Exoprimal review

Play Capcom’s fast-paced dino blasting online shooter for just an hour or so, and you’ll start to notice similarities with the Japanese giant’s previous works, most of which contribute to its existence. The obvious example is the celebrated Dino Crisis, but in truth, it owes its creation to Capcom’s other dino wrangling series – Monster Hunter. There are elements of Dragon’s Dogma, and even Lost Planet II, here as well – combat is crunchy and visceral, being a mixture of wide sword slashes, grenade barrages, whirling mini-guns, swirling tornados, and more.

There’s an outside influence too, and it’s one you may not expect. Elements of the almighty Overwatch help strengthen the game’s backbone, with 5v5 team-based wargames the order of the day. It’s vital to play with mixed teams that have at least one healer (support) and tank class, and every character has a lengthy list of skins to unlock – some rather eccentric. This, in turn, allows for a sideline of silliness.

Exoprimal Xbox screenshot

The big difference, of course, is the focus on dinosaurs. The story takes place in the future where a rogue AI known as Leviathan – fixated on garnering combat data – has transported dinosaurs to the present via time dilation portal technology. To combat these threats, Exosuits were created, housing battle-hardened soldiers determined to triangulate Leviathan’s location. Oddly, the game commences with an in-depth character creator, yet around 99% of playtime is spent inside an Exosuit – the only time your character is on display is during end result screens or when changing suits mid-battle.

Leviathan’s thirst for data involves playing 5v5 wargames, each lasting 10-15 minutes. PvP combat takes a backseat – much of a battle sees your team blasting waves of dinosaurs while completing objectives. The opposition merely exists as red silhouettes at this point – you’re unable to engage directly until the final mission. The quicker objectives are completed – which also entail a dash from one battle area to the next – the sooner the final mission can be reached, giving a head start. This initially involves an Overwatch style ‘payload escort’ mission, with ‘capture the uplink’ missions coming into play later. It’s only here that the opposition can be confronted and killed, with each respawn costing precious time.

Exoprimal Xbox screenshot

It’s also towards a battle’s end that a larger dinosaur can be put under your control. At a key point, seemingly based on how well or poorly your team is performing, Leviathan will drop a tool onto the battlefield that summons a dinosaur, with their attacks being a mixture of tail whips, slams, and claw swipes. Only one player per team can obtain the said tool, and if used proficiently, it can turn the tide.  

Again, borrowing from Overwatch, every character has an ‘ultimate’ skill that takes so long to charge that it can usually only be used once or twice per battle.

Undeniably, the focus is on speed. This is where Exoprimal excels. It throws you straight into the action, with dozens upon dozens of dinosaurs literally poured onto the ruined city streets, while the narrator encourages you to kill quicker and frantically dash to the next objective. Once a certain number of dinos have been killed, you’re onto the next objective – no mopping up stragglers here. It’s during confrontations with bullet absorbing triceratops and t-rex that time can lapse quickly if you don’t work as a team. Too many respawns can also see your team lag.

Exoprimal Xbox screenshot

The game engine copes with the carnage incredibly well. It runs like a greased velociraptor, even when the screen is a blur of explosions, hordes of dinosaurs, and players performing outlandish attacks – which is almost always. Even when teams are going at it with two t-rex, the framerate never faulters.

A generous amount of Exosuits are available from the outset, allowing for heady experimentation. These include a trio of melee and ranged attackers, a tank with a mini-gun and a pugilist carrying a large rectangular plasma shield, and healers that either fly or glide. Three other exosuits can be added to the roster by reaching certain experience levels, or they can be acquired instantly with an IAP. The in-game currency flows surprisingly freely, used to improve modifications that alter cooldown and reload speeds, et al, along with weapon and character skins. Reaching certain levels bestows a war chest, and I was often surprised by how regularly they contained legendary skins.

Exoprimal Xbox screenshot

In addition to modifications, a single skill can be selected – with the defaults being a cannon that takes a few seconds to charge, and a catapult that flings your character through the air. The cannon seems to be the ‘go-to’ as it’s powerful enough to take down most opponents in one shot, meaning even a healer can go toe-to-toe with an attacker if they have this skill equipped. Outside of this, every Exosuit has their own range of abilities on cooldowns. The assortment is well-thought out, being a mix of evasive manoeuvres and wide-ranging attacks. Moreover, they’re entertaining to use – an attacker can send a dozen dinos airborne at once, while one of the tanks has a mini-gun that can churn through an entire horde of raptors in seconds.

Despite being available for PS4 and Xbox One, Exoprimal does have a slight next-gen feel. This isn’t so much because of its good looks and breakneck pace, but because there’s a lot of magic going on behind the scenes. This mostly takes place during matchmaking, placing you with players of similar skill levels who’ve advanced through a chunk of the story – told with cut-scenes and data logs upon hitting milestones. Initially, for instance, Leviathan will swarm the battlefields with raptors. After a while, these are then replaced with more formidable and ferocious foes. New battle locations are also introduced on a drip feed, replacing city streets with canyons and facilities, and story missions are also woven in. A t-rex encounter is teased early on, requiring a few hours of play to see firsthand.

Exoprimal Xbox screenshot

But there is an elephant in the room – or woolly mammoth, if you prefer. Exoprimal’s eagerness to please comes at a cost – it’s far from being a cerebral experience. The only skills required are an itchy trigger finger and a willingness to switch classes when demand calls for it. Things do become a tad more tactical when PvP comes into play during a battle’s end, but even then, the game’s reliance on over-powered attacks to create a spectacle means that most confrontations boil down to players using the most destructive attacks in their arsenal to notch up kills. Likewise, there’s skill in keeping a player-controlled dinosaur alive and using it to cause as much chaos as possible in the limited time it’s available, but this still isn’t something that takes long to master. For those invested until the end game, things become more PvP orientated, with more PvE modes planned.

Exoprimal is the video game equivalent of being spoon fed children’s breakfast cereal – it’s colourful, crunchy, moreish, and sometimes you get a free dinosaur to play with – but once you’ve gorged yourself on it for a while, you’ll likely be left wishing for something more balanced and substantial.

Capcom’s Exoprimal is available now on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, and PC.

SCORE
7