Friday, 31 August 2012

Outlaws (PC) - Guest Post

Last FPS Friday, I played Behind The Iron Gate, which was all blue and full of robots and misery.

Outlaws PC Title Screen
Today, it's Lucasarts' Outlaws! If there's any robots in this, I'll eat my massively oversized wide-brimmed cowboy hat.

Two games in a row with animated cutscenes? It must be my birthday or something!

Once upon a time, ex-Marshall James Anderson and his family lived a peaceful life in the old West. Of course, as is usual, a railroad baron has his designs on the Anderson land and wants to buy it up and lay some track right through it.

Why can't they ever just go around the innocent man's land?

The baron's sent his creeps, The Doctor and Slim, to extol the benefits of selling their ranch.

"We were sent to enlighten, to persuade...!"
"I always enlighten. Before I kill."

The immaculately groomed Mr. Anderson is miles away at the general store having a chat with the shopkeeper.

James just wants to leave his past as a Marshall behind, but the shopkeeper can't help but bring it up.

"You kill a few men before a jury gave you permission to and they fire you. Ain't fair. No sir."

"Every man's entitled to a fair trial, wouldn't you say?"

"Right, but you never shot an innocent man."

"I never met an innocent man."

Meanwhile, at the Anderson farm:

The creeps are harassing Mrs. Anderson. She would probably do well to keep that door shut, but...

"Good afternoon ma'am. Is the Marshall in?"

Kudos to this guy. He's mighty creepy throughout his dialogue and he has conviction enough to not pause once to imply that the next word carries dangerous connotations.

"What is it the Bible says, Slim? Ah yes, you don't never, never look a gift horse in the mouth. That's a pearl of wisdom, ignored at your peril."

Everything goes horribly pear-shaped.

James returns to find his house in flames...

"No...! NO!"

His wife dead and his daughter kidnapped.

James Anderson's life is over.

There's only one thing left to do.

He grabs the biggest gun and the biggest hat he can find and heads off in the direction of vengeance.

Here's the game itself. It looks a bit like a Western Strife. I'm going to look around and try to ask folks if anybody's seen a bunch of thugs carrying a screaming child.

After some mucking about, I finally got the CD music working and it's totally worth it. The director must've thrown his Spaghetti Western box sets at the music producer and said "Hey, you. See these movies? We want that. Not 'something like that'. We want exactly that.". The result is a series of expertly produced tracks that tear a hole right through 'plagiarism' and smack into the bullseye of 'cheesy videogame Western'.

"Don't be a fool, Marshall!"

Whoa, whoa! Don't shoot me, damn it! I'm just here to ask questions!

They probably didn't appreciate me pointing a gun at them.

Nope, no talking. Alright. If that's the way you want to play it.

HOLY COW, I'm dead.

I don't have very much health at all! I start off with 10 health points and getting hit by a pistol shot takes off 2. One man can usually get multiple hits on me in a row, so this one mistake just cost me the game.

There's a lot more enemies here than I thought there'd be. Now that I know I'm supposed to be killing everyone rather than investigating, they're gonna be for it.

First, stay crouched all the time. Second, assume there's enemies behind every door.

This requires total concentration.

BLARGH! CHICKEN! WHAT! Someone's shooting at me! I can't see anything! WAAAH!

DEAD.

Where's the guy who shot me!?

The after-death cam shows that he was hiding around the wall to the right. There was also a second guy behind the door to the left, and I wouldn't be surprised if he managed to shoot me through the door somehow.

I've got no clue where I'm supposed to be going.

Here's a barn! DEAD. I was killed by that small mass of blue pixels directly in front of me.

I'm going about this completely wrong. One man can't hope to take on a dozen heavily armed men by rushing into the middle of the room and shooting everywhere. Especially when they know I'm coming.

I'm going to find another entrance.

Lucky for me there were a couple of side doors!

Eat alternate fire! Bang bang bang!

As fun as doing the gun fan thing is, I can't do it very often. The enemies drop tiny piles of ammo very infrequently. It would help if these bad guys weren't so damned gangly. It's like trying to shoot stick figures out here.

This time I'm doing a lot better. I'm hiding a lot more. I'm not trying to memorise where the enemies are, but it's starting to look like that's the only way I can get anywhere in this game.

This barn's got an upper floor! That's pretty clever for a not-3D shooter.

"Where are you, Marshall?"

I've finally got the drop on someone! I clear out the rest of the upper floor like a pro, sneaking around like a dirty rat and shooting folks in the back.

I'm definitely making notes on where I'm leaving the health canteens that I don't use. Entering any room without full health is just asking for trouble.

Right at the back of the barn was a tiny, easily missable key. I have no idea which door it opens.

Trial and error reveals that it opens the bar, which leads to half-dozen men with steel-trap reflexes and another minuscule key... idiocy.

Duke Nukem 3D got around this by being a daft game with Great Big Sci-Fi Keycard Switches everywhere, as well as some signage or other context, so you at least stood a chance at mentally pairing the locations of key and lock.

In Outlaws, you have the Brass Key, the Iron Key and the Steel Key. They're all bloody tiny, and any of them could open any door anywhere in the level.

I'm going to have to dance around the edge of every building in this town, looking for the correct door to open and getting shot at by the folks inside that I can't see. Would it have hurt to give the keys names, or put signs on the buildings?

The key opened up a dark mineshaft inside the first barn.

Somewhere down here there's a bastard with a shotgun that can kill me in one hit. My lamp only lights up the area that I can see anyway, so all I can do is fire randomly into the darkness and hope I get him.

Yay! I got him... but he didn't drop his shotgun. Git. Why does everybody drop shotgun shells, but never the shotgun itself?

At the end of the mine there's a tunnel leading underneath a house I couldn't enter. Now we'll see who's sneaking up on who, HAHA!

Oh crap.

DEAD.

I should've expected that. Try again.

There's no checkpoints in these levels, but I can save at any time. Which is nice. The music restarts every time I die. Which is not.

Bang bang bang bang click click!

Crap.

They're all dead, but I'm not going to get much further with no ammo. I wish I had dynamite or petrol so I could set the entire building on fire with 'em in it.

On second thought, that's a bad plan when you're trying to rescue your daughter.

"Yer outnumbered!"

And you can shut up too! SMACK!

ARGH! Shotgun guy!

Dying isn't frustrating. Yet. There's a cute cash-register 'ding!' that plays when you die which cheers me up.

I'm sick of this damned music though. It's great and all, but it's made so perfectly that it's practically parodic. I've managed to save my game half-way through one boring track that sounds exactly like Cows With Guns (YouTube link).

I've got a new plan.

I'm going to go back through the secret tunnel and search every last inch of the level for dropped ammo and health canteens. Then I'm going to try and find a place where I can shoot them through the window but they can't aim at me.

Christ, James. You killed everybody. Ever.

There's a lot of enemies, but the game's not like Contact J.A.C.K.. For a start, these guys eventually stop. Second thing, they don't seem to be able to activate doors, so they're stuck wandering around the vicinity where they start until I open the door and they kill me.

Wait, there's one guy left and he's got a shotgun and DEAD. For crying out LOUD.

There's more guys hiding behind the counter tops and pillars ahead. I've got one rifle bullet.

At least the men are more spread out. I actually stand a chance at being the guy who shoots first. There isn't a lean button, all I can do is gently tap the keys to try and bring the enemy into view and shoot them while the rules say I can shoot him and he can't shoot back. (Yeah, I just wished that an FPS was more like a cover shooter. Somebody get a doctor.)

That wasn't that hard. There's tons of ammo and health as I go up this building, almost as if I'm about to fight a bos-DEAD.

Killed in one hit! Couldn't even see what killed me. The boss' shot was so powerful that I was blasted across the room into a bunch of health pickups that I'd left behind because I WAS AT FULL HEALTH.

Man, I'm glad I saved after fighting my way out of the tunnel.

I crept around the corner of the door and managed to shoot the boss through the gap in the door hinges. The instant I get his health down far enough, it's animated cutscene time!

Sucks to be anybody who wasn't expecting a cutscene, because you've just skipped it!

The bandit is overcome with regret and gives up a clue to the whereabouts of James' daughter. Riveting stuff.

And so, having murdered everyone in the first town, James Anderson rides onward, ready to do whatever it takes to rescue his daughter. And gets shot an awful lot along the way as well.

The end.

I stopped playing at this point because the next level was Another Town. If the rest of the levels are as tedious as the first, I can imagine few folks would have have the patience to get anywhere in this game, even on an easier difficulty.

I died a lot, but I shouldn't have expected anything less. One man really can't hope to fight off hundreds of goons with just a pistol and a rifle. Still, I think the enemies reflexes are way too fast. Drunkards holding heavy guns in one hand shouldn't be able to spin around and kill you this fast. (I was playing on 'Bad' difficulty, by the way. No prizes for guessing what the other two are.)

If you're looking for good graphics, you're in the wrong place. The ingame objects in Outlaws are all absurdly low-resolution sprites with very few animation frames and viewing angles.

It's nice to use proper guns instead of lasers. I kept running out of ammo because I didn't have enough time to aim properly. The only way to get an advantage over these cheating AI goons is to cheat yourself by finding ways to hit them through gaps in walls or around corners.

So it's frustrating to play, and the levels and graphics suck.

Oh well.

4 comments:

  1. Every single time i read your reviews, you pan them and dismiss them as ''The graphics suck, the gameplay sucks, and oh, i died too much in this game, so it sucks.''

    There is a reason why games from the 90s are a lot ''harder'' than what you play today.

    Reviews like this are fun to read, but the verdict is always made on the principles of game making today. If you took the principles of the 90s and think in that spirit, you can appreciate games like Outlaws more.

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  2. The real problem goes even further than you think, I'm afraid. I don't typically like first person shooters, so I have little patience for ones that have one hit kills from unseen enemies, or trial-and-error key/lock pairs. I just don't think these things make for good games, unless they're appropriate to the setting and implemented really well.

    Strife has you finding the secret headquarters of the Front (apparently, I never did read that mercenary story the manual hinted at). So, of course I was gonna be lost and have to talk to people for information. Why was I lost in Outlaws? Because the righteous anger of James Anderson fizzled out when he came across a flimsy wooden door his wiry, simian form couldn't kick down. And then he ran out of bullets.

    I don't doubt that it feels triumphant kick in a door and use my awesome cat reflexes to blast down six guys with six bullets with the pistol fan, but when there's ANOTHER GUY just sitting there around the corner and I've got zero bullets left because none of the six guys in front of me dropped any, all I can do is throw my hands up and say 'That's enough of that.'.

    For these Super Adventures, I can only play the first one or two levels. If the first level sucks, then that reflects badly on the entire game. The moment I get lost, the fun stops. The moment the fun stops, I get fed up and complain about the levels. Imagine if GoldenEye started with Surface. I'd get lost even on Agent difficulty, encounter two guards at the most and end up destroying the objectives, if I ever found any, instead of activating them.

    I didn't own a PC capable of playing FPS games until at least 2000, so I don't know what the principles you mention are. I'm a guy who doesn't play FPS games picking random titles off the shelf and seeing if they still work. If I was going to pretend to be amazed, you'd see right through me; it'd be an insult to you.

    I don't think even hypothetical 90s-guy would be that impressed with Outlaws. He'd say 'Nice story animations. Unfair game with ugly graphics. It's no Quake, is it?'. Outlaws also came out after Exhumed/PowerSlave in the UK, which doesn't help it either.

    Besides, there's loads of 90s FPS games that I ended up liking! Medal of Honor, PowerSlave and Hybrid, for example. As well as things like Christmas Carnage which are less coherent but more entertaining to play because of it.

    I've played lots of games, easy and hard. I don't mind hard games as long what makes the game hard can be worked around, either through skill or trickery (if it's a particularly clever or amusing trick).

    If I could sneak up on the bad guys in Outlaws or distract them with noises, that would make it better. But I can't. There's no way to walk past this window without having at least 5 health taken away, because the enemies can shoot through a largely opaque window. The wooden panels don't break when the enemies shoot through it, so you can't tell that you're being shot from inside the house unless you learn where the enemies are beforehand.

    I died tons of times in Medal of Honor because I stopped to aim at the enemies. PowerSlave had me jumping over instant death pits and between instant death fireballs. Hybrid had anti-medkits of all things. It just didn't matter because the rest of these games were so interesting.

    If you want an honest-to-God excuse to stop reading my posts, here's one. I actually liked the new Syndicate first person shooter's single player mode. Even the bosses. It was a lot more fun than the real Syndicate.

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    Replies
    1. Appreciate the detailed reply :)

      ''The real problem goes even further than you think, I'm afraid. I don't typically like first person shooters, so I have little patience for ones that have one hit kills from unseen enemies, or trial-and-error key/lock pairs. I just don't think these things make for good games, unless they're appropriate to the setting and implemented really well.''

      Seeing you played on medium difficulty, the one hit kill is appropiate. On the ''Good'' difficulty, you can easily go like Rambo and kill everyone pretty easily. Starting at the ''Bad'' difficulty, you have to radically change your playing style, because 2 shots at most will kill you. That, in my eyes, is appropiate to the setting and forces you to take on a more stealthy playstyle.

      ''I didn't own a PC capable of playing FPS games until at least 2000, so I don't know what the principles you mention are. I'm a guy who doesn't play FPS games picking random titles off the shelf and seeing if they still work. If I was going to pretend to be amazed, you'd see right through me; it'd be an insult to you.''
      Outlaws is a classic 2.5D title in a world where everyone hyped Quake as The Next Big Thing. The difference is mostly in architecture: 2.5D shooters like Outlaws often featured huge and detailed maps. Compare this to the games of today. Go around a corner - cutscene - Walk 2 steps forward - cutscene, and so on. Different principles exist today. People find old first person shooters hard, if not impossible to finish because they are used to their slow-mo shooters of today. Bluntly put, the gamers of today who complain that Doom is too hard are pansies. Obviously, i am not calling you one, but i do think that you need to put things in perspective. Outlaws is a game that came out in a time when games werent designed to be simple. They were meant to be challenging.

      That being said, i thoroughfully enjoy reading your posts, especially the more obscure ones like Rex Blade. In fact, that game is what drove me to this site, and it is now a permanent bookmark here. :)

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  3. The first level wasn't a town... it was a RANCH! Gah, you must be some city kid. But hey, people like you have something in your favor - if you think the game is too hard there's an 'invincibility' setting in the options!

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