With an action packed opening sequence, The Outfit throws you smack bang into the middle of the French countryside as World War 2 rages on.
With the Nazis putting up one heck of a fight, the Americans are forced to send in The Outfit - three of their gruffest, toughest cigar-smoking GI Joe clones they can muster. Each mission you’re sent on gives you the chance to play as either Deuce Williams, Tommy Mac or J.D. Tyler. Their individual personalities may be as deep as puddles but each character does have distinct advantages on the battlefield. Their stats are displayed before each mission, giving you the chance to pick speed over health over purchasing power. The weapons each character uses also varies, with Deuce preferring a bazooka as his main weapon, while J.D. and Tommy wield shotguns and rifles. Essentially it makes very little difference which character you take on, although you’re sure to favour a particular weapon after a few levels.
Although the storyline features betrayal, assassination attempts, traitorous clergymen and attractive members of the French resistance, it feels so 2D that the aforementioned betrayals and assassinations do little to shake things up. Each twist merely gives an excuse to rush you out to some not-so-exotic location in the French countryside. Credit is due, however, to the touches of humour that do show through occasionally, leaving you with the comfortable feeling that the people who wrote the script were also laughing at themselves as they did so, imagining how bad the accents were going to turn out.
One of the more interesting aspects of the game involves the actual combat. Along with a small bunch of ragtag soldiers for support, you’re left on your own to decide the best method of attack or defense for each situation. As the leader of your group, you’re responsible for calling up reinforcements via ‘Destruction on Demand’. Exactly as it sounds, units are flown in and dropped by parachute in a matter of seconds upon receiving your request. Each enemy kill or capture of a strategic objective earns you Field Unit points (FUs) which can then be spent calling in a variety of weapons. To begin with, you’ll only be able to order up replacement soldiers, basic vehicles and simple ground-based artillery at a minimum cost. As you progress through the levels and capture armouries, motor pools and even radio towers you’ll gain access to a greater range of more expensive, powerful vehicles and weapons.
Each mission is rigidly linear, and your objectives are updated frequently. Never was a trip through the battlefields of WWII so relaxing. The vehicles are a thrill to drive at first, and I’ll happily admit I enjoyed wiping out pointless buildings merely because I was behind the wheel of a giant flame-throwing Crocodile tank. The most obvious downside to these speedy armoured vehicles is the abysmal and frustrating aiming method you’ll have to work with. Each tank takes an age to fire, and even then, the best you can hope for is for your projectile to hit in the vague area you were aiming at. Combined with the absurd amount of damage each tank can take, it leaves the action feeling distinctly blah at times. As you call up half a dozen daunting Panther tanks, you’re likely to find yourself vaguely considering if you should go for the chicken or the beef in tonight’s stir-fry.
The game features three difficulty levels, the easiest of which wouldn’t pose a challenge for even the most inexperienced gamer. Each one of the numerous strategic objective you successfully capture turns into a spawn point, giving you no real incentive to stay alive. If you’re bored of blowing up the scenery however, there are a healthy number of in-game achievements you can work towards, from ambushing Nazi convoys to manning anti-aircraft guns and picking planes out of the air.
In a refreshing move, the colours featured aren’t your usual World War 2 browns, dull greens, and tedious shades of beige. Everything is bright, vibrant and almost cartoonish. Sadly though, the graphics fall well below the next gen standard. The sound also falls into the ‘average’ basket, with a listenable soundtrack, and run of the mill sound effects. The voice acting may give you a laugh though, with amusingly overdone German, French and American accents.
As seems to be the trend with 360 titles, the online multiplayer is where the game is potentially redeemed. Pick yourself a respectable logo (disgruntled bunny anyone?) and go head to head against some worthy opponents. You can enjoy a Deathmatch, Destruction or Strategic Victory game, each of which makes for considerably tougher and more exciting gameplay. Beware though – your enemies might be smarter, but the graphics are still average and the weapons don’t get any easier to aim.
Even though The Outfit has a dozen single player missions and plenty of achievements to work towards, the game could have been released 3 years ago, and would still have blended into the mix. Unless this sounds like exactly your cup of tea, do yourself a favour and stick with Worms. The Outfit manages to pass as a reasonably playable game, and might even grow on you, but the same could be said for any number of other unexceptional games.