It’s raining dinosaurs. It’s literally raining dinosaurs.
Need to know
What is it? A PvPvE hero shooter with all the dinosaurs
Release date: July 13, 2023
Expect to pay: £50, $60
Reviewed on: i7 9700K, RTX 2080 TI, 16GB RAM
Steam Deck: Playable
I’ve absorbed a lot of gaming elevator pitches in my time, and Exoprimal’s preposterous conceit is about as strong as they get—at least on a primal level. You look at a purple miasma forming in the sky, you watch a tide of velociraptors pour forth from it, and you say to yourself: I am absolutely going to be shooting at that.
I got a bit more conflicted after scratching that itch. Capcom’s five-person PvPvE hero shooter is irrepressibly enjoyable. It has some fantastic ideas. And almost all of them carry frustrating limitations around their neck. In short, Exoprimal’s launch state feels more like an early access phase than a finished game.
Before any extinct hides can be perforated, there’s a surprising amount of narrative setup: It’s 2043, and space-time rifts are popping up all over, spilling dinosaurs into the civilised world and stranding a crack team of gun-toting types with absolutely wild accents on Bikitoa Island where an AI named Leviathan runs endless combat experiments for an unknown purpose. Luckily for us all, the Aibius corporation has sunk huge amounts of cash into developing exosuits to help organisations like our ragtag Hammerheads fight back against the hordes.
I didn’t need this much detail to incentivise the shooting of dino tides, but we have it anyway and it doesn’t hurt (unless you count the actual physical pain of those accents hitting your ears). As you progress new text logs and cutscenes are added to the archive, a giant radial menu that slowly uncovers the mystery behind the dino-thunderstorms, the rifts, Aibius and the AI. It brings to mind Dead Rising’s piece-by-piece exposition mechanic, rewarding your game time with the next piece of the jigsaw. Gamifying even the way the story is told works surprisingly well: I found my lizard brain stimulated by each new chunk of information even though I had little emotional connection with the characters.
Beyond the cutscenes, down at ground level what we’ve got is a hybrid of co-op horde survival and the payload maps from Overwatch and TF2. Your squad of five heroes in mech suits is working together to clear each wave of dinosaurs as quickly as possible, because there’s an opposing human team doing the exact same task in a live, parallel instance. You only see them between horde stages in a match, as red silhouettes. If they finished the stage before you, you can see them running off to the next stage ahead of you. That’s a really effective carrot dangling in front of you.
Conversely, if you smashed that triceratops miniboss faster than the opposing human team, as you’re moving to the next area you’ll see the silhouettes of the other team, still fighting their own triceratops. I’ve never felt more smug in my life than I did the first time I saw that. Good luck with that health bar, suckers! I’m just gonna go chill in the next section for a bit. Peace.
(Image credit: Capcom)
I haven’t played any of that yet. But based on the time I have spent with Exoprimal so far, I’d argue that if all that were included at launch, it still might feel a bit light for £50. It feels like a game that wants to release in early access and harvest all that player feedback before refining itself, but also doesn’t want to sacrifice launch week revenue in the process.
So I find myself in the position of an embattled Exoprimal evangelist. I want this game to have a future, because like many people I’m inherently sold on mass lizard slaughter and ridiculous exosuits. But also because I’m drawn to the way Capcom drip-feeds the story, lulling you into a grind stupor then shaking up the Dino Warfare formula without warning. It has real impact when the tightly defined constraints of that mode are messed with.
But I’ve got a real PR job on my hands to get my mates signed up and on a squad with me. Because right now yes, this is it. This is the game, and it’s only just enough.