Release Date: March 13, 2006
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Nazi war machine is storming through Europe in a little skirmish called World War II and it’s up to a crack team of America’s finest to stop them with a ridiculous amount of bullets and explosions! Excited? Well, keep that in check because The Outfit errs more on the side of repetition and mediocrity than it does excitement.
But what exactly is The Outfit that shares its name with that of the game? Well, it’s essentially three Rambo-type muscle men who use a nearly limitless supply of guns, vehicles, and infantry grunts to beat the Nazis back with the subtly of a baseball bat. Each of the three he-men has different weapon load-outs and commands they can give their squads (more on this later). Captain Deuce Williams (voiced by Robert Patrick, who is probably best known for his role in Terminator 2 as the liquid metal assassin T-1000) packs a bazooka that puts a reasonable dent in enemy armor, Sergeant Tommy Mac (voiced by Ron Perlman, of Hellboy and Halo 2 fame) has an SMG and flamethrower for dealing with Nazi infantry, and Lieutenant J.D. Tyler (voiced by TC Carson who also lent his pipes to Kratos in God of War) has a scoped rifle for picking off Nazis from a comfortable distance.
Personal firearms are all well and good, but The Outfit’s trademark Destruction on Demand system is where the real firepower of the unit comes from. A quick tap of the Y button will bring up the DoD radial menu, giving you access to everything from tanks and jeeps to machine gun emplacements and air strikes instantaneously. As long as you have enough field unit points, the requested equipment is instantly air dropped from a passing cargo plane onto the battlefield.
Field unit points can be earned in small amounts for taking out Nazi infantry, but the lion’s share come from destroying enemy armor and capturing strategic objectives. This is done the same way it is in the Battlefield and Star Wars Battlefront series, by just occupying the area around it for a certain period of time. Most strategic objectives serve solely as spawn points, but motor pools, radio towers, and armories can also be forcefully wrested from the German’s grip, and doing so provides access to more advanced vehicles, air strikes, and stronger machine gun emplacements and cannons, respectively.
Additional infantry can also parachute in thanks to Destruction on Demand, and doing so will become second nature to you, because saying that the friendly AI in The Outfit is dumb as dirt is insulting to dirt. It isn’t uncommon to see half of your four-man squad bite the dust almost immediately upon touching down, while the other two are already racking up the Purple Hearts. Each of the three main characters can issue three commands to their squad, with one command exclusive to each of them. J.D.’s vehicle assault command is very effective at dealing with enemy armor (assuming your squad is at least two or three strong) and Tommy Mac’s tear gas command does a fine job of incapacitating enemy infantry so he can close in and light them up with the flamethrower. Now, Deuce got the short end of the stick with his melee command, as it’s more of an involuntary death march than anything else. This wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that the enemy AI is in a different league altogether: in a close quarters skirmish that favors your squad four to one, the enemy will still take two of your guys with him before they finally take him down.
The lopsided AI isn’t the least of the problems in the single player campaign. Most of the levels involve marching down a single path, with the level typically coming to an end when you reach the end. The game will prompt you with objective updates, but on a medium sized, non-HD TV, they’re so hard to read that I found myself having to put my face right up to the screen in order to find out what my next destination was. Eventually, it became clear that this was unnecessary as no matter how they word it, you’re still aiming to capture the strategic objectives. Rinse, lather, and repeat.
Controlling your character on foot is fairly standard of shooters these days and is pretty tight on the whole. Vehicles, however, don’t fare as well in this department. All driving is relegated to the left analog stick, including steering, while aiming the mounted weapons is the right stick’s responsibility. My first gripe is that it’s really easy to turn the mount on a tank in a 180, which provides the illusion that everything’s right as rain, when in reality, forwards is backwards and backwards is forwards. Needless to say, expect to fun yourself into quite a few corners and pay with it with your life and the lives of your squad. The enemy AI strikes again when it comes to aiming, too. The crosshair for tanks isn’t particularly accurate, so you’ll often miss by a large margin on either side of your target, which can mean certain death when you factor in the reload time. Meanwhile, it seems that the entire Nazi army has their collective crosshairs expertly trained on whatever vehicle you and your squad are in, and quickly commence with a deadly barrage. Expect a lot of this in the single player campaign: shoot, miss, die, respawn, shoot, miss again, die, etc. until you gradually take out group of enemy tanks very, very slowly…
The Outfit isn’t a shining example of next-gen graphics; at best, it looks like a really good Xbox title. This would be a little more palatable if everything blew up nice and pretty, but there are a few materials that don’t react the way that they would to real life tank fire, which is a little disappointing. Character models have a G.I. Joe flavor to them, which is to say that they are a little on the cartoonish side and are all pretty buff. Deuce, Tommy, and J.D. have a good amount of detail to them, but Adrienne Leprovost (the team’s contact with the French resistance) looks about as generic as a character model can.
The sound is good overall, with a soundtrack composed of equal parts orchestrated music and driving rock. Everything that can blow up does with a believable sound effect backing it, which are pretty loud by default. The most evident problem with the sound isn’t the fault of the voice actors themselves, but rather in the lines they had to read. If you’re not tired of hearing Tommy Mac let you know that he’s “on it like a sonnet” the first time you hear it, than congratulations, you’re tolerance for horrible dialog is far greater than a normal human being’s.
Everything that’s bad about campaign mode is fixed in multiplayer, thankfully. The AI? Replaced by real people. The maps? Much more lovingly crafted and strategically focused. There are three modes on tap for play via Xbox Live or system link for up to eight players: standard deathmatch, destruction mode (rewards field unit points for blowing up anything and everything and the team with the most wins), and strategic victory where a team must control the majority of the maps strategic objectives so the opposing team loses command points until they reach zero and, well, lose.
Long story short, The Outfit isn’t a particularly good game. If you’re looking for a World War II shooter for the 360, stick with Call of Duty 2, perhaps giving The Outfit a rent for the multiplayer only. With the price tag of games reaching $60, you need to be careful that what you’re buying is worth it. I can safely say that The Outfit isn’t.
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