One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. by Vaughn Smith
March 16, 2006 – Relic’s The Outfit wears that tired phrase like a badge of honor; you really are either going to love it or hate it. Those who have tried the demo and loved it and more importantly, understood it, will enjoy what Relic is bringing to the table. Those who aren’t impressed with the visuals and controls (and for good reason) will walk away with shrugged shoulders wondering how anyone could defend this title. Me? It’s a little of both. I applaud Relic for attempting something different; but The Outfit isn’t perfect by any stretch.
The subject matter is World War II as gamers have shown time and time again that its the only war worth caring about, so you can’t fault Relic for giving the audience what they want. Unique is a good qualifier for The Outfit as it’s a mix of real time strategy elements combined with run and gun gaming. Unfortunately it gets as much wrong as it does right and that ultimately hurts overall the experience.
During the single player campaign, players are given a choice between three leading characters who act and look like rejects from the 12″ G.I. Joe era of the 70’s. J.D. Tyler, Tommy Mac and Deuce Williams are your choices and surprisingly they’ve got some big voices coming out of their mouths as they’re provided by Terrance Carson (Kratos, God of War), Ron Perlman (Hell Boy) and Robert Patrick (Terminator 2) respectively. Depending on what your appetite for destruction is, you’ll most likely find that you stick with one character as their 2 weapon limit is not interchangeable, but it is upgradeable (other weapons may be available via cheats as well but that’s currently unknown). J.D. prefers to rock the world with his long-range rifle and trench shotgun, Mac’s a machine gun and flamethrower man while Deuce prefers the bazooka and grenades. While you can pretend that certain weapons are right for a certain mission, you’ll primarily find yourself coming back to your favorite, just because you’ve become used to their nuances (if you can call them that). Ultimately I found this limiting as it didn’t encourage experimentation. I like blowing %$#@ up, so naturally I went with Deuce most of the time.
The story takes a surprisingly deeper view of WW2 than most games on the market, dealing directly with the failed assassination of Hitler in 1944, but it doesn’t treat it entirely with pomp and circumstance. Rather the overly cartoony characters you’re playing with provide breezy, light entertainment superimposed over the horror of war, while you attempt to kill as many Nazi’s and German soldiers as possible over the course of 12 fairly linear levels.
Instead of calling The Outfit a blend of Real Time Strategy and action elements, which tends to frighten console gamers even more so than the prospect of getting a job, Relic’s smart marketing department created the tagline “Destruction On Demand” which sounds suspiciously like the game, Mercenaries: Playground Of Destruction, which is the closest product to The Outfit in recent memory. Relic’s work with the Warhammer series has provided them with enough teeth cutting to actually understand the genre quite well and the RTS features of the game are seamlessly integrated with the action portion. Translation: You won’t need to be an RTS genius to play The Outfit and get results.
The RTS elements come into play by utilizing the games monetary units to call in assistance. Players collect Field Units for, what else? – killing the enemy and those units can then be cashed in for reinforcements in the way of more troops, vehicles, tanks, gun emplacements, cannons and eventually air-strikes. You’ll be able to see what you can afford via a quick menu (Y button) and as the price goes up, so does the destruction level. If this sounds confusing, don’t panic. Relic will train you in the art of war and if you so desire you can either turn on or off the various hints available to you. You’ll also have to command a small squadron of troops via the d-pad.
Where Relic needs some work is in their collision detection coding and control, and it’s this area that makes The Outfit less than it could have and should have been. The targetting reticule will light up red when you have an enemy in your sites, but good luck actually taking anyone down with anything less than a thousand shots. 90% of the time it appears as though your bullets have no effect. Needless to say that becomes pretty infuriating. The excitement factor is also in question as the game doesn’t really evolve beyond much beyond where you begin, save for the ability to call in more destructive forces as your FU’s increase. The levels are linear and the enemy AI doesn’t change their tactics too much which you should begin to exploit after the first half dozen missions. Another area in need of improvement is the mission objectives which could benefit from a lot more variety. You will be faced with secondary objectives every now and then, but a constantly evolving battleplan would have made The Outfit far more entertaining. Controlling vehicles isn’t as fluid or comfortable as it should be. I’ve never driven a tank but they’ve got to handle a little better than this, don’t they?
Most of the criticism of the single player games linear nature doesn’t carry over to the multi-player online portion which is The Outfit’s best feature (but still suffers from detection issues). Offering three modes of multi-player games (and co-op as well) players can choose from Deathmatch, Destruction, and Strategic Victory. Deathmatch is every man for themselves, Destruction demands that you destroy the opposing forces equipment, bunkers etc. in a given time limit and the gamers with the most field units at the end, takes all bragging rights. Strategic Victory is the meatiest of gaming options which is a competition to see who can capture the most strategic objectives during the match. If you lose all of your command points first, you’re done. Whomever hosts the match can fine tune the gameplay with a variety of options such as map, starting command points, respawn delay, starting resources (field units) and timed FU drops.
If you can overlook the inherent problems with detection which is less evident if you take the up close approach, thereby rendering yourself far more prone to steaming hot death, The Outfit online is a lot of fun. The environments are destructable and remain that way for the rest of the match so you’ll be able to completely destroy bridges, bunkers, buildings, fences etc. which will flush out the enemy rapidly considering they’ll have nothing to hide behind while forcing them to confront you on your terms. Playing online also completely eliminates the predictable AI which places more emphasis on strategy since you’ll be up against an unknown wild card.
Visually the online and offline game look like high res Xbox games. The animation is stiff, character models aren’t next gen material and the backgrounds are quite bland. The destructable environments make up for some of that though. Voice acting is done well due to the quality of actors chosen and music is edgy – I was half-expecting to hear “America! F%$# Yeah!” from Team America. That would have been amusing.
Relic is on the right track with The Outfit and some tweaking would have tightened up many issues. As I said, you’re either going to love it or not. With the right people online, there isn’t anything on XBL that plays quite like it and you’re sure to have a blast with likeminded players. Those who are content with G.R.A.W. and prefer that style of gameplay most likely won’t get the appeal of The Outfit. It’s good, not great and definitely has some issues.
- Choose Between Three Playable Squad Leaders – Each with specific skills for different strategies
- Explosive Battlefield Moments – Experience intense WWII combat through war-torn environments as you lead two squads behind enemy lines and take on the Nazi War Machine.
- Featuring advanced AI your squad mates will automatically seek cover and return fire and will follow your orders to assault tanks and enemy positions. Take on enemies with an explosive arsenal of WWII weapons and vehicles including Machine Guns, Bazookas, MG 42
- Stationary Machine Guns, Tanks, Half-Tracks, Armored vehicles or move in for close combat hand-to-hand battles.
- Multi-Squad Tactics – Switch between two squads at any time. Strategically use your squads on different parts of the map to achieve multiple objectives or combine their strength to take out the most challenging objectives.
- Earn and Use Action Points – Capture strategic areas to gain action points and spend them on the fly to acquire upgraded weapons, driveable tanks, and fixed positions such as machine-gun nests, or to call in for air-strikes.
- Fully Interactive and Destructible Environments – Destroy buildings, bridges, emplacements, walls —anything—with real physics and damage modeling.
- Multiplayer Modes – Live! or Split Screen Online – choose from a variety of co-op and versus multiplayer modes
- Xenon 16:9, 720p HD and 5.1 Dolby compliant
By Vaughn Smith
CCC Site Director