We all have weaknesses videogames exploit to make us love them in spite of any obvious faults. It turns out that one of mine is watching 100 raptors fall out of a portal in the sky, then shooting them with a machine gun. I guess that makes Exoprimal an educational videogame?
Exoprimal is a deeply strange game, and somehow the dinosaurs falling from the sky are the most normal thing about it. The story seems like it's headed for a Jurassic Park setup, with your team of special forces operatives heading to an island where some sort of disaster's taken place. But instead of landing, finding a bunch of dinosaurs, and then killing them, you first go through an interdimensional time portal controlled by a rogue AI, and then you compete in a Hunger Games-style contest against alternate universe versions of yourself for the AI's amusement. That's where the dinosaur killing comes in.
It's such an unnecessary twist on what would've been a perfectly fine premise—go to island, shoot lots of dinosaurs—that I respect the swerve. The exosuits are Capcom's take on a Japanese tokusatsu series like Power Rangers, simultaneously cheesy, ostentatious and badass. There's a wider variety of them than I expected, broken out into assault, support, and tank classes.
Exoprimal is mostly geared towards co-op, so you'll experience the story in cutscenes slightly awkwardly stuffed between multiplayer matches. Those matches are, again, strange: for the first ⅔ of each you're exclusively in co-op blasting dinosaurs, and then in the last third of the match you go head-to-head with a competing team in some kind of Overwatch-style objective like pushing the payload. As in Overwatch you can swap suits at any time, which became an important part of my team's strategy. We'd start out all-in on assault to chew through dinos as fast as possible, then make sure to throw in a tank and healer for PvP.
Exoprimal doesn't quite fit any of the usual buckets we put multiplayer games in, but I think that's a clever move on Capcom's part. It gives you the chill co-op solidarity of playing with your friends, with a bit of adrenaline at the end when you go up against another team.
The race to complete co-op objectives for the majority of the match feels strangely isolated, though—every time you kill a wave of attacking dinos, the AI will inform you whether you're going faster or slower than the other human team. I feel like I have no way to react to this information other than feeling a bit smug or panicked that the other team will have a time advantage when we reach the finale. Perhaps Exoprimal was saving surprises for later, but it needs some way to affect the other team in the first part of a match—give me a portal gun that lets me send a T-Rex across dimensions to grief the other team, or something.
As unconventional as these parts of Exoprimal are, its meta progression is the exact opposite. It's lifted straight from the generic F2P game handbook, including loot boxes with cosmetic drops and a battle pass. It's not the best fit for a $60 game, and feels out of step with how people spend money on games right now, and how odd (I say that endearingly) Exoprimal otherwise is.
I also wonder whether Capcom's recent announcement that players can choose to queue up for only PvP or only PvE matches will dull the impact of its unorthodox structure. I think it's for the best, though—expectations for a co-op romp where you shoot 73 dinosaurs per minute are very different than they are for balanced, competitive shooters. Exoprimal is probably better poised to deliver on the former.
If you took out the cookie cutter monetization, Exoprimal would look like a game spawned from Capcom's prime experimental period in the early 2000s. I don't know if this odd mix of PvE and PvP is going to hook most players, but tossing a grenade into a pile of dinosaurs is, at least for a few hours, a real good time.
Exoprimal's out on Steam and Game Pass on July 14.