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SummaryAn excellent western-themed FPS from the king of adventure games
The GoodAfter making adventure games for years, LucasArts decided to take a rest from them and focus on creating a first-person shooter that has a Wild West setting. It is called Outlaws and it tells the story of Marshal James Anderson, who has just retired from gunslinging and bought himself a plot of land, along with a beautiful wife and daughter. Bob Graham (a.k.a. The Gentleman) wishes to get rid of this land to make way for a railroad, but Anderson refuses to budge. Then one day Anderson returns home from town, only to find his house burnt down, his wife murdered, and his daughter kidnapped.
All these events can be viewed in a CG-rendered cinematic, and this sets the game up nicely. Similar cinematics are displayed in between the game's levels and has someone telling Anderson where his daughter is and also has him riding his house to his next location. Special filters are applied to make the cinematics appear hand drawn, similar to what has been done with The Last Express.
There are about nine levels in the game, and each one is populated with cowboys. The aim of each level is reach the bosses and destroy them to get to the next level. As common with most first-person shooters of its day, there are certain doors that require a key. Outlaws is one of the last games to feature a map, which you can use to get around the level and navigate dark areas without the need for oil. Not only can you zoom in and out of the map, but you can find out how many secrets you've discovered and how close you are to the boss.
The game includes some realism. Nearly all of the weapons you can pick up - pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles, dynamite - are common back in the Wild West era, and you have to manually reload them instead of the game automatically doing it for you. I like the little stamina meter on the HUD, which goes down while you are performing specific movements. If you keep jumping around, Anderson will start huffing, and this adds a nice touch to the game.
Outlaws has some great graphics and stunning locations. In the first level, you browse a village that consists of a couple houses and I loved looking through these; and in the next, you are shooting through a town that consists of buildings that are common back in the era, such as saloon, bank, telegraph office, and jail. And in the third level, you get to shoot cowboys on a moving train. Each level has clouds that serve as a skybox. You can make the clouds move by enabling hardware acceleration, but doing this caused the game to crash on my system. Oh well, you can't have everything. Finally, the backdrop used for the credits look stunning, especially when you view them at the end of the game.
LucasArts may have stopped making adventure games after 1995, but that doesn't mean they couldn't incorporate adventure and puzzle elements into the game. In almost each level, you have to find certain items other than dynamite, health, or ammo and use them in a specific area that will direct you to the level's boss. As for the puzzles, the most challenging one has to be on level five, where you need to alter the water flow of a channel that will lead to different areas.
The game's music is stored as CD Audio tracks, a technique a few game companies used in the mid-nineties. The music is brilliantly composed, and fits the western theme of the game quite well. Unlike other games that also use CD Audio tracks such as Quake II, the music doesn't loop while you are on a certain level, but instead plays the next piece of music in the queue, and since the music used for the entire game is split across the two CDs, this means that if you get sick of the same tracks playing, you are free to insert the other CD and listen to other tracks without consequence.
The sound effects are nice. Each weapon in the game has realistic sounds, and when you pick up an item, the game makes a rattlesnake sound. The cowboys in the game taunt you, saying lines such as "Don't be a fool, marshal" and "Hey, Mr. Law Man". Only the bosses use specific lines. I found the Indian known as Two Fingers hilarious, as he says such nonsense like "You are a dead man walking" and "Too slow. You will regret that".
The game features an extra mode called "Historical Missions", and this mode chronicles the life of Anderson before he became marshal. There are five levels, in which you go around shooting cowboys, solving puzzles and killing a leader. One of these is the "Marshal Training" level where you can enter what looks like outhouses, and one of them features characters that totally look out of place in the game, and they do a pathetic job at killing you. I decided to play these missions before doing the actual game.
The BadYou have to swap discs during the game, because the first half of the levels are on one disc while the other half is on another. I don't see why LucasArts couldn't ask you to do this during the installation, then have the soundtracks as MP3 files. Also, I agree with John Romero in his review: you are forced to go to the game's menu if you want to save or load a game, and this becomes tedious after a while.