Remember the rush of excitement you got when ploughing through hordes of the terrifying Locust in Gears of War and feeling the adrenaline pump when blasting their monstrous brains out with a satisfying boom and squelch? Remember the intuitive combat in the Mass Effect series wherein you commanded a small squad and had an arsenal of powerful weapons and powers at your disposal, how fun was that eh? Well meet Scourge: Outbreak, the somehow ugly and soulless offspring of these current generation gems.
When the opening CGI cinematic plays and we’re introduced to the overwrought and frankly, embarrassing sci-fi story which is preceded by one of the most desperate attempts at a ‘hardcore shooter’ title screen I have ever seen, I knew this was not going to be a fun experience. Scourge, in one word is generic. Not one original idea or concept pervades throughout the whole torturous six hour campaign in which you explore barren, brown wastelands in the overly bulky boots of Echo squad.
The team of bland meatheads are dispatched on a mission to retrieve a mad scientist from an evil corporation’s island headquarter base as well as discover the mystery between a meteorite landing and the strange substance which fuels their suits and powers.
Every cliché from the 90’s sci fi drivel C-movies seems to have been pilfered and shoved into this hackneyed story in any which way it fits. Echo Squad is the latest in the meathead war mercenary character clichés with slight twists such as ‘ooh, look at this one, he has strange scars, mysterious spooky eyes and a slightly whispy voice.’
This must be ‘Shade’ the mystery of the team. We get to pick from four of these slight variations of what is essentially the same character to play as through the campaign. Each of the squad mates, supposedly, has different skills and abilities. None of these were showcased and used inventively when playing through the campaign as another character. It’s bad enough subjecting yourself to the experience of playing this through once, let alone again albeit with a different skin.
As a 3rd person, cover shooter we could at least expect a fairly fun shooting mechanic and some satisfying guns to play around with for an hour or so right? Well, no. Not quite. The whole combat mechanics in Scourge feel off with no feedback from guns, you may as well be firing water pistols at these Storm Trooper-esque enemies.
Each gun is wildly inaccurate as each shot sends the weapon flying upwards with recoil after the first round meaning it’s incredibly hard to land a single shot. You know something’s not right when you’re not even getting any enjoyment out of squeezing off a headshot from long range.
The AI in Scourge is simply atrocious. The enemies will constantly saunter into a hailstorm of bullets from yourself and your squad as if they’re invincible, only to be shot down two seconds later. Your squad mates are no better. Other than being capable of obeying the simplest of ‘go here’ commands issued by the right bumper and face buttons, they are pretty much useless. I was downed in the middle of a ‘wait here and fight wave after wave of the same enemy whilst the timer counts down’ mission and the squad continued to ignore me whilst my soldier remained swaying on their knees.
The combat is dull and repetitive with no original contributions to the mechanics. An attempt to replicate Mass Effect’s biotic powers is poorly made here but they’re so under powered and pointless that they’re not even needed and I forgot about them as quickly as they were introduced.
While it’s important to remember that Scourge was developed with a very small team and limited budget, and it only costs a measly 800 Microsoft Points, there is no excuse for this poor level of polish on a game. The environments look dreadful with muddy textures and overused assets. The character models are laugh-worthy and the voice work is cringe inducing.
This is a blatant attempt to cash in on the success of games that have done this venture a whole lot more successfully. While it might be alright to stick on with your mates if you really have nothing left to do and you’ve exhausted every other option available on a Friday night, just don’t expect it to entertain you for hours. In fact, don’t expect much entertainment at all.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.