Star Wars Outlaws preview – An atmospheric jaunt with Uncharted vibes


Star Wars Outlaws isn’t quite what you might expect – it’s moody, engaging, and has a touch of Uncharted energy.

When Star Wars Outlaws was announced last year, I made pretty quick assumptions about what it was going to be, and how it would feel. It’s easy to be cynical – Ubisoft famously hit upon a winning open-world sandbox formula in the early twenty-teens and consciously chose to use it as the foundational design framework for all of their big, mature properties since.

But after having played an hour of Star Wars Outlaws, I’m pleased to report it’s not the Star Wars-skinned Assassin’s Creed I expected – it’s more of a Star Wars-skinned Uncharted.

The preview session for the game featured three chunks of gameplay: ‘The Wreck’ saw us take protagonist Kay Vess and her companion critter Nix through a crashed starship in search of a nav computer; ‘False Flag’ had Vess sneaking or fighting her way back to the hangar of an Imperial starship to escape aboard her ship; and ‘The Relic’ saw Vess visit the snowy planet Kijimi from Rise of Skywalker, on a quest to steal an artefact from a crime syndicate. 

Image: Ubisoft

Kay Vess is every bit a Star Wars-ian smuggler and scoundrel. She can sneak, but she isn’t especially stealthy. She can shoot, but she isn’t a lethal gunslinger. In practice, each approach to an enemy encounter doesn’t feel as precise as it might in Assassin’s Creed or The Division respectively, but it shouldn’t anyway.

Dealing with enemies reminded me again of Uncharted. I’d command Nix to distract a stormtrooper, then while trying to sneak up and knock him out with a surprise punch to the jaw, I’d botch it and end up in a frantic shootout with every guard in the room.

With how much Han Solo was in Nathan Drake, as a character, this all felt perfectly appropriate. Given Ubisoft’s general penchant for allowing player freedom, I was a little disappointed that the option to sneak or fight didn’t quite extend as far as it could, though.

When attempting to steal the titular relic on Kijimi, I again botched an attempt to sneakily clear the room of guards. My instinct was to attempt to simply snatch the macguffin and run, but it refused to allow me to interact with it until I was no longer in combat. Oh well!

While ‘The Relic’ played out like a daring robbery, delving into the ‘The Wreck’s massive derelict ship showcased the other side of Outlaws’ Uncharted-esque inspiration. 

The platforming, climbing, and lite-puzzle solving you encounter as you journey through the linear environment all felt perfectly good, if unremarkable. The environment of the ship itself did stand out as being wonderfully atmospheric and moody, at least.

‘False Flag’ was the only one of the three demo sequences that disappointed me. Fighting through the Imperial ship was fine, though it’s hard to be wowed by such a sequence given how many times I’ve done it in a video game over the last 30 years. It was the experience of flying and dogfighting in Vess’ ship that bummed me out most.

Vess’s ship isn’t a starfighter, it’s a small cargo hauler. As such, while I didn’t expect it to feel like an X-Wing, I didn’t expect it to feel as stodgy as it does either. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are further upgrades for it later, but for now it felt much more like driving the Eagle 5 from Spaceballs than any kind of Star Wars ship. I couldn’t find an option for an in-cockpit view while flying either, which was a further bummer.

Image: Ubisoft

Star Wars Outlaws is more than just flying through the galaxy

In between all of this, we were given brief tastes of Star Wars Outlaws’ cities and off-mission activities – though we were restricted to specific environments within the confines of the preview.

I was given the smallest tease of a crime syndicate faction system when I tried to walk past some guards, and a warning popped up on screen that my reputation with them was too low to be allowed through without a fight.

Speaking of fights, you can’t just start them willy-nilly while in settlements – which I suspect is as much a condition of the Star Wars license as it is a creative decision of Ubisoft. Wildly shooting in a civilian-packed area certainly has less than family-friendly optics, even if you’re vaguely aiming in the direction of stormtroopers.

One thing that did stand out to me through all of my time with Star Wars Outlaws was the general lack of alien languages. Many more non-human characters spoke in perfect English than I felt was befitting for the galaxy far, far away, but hey, maybe that was just representative of the small cross-section of the game we were playing.

I left the session feeling optimistic and excited to spend more time in Vess’s shoes. No part of Star Wars Outlaws really blew me away, but I strongly suspect that it will end up giving a better impression than the sum of its parts when able to be viewed as a whole. 

Star Wars Outlaws is scheduled to release on 30 August 2024 for Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, PC, and Amazon Luna.

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By Jam Walker 11 June 2024


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