52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming - Week 35
Release Date: March 13, 2006
Developer: Relic Entertainment
ESRB Rating: Mature
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
Back in 2006, I picked up my copy of “Gears of War” at my local Future Shop and they handed me a copy of “The Outfit” as a bonus. I will never turn down a free game (not even Bullet Witch). I brought the game home and added to “the pile” with intent to get to playing it eventually. A few years later and The Outfit is finally getting its due time.
My “52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming” challenge has allowed me to enjoy some truly exceptional games, but a few stinkers as well. After having played The Outfit briefly on the first day, I was inclined to add it to the latter category rather than the former. To put it simply, the game was quite bad. The controls were not adequate for a shooter, the graphics extremely dated and the voice-acting over the top. Still my challenge was to play the game for a week and to write a short review about it, and so I continued playing. It was not still the second day of playing that I figured the reason for my discontentment; The Outfit was not a first person shooter after all, but rather a real time strategy game. This simple realisation changed my perception of the game allowing me to adjust my style of playing which greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the title. I was now seeing the game for what it truly was.
How I came to mistake The Outfit for a first person shooter, even though it was developed by Canadian real time strategy specialist Relic Entertainment, is quite understandable. As the game begins, the first task presented to the player is to choose a hero from a list of three available heroes, each hero representing a different fighter class. Answering the call of duty are Captain Deuce Williams (my regular pick), a man that really prefers big guns such as bazookas and anti-tank rifles, Sergeant Thomas McIntyre and his assortment of machine guns & flamethrower and finally Lieutenant John Davis Tyler, a rifles and shotguns specialist with a penchant for Molotov cocktails. After a hero has been selected the next choice to make is to select a drop zone for the hero. So far, this is the exact same recipe used by many popular first person shooter titles. The similarities do not end once a mission begins. The Outfit is played from a third person perspective with the gamer controlling his/her chosen character and squad. The squad can be commandeered to perform specific actions depending on the hero chosen. It will not take long for the action to start as enemies are never farther than the nearest bend. It is only after the first few battles, and the first few Field Units have been accumulated, will the realization that the game is not a first person shooter suddenly dawn on the player. This is when strategy takes over actually shooting skills.
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The main strategy in The Outfit is the management and usage of Field Units (FU). FUs are the in-game currency. They are gained for various actions such as killing enemy units or capturing specific targets. FUs can be used to call in re-enforcement, fortify structures, repair object or to purchase “Destruction on Demand” (DoD) items once available. DoD items will become available once strategic objective have been captured. New and improved Destruction on Demand items will be available as the game progresses. After the first battle, the player should have enough FUs to purchase re-enforcements to replace fallen comrades or to fortify a check point. Gamers need not worry too much about making bad choices and running out of FUs as the game will keep generating enemies allowing for an virtual unlimited stock of FUs, given enough gaming time.
Strategic Objectives serve a greater role than just providing DoD objects. They also provide the gamer with a FU boost and most importantly will allow the player to respawn at any strategic objective under their command; making capturing these locations a key strategy to beating the game. The various strategic objectives are motor pools, which will allow for the purchase of armoured vehicles, radio towers, which will allow for air & artillery strikes and wiretapping, and finally the armoury that will grant the gamer the privilege to purchase anti-tank guns and other powerful mobile weaponry. The control of these strategic objectives is the key to winning the game.
Similar to the gameplay, I had made false assumptions about voice acting. The voices that at first sounded cheesy was suddenly very enjoyable once I realized the cheesiness was intentional. Truly how could the voice talents of Robert Patrick, Ron Perlman, and Terrence Carson be anything other than stellar? The Outfit never takes itself too seriously and when I stopped taking the dialog seriously is when the game started to become fun. Other sound effects are also quite good. Playing on my surround sound setup, I was actually shocked at the realism of some in-game sounds such as planes swooping in with guns a blazing. The illusion was not perfect as gun and vehicle effects did sound a bit hollow.
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If the audio portion of the game was the highlight, the visuals were the low point. The models and textures look like they have been taken out of an Xbox title. Indeed I could not help but wonder if the title was originally destined to be an Xbox game only to be ported over to the Xbox 360 after most of the game was already finished. It was not just the textures and models that were sub-par, so was the animation and framerate which dropped dramatically each time there were explosions on the screen. I am not talking about Mercenaries or Red Factions style explosions here, more like LEGO Star Wars. While on the subject of Red Faction, The Outfit did deliver the most destructible environment at the time on the Xbox 360 console. Is a building blocking your path? Just take a medium size tank and shoot it down. Tanks can also run over smaller object and enemies for good measure.
The graphics are not the only problem facing The Outfit. The main issue must be the extremely poor artificial intelligence used in the game. Truly these must be the most idiotic soldiers on the planet. Many times, once my crew had been slaughtered (and I did not call in re-enforcements) I stood surrounded by enemies as they went about to do nothing. As long as I did not call in any DoD or fire any shoots, I was free to run around the map. This poor AI causes the single player game to become extremely repetitive as each mission can be beaten using the exact same strategy. First shoot a few *** to secure a few checkpoints, using DoD to fortify these checkpoints, then keep mowing down the ever spawning bad dudes till enough FUs have been secured to afford an armoured vehicle. Now board the vehicle and start moving forward to secure and fortify even more checkpoints and strategic objectives. Change vehicles as new DoD becomes available and continue forward till the mission has been completed. I used the exact same strategy for eight straight missions and the enemy never adapted. The only curveball to my world domination strategy came as….well I cannot tell you why as this information would contain a huge spoiler. The game was designed to be a multiplayer game from the start and multiplayer mode is were this game shines as a human opponent would not be a predictable. Believe it or not, there are still players enjoying this game on Xbox Live. This goes a long way to show how much fun the game can be with a few friends.