Original Release: 1997, Platform: PC, Developer/Publisher: LucasArts, Image Source: GOG, Thanks to GOG for providing my review copy.
A few weeks ago, GOG announced that it was releasing yet another round of games from LucasArts' classic PC library. While there were a few interesting titles I might have picked from of the latest batch of re-releases, the one that immediately grabbed my attention was Outlaws. A cult favorite from the late 1990s, it's a game that I'd heard a lot of good things about from a number of sources. Chief among these was my own wife who, on several occasions, had regaled me with tales of the hours she'd spent playing it with her grandfather when she was younger. Deciding that was as good a reason as any to saddle up and give it a try, I decided to see if Outlaws lived up to the fond memories that many have of it.
The short answer is yes, though not without some caveats. While Outlaws definitely succeeds in providing an entertaining and even unique experience, it does so in spite of some sincerely rough edges. The in-game visuals, for instance, have not aged well in the slightest. Built on the Star Wars: Dark Force engine from 1995, the game's environments are blocky, angular and, oftentimes, painfully repetitious to look at. Normally, I'm not much of a graphics hound and I wouldn't even bother mentioning it. However, in the case of Outlaws, the visuals can be a genuine detriment to the play experience. While the environments and settings actually vary quite a bit chapter-by-chapter, the visuals in each level can often be so same-y that it's easy to get lost just travelling between rooms. Even with the level map switched on it can be confusing.
There was also something about the enemy character art that rubbed me the wrong the way. They all just kind of struck me as being a bit too flat looking. Mind you, this is an issue that a lot of "3D" shooters from the 90s dealt with. Where something like Duke Nukem 3D did a good job of using 2D character art to create the illusion of 3D, the bandits you gun down in Outlaws never stop looking flat. Whether they're facing you, running away or turning from side to side, they always look like a 2D image stamped on top of a 3D environment.
The gameplay itself, has its own little foibles to contend with. To be sure, it's solid overall and has a lot to enjoy if you grew up on or have a taste for 90s-era first person shooters. You'll run, you'll gun, and you'll have fun doing it. I have no complaints about its execution of the genre's fundamentals. Where Outlaws stumbles is with its puzzles which, in my experience, bounced back and forth between being tedious and obtuse. Now, to be fair to Outlaws, I am horrendously bad at puzzles. Part of the reason you don't see me review many adventure titles is because I simply don't have the patience for their pointless complexity. Outlaws never gets to that point, but it definitely has moments where your progress will be stalled by some puzzle that does nothing more than slow you down and kill the fun.
Many of them aren't even that difficult; they just take a long time. The big puzzle in the Sawmill level, for example, requires you to manipulate a series of gates and redirect a current of water that, in turn, will lead you to five gears that you need to retrieve to open a door leading deeper into the level. There's no real challenge to it; it's a just a whole lot of trial and error.