Scourge: Outbreak is a third person shooter where you guide a team of space marines into battle against mercenary forces and an alien threat. Our heroes wield shotguns and assault rifles and crouch behind knee high walls, despite being built like linebackers for some reason. If this sounds familiar to you, then congratulations on your purchase of an Xbox 360 in the previous generation. What we have here is a Gears of War knockoff made with the same quality and care that the Chinese put into every iPid they sell on EBay. The project started light years ago as an episodic title back when you could still release those with a straight face, and Outbreak is a remastered bundle of the two episodes that ended up being made back then. So perhaps the best thing I can say about the game is that there is a version out there somewhere that looks and plays worse than this one.
The campaign has you choose from one of four members of Echo Squad, each one fitting right into the standard mold you’d expect from a team of space marines. You have the no-nonsense leader, the musclebound tough guy, the stealthy assassin, and the girl. You set out on your mission to rescue a scientist (of course!), accompanied by a similar group of marines that turns against your squad within the first twenty minutes of gameplay. You then slowly fight your way through waves of faceless goons dressed in black, before eventually coming into contact with the titular alien outbreak. There is voice acting and cutscenes explaining most of these things, including some scenes that are unique to each character, but it’s so run of the mill that it barely registers as information you’re supposed to remember.
Scourge: Outbreak (PC [Reviewed], XBLA)
Developer: Tragnarion Studios
Publisher: UFO Interactive Games Inc
Released: April 2, 2014 (Steam)
MSRP: $7.99 (PC), $9.99 (XBLA)
Getting back to the aliens for a minute, they are truly what brings the game down from a passable shooter to the depths of unplayable hell. Their introduction has the same dampening effect that the Flood in The Library have during the Halo campaign. They’re small, spider-like creatures that can go all around the walls and ceilings, which might be novel in a third person shooter if it wasn’t for the fact that they swarm you from the word go. Missions involving them are hard enough when playing in co-op, which is obviously what the missions were designed for, but they’re maddeningly frustrating in single player with your three AI companions unable to overcome their constant barrage of acid spit and lunging. Add in to all that the fact that each one of them continuously howls like a sick alley cat, even after you and your teammates are dead and you’re waiting to go back to a checkpoint, and you have the definition of discouraging combat.
The obvious solution to these problems would be to lure a friend over and play through the game MST3K style, but alas, this is impossible. Scourge: Outbreak features no split screen functionality at all, which is a tragedy for a game that relies on co-op so heavily for its basic functionality. The game also features a basic deathmatch multiplayer component, but the servers on it and its online co-op lobbies are routinely empty or filled with one lonely soul forever waiting for a partner. One thing that the game has going for it is its $8 price point, so if you HAD to round up some buddies, it’s not going to break the bank for anyone. However, don’t blame your friends if they don’t join up again after a single session of weak guns, bullet sponge opponents and hackneyed dialogue straight out of a SyFy Original Movie.
I could keep going on and on, but at a certain point it just feels like beating a dead horse. In its best moments, Scourge: Outbreak can only aspire to be average, and at its worst its a frustrating mess that feels out of a different generation of games. Its price is so low that it might lure in the most penny pinching of gamers, but even then they would be better advised to find a copy of any of the Gears of War games for cheap, or perhaps try out one of its many knockouts currently sitting in bargain bins everywhere. Shooters, even those in the third person, have been oversaturating the market for years, and you have to do something extremely special to get noticed. Scourge: Outbreak doesn’t do anything special. It’s not broken, but it’s also not particularly fun even when firing on all cylinders, and that’s the most damning thing of all.