Scourge: Outbreak is ‘right into the fire’ sort of action game, where it doesn’t want to mince words, rather it just wants to get you into the action. You play one of the four members of the Echo Squad, which was formed to help take down former teammates called the Alpha Squad. They have to get after and take down Alpha before they can invade the Nogari Corporation, which is housing an alien compound called Ambrosia. The Ambrosia, which is being experimented on heavily by Nogari, can be used to replenish and form dangerous powers that can make an individual nearly unstoppable. It’s a good setup that certainly helps drive Scourge: Outbreak’s action, so that’s a huge plus.
Story aside, the gameplay is what you would expect from a shooter like this. The option for four players to jump in and do some fun damage is enticing, especially for old school gamers that were around during the arcade days of four-player shooters/action titles (G.I. Joe and Avengers cabinets, you are missed). Heck, even the good folks at Insomniac dabbled in this sort of gameplay recently with their less-than-stellar FUSE title that EA published. So, if you’re going into this game with aspirations that you’re getting a straightforward co-op game then you won’t be disappointed with the results. You’ll get plenty of action, and some fine things that go along with it.
Two of those ‘things’ in the game is a large variety of weapons and scoring system. For example, you can pick up weapons like the shotgun, handgun and sniper rifle, which doesn’t sound like much, but it provides enough variety (there are more than that, but those are the major ones). Each weapon has it’s own range and its strengths/weaknesses. Even deeper with the weapons, the game also has modified versions of each, which provide a bit more kick to the firepower. For example, the handgun can be found with a nice little targeting system on it, which makes it easier to look down sight when you’re shooting at an enemy far away. The weapons can be found almost everywhere, as apparently the Nogari Corporation loves leaving ammo, grenades and weapons in nearly every corner for its employees (joking — well, sorta). You will never be short of easily accessible firearms and firearm ammo.
Outside of firearms, your players come equipped with Ambrosia driven powers that help keep you and your team alive. For example, I played as the badass Shade, whose abilities included throwing out a shield to protect against fire, and to through out a quick burst that could clear an area of a room quickly. The sad part is that I forgot to use his powers 80% of the time. They came in useful when needed, but the amount of guns/ammo in the game really didn’t call for me pulling out Shade’s powers most of the time. Still a neat idea, though.
Related to the weapons, you also score a variety of points depending on how you kill enemies. You get points for long distance shots, points for head shots and points for killing the enemy. The points and experience for each kill add up to upgrades, leveling and other nice little perks. The point system will help to cover up some of the flaws with the title, it’s nice to see unlockables and whatnot rewarded to gamers who do well. Rewarding gamers for their hard work is always a definitely plus for any game.
Having said that, not all is well with the gameplay.
The rough parts of Tragnario Studios’ Scourge starts with the nervous control scheme. What I mean by ‘nervous’ is that it’s tough to control your character when you’re trying to do things like run, duck and aim straight (some of us don’t like lock-on targeting — sorry). I had a helluva time trying to run down hallways, as it was nearly impossible to keep Shade straight and on task. Most of the time I would run for about 2-3 seconds and then stop. If I kept running then I would have to anticipate and account for wide turning ratios when trying to go around curves. It was a bit flawed to say the least, and totally not my fault. When I wasn’t having issues with running, I was having issues with ducking behind walls and what not for cover. Sometimes Shade would pin himself against a wall perfectly, but sometimes he decided he wanted to roll into the wall, as the jump button is assigned to the same button as ducking, and the same button as running (A). Why is this so bad? Well, the game sends waves and waves of grenade chucking enemies towards you as you progress in the stage, so the room for error is high when it comes to the lack of stable controls. In my opinion, this hurt the game the most, and made for a frustrating experience at time.
Now, secondary to the control issues is how the game treated enemy AI versus friendly AI. The friendly AI was a dream come true, as they actually did what most action games don’t do, which is having your fellow CPU players actually contribute to defeating enemies in a fight. If you were reloading or you’re trapped in a specific area, you can actually count on your teammates. Should you get hit enough in the game, your character will have a red medical cross appear over them, which means they need help from a teammate. Your teammates will judge the situation and try to get to you ASAP to bring you back into the action. Sometimes they fail, and the entire team goes down in their attempt, but most of the time you can count on them to bring you back into the firefight fold. Hell, you couldn’t even count on your teammates in the first Black Ops, so seeing a small release like this trump a game like that in the friendly AI department is nothing short of impressive.
Having said that, the enemy AI is a mixed bag of nuts. Sometimes the enemies will judge a particular firefight situation and back off or seek cover. Sometimes your enemies will run at you regardless of numbers and the sidearms your sporting. It’s a bit unpredictable and sometimes downright ridiculous. For example, there was a single enemy hiding from my teammates and me. He was the last guy in the fight and for some strange reason he felt compelled to jump over his barrier, run towards us and hide right in front of us. Why would he do that? No idea, but it was fun to watch everyone dispatch him quickly. It seems like Tragnario Studios really struggled to get the enemy AI right. Sometimes it was brilliant, but sometimes it was just baffling. It needed a bit more work.
Staying on the topic of enemies, it felt like they were just coming in waves halfway through the game. While the boss battles were fun, challenging and different, you’ll find a lot of the enemy waves just repeating themselves in the game. The first two levels of the game will get boring quick, as you do a LOT of stop and go fighting with the nearly the same type of enemies. Don’t get me wrong, there is a variety out there, and some of the bigger/badder/well-armored folks will give you some trouble, but the fighting will feel a bit repetitive for a good part of the game. Scourge: Outbreak is a action game, so slowing down every 20-30 seconds in between fights is a bit tiring at times, especially when you’re fighting with the controls. I wish the fights had been spaced out a bit more and maybe a puzzle or two thrown in to break up the monotony of the waves of enemies. By the time Scourge starts mixing it up a bit, which happens somewhere around the end of level two with a flying airplane/hovering vehicle as a target, you already have a bland taste in your mouth. It does get better, but a bit more gameplay variety and less enemies might have made it less of a chore.
One final note, I did run into a few bugs in the gameplay. One bug in particular had me chuckle a bit because there was nothing I could do about it except start the checkpoint over again. I went to duck behind a box, which happened to be right in the middle of the box. Two of my teammates thought that was a smashing idea, so they joined me on the right/left. Well, because I was first to the box, their characters were jammed up against me, which trapped me. I literally couldn’t stand up or move from my position because they had me pinned from both sides against the box. I have never seen that happen before in a game, but it happened in this one. I will go easy on it for this bug because it made me laugh.
So, all of this possibly makes you think I hate Scourge: Outbreak, and surprisingly that is not the case.
The game is pretty to look at, though not by any means going to win awards for style, and it feels like a fun action game should feel like. When you get into the game, and into the story, then you’ll enjoy it — yes, even with its flaws. I enjoyed the game and I’m still playing it to unlock things and level up my characters. It’s a pure action title that does what it says it’s going to do, and more importantly it doesn’t try to be more than it really is. Sure it needs some tightening here and there, and some reworking on the enemy AI, but it is far better than most big budget flops of its kind. Of course, the most important element to this game is that it only costs 800 MSP ($10). Had you bought this game and then bought a game like FUSE, I challenge you to prove FUSE is far better — because it’s not. What FUSE is, though, is about $49 more than Scourge: Outbreak. For $10 you can take a chance on Scourge: Outbreak, as it does have some fun moments in it, which make it worth your money. It won’t win any awards for brilliance, but I don’t think it is striving to do that. It does have multiplayer capabilities, but sadly that was a bit bare when trying to play. Buy it for the campaign and for the low price.