The Outfit (Xbox 360) review
"The reason itís not cool is that it doesnít much feel like youíre destroying anything! When you blow up an enemy tank, thereís a bit of a boom and the vehicle becomes scrap metal. When you drive over a tent, itís less satisfying than bursting a bubble on sheet of packing material. It sort of just folds underneath you."
What you need to know about The Outfit is this: itís a game that emphasizes style over substance but accidentally forgets to bring along the style. The result is one of the worst Xbox 360 games to date. With a tedious single-player campaign and a multi-player mode thatís sometimes cool but always a pale imitation of Battlefield 2, this is one game that probably shouldnít even have been made.
In the months leading up to its release, THQ was quick to hype one thing: the unique personalities of The Outfitís leading men. First, thereís Captain Deuce Williams. He wears sunglasses too big for his head and smokes stubby cigars. Next you have my personal favorite, Sergeant Thomas MacIntyre. Heís a farm boy from Iowa who has a tendency to get things done, but he wears his heart on his sleeve. That sometimes doesnít impress the ladies so much. Bringing up the rear, thereís Lieutenant John Davis Tyler. He talks gruffly, but the dead men heís killed donít seem to care. Together these three army men areÖ The Outfit!
Yeah, I didnít much care, either. Itís nice that the developer tried to add something cool to what is in danger of becoming a tired genre, but they might have at least bothered to make it worthwhile. Unless said character is a hot babe, I donít care about hopes and dreams and astrological signs or whatever else you want to throw at me. I know Iím not alone. Thankfully, thatís not the only innovation The Outfit brings to the table. Itís also fond of this little thing called ďdestructible environments.Ē
Picture a French countryside in World War 2, which is the time period in which this game takes place. German scum are swarming across the fields and over the hillsides like bees protecting their hive, only of course theyíre actually trying to plunge the entire country into the depths of despair. For fun, they stick villagers in a church and set it on fire, torching innocent women and children alive. They are evil in its purest form, so wicked and nasty that they canít even really stand themselves. Did I mention that theyíre evil? The game drives this point home numerous times.
Because youíre dealing with such nefarious enemies, you have no choice but to demolish the homes of innocent bystanders. Presumably, theyíve all fled in the face of the German onslaught, so no people are here to complain if you bulldoze through their belongings. Thatís what youíll do, too. Small cottages go up in smoke and flames. Enemy tents crumple under the wheels of your monstrous vehicles. The whole time, you drive around releasing a hail of gunfire and pretty much destroying anything that moves. Or doesnít, as the case may be. If itís not soil or turf, youíre able to crush it into the ground. Sounds cool, right? Well, it isnít.
The reason itís not cool is that it doesnít much feel like youíre destroying anything! When you blow up an enemy tank, thereís a bit of a boom and the vehicle becomes scrap metal. When you drive over a tent, itís less satisfying than bursting a bubble on a sheet of packing material. It sort of just folds underneath you. The whole experience feels like sneaking into your sisterís room and wickedly combing the hair on every last one of her Barbie dolls, just to spite her. Iíve never done that, mind you, but thatís about what it would feel like. Thereís just no point. Quite early in the proceedings, youíll find that the only time you intentionally go out of your way to destroy the landscape is when the missions demand it.
Of course, sometimes itíll happen anyway. Thatís because the vehicles control like an elephant on rollerblades. As you drive toward an enemy encampment, perhaps a blast knocks you to the side. If your armor is running low, you might as well scuttle plans of driving anywhere else. Itíll take forever to back up and turn enough to then pull forward and resume your crusade of machismo. By that time, you'll probably have been reduced to a pile of burning flesh and iron. Remember games like Halo, where itís so easy to lose track of what direction to push in order to make that sharp turn? This is worse, and somehow implemented without the dual-stick controls. If it didnít suck so bad, it would almost be impressive.
Even though they stink like yesterdayís garbage, though, vehicles have one obvious benefit: theyíre the best way to approach an alley full of soldiers. You do that a lot in The Outfit, because there are just a lot of ruined villages and because the developers apparently ran out of ideas. In fact, each mission goes about like this: you appear on the map, you go to one objective, you shoot a few Germans, you take over that point on the map, then you go to the next objective and repeat. There are slight variations. Sometimes the building youíre taking is big. Sometimes itís not. If this sounds tedious, well, it is. However, thereís an obvious reason to take over enemy fortifications, so the missions are at least credible. Besides, they improve the amount of ďdestruction on demandĒ that you can inflict.
Every time you shoot somebody or blow something up, you get points. These then allow you to call in reinforcements. When you first begin a mission, youíll only be able to replenish the supply of rifle fodder that runs around behind you (Iím referring to your squad). As you take over radio towers, armories and motor pools, you can eventually request more impressive reinforcements like tanks and gun turrets. You can even order air strikes. Itís neat at first, but it just doesnít add enough of that extra spark to make this game come even remotely close to special. No, for that youíll have to take it online.
Itís true that the single-player mode leaves a sour taste in your mouth, but Xbox Live remedies a lot of that. You still have vehicles that shouldnít be allowed out of the garage, and you can still call in reinforcements, but suddenly the experience gels. There are a few configurations available, but my favorite was the mode where I would join up with two other squads before working against three enemy squads. Imagine that youíre running across the countryside and ahead, you see a squad of German soldiers. Theyíre headed your way, but they havenít yet spotted you. That gives you time to call down a gun turret. Frantically, you do so. The crate falls out of the sky and you rush forward, settle into the seat and unleash a hail of bullets just as your unwitting opponents round the corner. Most of them fall amidst the flying lead, but their leader wasnít as foolish. You now have to ask yourself what you should do next. Do you stay on the turret, hoping that your adversary will stupidly try to rush you despite the fate of his comrades? Or do you flee your post and try to regroup, knowing that you can shortly expect a vehicle to rush your current position? The human element adds a lot of suspense to such encounters. Really, itís the only way The Outfit should ever be played.
I could probably go into more detail. I could tell you about the repetitive graphics that look like they belong on the Xbox, about the moments where you wander around and thereís nothing happening. I could even go off on a tangent about how unlimited re-spawns mean itís pretty much impossible to truly lose a mission in the single-player campaign. That feels a bit like beating a dead horse, though. In the end, The Outfit is just disappointing and thatís that. If you can find it at your local Blockbuster, give it a rent to satisfy your curiosity and your desire to try something new. Then move onto better things. I already have.
Staff review by Jason Venter (April 02, 2006)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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