What is it about war games that make us excited? Is it the pure adrenaline rush you get feeling like the ultimate bad-ass mowing down thousands of troops, or possibly watching the wanton destruction you have caused from the safety of your couch? Personally I believe it stems from the fact that war is something most of us will never (or ever want to) engage in first-hand, so we relive the fantasy through the interactive experience the developer sets forth. Gaming is supposed to be fun, first and foremost, and truthfully these past few years it has slowly progressed away from that. Games built on the simplest ideas are shunted as being “shallow” and not “up-to-par” with others because of visual shortcomings and other things that some gamers take way too seriously.
This brings me to the game of the hour, THQ and Relic Entertainment’s strategy/war shooter The Outfit. Now at first glance you may notice that the game does lack a certain visual polish that other 360 games have, for instance the environments are not nearly as detailed as say Ghost Recon and the character models resemble something more along the lines of a first-gen Xbox title, but once you play the game you realize that there is simply no way this game could have been achieved on the aforementioned console for one reason and one reason alone, Destruction On Demand. This is the game’s hook if you will, being able to call in units and troops to destroy absolutely everything on screen. Is that building blocking your path? Simply drop an air strike on it and lay waste to the nuisance standing between you and victory. This makes playing The Outfit one of the most enjoyable and free roaming games I have played in a very long time.
The story behind The Outfit is pretty standard fare, you are a member of a military faction of the same name and you can choose to control one of three commanding officers to lead your charge against the evil Nazi armies led by Viktor Morder and Hans Von Beck along with their “busty” general Nina Diedrich. Each of the characters you can control is also your general stereotypical war veterans, for starters you have Tommy Mac, voiced by none other than Hellboy himself Ron Perlman, who is a specialist of heavy weaponry. Next up is J.D. Tyler, a scout with a long range rifle and shotgun for welcoming the enemy at close range. You may also recognize his voice-over as he was the man behind last year’s number one badass Kratos from God of War. Finally we have Deuce Williams whose vocal attributes can be credited to none other than the T1000 himself Robert Patrick. Deuce is an explosives and anti-tank specialist who has some deadly accuracy with his trusty bazooka. Each character can be vital to certain aspects of each mission; however you can only swap once your life perishes which is kind of a bummer. Swapping on the fly would have been a truly nice addition.
The single-player portion of the game is pretty straight forward for the most part. There are a total of 12 levels to traverse through and the game does a nice job of throwing you hints to get past some of the tougher areas in the game. The bulk of the game is based on FUs, a sort of currency obtained by killing soldiers, taking over outposts, and generally blowing up anything that belongs to the enemies, you can use these to purchase new items, repair destroyed buildings, and even call in more troops if your squad diminishes. The best part of The Outfit is the ability to obtain anything you want whenever you have enough FUs. For instance if you want to call in a tank, granted you control the Motor Pool on the map, simply tap the Y button to bring up the purchase menu. Select the tank from the menu and presto a plane flies by and drops off your brand new toy.
This also adds a layer of strategy to the game, especially in multi-player, but we will get to that later. As for the single-player story you can still setup gun nests and anti-air guns to solidify your position at any point as long as you possess enough FUs. There are also secondary objectives for every mission which can also earn you some achievement points if you can manage to obtain them. Thankfully you can revisit older levels once completed to pick up any objectives you may have missed the first time through. Overall the single-player story is well written, well acted, and should last you anywhere from 8-10 hours depending on how much time you waste simply blowing things up, which is truly 90% of the fun.
Where The Outfit truly shines though is in its robust and extremely customizable multi-player modes. Unlike the single-player the online maps are completely open and circular giving the carnage and destruction an added boost, not to mention making for some truly intense battles with friends and enemies alike. For starters you can trek through the single-player missions with a friend in either split screen, system link, and of course over Xbox Live. The only catch is that you can only play through missions you have personally unlocked and there is no save function until you complete the entire level. With that said it is nice to finally see a developer giving us the co-op option as it really does extend the life of any game.
The adversarial modes are a bit different, but at the same time feel almost like a game in and of them. For starters you have the typical Deathmatch mode which is pretty self-explanatory. Then you have Destruction which is sort of a variant of Deathmatch where the main goal is to destroy as much of enemy’s stuff as possible. This is extremely fun online, especially with four or more players. The final mode, and probably the most enjoyable, is Strategic Victory. Think of this as Star Wars Battlefront with infinite destruction and tons of ways to eliminate your opponent. Around the map are strategic points that you and your team must possess, the longer you control them the faster your opponents battle points go down. Control the entire map and it is an instant victory. The thin level of strategy mixed with massive destruction creates an online experience that finally deviates from the recycled formula and really keeps The Outfit from being “just another shooter”. You can also customize any of these modes with alternate FU amounts and battle points to make games last as long as you like, we here at ZTGD played a game online of Strategic Victory that went on for 45 minutes one night and it passed by like it was nothing, the game is that fun online.
The one thing that may turn off some gamers at first is the simple look that the game conveys. Relic’s overall goal was to have limitless destruction with tons of onscreen enemies and to that effect they have succeeded, however this being an Xbox 360 title some may feel that the game does look a bit last-gen and pass it up simply on this aspect. While I enjoy shiny visuals as much as any other gamer, I appreciate other things more, and while The Outfit may not be the prettiest girl on the block it more than makes up for it with personality and pure fun factor. The other problem you may find is the subtle hesitation with some of the weapon and vehicle controls. This game is not a fast paced articulate shooter nor did it ever claim to be. Driving a tank feels just like that, driving a tank. Yes some of these things could be ironed out and I hope that in the sequel we can see this game flesh out and become a running franchise, but I am probably just being optimistic.
When all is said and done The Outfit is a great diversion from the typical shooter fare. Meshing a perfect blend of action and strategy while maintaining an enjoyable experience is no easy task, but Relic has captured it perfectly. The single-player is good and the online play is excellent. If you can look past the archaic visuals and see the game for what it truly is I guarantee you will have a good time with it. With only twenty-five Xbox 360 titles on the market this is one worth checking out, and certainly more than worth your 60 bucks at the game store.