There are games that are bad, then there are games that are really bad. Scourge: Outbreak, the newest offering from Tragnarion Studios, is a bad game that falls into neither of the aforementioned categories. This is a game that falls into the category of, “How could a game this poorly made ever see the light of day?”
Listen, I’ve played some pretty horrible games. In fact, most of the titles I review for We Got This Covered turn out to be quite terrible. It’s not that I’m a glutton for punishment of anything. I just usually get saddled with crummy games for review.
In all my years of playing videogames, though, I have yet to come across something as terrible as Scourge: Outbreak. Painful to play and upsetting to even think about, I’m struggling to find one nice thing to say about my experience with it. No matter which way you cut it, this is a piss-poor excuse for a videogame and all who were involved in its making should be ashamed of themselves.
What the game tries to pass off as a story revolves around Echo Squad, a group of mercenaries hired by a corporation known as the Tran Initiative. Our protagonists are tasked with two things. First: rescue one of the corporation’s double-agents. Second: bring back a piece of the meteorite fragment that a rival company is using to take control of the world. After a quick briefing aboard an airplane that explains all that, you’re dropped onto some foreign island and off you go.
That’s really the extent of the story and quite frankly, it’s absolutely throwaway. I would have actually preferred it if they hadn’t included a plot at all. Not only is it just plain boring and very uninteresting, but it’s also pulled straight out of every other sci-fi shooter in existence. Describing it as banal would be a compliment to the writers. Literally every element of the story, from the characters to the plot twists to the situations our heroes find themselves in, it’s all cliched down to the core and is a direct slap in the face to gamers who actually care about the plot that drives forward the gameplay.
Unfortunately, the blatant ripping off and pulling from its predecessors doesn’t stop with the story and characters. It’s like the developers decided to do away with any and all originality and simply copied every other sci-fi shooter out there. The game does absolutely nothing to stand on its own.
Gameplay is pretty basic and exactly what you’d expect from a third-person shooter. You have your standard batch of weapons (assault rifle, shotgun, sniper, etc.), and a few variations of those with a sci-fi twist. None of them feel particularly powerful, though, and the shooting is pretty imprecise and all over the place.
Not to fear, though, because the enemy AI you’re up against is so incredibly brain-dead that it really doesn’t take much effort to power your way through all four, yes four, levels of the game. The only time you’ll have any difficulty is when you come up against an unfairly overpowered enemy who even after several point blank hits just won’t go down. The minor variety in enemy types does nothing to up the excitement and some of the firefights are only slightly more entertaining than watching paint dry.
I have never in my life seen AI so bad, and it doesn’t stop with the enemies. You can play the game in co-op, with up to three other people, but if you’re one of the poor souls stuck saddled with computer AI on your side, god help you. I witnessed my own squad members stuck staring at walls while in the midst of combat and, at other times, saw them shooting into thin air. Admittedly, when you go down your squad members are pretty adept at reviving you, and there were instances where they actually pulled through in the midst of a firefight, but for the most part, they don’t offer a lot of help.
Don’t expect things to get better with the level design, either. Every setting looks like it was ripped straight from “insert generic sci-fi shooter here.” You smash your way from point A to point B with little explanation or motivation for what you’re doing. It pretty much goes like this: enter an area, clear out the enemies, open the previously locked door so you can proceed, rinse and repeat. This will all take you 5-6 hours, but it feels like an eternity while you’re playing. Co-op makes it a bit better since you have real human players aiding you, with whom you can discuss the atrocities that the game commits, but it’s still the same campaign and is still painful.
Where the game tries to be different is by equipping players with something called an Ambrosia suit. The problem with this is twofold. One, this is not in any way original (we’ve seen numerous games provide you with armour or suits that grant you special abilities). The second issue with this is that the suit is useless and what it allows you to do is the epitome of lame.
With your Ambrosia suit, you’ll gain access to two abilities. You’ll be able to create a temporary shield and you’ll also be able to send off a shockwave that damages any enemies around you. Really original, right?
Neither of these powers are very useful and I found myself rarely using them, often preferring to just sit myself down behind some cover and use the good old fashioned shooting mechanics. The other thing hindering the Ambrosia suit is that it needs to be recharged after very little use and the charging containers placed around the levels don’t appear all that frequently. They are randomly dumped around the area and finding them can sometimes be a chore.
This is what really makes me mad. If you’re going to include a game mechanic to try to differentiate yourself from other titles in the genre, at least make it useful and enjoyable. The Ambrosia suit is a failure on all counts. The abilities it grants you with are mostly useless and it only does things that we’ve seen countless times before.
Now, you do get to choose between four characters at the start and, yes, each one does have its own strengths and weaknesses as well as its own backstory. However, like everything else in the game, none of that really does much to make them stand apart from one another, and when it comes down to it, they all basically play the same. Additionally, there’s also a progression system in the game that awards you XP, but it’s so poorly implemented and makes so little of a difference that it’s barely even worth mentioning.
While there is a competitive multiplayer mode available, good luck finding anyone to play with. Not that it offers anything new (just the boring old team deathmatch, deathmatch and capture the flag), but I suppose it could add a bit more playing time onto the game.
Technically, Scourge: Outbreak is all right, but it’s hardly a pleasure to look at. Animations are pretty rough and controls aren’t as smooth as they should be for a cover-based shooter. The audio and effects are good enough, but the voice acting leaves a lot to be desired. Overall, though, the game runs fairly smooth and I didn’t really encounter any bugs or glitches.
As I said before, I’ve played some really awful games in the past. Games that left bitter tastes in my mouth and had me feeling skeptical of the industry as a whole. But never, have I ever played something so uninspired, so boring, so poorly pieced together as Scourge: Outbreak. The sign of a bad game is when after an hour of playtime you stop and think to yourself, “How am I possibly going to force myself to sit through this wretched experience in order to review it?” The sign of a really bad game is when you reach that point after about 45 minutes. With Scourge: Outbreak, I was there in 20.
It’s not that the game is broken and it’s not that it doesn’t work. Scourge: Outbreak is a fully functional co-op shooter that I suppose could offer some mindless fun for a short period of time. The real problem here is that it borrows so heavily from every other entry in the genre that nothing about it feels even remotely exciting or thrilling.
Going from one corridor to another or one industrial looking area to another seems like a chore more than anything else. This is a rudimentary shooter in every sense of the word and easily could have been released in the 90s. Yes, it is an arcade game and you may think I’m asking for too much from it but I stand by my verdict. I don’t know about you but I’m not prepared to plop down my hard earned dough for a game that has me questioning why it even exists just 20 minutes in.
This review is based on the XBLA version that was provided to us for review.