Exoprimal - What Kind of Game Are We Playing Here? - PreviewPaul Broussard , posted on 09 August 2022 / 2,626 Views
I’ve been a little worried about Capcom as of late. The company's output certainly hasn’t been bad, far from it, but after the incredible highs of the late 2010s with titles like Resident Evil 7, Devil May Cry 5, Resident Evil 2 Remake, Monster Hunter World, and Devil May Cry 3 for Switch, it feels like things have tapered off a bit. Resident Evil Village and Monster Hunter Rise were, by my assessment, both solid titles held back by some conflicting design choices and a relative lack of content, respectively. On top of that, the Resident Evil 3 Remake was pretty disappointing on all fronts and Devil May Cry 5’s Special Edition was just plain lazy.
Enter Exoprimal, the latest big budget title from Capcom. Scheduled to release in 2023, the game sells itself as a team-based dinosaur shooter that is totally definitely not the same thing as Dino Crisis. More relevantly, it held a closed beta at various points over the last month, which I got to participate in. Did this limited window indicate that Exoprimal is Capcom’s next big hit, or is it another worrying sign that the highs of the late 2010s may not have carried over into the 2020s?
Right off the bat, the general controls certainly feel good. Exoprimal is based around piloting one of a series of mech suits, and the moment to moment gameplay definitely handles well. Dodging, shooting, and using special abilities all work nicely, and blowing up a bunch of dinosaurs with a well-placed grenade or diving in to slice up a group of velociraptors doesn’t get old.
Class variety is an important element of any team shooter, and the Exoprimal beta did deliver pretty well on this front, with a ranged assault class, a melee class, a tank, and a healer. The two offensive classes were the most enjoyable during my time with the game, but the supports had their merits as well. One of the more interesting elements is you can swap classes mid match, which expands variety and also allows for some interesting team composition switching on the fly.
The beta test for Exoprimal consisted ostensibly of just one “game mode,” although it occasionally broke off into a separate challenge. The first mode, at least for me, showed up far more commonly than the second, and was part of the “Wargame,” in which two teams of five players are told by an overseeing AI that they will compete to see who can kill several waves of dinosaurs the fastest. This description turned out to be only partially true, however, as once a team finishes the last dinosaur wave, they're transported somewhere else and have to engage with an entirely different objective, such as picking up a variety of cubes or defending a slow moving transport.
The twist is that, once you reach this final objective, both teams spawn in the same area, and members from opposing teams can very much interact with each other by way of bullets to the head. You can stop the other team from moving their object or steal cubes they’ve collected by killing them. And since this is the final objective, what this generally means is that, unless one team is substantially out in front of the other, the actual determinant of the contest is not which team is better at killing dinosaurs, but rather, other players.
Even on those rare occasions when your team gets such a sizable lead that you would be able to finish moving your object before the other team is in range, Exoprimal will pull some Mario Kart-esque shenanigans and flat out spawn in very powerful dinosaurs controlled by players on the other team that will slow you down. And it has no shame about doing this, either; one round saw my team get so far ahead (about a full minute) that the opposing team got three different dinosaur spawns. Another match had the inverse outcome, where the other team eventually got several objectives ahead of us, but we managed to come back simply because we dominated the PvP phase at the end.
I’m not a huge fan of this from a design standpoint; if the big selling point of the game is killing dinosaurs, then the deciding factor in a match should be... well, who is better at killing dinosaurs. I understand the desire to keep things exciting until the end, but surely there are more effective ways to do that than turning things from a dinosaur shooter into standard PvP combat, especially since as a PvP shooter Exoprimal is somewhat lackluster.
Thankfully there was a hidden second game mode within Wargame that showed up occasionally for me, where after killing off a wave of dinosaurs, the AI overseeing things would declare both teams as exemplary test subjects and cancel the competition in favor of having them work together to take down a series of increasingly difficult hordes of dinos. I liked this a lot more, since it reinforces the cooperative dinosaur killing element. The sheer number of players involved did tend to make things a tad easy; with ten players on the field working together, it's hard to really feel that threatened. I think this would have been a particularly interesting challenge if it had just been available with a 5 person team from the start.
Overall, it’s a little tough to gauge much from the Exoprimal beta. In fairness, it makes certain you’re aware that there will be more modes in the final product, so it's tough to say whether the full release will place a greater emphasis on killing dinosaurs. If it will, I’d be curious why Wargame is the mode the developers chose to shown off here, but if it won’t, and the majority of the main game has a heavy sprinkling of PvP involved, I have to say I’d be a lot less optimistic. Dinosaur killing is definitely the strength of Exoprimal; the class layouts, controls, and general feel of the game are all much better suited to cooperative dino killing than team based PvP. There’s the foundation of a really fun title here, but we’ll have to wait and see what Capcom decides to build on top of that foundation.