Scourge: Outbreak is a third-person shooter in the vein of other titles like the Gears of War franchise, but it’s aiming to set itself apart with its story, characters, and gameplay systems. How does Scourge: Outbreak hold up? Will it be a break-out success or should it be scourged? Let’s find out.
Players will take control of Echo Team, an elite squad of mercenaries hired by The Tarn Initiative, as they aim to take down the evil, power-hungry Nogari Corporation once and for all. When their supposed allies, Alpha Squad, sabotage their dropship and run amok, it quickly becomes apparent that Echo will be facing much more than the Nogari soldiers. Can these Ambrosia-powered special soldiers stop the outbreak of a dangerous substance, take down the Nogari Corporation, and square up with their former allies?
On its face, Scourge: Outbreak is a standard cover-based third-person shooter. You’re given four different characters to choose from, and then you and the rest of Echo squad head out to complete the mission.
The four characters meet your typical archetypes: Stonewall, the leader, heavy-weapons expert Mass, stealthy assassin Shade, and Amp, the girl with special powers. Each character was supposed to feel uniquely different and be equipped with special powers. The problem is that each power is virtually the same and all of them are nearly useless unless you’re healing a downed ally.
It’s also somewhat disappointing that once you start a game, there is absolutely no way to change the character you’re playing as. Since they’re not that different, it isn’t really a big deal, but it would have been nice to be able to switch on the fly (like FUSE allows you to do) or at least switch up at checkpoints or between missions.
As far as the campaign is concerned, there are only four “missions” to complete throughout the game. That sounds a lot shorter than it actually is. Each mission will take you a couple of hours or more to work through. That’s good for folks that want to be in this world for a while, but it feels like it overstays its welcome.
Like the Gears games or any other good third-person shooter with a cover mechanic, jumping behind cover is intuitive. The catch is that, as often as not, you’ll still take fire. It doesn’t help that, though the enemies seem to have middling intelligence, they’re amazingly accurate when blind firing. Most of them also must have gone to football camp with Peyton Manning, as they’re fanatically accurate with grenades. While we’re discussing the topic, the Nogari must be infusing their soldiers with adamantium, because even the lowest soldier can take two or three rounds to their brain cage before being killed.
The ability to command teammates is an interesting idea, though we’ve seen it in other games. For the most part, it works OK. Its weakness comes to bear when you send a teammate into a dangerous situation. Even if they complete their task, they may never come back to the group without your command. Otherwise, they do a good enough job covering you and picking you up as you work through the world, though.
One of my biggest gripes with the game’s story mode is its objective tracking. It’s completely non-existent. You may be told what you have to do in a quick cutscene, but if you look away for a second, there’s absolutely no way to go back and find it again. There are no waypoint markers in the game and no menu items or anything to tell you in text form what to do. Either of these would have been a huge help at times.
The game has an experience system built into it. It’s wonderfully satisfying to see experience pop up and why when you mow down a foe. Unfortunately, it feels like it goes into a giant black hole. In reality, it’s going toward overall upgrades, but they never tangibly make a difference. This ultimately leaves what could have been a great game mechanic feeling underutilized.
Scourge: Outbreak also ships with a full Multiplayer suite. A major issue, though, is that the entire multiplayer component is virtually dead on arrival. I was entirely unable to find enough people to create a competitive game with.
Scourge was built on Unreal Engine 3. While powerhouses like Epic have shown that a lot can be done with said engine, Tragnarion struggles to pack the same punch. Environmental textures can look pretty muddy at times. To their credit, the characters have some interesting designs (with glowing effects and such) but watching them in motion tells the hidden truth – animation feels stiff or, at the very least, awkward and unnatural. Menus and other UI elements feel low resolution and out of place as well. Overall, the game looks like a late-era last-generation Xbox game or, at best, a very early Xbox 360 title.
Scourge‘s audio is a mixed bag. The soundtrack is fine – nothing fantastic, nothing painful. Guns sound solid when they’re firing, too. The spoken dialog in the game has both ups and downs. Some of the script and delivery are Grade A cheese, but it’s an admirable effort. Because of the voice acting, characters feel like they have distinctive personalities that would otherwise be totally gone, and that’s a plus.
Overall, Scourge: Outbreak feels like it was trying to do too much. In an age when the market is filled with triple-A titles in the same genre like Gears of War and FUSE, your game has to be top notch in every way to compete.
Scourge’s gameplay feels uneven. While it has a few neat ideas, they were lost along the way and feature creep caught up with them. The game looks rough all around and the competitive multiplayer component probably should have been cut in favor of a cleaner overall experience.
Unfortunately, with so many other good third-person shooters on the market, I could only recommend this game if you’re sick to death of the alternatives.
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