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SummaryA tense and fun game experience if you play it right...
The GoodI was worried at first that the game would be a dated Dark Forces clone with a thin western look washed over it. So when I got the demo I selected the hardest difficulty level, "Ugly" because I was a Dark Forces veteran, and walked confidently into the small western town. And got shot dead instantly. Ok, I thought, I'll have to be a little more cautious then that, and next time I kept my eyes pealed as I walked carefully into town. Someone called out "Hey sheriff!" as the saloon window shattered and I fell dead to the dust. Ah, I thought, this is going to take a little work. Next time I made my way carefully down a side ally into town, creeping around behind the saloon. As I carefully rounded a corner, crouched on the ground, I came up on a cowboy who turned, yelled and we both shot at once. His shot took a chunk out of the wall by my head, he fell dead, I had survived for once. By the time I had crawled up the back stairs, dispatched 3 more rustlers, dropped into a small store room and came out into the saloon proper with six shooter blazing (getting shot dead again in the process) I was thoroughly in love with this game, I bought it the next day.
It provide a tense, one-shot-one-kill game-play that I simply hadn't experienced up to that point, you had to THINK and be cautious as well as shoot strait to survive in this wild west. The AI could make use of cover, circle around you and was quick on the draw, but get good at it and when you burst into a room and clear it leaving one shot remaining in your six-shooter, you'll fell just like Clint Eastwood. What a feeling.
Add to that the hand drawn movies which moved the (relatively generic 'defeat the robber-baron') plot along, some good voice acting, some excellent level designs, the first sniper scope, satisfying weapons, wonderful Spaghetti Western music and some fun multi-player and you've got a surprising winner that never got the props it deserved.
The BadQuake had already shipped by this time and screen shots for Unreal were everywhere, the game world was clamoring for the true 3D experience and Outlaws was 2.5D with flat sprites and a cartoon style that, while it worked for the game, belied the literally killer game-play underneath.
Not all the levels were excellent, some were long and tedious hikes while others became grueling switch hunts.
In anything but the Hard difficulty mode the game plays more like a western mod for Dark Forces.
The Bottom LineHow much did I enjoy this game? I'd never been a big western fan, I thought they were OK but I didn't go out of my way to see them. While playing this I started renting all the spaghetti westerns I'd never seen. Pure Man-With-No-Name goodness, and now I'm a fan. That's a good game, one that can turn you on to a genre.
I think they did themselves an injustice allowing for the weaker difficulty levels. Sure the instant death represented by the hard mode would have alienated many people, but it was clearly the way the game was meant to be played. Play it on hard or don't play it at all.
I can't help but think that this would have been a big hit instead of an underdog if they had used a more up-to-date game engine to make it with. I eagerly anticipated Outlaws II which would, I hoped, use the Jedi Knight engine or something new.
I'm still waiting.
No western game since has captured this ones game-play. Rent "A Fist Full Of Dollars", get this game, strap on your six shooter and prepare to eat some dust!