If games like Doom, Quake, and Duke Nukem are too noisy and dark for your tastes, then Outlaws might offer just the first-person experience you're really looking for. This shoot-'em-up not only gives you time to react to your enemies, but also lets you have a clear view of what you're shooting at.
You take the role of the Marshal in a beautifully animated, 3D-rendered town full of colorful buildings, impressive skylines, and (of course) bad guys. These pesky varmints keep shooting away at you for no apparent reason. With three difficulty settings ("Good," "Bad," and "Ugly"), multiple levels, and the opportunity to turn on an 'invincibility' option, nearly anyone can customize the gameplay to suit his or her tastes.
The most outstanding features of this game are found in its graphics. Produced by LucasArts, the cinematic-quality cut scenes are impressive. The landscapes, backgrounds, and buildings featured in the game are also excellent, with a dramatic use of color and shading. The scalability of the graphics is decent but, as in many other contemporary releases, some of the characters become fuzzy and pixilated when viewed from close up.
The game features multiplayer support over a LAN or the Internet. This allows several players to shoot at each other in the same game. A clever 'Historical Missions' option puts you into the time, place, and boots of a real hero from the legends of the Wild West. All of the action in Outlaws is accompanied by a clean, CD-quality, three-dimensional soundtrack and the voices and sound effects come at you from all directions.
Graphics: The game features realistic 3D environments and outstanding animations.
Sound: A CD quality soundtrack with sound effects and voices in 3D.
Enjoyment: The gameplay is simple but addictive.
Replay Value: The gameplay can move a slowly and is not always platable for more than an hour at a time.
When Marshall James Anderson retired, little did he know that he would once again need to use his guns. But this time, it was not for the citizens' sake that he would fight, but rather for revenge. After a group of outlaws had burnt his ranch, murdered his wife Anna and took his daughter Sarah with them, he had no other choice than to follow their trail. Wherever it would lead him, he would make them pay for their crimes, and their bad ways!
Using an improved version of the Dark Forces engine, Outlaws sends players back to the 19th century in the heart of the Old West. Assuming the role of Marshall Anderson, the player's mission is to retrieve Sarah and free her from her kidnappers. To do so, the player will have to go through nine different levels ranging from a small hideout to an old mine through various towns and a runaway train. If you wonder how interesting the levels are, you will be happy to hear that they are large and as complicated and challenging as those featured in Dark Forces. Therefore, expect a plethora of intricate multi-layer levels, sheer cliffs from which a fall is lethal, multi-floor houses and buildings, as well as underwater levels where you will be out of breath more than once. Finding your way through the various levels is not always easy. Besides specific keys to unlock doors (iron, brass and steel keys), many hidden doors and passages will only be revealed if you find the associated mechanisms (buttons, gears, stones, levers, turning wheels, and others). While it is not enough to qualify this as a puzzle solving game, it definitely is a change from the ordinary shooter! In a few occasions, you will need to be creative and find out how to use what you have picked up in your inventory. For example, what could a shovel be used for? The answer is simple, but I'll let you dig it out by yourself not to spoil your gaming pleasure...
Speaking of pleasure, you will appreciate the sharp graphics of Outlaws. Although the game is not currently using Direct3D (only Direct Draw), the graphics are quite well done using realistic textures that make the Outlaws' world very lifelike. Work is being done on an update to provide the game with support for 3D accelerators cards such as the Voodoo chip from 3DFx Interactive, but more generally for a generic Direct3D driver that will enable all 3D cards to work with the game. However, as stated by LucasArts, performances vary drastically from one card to another. That's why in addition to this generic driver, will be released specific drivers born from the cooperation between LucasArts and other 3D cards manufacturers. While no fixed dates have been determined yet, the patches should be available soon for the public. But for those without 3D cards, I reassure them that playing without such a card is still enjoyable. Several resolution choices will let you select which graphic mode is best for your configuration, ranging from the standard 320 by 200 mode to the extended SVGA 800 by 600 mode. If you own a Pentium 120 or faster, it is strongly recommended to try the SVGA mode for the best experience.
If you have already played another first-person shooter, then you will feel right at home with Outlaws. Otherwise, you might be tempted to choose the first level of difficulty (Good) so that you have enough time to get used to the controls before anyone shoots you to death. With the two other levels (Bad and Ugly), you will just have the time to run and find a temporary place to hide and recuperate before charging back. As usual, you will pick up several types of power-ups without whom you would die in a question of minutes. Among them, you will find badges to protect from hits, canteen, medical bags and elixir to restore your health, and a boiler plate to serve as frontal armor. Other objects include a lantern which filled with oil will provide you with light to explore dark areas, keys to open doors and various sorts of ammunition for your weapons. As the time frame is the 19th century, you can't seriously have lasers, or any other high-tech weapons you would love to load. Instead, a trustworthy six-shooting .45 will be your best companion for the road. You can also use a knife, .44 rifle, single and double 10-gauge shotgun, sawed-off shotgun, and even a gattling gun, not speaking of dynamite! Each weapon has a limited range, and with practice you will learn which weapon is more appropriate than another in a given situation. As a matter of fact, Outlaws is not really a game where direct confrontation is the best strategy to adopt, and instead you must stay very discrete not to alarm your enemies. That's why the 'C' key will be heavily used during the game, as crouching will make you a smaller target to hit. You can also run, jump and strafe to avoid your enemies, and swim and plunge when in the water.
Animated sequences will unfold the story as the player moves from one level to the next. LucasArts's artists have once again outdone themselves with these beautiful cinematics, where sound effects and great voice acting were cleverly combined. However, what truly is the best part of Outlaws (besides game play) is the soundtrack. Clint Bajakian succeeded in composing a masterly piece of music in Outlaws, that is available in its wholeness on the two CD's of the game. With themes that are not without recalling those from famous composer Sergio Leone, Outlaws immerses you completely in its Old Western universe. In fact, only the wind and dust are missing in your eyes to convince you that you are the real Marshall!
But Outlaws offers more than the quest for Sarah. There are two other modes you can select from the beginning. Historical missions will give you a chance to track down famous outlaws and capture or kill them for the reward. If you are successful, you will awarded with bonus points that at some time will allow you to be promoted to a higher rank. Starting as an Associate Deputy, you may become a Deputy, Sheriff or Marshall if you prove that you have enough guts, and then access to the corresponding clubhouses. There are also a great variety of multi-player options included in Outlaws such as LAN and TCP/IP networks, modem and serial connections, and even the Internet. Five different locations will provide the playground for the multi-player games which feature four separate game modes: Capture the flag, Death Match, Team Play and Kill the Fool With The Chicken. While others don't deserve an explanation as their name is very explicit, the last mode requires further details. Players will first need to find and pick up the chicken. When done, the player who has the chicken will be allowed to shoot at anybody, while others will only be allowed to shoot at the player with the chicken. The winner will be the player who kept the chicken the longest.
Although Outlaws is not a new ground-breaking first-person shooter, it has the merits to offer good game play, enough action to make any hero run out of breath, decent graphics and an absolutely brilliant soundtrack. If you want to experience what was the time of the lonesome heroes of the Far West, get your tickets because Outlaws will send you right in!
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