Outlaws (Windows)

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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
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Written by  :  Shadowcat (127)
Written on  :  Apr 03, 2001
Rating  :  3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars

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Refreshingly different western shooter, highly recommended.

The Good

In brief, what I liked most about Outlaws was the atmosphere and tension which was created largely by the unique (for the time) nods to reality it made, while remaining within the action-shooter genre (which was rapidly becoming stale.)

Although you could play on easier settings, the hardest difficulty level was and is the only way to play Outlaws. On this level your opponents hit the dirt in one or two shots, and although stronger than they are, you yourself are highly vulnerable. When combined with the realistic (if extremely rapid) manual reloading of your weapons, the combat experience became tactical and tense in a way that none of its peers could ever hope to match.

Imagine yourself, a gunman standing at the corner of a building, your back to the wall. You duck around the corner and back again. Three men. A shout of alarm -- one of them saw you. You grit your teeth, and step out with your double-barreled shot-gun levelled. The left barrel explodes, and the first man crumples. Instantly you spin and let loose the second barrel, but your aim is off; your target jerks but doesn't fall. A shot whistles through the air where you were standing, but you are already back behind the wall. Grimacing, you eject the empty shells and push the fresh cartridges home. The barrels snap closed, and you press yourself flat against the wall again, breathing heavily. Your eyes flick quickly from one side to the other, looking for signs of movement from the other direction, in case others have been drawn by the gunfire. One down, one injured, one unhurt. You try to imagine whether they've moved position, and prepare to step out from your cover once more...

Let yourself sink into the atmosphere of the game, and this is what playing Outlaws is like.

Throw sniping with your rifle and scope, tossing sticks of dynamite into an ambush, panic-stricken 'fanning' of your six-shooter as you stumble into sight of an opponent, fantasic music, and some wonderfully realised scenarios and scenery into the mix, and you have an idea of why people loved this game (and in many cases still do).

The Bad

Outlaws isn't perfect by any means. The graphics engine was aging at the time of its release, but this isn't all that big an issue. My major annoyances with the game are:

a) The general stupidity of your opponents. While the sheer number of people you eliminate in the game may necessitate that they not be the fastest and most accurate guns in the west, you do tend to get the impression that these people have been inbred to the point where you're surprised they don't shoot themselves instead of you. (Although they do occasionally shoot each other; generally a happy occurance for the player :)

b) While often very aesthetically appealing, the level design is often less than ideal from a gameplay perspective, and frequently completely irrational from a practical perspective (not that this is a new thing for FPSs)

c) The introduction is nicely done, and certainly puts you in a vengeful frame of mind, but the 'story' is, in reality, next to non-existant. "May be the first shooter with a plot!" (paraphrased) read one of the box quotations. Well, maybe this was true in a purely literal sense -- there was a game, and it was accompanied by a plot -- but there was pretty much zero integration of the two beyond the basic theme. You fought a bunch of guys in the setting introduced by the previous cut-scene, and then moved on to the next cut-scene. (Having been spoiled by System Shock, which features one of the finest integrations of plot and gameplay ever seen in a first-person game, I suspect this deficiency annoyed me more than it did many people.)

The Bottom Line

Outlaws is a highly atmospheric, tense, and unique action-shooter.