Exoprimal Co-op Review - A Dinostomping Good time
Dinosaurs are cool. There isn’t a child out there who hasn’t had a fascination with these monsters from the past at some point in their lives and despite the increasingly terrible Jurassic World movies, it seems we can’t get enough of them. This is where Capcom comes in. But instead of doing a (much-desired) Dino Crisis remake they have launched Exoprimal, a team-based game about a rogue AI, mech suits, time travel and hordes of dinos to kill. Matt and Paul have been diving into this strange mash-up since its release and have some things to say…
Matt: Well, let me start by saying Exoprimal sure is… something. It is odd in so many ways but I can’t help but find myself enjoying it. From how the game does story, to the structure, there is nothing here I would call “normal” in any way, yet there is this morish quality to the experience that has me coming back for more and I am not sure I can put my finger on it. From a purely critical level, the points of irritation are many, but they seem to be doing little to put me off the game. How are you finding it so far Paul?
Paul: The list of concerns I could build about Exoprimal is plentiful, and yet, there’s this aspect to the game that I just cannot quite quantify that makes the game… fun? I thought we game critics and journos had lost the ability to have fun with this medium, yet Exoprimal certainly delivers fun for the player. Exoprimal’s loop is really, stupidly simple, much like its premise, and yet both draw me in. I quite enjoy being in an exosuit mowing down hordes of raptors, or fighting for survival whilst trying to down a menacing T-Rex, while the story is all kinds of lame, and yet, is delivered in the right-sized morsels that I find myself engaged in it too. There’s a special sauce being used here that makes an otherwise mediocre game into something that is quite enjoyable to play. How does that jive with your experience?
Matt: Yeah I have to say I feel the same. The story, for example, is full of plot holes the size of a VW, the UI is clunky and the constant nagging of the rogue AI Levithan is draining, yet none of that matters thanks to the sweet, sweet endorphin release of Dinosaur massacre. It comes together in a way that is truly greater than the sum of its parts and leaves me constantly wanting more. I have my favourite suits (Barrage is the GOAT, by the way) and I am having a blast mastering their movesets and upgrading their skills, all the while joining in with a surprisingly welcoming community of players that almost always play the objective and work as a team. That in itself is super refreshing. The secret sauce for any PvE multiplayer match is a focus on teamwork and that focus is coming through loud and clear from the current group of players in the game. Have you come across any real… shall we say, COD players during your wargames Paul?
Paul: Not in my time so far. As you say, the PvE is the big star here. Of course, you can play the game in PvP, and there’s certainly some excitement to be found in that competitive, head-to-head combat, but also, there’s a reason why those COD players have broken me so easily over the years – simply that my skillset doesn’t lie in that realm. I’m a team player and not a wrecking ball, so PvE works a treat for me. I’ve not dealt with any COD-like teen-ranting behaviour as of yet, but I do deal with the occasional person who perhaps hasn’t realised that they’ve not muted their Dualsense who is chatting away to whoever might be around, who I’m stuck having to listen to, but thankfully none of the negative behaviours yet. The community has been great thus far.
You obviously mentioned that you favour the Barrage exosuit, for me, I’ve really taken a liking to the Deadeye, but I do love that you can pivot on the spot whenever you like really. There’s a nice large variety of different exosuits to jump in and out of, each that feels great to play as. While I certainly have my preference, I don’t feel like, if the team required it, I would be out of my depth jumping into something else, to do my bit in bringing us to success, and I don’t feel like the other exosuits are lesser in any substantial ways, such that I wouldn’t want to use them at all. It’s a great credit to Capcom and both the design and balancing work they’ve done here. Would you agree?
Matt: Absolutely the balance is spot on and it doesn’t matter if you are playing as an Assault, Tank or Support class, as long as you play the role intended you are going to have a great time. There are three locked exosuits, which can be purchased through a microtransaction, but they don’t have to be and can be unlocked through play, which I really appreciate. In fact, the whole season pass and progression seems reasonably fair if I am honest, with everything in it being pretty much superficial and not affecting the game in a meaningful way. I am glad Capcom haven’t shortchanged players here and if you don’t want to pay extra, you aren’t missing out in any way.
But I think it is time to talk about the problems and for that problem is variety. Initially, it feels like Exoprimal has a severely limited match type. In fact, the first 15 or so matches are pretty much the same, but there comes a point where the game opens up and new match types and objectives get thrown into the mix. It frankly took too long to get to that point and I think the game could lose potential players (especially those playing through Gamepass) because of it. Even with the new match types, I feel that variety is going to be the biggest problem for the game going forward and I really hope Capcom can inject some new modes as the seasons come and go.
Paul: You’re definitely onto something there. Retention, especially for the community on Xbox who have grabbed the game through Gamepass and don’t have a financial take in the game may be less likely to play the 5-6 hours necessary for the game to open up further. The incredibly repetitious Dinosaur Cull against the same 3-4 Dinosaur breeds gets pretty tedious before the next story beat arrives and presents a whole lot more in terms of playable modes but also bigger breeds to hunt.
You touched before on UI. I’m willing to overlook the repetitive game loops, and a drip feed of new content being a little on the slow side, but what I’m not ready to give a pass to is this disgusting Destiny-inspired cursor that is much clunkier to navigate than what Bungie has developed – it’s also completely unnecessary in this setting as well. I will also point out that I would have liked to see a little more scope for statistical growth in the game. I feel like I’m forever delivering the same damage output, despite my growing level – I’d love to see a more tangible reward for persistence and effort that can be reflected in the gameplay, not just the cosmetic front. Thoughts?
Matt: The problem with something like that is how the devs do it without creating an imbalance to new players, so I can personally understand why they have gone this route. That isn’t to say you can’t upgrade your exosuits, there are a host of add-ons and upgrades that can be purchased with in-game currency, but their effects are relatively minor to keep that balance. I am sure as time goes on, imbalances will be found, but for the moment, much of the joy is found thanks to all the exosuits feeling equal.
To finish off we should talk performance. I played on PC and didn’t have an issue. In fact, in a year of dodgy PC ports, Exoprimal stands out as one that has hit it out of the park as far as performance, reliability and polish goes. It is also another example of just how staggeringly versatile the RE engine actually is. Crossplay is also a huge boon and due to the nature of the game, there is no inherent advantage to keyboard and mouse players. How were things on the console side Paul?
Paul: You’re right, the RE Engine has again delivered in spades. The game looks pretty great, and on the performance front, it has been a really smooth experience on the PS5 as well. I will also note that I’ve not at all faced any connectivity issues that can sometimes plague new release games, which, given the potential flood of players coming in through Gamepass, is great to see, as is the range of players. I feel like I’m seeing just as many Capcom C’s next to players’ names as I am PlayStation symbols, which is great, and knowing that some of those will be PC players and that I’m presumably performing to a similar level as them is heartening as well.
It’s about time for us to wind this one down, so do you have any final thoughts Matt? I again keep coming back to this inexplicable drawing factor that Exoprimal has. I should, through a combination of my own tastes, and some of the game’s flaws, be bouncing off of this one incredibly hard, and yet, it has a sticky factor that keeps me hooked. By no means will you see me playing Exoprimal months down the road (unless Capcom really knocks things out of the park), but they’ve retained a player who wouldn’t otherwise care about a game like this. I’m impressed.
Matt: I love a good PvE experience, but so often they tend to be a flash-in-the-pan game. Exoprimal has some indefinable quality that makes me believe it will be around for a good long while and I couldn’t be happier. The combination of inventive exosuits, tight combat and a bonkers concept does more than enough to paper over a myriad of issues that would normally put me off. With a little TLC, this could be a game that really becomes a breakout hit. As is always the case with a game such as this, only time will tell, but at the moment I am more than happy to add Exoprimal to my regular gaming rotation. The Capcom train keeps on a rollin’ it would seem and Exoprimal is another great addition to their recent string of killer titles.
Exoprimal was reviewed on PC and PS5 with code kindly supplied by Capcom.