THQ stopped by to demo the latest build of The Outfit, its upcoming World War II third-person shooter in development for the Xbox 360 at Relic Entertainment. If you haven't kept up with our previous coverage, then we'll fill you in quickly. You'll be put in control of three extremely capable Allied soldiers as you tackle some of the Axis' most fortified installations. The game follows your efforts against a rogue German general who is rampaging across the French countryside, slaughtering civilians and generally being a bad guy. You'll fight across 12 missions as you try to stop this madman and pitch in to aid the Allies' war efforts across Europe.
As we've covered before, the three playable characters--J.D. Tyler, Deuce Williams, and Tommy Mac--feature distinctly different weapons and other gameplay features, since they come packing a sniper rifle, bazooka, or machine gun and flamethrower, respectively. The three characters can issue general attack-and-suppress orders to the AI soldiers who will fight alongside you, and each of the three also has a unique command, from tear gas to melee attacks to assaulting enemy vehicles. You'll be able to vary your attacks and strategy frequently, since each time you die you'll be allowed to switch to one of the other characters when you respawn.
Don't think of The Outfit as just a mindless shooter; it looks like there will be a fair amount of strategy involved, too. You'll accumulate points called field units as you wage war, and you can use these points to purchase troop reinforcements, machine gun and antitank gun emplacements, and even vehicles like armed jeeps and tanks. You can simply pop up a radial menu that shows the reinforcements available for purchase, and once you've bought something, you can actively choose where you want to put it on the battlefield. This will let you create choke points, fortify sensitive positions, and so on, which seems like it will lend the gameplay a lot more depth than your average shooter.
Then again, the shooting and destruction still seem to be the primary focus. You can jump into and control pretty much any vehicle you see in the entire game (there are 20 available in all), and this includes commandeering enemy vehicles for your own purposes. You can even have AI characters hop in with you to man mounted machine guns and such, though you'll actually get to do all the driving and shooting yourself. The more powerful vehicle-mounted weapons will be necessary to knock down entire buildings, which you can actually do one chunk at a time with the right mix of projectiles and perseverance.
The destruction-on-demand system will even be tied into your mission objectives. In the demo mission we saw, several key Axis positions had to be claimed by Allied forces, including a motor pool and a radio tower. Each time one of these points is captured, more items are made available for purchase during the remainder of the mission. Taking the motor pool, for instance, adds tanks to the list of available vehicles, while securing the radio tower allows you to pony up some field units to call in massively destructive air strikes against enemy forces.
As with all Xbox 360 games, The Outfit will provide you a number of opportunities to rack up "achievements" that will add gamer points to your Xbox Live profile. The criteria for some achievements will be made available to the player, while others will have to be uncovered through experimentation. One achievement, for instance, will require you to take a particular hill within a specific mission without suffering any casualties. But unlike most 360 games, which merely give you bragging rights to go along with your gamer points, The Outfit's gameplay will actually be affected as you unlock more achievements. For every two you complete, one of your characters' weapons will be upgraded, making them more powerful, enhancing fire rate, and so on.
The Outfit seems to be coming along well, in advance of its March 2006 release time frame. The game ought to offer a good mix of hardcore shooting and light strategy, all mixed together in an attractive package that is making good use of the Xbox 360's graphical muscle. We'll bring you more information on the game as it surfaces.