Scourge: Outbreak Review
I’ve always been a pretty big fan of third person shooters. I can’t even begin to put into words how many hours my roommate and I poured into horde mode on Gears of Wars 2. So when I was assigned to review Scourge: Outbreak, I was pumped up to get me some third person action. However, after playing it, I was singing a different tune. As much as I wanted to like the game, the major issues in the title completely overshadowed the positives.
It’s fair to say that I’m a story driven player. If your game doesn’t have a solid story, then you’re going to lose me very quickly. Sadly, Scourge: Outbreak is one of those games. I was not attached to any of the stiff, poorly voiced characters, or what they were fighting for. It’s actually kind of funny because for 90% of the game, the characters don’t exactly know what they were fighting for either (seriously, they were still saying “what the hell is going on?” at the end of the game). Even with the mysterious flash-forwards that would occasionally occur during a cut scene and a twist at the end that, admittedly, I didn’t see coming, the story barely held my attention. Worse yet, the story was left wide open for a sequel, meaning the world could possibly be plagued by another Scourge game.
I think the best way to talk about the gameplay is to get the things I liked out of the way first. Scourge: Outbreak is your standard cover-based shooter. You sprint around, snap to cover, and hold down the left trigger to pop up and shoot your enemies in the face. In this regard, Scourge succeeds fairly well. I had little to no issues when I was trying to move from cover to cover in the heat of battle. My only complaint with the cover system was that I would have liked to have seen something more precise that allows you to jump to nearby cover by just tapping the A button and pointing the direction you wanted to go. Instead, I was doing a diving somersault, missing the cover, and getting lit up by the enemy because I was now out in the open.
Another positive was your friendly A.I. Unlike the enemy A.I., who were dumb as a stump and throw self-preservation out the window, your squad mates are actually remotely intelligent. Whenever you would get downed, I could always count on them coming to revive me right away. Better still was that they would smartly use their shield ability to reach you/shield themselves as they revive you. They did, however, occasionally rush into some places with a lot of enemies, get downed, and then make it impossible to reach them, but this happened only once or twice throughout the seven hour campaign.
Scourge contains only seven weapons: a pistol, a shotgun, 2 different assault rifles, a rocket launcher, a chain gun, and a sniper rifle. However, the developers added several different variations of the weapons, each one having a boosted stat in a specific field (increased damage, accuracy, or stability) which added some nice variety to the game. The weapons are pretty well balanced and are all fairly effective against the different enemy types.
One of the most satisfying things about the gameplay was the XP awarded after each kill: There’s just something about getting rewarded for my efforts that brightens my day. The way that you kill an enemy affects which skill tree the XP gets awarded to. As you level up, you earn different perks that are automatically activated for you character. Some perks are more noticeable than others, but it is still nice to be able to work towards something.
With the positives out of the way, it’s time to cover everything that is wrong with Scourge: Outbreak’s gameplay. The first major issue I had was with the powers. There are only two different powers with two different variations of those powers: static shield/dynamic shield and static shockwave/dynamic shockwave. The static shield allows the player to deploy a temporary, stationary barrier that protects whoever is behind it from gun fire. The dynamic shield, on the other hand, moves with the player but it doesn’t allow them to fire their weapon while it’s deployed. When the static shockwave is used, the player emits a blast of energy from where they are standing and hits all enemies in close proximity; Dynamic shockwaves, however, can be deployed from distance but the player cannot dictate how far the shockwave goes and they just have to ballpark it. Personally, I hated all these powers and pretty much forgot they were even there. My character was unfortunate enough to have the dynamic shock wave and I think I hit one person with it the entire game. In other words these powers were boring, ineffective, and are easily forgotten.
Another major issue I had was the pacing of the game. There were times where I would fight a large boss, use a good portion of my ammo, and then find myself fighting an absurd amount of enemies with two completely empty guns and no grenades. It was frustrating to the point of rage. I often felt completely helpless because I was going against overwhelming odds in a totally unfair situation. I don’t mind a game that starves you for ammo because it makes the game harder, and I welcome a good challenge, but this was ridiculous.
One of the biggest problems with this game was the enemy types. The regular grunts that you fight in the beginning of the game are stupid and easy to mow down. However, as you progress through the game, the enemies get a lot harder, to the point where it’s a fault. One of the enemy types is in all armor and can really only be killed via head shots (unless you feel like emptying an entire 500 round chain gun into him). This enemy loves to ‘Leroy Jenkins’ into where you’re hiding, not thinking twice about self-preservation, and get right up in your face. It’s not so bad if one of the them does it, but near the end of the game, when they were throwing ten of these crazed lunatics at me at once, my squad and I died more times than I care to mention. I actually had to call in Karam (SpawnFirst’s Editor-in-Chief) for reinforcements at a particularly overwhelming section of the game. This was infuriating to say the least.
Beside the human enemies that you fight, you’re also pitted against the Scourge, a bug/crab-like race of aliens. Having no interest in self-preservation, these things come flying at you from every angle, getting right up in your grill. The littlest versions are pretty easy to mow down. The larger ones, though, leap at you from a distance, require a few full clips to exterminate, and can kill you by attacking you just twice. They SUCKED. There was also a third type of Scourge that, strangely, wasn’t introduced until the final quarter of the last chapter (once again: poor pacing). These guys looked like Scyther from the Pokémon games and made it a point to jump in every direction the possibly could, adding to the frustration of fighting them. To sum all this up: the Scourge were an annoying and unimaginative enemy to combat.
Graphics and Sound
Scourge: Outbreak is run on the well-loved and respected Unreal Engine 3. This powerful graphics engine has given us such games as Arkham City, Bioshock Infinite, and Gears of War 3. Scourge, however, doesn’t do this beautiful engine any justice. While it looks good at times, the game overall looks outdated and boring, providing few, if any, moments where I stopped to take in the scenery. I will say, however, that Scourge runs pretty smoothly, having only experienced minor frame rate issues throughout the campaign.
The voice acting in Scourge: Outbreak is terrible, almost to the point to where you cringe whenever they talk. Now, I can’t say if this is the voice actors fault or the writing of the script, but either way, the dialogue is laughable at best. For example, when my character, Amp, kills someone, she will occasionally say “One less bad guy!”
One less bad guy? Really? THAT’S the best thing you could come up with? A ten year old could have written that!
There is, however, a silver lining in the audio department. The background music and sound effects were actually pretty solid. There was epic and intense music blasting during battles that, for a moment, got me pumped up. The sound of gun fire and explosions helped mask everything I didn’t enjoy about this game, relieving the rising anger inside of me.
The co-operative campaign in Scourge was pretty solid. You and up to 3 other friends could team up and play through the entire campaign together. While there was no advantage or change in the campaign from adding friends, it was still nice to have another human fighting by your side. The game also allows you to join a player mid game but ONLY if they are hosting a co-op campaign game. Meaning, if your friend chose single player instead of hosting a co-op party, you cannot join them.
Scourge also features competitive multiplayer, which Karam and I tried to play but were unsuccessful because we couldn’t find anyone else playing this game (interpret that however you see fit). I kind of wish that they hadn’t bothered to implement a multiplayer mode and had instead focused more on improving the campaign.
As I mentioned above, this game has a lot of problems. There are issues with the pacing of the game, an imbalance in AI, lackluster graphics, weak powers, a boring story, and a poor script. Outside of that, I didn’t find any glitches, so I guess that’s a silver lining.
Other than leveling up and maxing out your character, there is nothing to run around and collect in Scourge. Some people might not care about those kinds of things but I enjoy finding hidden objects in a campaign; I think like it adds another layer to the game.
Scourge has a solid cover system and smooth gameplay, but that doesn’t make up for everything it does wrong. I seriously tried to enjoy Scourge but at the end of the day, I can’t see myself ever playing this game again. I recommend avoiding this game and buying any of the Gears of War or Mass Effect to get you third-person fill.