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SummaryDyin's too good for 'em
The GoodFrom the very beginning, I was attracted to the unique atmosphere of the game. I must admit: I'm a sucker for sad and touching stories. Outlaws starts with a wonderfully directed, movie-quality scene (though done with 2D cartoon graphics), which shows how the hero's life was ruined in front of his eyes. You must avenge the death of your wife and bring back your daughter. Now your gun will speak for you.
Like Dark Forces before it, Outlaws is a story-driven shooter; cartoon-style movies appear between levels to advance the plot. All those movies are tastefully done and are a pleasure to watch; while there really isn't much story development in Outlaws, the cut scenes add a lot to the experience.
Outlaws has fabulous music. Clint Bajakian did one hell of a job in composing typical Western-style melodies and arranging them in such a way that they sound fresh and charming. The music accompanies you all the time and adds so much to the atmosphere. The sounds effects, by the way, are also excellent. You hear everything that happens around you: the sounds of footsteps, distant voices, opening door, cows, chickens, etc.
Although the gameplay is traditionally straight-forward and simple, there are some very nice little things about it that make it different. The levels are fairly vast and always have some tricky parts, even puzzles which are often anything but simple. Sure, most of the so-called puzzles involve nothing but hunting for different keys and opening doors with them, but there are surprisingly difficult tasks, some of which gave me a real headache. The underground level with a lot of water canals comes to mind, where I had to swim and jump out of the water at the right time to hit switches and change the configuration of the maze. Sometimes some tricky jumping and climbing is necessary, especially in the end level (the mansion), where I was jumping like crazy while being trapped behind a fireplace.
The levels themselves are pretty versatile, considering the rather monotonous setting: there are typical town-saloon-bar levels, underground caves, mines, water levels, train, a beautiful outdoor area (canyon), a mansion, etc. There are many secret areas in there, something I really appreciated in early FPSs. Much of the environment is interactive as well.
The weapons are generally very cool, especially if we take the restrictions of the setting into account. A nice feature is the necessity to reload your gun manually every time you run out of bullets. Most other shooters I played didn't have this feature, you could just go on shooting, and the game would reload for you automatically.
On higher difficulty levels, enemy AI can get quite smart, and the fights suspenseful in that "whoever shoots first wins" way. The enemies' constant taunts make the experience very tense and even scary in a certain way.
The BadThe "2.5 D" engine of Outlaws begins to show its age. In the original version there's no Direct 3D support. I recently found out there was a retail Direct 3D patch for the game, but it doesn't really change much. Sprites look pretty awful on those smooth backgrounds: human enemies, cows and horses look like thin painted cartoons put into the 3D world by mistake.
Some levels unnecessary confusing and maze-like. Finding different keys gets old pretty quickly and requires too much back-tracking. Also, there are not enough enemy variations. You fight the same kind of guys all over again. I'm very glad they didn't put monsters or other nonsense into this strictly realistic game, but it is a pity they couldn't design more baddies beside the usual two or three types.