The Outfit Updated Impressions - Multiplayer Mayhem

THQ shows off the multiplayer mode of its squad-based shooter.

THQ and reps from Canadian developer Relic unveiled the multiplayer modes to be found in The Outfit today. The squad-based Xbox 360 shooter was initially shown off at last year's E3 and has made subsequent appearances on Microsoft's nascent console in the ensuing months, gaining more polish with every showing. Our latest look at the game afforded us a look and playtime with the game's multiplayer game modes, which have been kept under wraps. Though still in need of some polish, the modes offer a respectable amount of variety and fun.

Vehicle combat will play a big role in The Outfit's multiplayer matches.

In case you haven't been following The Outfit, the game puts you in control of three extremely capable Allied soldiers, J.D. Tyler, Deuce Williams, and Tommy Mac, who are sent against a rogue German general who is wreaking havoc across the French countryside, as villains do. The single-player game will feature 12 missions set across Europe that will focus on your efforts to stop the madman and, while you're at it, pitch in to aid the Allies' war efforts. The multiplayer game will let you play with up to eight friends online via Xbox Live, split-screen, or system link. In addition, you'll also be able to play co-op via system link or Xbox live. Unlike multiplayer modes that repurpose single-player content, The Outfit's multiplayer mode will feature 12 original levels that will let you play one of three game types: strategic victory, destruction, or deathmatch.

Strategic victory is a competition that charges you with taking over key points on the map. The more you hold, the quicker you'll cause your opponents' command-point count to drop to zero, which will win you the match. Destruction is a madcap race to destroy everything on the map before your opponent. Finally, deathmatch is just what its name implies, a whole lot of killin'. You'll be able play as either the single-player game's trio of Allied forces heroes or as their Axis counterparts, Nina H., Hans von Beck, and Klaus Mortar. Each set of fighters will have their own unique set of weapons and squad commands that you'll need to familiarize yourself with in order to ensure victory. As we mentioned, you'll be able to play out any of the above in any configuration of up to eight players, be it player versus player or teams.

The gameplay mechanics in The Outfit work well with the game, offering a welcome array of options. At the top level you'll find your hero's unique weapons and squad-control features. Following that you'll see the destruction-on-demand mechanic, which lets you summon any number of different assists, ranging from vehicles you can drive, weapon emplacements you can man, air strikes you can call for in order to clear out foes, or reinforcements you can request when the need arises by using points you'll earn through combat. Finally, you'll have the options for close-quarters melee combat when the need arises. It's a good mix of options to make use of during battle, and most work well. We're not entirely sold on the vehicle handling, which isn't as responsive or intuitive to use as we'd like, but we approve of the idea behind the vehicles.

Though your goal in The Outfit's single-player game is to kill the Nazis, in multiplayer modes you'll be able to fight as the bad guys.

We're also pleased to see some interesting safeguards in place to prevent abuse of summoning vehicles or air strikes by tying their use to specific structures on the battlefield. For example, each of the items you can summon via destruction on demand is tied to specific structures you'll need to take control of. Taking control of a radio tower will let you call in air strikes, while a motor pool will yield a broader array of vehicles to summon, and armories will let you call in weapon emplacements. If you do manage to secure all those facilities, though, watch out for the near-karmic moments when, if you're not careful, your summoned destruction items will take you out. Basically, in order to use the destruction-on-demand feature, you'll choose from a menu of available items that you can place anywhere around you. After you've settled on a location, you'll leave a smoky flare on the ground to signal your forces to drop the goods for you. However, if you're not careful with regards to where you're standing, your goody box from the sky could fall directly on you, with fatal results. Our only other complaint from our playtime is that water is deadly to man and machine; c'mon, people, these are military vehicles and personnel--they should be able to deal with some water.

The visuals in The Outfit have come a long way since the game's modest E3 debut, when they consisted of a lone fighter going through an environment. The level of detail has improved each time we've seen the game, and our glimpse today was certainly the best the visuals have looked yet. The various environments we saw proved to be good showcases for the lighting and particle effects Relic's engine is coaxing out of the 360 hardware. However, the most significant aspect of the visuals is the sheer amount of destruction possible and the decidedly over-the-top approach the game takes in showing it off. You'll see bridges go down in spectacular fashion and explosions rain down like hellfire, especially during air strikes. The interactivity ranges from large-scale destruction, as we just mentioned, to finer details such as fence posts being taken out individually. The character models feature a good amount of detail, although we're hoping they'll get some tighter animation; running looks a bit sketch right now, and death animations are all over the map in terms of quality. Still, despite those rough spots, the visual quality of The Outfit is sharp and moves along at a fairly solid frame rate.

When you absolutely, positively want to ensure someone is dead...

The audio in the game has come together nicely and offers an engaging cacophony of madness. You'll hear all sorts of yelling as soldiers engage the enemy or are taken out. The cries will often reflect the method in which they're taken out, with prolonged cries being a telltale sign of a fiery demise, as opposed to shorter grunts, which let you know a hail of bullets found their mark. The voice in the game will also hip you to beneficial occurrences, such as incoming reinforcements. Weapon fire is, as you'd expect, central to The Outfit's audio and comes in all sorts of varieties to reflect the arsenal unleashed against you in the game. Vehicle audio is equally important to the experience, whether it's the roar of your tank's engine or jeep or the rumble of planes overheard. The package of effects adds a lot to the experience. Finally, the music in the version of the game we played suits the action well enough, although it has a fairly by-the-numbers feel to it.

Based on what we played, The Outfit's multiplayer is shaping up to be a strong complement to the single-player game. The visuals are flashy and crisp, and the frame rate is looking solid. The control, although rough and quirky in spots, works well enough. Finally, the offline and online offerings and the combination of available modes go well together and should provide players with a fair chunk of action to explore. We're eager to see how the final game shapes up when The Outfit ships exclusively for the Xbox 360 this March. Look for more on the game in the coming weeks.

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