly solid as well. It might not nail the same tightness of games like Gears 5 or The Division 2, but weapons like shotguns, double guns, and assault rifles have noticeable weight and your shots feel impactful. Unloading a clip into the face of a towering Brood Mother or a burly gatling gun wielding badass with my auto-shotgun never stopped feeling great. Other firearm varieties like sniper rifles, in particular, didn't necessarily connect with me and didn't feel nearly as intuitive. Regardless of your playstyle, you'll likely find plenty of weapons that fit your class or build.

Outrirders Gear

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Outrider's third-person, cover-based shooting doesn't exactly drip with innovation, but the god-like skills for each of the four classes and how they combine with other abilities more than make up for that. Watching enemies get caught in the Trickster's spacetime anomaly while a Pyromancer scorches their flesh to the bone in slow motion is a sensory spectacle.

Playing Outriders in co-op showcases just how much time People Can Fly spent on perfecting skill synergy between classes and stacking extreme physics and particle effects. When the squad perfectly executes a combined strike with a series of staggering class abilities, it's tough not to have a huge smile on your face.

I'm happy to report that Outriders has learned from the Shlooters that came before it and provides a constant stream of increasingly valuable drops.

We've seen many looter shooters come and go over the course of the past five years. For many of them, especially new IP, they often struggle to find the proper balance between player progression and rewarding loot drops. Titles like Destiny and Anthem were infamous for being brutally stingy with rare items early on. I'm happy to report that Outriders has learned from past shlooters and provides a constant stream of increasingly valuable drops as you progress through the campaign. And for players who want an increased challenge in exchange for even better loot, Outrider's World Tier system offers a Diablo III or Minecraft Dungeons-style slider for enemy difficulty and loot drop percentages.

While I generally enjoyed my time with the game's main campaign, the endgame Expeditions represent the very best of Outriders. These streamlined and fast-paced timed bonus missions eliminate basically all of my biggest complaints of the story mode. The monotony and tedium of some of campaign's larger areas are replaced with speedy, Monster Hunter: World-style quests that task you with running and gunning through hordes of enemies as quickly as possible. If you're invested in getting the best possible gear and farming legendaries, you'll likely spend some serious time with the endgame. It doesn't hurt that these Expeditions also introduce some of the most gorgeous environments the game has to offer.

Outriders: What's not good

Outriders Combat

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Hands-down my greatest issue with Outriders stems from the unreasonable number of loading screens and unnecessary three-second cutscenes that add almost nothing to the experience. It was jarring the first time I loaded in to a short cutscene where my character quickly hopped over a small ravine, but after over 50 similar cutscenes of me lifting logs or squeezing between rocks, it became borderline unbearable.

Transitioning between new areas aren't the only times you're forced to endure these either. A side questline involving hunting wanted criminals ham-fists awkward cutscenes of you executing your target in the exact same method every single time. There's even a weird load screen when opening up your inventory that causes all audio to cut out momentarily. I'm grateful I was playing on Xbox Series X, but even with fast load times, I couldn't believe how many loading screens there were in Outriders.

Imagine an early 2000s sci-fi adaption of Avatar directed by Paul W.S Anderson with Vin Diesel as the lead and that pretty much perfectly sets the tone.

Outriders set out to create a bold sci-fi epic in a unique universe. Unfortunately, it just didn't deliver on the narrative. I wouldn't say the story is necessarily bad, but it certainly doesn't extend much in the way of originality. Imagine an early 2000s sci-fi adaption of Avatar directed by Paul W.S Anderson with Vin Diesel as the lead and that pretty much perfectly sets the tone of what you can expect from Outrider's storytelling. Your main character is an uninterested sociopath who, during one of the game's optional side missions, forces someone to shoot themselves in the head while you watch. A few of your co-stars like the loveable driver Jakub presented some mildly compelling character dynamics, but it's hard to be invested in these individuals when the protagonist constantly sounds like they don't want to be there.

Outriders Migraine

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

At first glance, the bestiary in Outriders seems to boast an extensive assortment of various enemy and monster types. Sadly, I quickly realized after roughly 10 hours or so that I had seen almost everything the game had to offer in terms of enemy variety. There are absolutely some standout boss encounters that help break it up, but for the most part, you'll be squaring off against the same few baddies the entire game. Pallette swaps and outfit changes slightly alter the visual presentation, but even during the later parts of Outriders they still use the same weapons and abilities as the foes you encountered in your first five hours of playing. There are some new creatures and boss fight to look forward to from the endgame, but it takes about 30 to 40 hours to get there.

Another glaring problem with Outriders is the frustrating amount of inconsistency. From sound design to environmental details, the level of quality demonstrated throughout the game wildly differs from instance to instance. Some locations are brimming with creativity and passion. Dense jungles littered with foliage and even landmark skulls of prehistoric beasts proudly demand attention and respect. HOwever, for every stunning environment there's an equally ugly and empty one, especially early on. Lumber yards, rock quarries, and dull, muddy landscapes permeate a large percentage of the game making the first half fairly unpleasant to look at.

This inconsistency is amplified when you realize just how beautiful the locations in the Expeditions are. Outriders straddles the precipice of greatness, but ultimately there are far too many fundamental flaws to ignore.

Outriders: Should you play it?

Outriders Jungle

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

When preparing my notes for this review, I was truly conflicted on where Outriders would land. I have a laundry list of complaints, but with over 50 hours in the game so far and a strong urge to continue playing, clearly its strengths as a looter shooter outweigh its weaknesses. I can't definitively recommend this game to anyone and everyone, but if you want a challenging co-op RPG with an addictive loot system and top tier endgame, Outriders is absolutely worth your time. Even days into playing I still find myself giddy when my geared-up Devastator ground slams a group of enemies into pulpy viscera.

While People Can Fly stresses that Outriders was built with engaging single-player in mind, co-op is easily the preferred way to experience this game. The mediocre storytelling and monotonous pacing of the main campaign distracts from the magnificent feeling of the core gameplay, which will likely hurt the appeal for players more invested in watching this story unfold. For my tastes, an uninspired narrative with cliché characters wasn't a deal-breaker and playing in multiplayer certainly helps ignore the narrative shortcomings. I wouldn't necessarily call it one of the best co-op games, but with a few close friends by your side, Outriders is easily something you can happily sink dozens of hours into.

Miles Dompier

Miles Dompier is a Freelance Video Producer for Windows Central, focusing on video content for Windows Central Gaming. In addition to writing or producing news, reviews, and gaming guides, Miles delivers fun, community-focused videos for the Windows Central Gaming YouTube channel. Miles also hosts Xbox Chaturdays every Saturday, which serves as the Windows Central Gaming weekly podcast.