Outriders looks like a cover shooter, but the cover isn’t for you

The opponents in Outriders were eliminating me after just a few seconds in every fight, and I couldn’t find out what I was doing incorrect up until a pal offered me some sage guidance: The cover in Outriders is for the bad people, not you.

Concealing behind cover, no matter how natural it feels, is often the incorrect thing to do in Outriders. So what do you require to do rather if you wish to survive long enough to deal some genuine damage?

Heal yourself, the only way the game lets you: By killing your enemies, not hiding from them.

Outriders’ healing system is based on killing, not hiding

Outriders is a pastiche of so many other AAA games that it’s easy to think it’ll play like them. Each battlefield appears to be designed to keep players moving from cover to cover, firing only when given the opportunity, taking real estate back from the enemy a few feet at a time. So much of the game’s visual language seems to indicate that this is the correct way to play, but don’t be misled.

A character in Outriders catches bullets with a force field

There are ways to defend yourself that don’t require cover, and are much more effective
Image: People Can Fly/Square Enix

It was a hard lesson to learn. Just about every other third-person shooter in the past decade was informed by the cover system from Gears of War. As players, we’ve almost been brainwashed into thinking the default gameplay loop is to find a battle, find cover, take out everyone you can, move forward to the next piece of cover, and repeat that process until you’re victorious. Outriders even looks like a cross between Gears of War and The Division, two series that assume you’ll be behind cover during most of your skirmishes. That just didn’t feel right for Outriders, according to the development team.

“We investigated different methods of healing like pickups, or special finishers, but we found that making most classes have to simply kill enemies worked best,” wrote Bartek Kmita, director of Outriders, in a recent blog post. “It forces players to get aggressive, use all of their toolbox, and dive into the heart of the fight, which is where Outriders’ combat really shines.”

It’s a system similar to what we saw in the last Doom games, where being unrelentingly aggressive was the only way to keep your health as full as possible.

I play Outriders as a Devastator, the game’s tank class, which means I heal myself by killing enemies that are physically close to me. I have an ability that turns me into a floating collection of rocks so I can choose where to fly, put myself back together, and attack. Ideally I’m killing at least one bad guy while also putting myself into a better position on the battlefield.

But if I warp into a swarm of enemies, I better have a plan to soak the damage the rest of the enemy forces will send my way, while destroying enough of them that my health is always topped off. If I can’t manage that, then I better have a clear path for escape.

The game wants me to be in the thick of battle, where I have to know how to use each of my weapons, abilities, and the strengths of my teammates to make split-second decisions and survive. The luxury of taking a breath while crouched behind a barricade as I heal has been taken away completely, and the game’s director was right: If I don’t know how to use all the tools in my toolbox, I’m toast.

It felt horrible at first, because I kept assuming the amount of damage I was taking meant I was being careless. But it doesn’t matter how often enemies hit you, as long as you hit them harder, and enough of them die that your health is continually replenished. Early in the game, I kept feeling like I was getting whipped pretty badly, only to realize after a few minutes that they were all dead, and I was still standing with full health.

As long as you can kill a certain number of enemies as they pour their own bullets and attacks into you, you can stay there forever. If you find your health falling so far you get uncomfortable, try to always have an ability ready that will kill at least one enemy so you can stay alive, or give you the chance to get the hell out of there.

Each of the game’s four classes handles healing a little differently, but each system is meant to put that character exactly where they require to be on the battlefield to get the most out of their abilities and help their teammates.

A character in Outriders stands in front of explosion

The best way to remain alive is to learn how to do the right kinds of damage at the right time
Image: People Can Fly/Square Enix

The Trickster class, for example, uses hit-and-run tactics to surprise enemies, take them out, and move out of position before anyone can fight back. Killing enemies with these tactics also refills some of the Trickster’s shields as well as their health, which is a good thing due to the class’ lower overall health and lack of bonus armor. They have to stay mobile, hit hard, and then get out, because they won’t survive any other method. The healing system for each class, as well as its abilities and attributes, tells you how they’re best played.

I still use cover, every so often, but I don’t actively look for it most of the time, and there are better ways to keep myself safe. So always remember: The cover is for the opponents, because they need to hide from you. It’s your job to stay alive by doing what you do best, which is tearing apart anyone that comes in your method.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.