Review: Rebel Galaxy Outlaw (PS4)


Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Rebel Galaxy Outlaw
Format: PSN (11.08 GB)
Release Date: September 22, 2020
Publisher: Double Damage Games
Developer: Double Damage Games
Original MSRP: $29.99 (USD)
ESRB Rating: T
A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
One of my first jobs in the gaming industry was working on cinematics for the PC game Freelancer. It was a space shooter/RPG hybrid, where you would travel the galaxy, take on bounties, and, ultimately, save the galaxy. You could buy new ships, upgrade them, or sell them. I remember thinking that it was a very unique game back then, and not just because I was working on it.

Since then, there haven’t been many games like Freelancer. But then, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw comes in and says, “hold my beer.” Yeah, I know “hold my beer” doesn’t apply here. But, the truth is that Rebel Galaxy Outlaw takes the spirit of that Freelancer game and modernizes it twenty years later. Hell, one of the main characters in Freelancer was named Junko, and the lead for Outlaw is Juno.

This is not an insult to Double Damage Games. They chose to emulate a game that was well-received in its time, but whose style has not really been seen on a console.

Sure, we get plenty of space games. In fact, Outlaw is actually the second game in the same universe. A few years ago, I reviewed their previous game, Rebel Galaxy, which was more a capital ship simulator, versus a starfighter adventure. But Outlaw is a love letter to those Wing Commander days.

Double Damage added their own spice and flair to Outlaw by giving it that “Western in Space” vibe, making its personality something more akin to Firefly and less Wing Commander.

You play as Juno, a spacefaring pilot looking for work in all the wrong places. She has a past that’s explored within the main story, but the universe here is vast, so I spent a lot of time grinding side missions in order to earn some cash and upgrade my starter ship. That is to say that, although some of the missions can fall victim to repetitiveness, I made the choice to slow things down and pace myself.

But the map is so large that I spent hours in the Texas system, before finally buying a jump drive so that I could travel to Kansas (system, not state). And that only made up approximately 10% of the entire universe.

Although the bulk of the gameplay is space combat, Outlaw will have you spending a lot of time visiting planets and space stations in order to find work, upgrade your ship, buying and selling commodities, and kicking back in the bars.

Exploration of these areas is not open. Meaning, you click on menus and Juno walks to those locations herself. It’s not free exploration. Even when you land on planets, the game takes over with a cinematic of a landing sequence. If you’ve played Freelancer or Wing Commander, then it’s exactly the same format.

But everything you do on land is made to get you into the stars to shoot bad guys.

Overall, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is a brilliant space sim, with tight controls, RPG-like options like sector scans, ship-to-ship communications, and system diversion (like migrating power to weapons or shields).

This makes combat more complex and engaging, but it also means that you have to pay attention to your systems in a lot of situations, or risk a quick death. I was a little rusty in this area, probably because games have become easier in the last couple of years. So, I had to go into battle with all power to shields, and slowly adjust my systems as the battle developed.

The one issue I have with Outlaw‘s combat is the limited controller options. I realize that a lot of developers test their games with experienced gamers, and that’s how a lot of them develop the placement of their button functions. But Outlaw had me fighting with the controls at times when I should have been paying attention to the battle outside.

For example: almost every space shooter I have played allows you to switch enemy targets with the push of one button; this applies to console and PC. Outlaw requires you to hold the R1 button and then cycle through enemies with the left and right buttons. Your ships can come equipped with tail-gunner pods that allow you to defend your rear by quickly switching to the rear camera. But to do so, you have to tap down and cycle through your exterior view and then back into the rear interior.

During combat, those seconds can mean everything. A single button switch between front and rear camera would have helped immensely here. And for the previous example, simply allowing me to configure my own buttons would have made things menus easier to navigate. Unfortunately, this is not possible, so often I’d have to let go of the left joystick to cycle to the nearest enemy, and I felt vulnerable in those times. Not very fun, but also not a deal breaker, as I found myself enjoying the rest of the game. It’s just a bummer when something that could have been easily fixed with “options” could have solidified my overall enjoyment of this game.

Visuals:
Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is a very attractive game in some areas, and just decent in others. Fortunately, the attractive parts are in space, where the action is – where the gameplay is. The star fields in Outlaw reminded me of the movie The Black Hole. Bright blue stars dot the vastness of space, and the game glows with radiance, much like its predecessor. Ship models look great, both in first-person and third-person modes. Space combat litters the expansive arena with brilliant particle effects that explode across the screen. Exteriors and interiors of the various locations also look great and match the style of the Rebel Galaxy universe.

Once inside the space stations, the graphics are decent. Character models aren’t quite up to par with expectations of modern graphic design, but they also aren’t terrible. Animation is also just acceptable. There is a lot of conversation that takes place in this game, so having something better to look at could have helped. As it is, it’s just nice to have a game that allows you to see your character in the first place. So, I’ll forgive it not looking its best.

Audio:
Outlaw has a lot of personality. The biggest tell-tale sign of its Grungy Western theme comes from its sound and language. Voice acting sells this, despite it sounding a bit underperformed.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
It’s a pretty barren landscape for space shooter fans, particularly on console. Rebel Galaxy Outlaw fills that gap very nicely, but it’s not without flaws. Easily forgiven are the less-than-spectacular cinematics. They move the story along and do a decent enough job. But not giving players the option to customize their controls, in a game that requires so many button presses, hampers gameplay. But, it doesn’t break it. And, overall, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is a blast across the board. But, I found myself forcing enjoyment during the difficult times, knowing full well that if I could just change those two buttons, I’d be having more fun.

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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