Outriders Hero image

The Next Step in the Evolution of Co-op Shooters: Hands-on with Outriders


  • People Can Fly’s Outriders combines intense third-person combat with interesting and varied classes and powers.
  • Up to three players can enjoy drop-in co-op action together, with skills tailored to maximize efficiency in combat.
  • Outriders will be coming to both Xbox One and Xbox Series X in Holiday 2020.

Polish developer People Can Fly has had quite the nearly 20-year run. Kicking off with cult classic Painkiller, they made a name for themselves by combining over-the-top shooter action with dark humor and tight gunplay mechanics in games like Bulletstorm and Gears of War: Judgment. While they were purchased by Epic in 2012, they recently decided to buy themselves out to create the dream project that they are calling their most ambitious effort to date: the dark sci-fi shooter Outriders.

I recently had the chance to go hands-on with Outriders for several hours at an event in Los Angeles and came away wanting to play more. Bringing together the intensity of a co-op shooter with the depth of an RPG, Outriders truly looks to be, as People Can Fly put it, a new shooter for a new generation, as it will be launching on Xbox Series X (as well as Xbox One).

Outriders is set on a planet called Enoch, which humanity (or what’s left of it) journeyed to after we finally made Earth uninhabitable. After creating my character, a scarred warrior with an unkempt beard, my time with the game kicked off at the start of a prologue that finds the titular Outriders (an Elite Force of explorers trained to be the first boots on the ground) and a group of scientists landing on the planet’s surface.

Before I got into any action, I spent some time getting to know the folks I would be fighting alongside. This gave me a chance to explore the game’s RPG-style conversation system, which helped to flesh out the characters and the backstory alongside some very in-depth journal entries.

After meeting my compatriots and learning how to shoot at a cool holographic firing range, I was sent out on my first mission to find some probes that were sent to the planet’s surface. This gave me my first taste of the core gameplay. Outriders is a third person shooter with mechanics similar to the Gears of War series. You’ll be able to take cover or mantle over short walls, as well as dodge out of harm’s way with a click of the B button or sprint by clicking the left stick.

Once I found the probes, I came back to camp for some R&R, only to find out that another signal had been found. This time, however, the signal wasn’t coming from one of our probes. Dispatched to check it out with a large group of soldiers, I got my first look at the dangerous side of Enoch. Exploring an ominously dark forest in the rain, my squad and I came upon puddles of black goo that sent globules up into the air.

Naturally, and probably not surprisingly to anyone who’s watched sci-fi movies, one of my dumber squadmates decided to touch said goo, which immediately made him cough and choke. With the rest of the team bringing him back to our transport for an evacuation, I pushed on, battling a large alien creature before finally finding the signal. As soon as I got there, however, a large energy storm started up, forcing me to sprint back to the transports. Unfortunately, when I got there I saw members of my team get hit by energy bolts and violently dissipate right before my eyes.

I got hit by one of the energy bolts too, but I managed to stay alive and absorb some of the energy, which changed my eye color to a deep bright blue. When the remnant of my team and I got back to our camp, we were met by a corporate scientist (always so nefariously slimy!) who ordered us killed. This kicked off a battle against our own forces, culminating in an explosion that left me bloody and charred. One of the scientists I chatted with earlier, a bright young woman named Shira, dragged me back to our cryopods and put me to sleep.

I woke up moments later, but things had clearly changed. The world around me had turned savage, a fact I quickly figured out when I was yanked out of my cryo chamber by feral men with painted faces and dragged to a warchief, who decided to have some fun by sending me to “no man’s land” to die. After a truck ride through trenches filled with human bodies (and even more bodies hung in effigy on the side of the road), I was tossed out onto the battlefield in the middle of a storm similar to the one I’d seen earlier. Within minutes of trying to make my way to safety, I was impaled by a flying piece of rebar.

Apparently that wasn’t enough to do me in, as my eyes glowed blue again and energy crackled around my balled fists. It was here that I was finally prompted to pick the class that would determine my powers. Yes, that’s right, in Outriders you’ll be combining traditional 3rd person shooting with a wide range of devastating class-based powers.

While there will be four classes in the game when it releases, there were only three available for my playthrough: the Devastator, the Trickster, and the Pyromancer. The Devastator is a close combat master, using brute force that’s powered by the planet itself. You can launch an earthquake toward enemies or provide yourself a temporary shield by encasing yourself in stone. The Trickster, on the other hand, uses time and space to his or her advantage. You’ll be able to teleport behind enemies for a quick strike, slash at them with an energy sword, or throw down a large bubble that will make anything inside it move in slow motion.

As for me, I chose to play as a Pyromancer, a medium-range area-of-effect master. The first skill I unlocked (there will be eight skills per class) was the Thermal Bomb, which erupted in a path along the ground and could set enemies on fire and knock them back, even if they were behind cover. If they died while they were on fire, they would explode and damage other enemies. The next skill I got was Ash Blast, which froze enemies in a large radius around me.

It’s clear to see that Outriders was designed with co-op play in mind. All of these skills paired well with each other, as was evidenced during my time playing with those around me. For example, one of my Trickster teammates cast a slo-mo sphere on a group of enemies, which I then set on fire with a well-timed Thermal Bomb. Then, with targets unable to move and losing health quickly, our Devastator performed a leaping dive that erupted the ground under them, decimating all four enemies before they could even fire a shot.

After battling my way out of the trenches, I found a settler who brought me back to a safe zone used by the rebels fighting the warchief’s forces. When I got there, I was greeted by an older woman with an eye patch who quickly figured out that I was the Outrider she had put in a cryopod 30 years (!) earlier. Shira was much more grizzled and slightly more eyeless than she had been when I originally met her, and we had some brief discussions in which she explained how everything had fallen apart soon after the storm, called The Anomaly, started killing or altering everyone it touched.

In order to prove myself to Shira and her rebels, I was tasked with opening up a supply gate so they could restock. Battling my way there really gave me a taste of just how intense and fast-paced Outriders’ combat is. The blend of intense gunplay and class-based skills means you’ll constantly be pushing forward against groups of enemies despite their best efforts to stop you.

Upon making it to the gate, I was met by a frightening enemy with powers just like mine. This boss fight was much more challenging than anything I’d seen in the game so far, as my enemy launched out electricity mines and lightning storms, in addition to shooting me with a shock gun. After a solid 10 minutes, I finally defeated him and was able to open the gate.

This was where my demo time ended, though I did have a chance to take a look at some of the RPG mechanics in the game. Similar to many RPG shooters, you’ll find and be able to craft increasingly better weapons, color coded to show you how rare they are.

In addition to traditional XP that allows you to unlock more skills, playing through Outriders will also gradually put you into increasingly difficult world tiers. These tiers will provide a higher challenge as you progress, but you’ll also see an increased legendary drop rate and greater chances for higher rarity gear. There’s nothing like some risk/reward gameplay to keep the adrenaline pumping! You can also change world tiers whenever you want if you don’t feel like dealing with a challenge or don’t care about grinding for higher-level gear.

While there is still a lot to learn about Outriders, I’m intrigued by what I’ve played so far. The game’s combination of intense combat, deep RPG mechanics, and wide variety of loot is right up my alley. You can be sure that we’ll be bringing you more on Outriders as we get closer to its launch on both Xbox One and Xbox Series X later this year.