By Arik Yates / December 31st, 2013
|Title: Scourge: Outbreak
Publisher: UFO Interactive Games
Developer: Tragnarion Studios
Release Date: July 3, 2013
Genre: Third Person Shooter
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Mac
Age Rating: ESRB: M
Among my ever-changing taste in gaming genres, the shooter has always been one of my favorites. From the arena shooter like Quake III to the action-adventure-filled shoes of Nathan Drake in Uncharted, it’s hard for me to find one I don’t like. When Scourge: Outbreak was thrust upon the shooting community, promising co-op, online multiplayer and a story-filled campaign, many, including myself, were highly intrigued. Despite the promises and my excitement, I had a bit of doubt. Instead of pondering on that doubt, I decided to jump in with my fingers crossed in hope of surprises.
Scourge: Outbreak follows Echo Squad, a group of four stereotypical mercenaries, on their mission to take down the dastardly Nogari Corporation. Echo Squad will go about doing that by rescuing a double-agent, Dr. Reisbeck, and stealing a meteorite fragment that lead to the development of “ambrosia.” Ambrosia is a new “powerful synthetic energy source” which has lead the Nogari Corporation to power, and is responsible for powering Echo Squad’s suits. There’s also the rogue Alpha Squad that gets in the way of your mission that must be dealt with. And that’s about all of the information you get regarding your mission in Scourge: Outbreak. Reisbeck, who communicates with you via com chat, attempts to explain further on the origins of Nogari, ambrosia, and Alpha Squad, but the dialogue of these bits of conversation are so uninteresting and boring that it’s hard to muster up the will to even attempt to grasp the point that’s trying to be given. Even when Reisbeck is informing Echo Squad of their current objective, I failed to hold interest because I was never given a reason to remotely care about the one-dimensional mercenaries and the impact their mission actually held.
The playable Echo Squad consists of the mercenaries Shade, Stonewall, Mass and Amp. Just judging by the names, one can assume what stereotype the character is going to hold. Shade is the stealthy assassin-esque character; Mass is the big bouldering brute from Europe; Stonewall is the stone-faced American marine, and Amp is the strong female with a sense of amnesia, leaving her past a complete mystery. Despite Scourge: Outbreak falling prey to these stereotypes, something I found intriguing was the unique stats, leveling up and suit abilities each character sported, even if they did seem to be ripped from the Mass Effect series. Each character is suited for certain types of weapons, while their shielding and shockwave suit abilities reflect their range preference. For instance, Shade is better at range, and he’s proficient at shielding only himself while his shockwave is used to get rid of enemies that are closing their distance towards him. Mass’s shield can withstand an abundance of bullets, and his shockwave is most efficient at point-blank. However, each character feels and plays exactly the same. The unique qualities and range preference that were stated on the character select menu feel as if they were never put into action. Even when my character leveled up, I couldn’t tell a difference. It’s as if the developers just wanted to get your hopes up . I had a similar feeling when I was a child, eagerly awaiting the brand new iteration of a toy on Christmas morning, but only to find that it was a hand-me-down underneath the fancy packaging. The characters may look different on the outside, but on the inside they’re the exact same in almost every way.
Similar to the rest of the game, the controls and gameplay offered are mundane, commonplace and archaic. Aim with the left trigger, shoot with the right trigger, reload with the X button – it’s an everlasting familiar cycle. Unlike its Unreal Engine counterparts (*ahem*, Gears of War, Shadows of the Damned), Scourge: Outbreak doesn’t offer anything new for the genre. It’s a typical lineup of linear missions that have you doing the same objectives over and over. In fact, it actually steals many elements from other popular shooters, and pulls them off so terribly that it’s offensive. Your characters feel light-weight and twitchy, the controls can be unresponsive, the guns don’t have any real weight behind them, and the ho-hum objectives you’re forced to complete will test the patience of even the most tranquil gamer. If that doesn’t sound bad enough for you, then believe me, it gets worse.
The enemy and friendly AI are absolutely preposterous in Scourge: Outbreak. If you take too much damage, then you become downed, and are forced to wait for your allies to come pick you. This is something that has been done time and time again with much success, but not with Scourge. In most instances, your allies will come to your aid when you are downed, but only after they take an elongated path equivalent of a toddler drawing squiggles on a piece of paper. They will literally take the most complicated path possible to come revive you. Heck, sometimes the friendly AI will even refuse to acknowledge your existence, leaving you on the ground to die. This led me to many unfair restarts that had me questioning if the developers had experienced Scourge: Outbreak themselves. The enemy AI isn’t much better, either. They’ll come at you, heading straight to your line of fire or they will retreat; that’s it. Neither flanking nor any other tactics will ever come to them, and every enemy acts the exact same. This makes the already abysmal Point A-to-Point B gameplay even more unpleasant.
Scourge: Outbreak definitely isn’t a looker either. This is a shocker, especially since Unreal Engine 3 has been responsible for some truly breathtaking visuals. Instead of taking advantage of the graphical capabilities the engine offers, Scourge is filled with inconsistent textures and level design that looks like it could have been a rejected Mass Effect title. The sound in the game isn’t much better either. The music is indistinguishable from other action games, as well as the cheap gun sounds, and the voice acting will make you cringe.
One thing that I wasn’t able to experience was the online modes. After searching for countless matches in the death match, team death match, capture the flag and co-op campaign, I was unsuccessful in finding a single match (Xbox 360). Since there’s not an online community for this game anymore, that practically leaves the entire multiplayer portion unplayable, and deteriorates the replay value that could be had by running through the six-hour campaign with your friends. One could still run through the campaign using all four playable characters-each character offers different story cut scenes throughout their individual playthroughs- but I personally feel that co-op would help break the linearity of this non-engrossing experience.
Very rarely do I run across a game that puts me in a foul mood just at the thought of it: Scourge: Outbreak was that game for me. If I had to be positive about it, at least the title only costs $9.99 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Steam, and it has co-op if you can find anybody willing to play. Even for that price, I cannot recommend this game. It plays like an underdeveloped Gears of War, and is presented like a rejected Mass Effect title. Do yourself a favor, and play one of the many games that inspired Scourge: Outbreak instead.
A review copy was provided by the developer.
Scourge: OutbreakTragnarion StudiosUFO Interactive