Some downloadable titles are instant classics, cult-hits, or contemporary pieces of art. Games like Journey and Limbo have won the respect and love they adherently deserve because these aren’t games for game’s sake, but they are so much more than what we are able to see on the outside. They not only make you think, but they make you feel. Then there are games that try to piggyback on the success of a big name, third person, cover-based shooter and falls short in almost every aspect. If you haven’t guessed where I’m going with this by now, Tragnarion’s Scourge: Outbreak is unfortunately the latter.
The bastard child of Gears of War and Deus Ex (my condolences) tells the story of a Echo Squad; a band of soldiers –all of whom make sure to fill their contextual archetype, right down to the last, horribly delivered line of dialogue– who save a scientist from another group of soldiers with some of their own defected mates from Echo. If that sounds confusing, believe me, that’s as clear as one can make it because the game will do its best to confuse the everloving hell out of you. As soon as you finish the tutorial at the very beginning of the game, you quickly come to fruition that this game is awful, but hey – it’s kind of cheap and there’s 4 player co-op. What could possibly go wrong? I didn’t know just how naive I was until I downloaded this game.
One of the worst things about Scourge, besides its dull missions that drag on forever with very little to keep you from lighting a fire under your Xbox, is the AI. Not just the enemies, but also from your own team. Shooting at your enemies can be nauseatingly frustrating as they seem to jump from one area of the map to another in a moment’s notice. Bugs and glitches throughout the game leave you and your squad mates vulnerable as you are sometimes stuck in midair, shaking like a geriatric patient with rheumatoid arthritis. Your team does very little for you right from the start. You John Rambo your way through waves of enemies until you are shot down. Your squad will try to resurrect you, and if successful, will leave you immediately only to repeat your suffering via a hailstorm of grenades. Scourge does offer a function of telling your whole squad or just a single soldier to do things such as hacking computers, killing a specific enemy, or even just moving them away or toward cover, but I found this unnecessary as I did everything myself without the hassle. Even though the game itself is relatively short, (4 missions) be prepared to drop your controller in irritation though, as you fight your way through wave after wave only to die and be sent back almost half an hour as some checkpoints aren’t available when you truly need them most.
In Outbreak, you are given a variety of weapons, ranging from guns that sort of remind me of the Needler from Halo to combat shotguns. It doesn’t matter though. Of course the shotgun is best for up-close encounters and the assault rifle is better for picking off baddies from a distance, but you will always feel inadequate as you are getting shot with the same weapons, but you don’t seem to be dealing as much damage as they are. In fact, your whole health bar is one big lie when you can die anywhere from 3 grenades to a couple of bullets. It gets old quick and I found the best way to get through a swarm of opponents was to sit in the back and throw grenades. With AI barely existing, thinking too much about your next move is doing you a disservice.
To be fair, the game does make an effort to differentiate itself from its inspiration by way of special abilities. Each of the four playable soldiers are capable of both defensive and offensive pulse-like moves with either a tap or hold of the left bumper. Your power source for these moves is tied into the story, which is nice and kind of neat, but if the story was better written and executed, I would have remembered it.
With the addition of 4 player co-op, there is some fun to be had throughout the story’s four missions. Like a B movie, you soon learn to appreciate what takes away from the game and doing it with other people doesn’t hurt that experience. If anything, playing online definitely redeems some of the campaign just so you don’t have to deal with computer teammates.
For 800 MS points, you can do a lot worse than Scourge: Outbreak, and if you like really any kind of third person action shooter, you will find something to like, especially if you are a GoW fan. There’s shooting, explosions, and overgrown insects. With most games, I’m sure patches will come out to fix some of the bigger complaints I had, but for now, there is a bad taste in my mouth that comes from sub-par first impressions. It will be a game I find hard to come back to. It’s almost as if Tragnarion made a joke, but much like their game, it just wasn’t that good and it will make you laugh for all the wrong reasons.
[+ Some cool, albeit generic character designs][+ 4 player co-op][- Abysmal AI][- Weak weapons][- Lackluster story][- Unbalanced health system][- Poor level design][- Checkpoints are few and far in between]