Exoprimal, Capcom’s newest hero shooter/PvE experience, was something certainly unexpected and even harder to dissect. With the initial foundation of “robots shooting dinosaurs,” one would think that the clay Capcom is playing with would turn into something easily found next to Michelangelo’s David. Instead, it’s more like something you would find at a wax museum.
Game Name: Exoprimal
Platform(s): Xbox Series X|S (review), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC
Release Date: July 14, 2023
That is not to say that Exoprimal did not meet its metrics in the “fun” department, more so that the confusing narrative structure, insistence on poorly implemented player versus player elements, and the lack of more diversity within its own walls is what has left me scratching my head at Exoprimal. Even though it admittedly does scratch that itch!
What’s going on here?
Exoprimal’s narrative set piece is definitely interesting to take a look at, particularly because of the fact that Capcom decided to squeeze in a relatively modest story offering within what is otherwise pretty much an entirely online game. While there is no single-player campaign mode (which I would’ve been over the moon for,) the offering here at least gives us, as players, a backdrop to the world and its setting.
You play as a new recruit nicknamed “Ace,” who is referred to by the supporting cast of interesting enough characters. Set in the near future, the main story revolves around the antagonist “Leviathan,” an artificial intelligence entity forcing the inhabitants of Bikitoa island to compete in “war games,” challenges it uses to gather intel, or whatever the heck it is that AI does. The job of the player is to uncover the mystery of the island and escape Leviathan’s grasp. The confusing part of this game is that story progression is only unlocked by participating in PvP modes and uncovering intel that is scattered around the playable maps.
With each piece of intel gathered, new cutscenes and story bits are unraveled, ultimately leading you to discover the way to leave the island of Bikitoa. Overall I did enjoy the well-written and voiced cutscenes, and they added some pretty interesting exposition to the game, but the ways in which the game drip-fed me the story was just a confusing experience for me. I would assume most players are not diving into Exoprimal for its heavy narrative tropes, but it’s still interesting that it exists in a game so heavily centered around its multiplayer offerings.
The sights and sounds of Dino culling
I said it during the beta of this game, but Exoprimal is one of the best-looking console games to come out this year. Running at a native 4K and easily hitting 60 frames with zero hiccups (other than the occasional crash), the optimization is surely here, and it’s lovely. Rich textures, scaley enemies, and brute metal firepower all make up parts of the experience that is playing Exoprimal.
While the current selection of maps is not anything to write home about, each one offers a visual treat to players. Whether it is running through a lush jungle or blasting your way through an abandoned cityscape, the environments of Exoprimal were crafted with intent and design that works so well with its mission-based gameplay. Weapons look great and do good a great job conveying that you’re wielding weapons of mass destruction. Dinosaurs scream with rage and agony, and each exosuit has its own unique way of filling out the sonic space within the game. Music is also a treat to listen to, with segmented pieces capturing moments of gameplay that just add that much more to the experience of blasting dinos.
Gameplay is king, except for when it isn’t
It is no secret that without good gameplay, an action game is doomed to fail. Luckily, Exoprimal’s gameplay is its bread and butter. Among the things listed above, nothing is more satisfying than the fast-paced and hectic gameplay of blasting through hordes of dinosaurs and landing that final blow on a giant T-Rex. Each wargame is separated into smaller missions that might have your team defending an objective at one point, taking down a triceratops next, and then moving on to chasing a larger dinosaur.
It works well and allows players to focus their attention on specific moment-to-moment gameplay instead of just running around aimlessly through Bikitoa. The issue I initially had in the beta version of the game was that at the end of a fun cooperative experience, I was then instructed to focus my attention on both the dinosaurs and enemy players, which to me, took away my focus from both. It just felt so rushed and shoehorned into the game that it left me wondering why it was implemented, to begin with.
It seems, however, that the PvP is what Capcom is setting a lot of its focus on for this release, even after the clear backlash the beta received for this mode, playing as a worse version of Blizzarrd’s Overwatch. One thing to note is that players can now choose which endgame they want to participate in, be that PvP or PvE, a much-welcomed change.
To me, this is a co-op game through and through, and even with the slight competitiveness of having two squads to compete for the fastest time, the game shines when you use the right light on it. Moving onto the exosuits themselves, each one plays differently and compliments a team setting. One might have you healing your team from afar on rollerblades, and another might have you using a shield to block a charge from a pachycephalosaurus.
I quite enjoyed the designs and weapons of each exofighter, and did not feel like there were too many that were blatantly overpowered or underpowered. Each exosuit can be equipped with nodes that work sort of like a perk system by having three customizable slots that can be used to equip boosts such as damage, speed, and agility. It allows for some much-welcomed customization and reason to grind for those who enjoy putting in the hours to max out their characters.
My favorite part of the game so far had to be the 10-person battle against the giant T-Rex. As a PvE endgame, this allowed for both teams to team up to fight against a super-powered Tyrannosaurus Rex, who worked as sort of a super-boss. Seeing all the different exosuits flying around and shooting was something to behold. Players not even on my team previously would come to heal me and put up their shields to block incoming attacks prefacing again how much this could’ve worked as solely cooperative.
Enjoyable, but not without some flaws
The groundwork was laid out and set in the stars; it’s just a shame that Exoprimal sort of suffers from a crisis of identity juxtaposed with its incredibly simple source material. While the high points are high indeed, the lows are all too real when looking at this game.
With the sometimes confusing narrative layout, poorly implemented PvP elements, and just an overall odd sense about dispatching dinosaurs, Exoprimal stands as one of the most confusingly enjoyable experiences I have played this year. I am very much looking forward to what they have in store for future updates and changes to the gameplay, and can’t wait to get back to vanquishing the prehistoric.
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Exoprimal stands as one of the most confusingly enjoyable cooperative experiences I have played in 2023. And thanks to the player feedback, Capcom has implemented a change that allows players to play either in PVE or PVP mode. Exoprimal will appeal to players on both sides of the fence. Sure, the game has some faults, but it’s still a blast to play, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Capcom goes with Exoprimal.
- Blasting Dinosaurs
- Co-op gameplay is a treat
- Character and suit customization
- visually stunning
- excellent sound design
- Worth it for Game Pass owners
- Confusing story aspects
- No single-player offering
- emphasis on player versus player
- Small number of maps
- Mild performance issues
- Exoprimal Review: Tyrannosaurus Mechs