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Written by Eric Hauter on 7/20/2023 for XBSX  
More On: Exoprimal

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been torn between writing up my review of Exoprimal, and just playing more Exoprimal. In other words, I’ve been enjoying the tight dino-shootiing gameplay so much that I haven’t wanted to stop for long enough to sit down and plunk out a review. This is a game that feels specifically made for me: a hero-based shooter with a reduced focus on PVP and enough character variety that the gameplay feels accessible to people of all skill levels.

Exoprimal is a 5v5 shooter, but it’s not what you think when you hear those words. Instead of five random players running around a map and taking pot shots at another team of five, Exoprimal is instead structured like a race, with each team rushing forward to complete a series of checkpoint assignments faster than the other. Towards the end of each run, players might be thrown into a shared environment with the other team, and at that point, PVP comes into play, as the teams try to prevent the other from finishing up while still trying to complete a task themselves.

This increased focus on PVE material is very welcome to me, and it shows how an online shooter can be wildly entertaining and competitive without focusing exclusively on PVP. You are kept abreast of your competitors’ progress the entire time (it’s shocking how tight many of these runs can be), and the focus on moving faster than the other team leads to a lot of tense and fun moments. It’s a great push and pull, and I love the idea of working together with a team on something beyond just killing other players.

Most of the assignments involve “dinosaur culls”, which means that the game drops an insane number of dinosaurs out of the sky, and then the team has to work together to eliminate a certain number of different species. These range from raptors (easily taken down in huge numbers) to Triceratops and T-Rexes, which can quickly wipe an entire team if they aren’t careful. I’ve been on teams that take out a carnosaur in about six seconds, and I’ve been on teams that have had every member tossed off a bridge by a raging ankylosaurus; a lot depends on the makeup of the team and the experience of the players you are assigned to.

There is a wackadoodle Sci-fi Channel story taking place in Exoprimal about an AI run amuck, and it is delivered in one of the most unique and weird ways I’ve seen in a video game. As the player goes on runs, they slowly unlock video and audio logs that can be viewed independently via an insanely complex interface.

This is a game that is structured like Overwatch, with players queueing up for runs with randos, but it still finds time to wedge in cut scenes and events. Occasionally, the game will divert from the “business as usual” runs, and toss a group of players into a special story event or boss battle. Hysterically, if you’ve already seen an event, the game doesn’t think twice about announcing that it’s rerun time, and thrusting you back in again. It’s a funny way to make sure that players can experience story bits at the right time in their playthrough, and the game trusts that you enjoy it enough to not gripe too much about doing a boss battle again.

It’s almost like the development team just said “yes” to everything that others might have thought twice about. “Should we randomly have people play events more than once?” Sure! “What if players see cut scenes but they haven’t seen the video logs that build up to the cut scenes so everything is out of order?” Who cares! “Can people just skip all the story stuff and fight dinosaurs?” Why not?

It’s a totally bizarre approach, but it does kind of work. With a baby in the house, I found myself fighting a bunch of battles while she slept, and then while I was actively taking care of her, I would go back and catch up on all the story stuff, which you can just watch endlessly until you are caught up with everything you’ve unlocked. That said, while I got a kick out of the bizarre narrative, it is clear that the developers started with “Exosuits shooting massive waves of dinosaurs” and then constructed a story backwards from there. I imagine that only about 10% of players are going to actually take the time to sit through all of the story material. I would think that most people are just there to shoot dinosaurs. And again, the game is fine with that.

The dino shooting is fun as hell. I’ve long been on record about my mediocre level of ability when it comes to shooters. Even so, I do get pulled into them now and then. I particularly enjoyed the first year of Overwatch’s release, where I ended up finding a fair amount of success as a D.Va main, and Exoprimal reminds me of that magical time before everything got all toxic and hypercompetitive.

For me, games like this are about experimenting around with the various heroes on offer, then zeroing in on the one that speaks to me the most. I then focus all of my efforts on perfecting my gameplay with that one character before expanding slowly out into the rest of the roster.

In the case of Exoprimal, the character that has pulled me in is the diminutive support healer, Witchdoctor. I’ve got Witchdoctor up to around level 40 at this point (which is kinda meaningless after the first 20 levels, because you’ve unlocked all of the character’s leveling goodies), and I’ve been playing Exoprimal almost exclusively with him, living in fear of the day that Capcom decides that the build I’ve been using is too powerful and needs a nerf.

There are three types of characters – known as Exosuits – in Exoprimal. In layman’s terms, they can be reduced to damage, tanks, and support. But within these categories are enough different characters that you can approach those three roles in dramatically different ways. And with Witchdoctor, I’ve discovered that by equipping and investing in different “modules”, which are essentially earned perks, I can create some pretty powerful builds.

So right now, my Witch Doctor can lay down AOE heals over a pretty sizable area of the battlefield and keep them on the ground about 85% of the time. This means that for the majority of the time playing, my team is able to stay fully healed and boosted, which to me is a massive success. When the number of dinos on screen gets too intense, Witch Doctor can also mitigate things with a bit of electricity-based crowd control, which can come in pretty handy in giving the rest of the team a few moments to catch up. I’ve found that as usual in games of this nature, well-played support characters are in pretty high demand, as most players seem to gravitate towards the many very cool damage dealers and tanks, so I’ve been fairly welcome on most teams.

My point with all of my Witch Doctor chatter is that Exoprimal is deeply accessible no matter what type of player you are. Want to just shoot a bunch of dinos? Want to hurl massively explosive grenades into swarms of baddies? Want to snipe, or set up turrets, or soar above the battlefield and engage in crowd control? All of these are fine - and enjoyable. No matter what type of player you are, Exoprimal will likely have a character and build that feels good to you. The controls are tight, the cooldowns for powers are manageable, and the gameplay is fun as hell no matter how you want to approach it.

One area that does feel somewhat clunky to me in Exoprimal is the character/player progression. The fact that every character has its own level (which unlocks stuff), and then the player has an overall level (which unlocks stuff), and then there is battle pass (which unlocks stuff – all cosmetic) feels like a lot to keep track of. I guess it’s kind of fun to grind through all of these various levels, and the setup does allow the player to get some sort of reward after pretty much every battle, but the sheer number of various progression tracks feels like a lot to keep track of. But then again, this is Capcom, the company that makes Monster Hunter. It’s not like they shy away from complexity.

And what are the rest of the characters like? Well, there is no getting around the fact that many of them could be politely described as “Overwatch-inspired”. There is a character that is very, very Lucio-like. And there is a Reinhardt, and a Torbjorn, and a Widowmaker. Or at least there are characters that share a noticeable number of traits with those well-known classics. But I will say that each of these at least has some wrinkle that sets them apart from their Blizzard predecessors, and I’m willing to concede that part of the homage is due to the fact that Blizzard has done such a damn good job defining what character traits would be useful in a game of this nature. I mean, if you have a game with a maze of dots, your character is gonna share some traits with Pac-Man. It is what it is.

I’ve seen some rumbling on Twitter that some folks find Exoprimal to be too “samey”, meaning that a lot of the missions feel like they are repeating on a loop, and the player is doing the same thing on the same maps over and over again. Part of that is just due to the nature and the story of the game; it is actually about being stuck in a temporal loop and looking for ways to escape. But I would also argue that some of those folks didn’t stick with the game long enough to see everything it has to offer.

As you get further into Exoprimal, major events take place that alter the types of missions you are on, and a greater number of variables come into play. It’s still about shooting a bunch of dinosaurs and racing the other team, but there are new mission types that get added into the mix as you move forward. That said, it does seem like the game takes too long to get there, and I could see a fair number of players peeling off after ten-or-so rounds, never realizing that there was more game that would open up if they stuck around.

I’ve been having a blast with Exoprimal, and the fact that I’m placed into matches almost instantly after queueing up indicates that a lot of other people are enjoying the game too. The minute-to-minute gameplay is tight, the missions are fun, and I get a kick out of the strange world that Capcom has constructed, with it’s endless dinosaur incursions and its running screwdriver jokes. Exoprimal feels both unique and familiar at the same time, and to me, it hits a sweet spot where I just want to keep launching myself into missions over and over again. If you haven’t checked it out yet, think about giving it a shot. You might just find yourself enjoying the time loop as much as I do.

Exoprimal is both familiar and unique, with intense gameplay, tight controls, and an interesting mix of PVE and PVP gameplay. The sheer number of characters offers a lot of interesting ways to approach the game, and the ability to shift builds adds even more depth to possible team construction. Some players might find the game repetitive, but I've enjoyed getting to know the maps and systems and exploring the bonkers storyline. Recommended for players looking for something deeply accessible and a little different. I'm having a blast with Exoprimal, and can't wait to see where it goes next.

Rating: 8.5 Very Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

Howdy.  My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids.  During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories.  I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 and PS VR2 to my headset collection.  I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.

My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then.  I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep.  Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, Series S, PS5, PS VR2, Quest 3, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super sweet gaming PC built by John Yan.  While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.

When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect. I also co-host the Chronologically Podcast, where we review every film from various filmmakers in order, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.

Follow me on Twitter @eric_hauter, and check out my YouTube channel here

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