Outlaws: The western shooter from Lucas Arts in review – game news

No matter whether with Star Wars, Monkey Island or Indiana Jones – Lucas Arts has honestly earned its place of honor in game history. Far from all of its classics, the cult smithy also produced some really strange titles. One of them was Outlaws from 1997: The first-person shooter appeared boldly, whistled with pleasure at the then popular sci-fi worlds and instead kidnapped the player in the wild pixel vests. With success: Outlaws was not a real bestseller and did not lead to a sequel, but it did at least gather a loyal fan base. It also set the stage for later wild west shootings such as Call of Juarez or Gun.







To save his daughter, ex-Marshall James Anderson goes into battle again.



To save his daughter, ex-Marshall James Anderson goes into battle again.

Source: PC games




Outlaws only tells his story through cutscenes, which is rather unusual from today's perspective. Besides shootings, there are no dialogues or other story elements within the levels. As you could expect from Lucas-Arts games from the 90s, the videos were of a fairly high quality for those days: With a mixture of renderings and comic drawings, the developers get atmospheric, colorful films that appear more exciting to the simple plot let it be than it actually is.

In outlaws (buy now for € 20.06) let's play the tough U.S. Marshal James Anderson. The former crook had actually given up his gun to retire to a small farm with his wife Anna and little daughter Sara and live a quiet life. But family happiness doesn't last long: unscrupulous businessman Bob Graham wants to build a railroad through Anderson's country. To enforce his demands, he sends brutal henchmen to intimidate the family. Anna is killed and little Sara falls into the hands of the crooks. Determined to do anything, Anderson takes her trail.






Today, of course, but still unusual at the time: all firearms are reloaded manually. & Nbsp;



Of course today, but still unusual at the time: all firearms are reloaded manually.

Source: PC games










Nice detail: the Marshall ignites dynamite sticks with his cigar.



Nice detail: the Marshall ignites dynamite sticks with his cigar.

Source: PC games




Outlaws consists largely of pure shootings. Revolvers, rifles, shotguns and dynamite sticks, which Anderson ignites coolly on his cigar – this makes the choice of weapons true to style, but even for a western game they are quite thin. After all, thanks to a rifle scope that can be mounted on the repeating rifle, Outlaws is one of the first shooters ever to offer a decent sniper rifle. But the coolest thing is the drum revolver, Anderson's standard ratchet: Right-click it, and it offers a second fire mode in which Anderson strikes back the tap at high speed and blasts out up to six shots in a flash. Unfamiliar at the time: All weapons had to be reloaded manually. However, thanks to Lucas Arts, the reloading animations are too tough, the humming is ready for use again within seconds.

Don't be a fool, Marshal!

They have to, because the levels are packed with completely brainless, but at least sharp-shooting pixel crooks. On the higher levels of difficulty you can hardly take a step without the balls flying around your ears. The action is always accompanied by sayings from the opponents, which are repeated so often that they remain in our memory even after 23 years. "Don't be a fool, Marshal!"or" Where aaaare you, Marshal? "are sentences in which Outlaws players instinctively feel for their cartridge belt. As nice as the Western shootings feel, they remain rather monotonous. This is mainly due to the weapons few types of opponents, because Anderson shoots only the same rogue types until the end. Of course, these are due to the setting, because animal or supernatural enemies would hardly have suited the Wild West, but after a few levels you have seen all types of opponents.






When Outlaws appeared, 3D accelerator cards were already on the rise. Games like Quake 2, Turok and Jedi Knight appeared in the same year and showed what was technically possible.



When Outlaws appeared, 3D accelerator cards were already on the rise. Games like Quake 2, Turok and Jedi Knight appeared in the same year and showed what was technically possible.

Source: PC games




Nine different levels at least somewhat compensate for this blunder: Anderson fights his way through settlements full of saloons and walk-in houses, through mines, gorges and canyons. One section even plays on a moving train, pretty wild for the 90s! However, most of the levels were unnecessarily complex and nested: inconspicuous switches, tiny secret passages and locked doors everywhere make life difficult for the player. Especially in the last missions, it is no shame to take a look at the complete solution. Similar complex levels should also be found in a later Lucas Arts shooter, namely in Star Wars: Jedi Knight – Mysteries of the Sith. No wonder, after all, several people from the Outlaws team had their fingers in the game here too.






Those who make it through the mine level without any help can pat themselves on the shoulder. You can do something!



Those who make it through the mine level without any help can pat themselves on the shoulder. You can do something!

Source: PC games




When 2D was really out







Poor cow! Like all animals and opponents, it only consists of a flat, coarse-pixel 2D graphic.



Poor cow! Like all animals and opponents, it only consists of a flat, coarse-pixel 2D graphic.

Source: PC games




Keyword Jedi Knight: The Outlaws engine is also based on the first (indexed) part of the Star Wars shooter series. It appeared in 1995, however, at a time when 3D graphics made real quantum leaps from year to year. That was a painful sight for Outlaws: When it was released in spring 1997, the Western fun was so technically out of date that many players were looking to go the extra mile. Outlaws still plays quite well thanks to freely assignable controls and a comfortable all-round view, but the graphics deserve their bad reputation: whether opponents, trees or the pitiful horses, all figures and decorative elements are displayed as flat, extremely pixelated 2D objects. In contrast, even Duke Nukem 3D looked like an oil painting. Since no perspective correction is used in Outlaws, the picture looks strangely distorted as soon as you look up or down with the mouse.

The competition was much further ahead: Id Software had demonstrated with Quake a year earlier how modern shooters should look in full 3D graphics. Ironically, Lucas Arts followed suit in the same year: a few months after Outlaws, the studio released Star Wars: Jedi Knight, a box office hit that was graphically fully up to date. At the latest, hardly anyone wanted to know anything about western balling.

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Even if Outlaws lacked graphics power, the atmosphere of the game remains unforgettable. It owes this primarily to its powerful soundtrack, written by Clint Bajakian, who at the time belonged to Lucas Arts' house and court composers with colleagues like Michael Land and Peter McConnell. Bajakian relied on a fully orchestrated score with real instruments, which was still a rarity at the time. Great bonus: The brisk, sometimes wonderfully kitschy western melodies could also be heard in the CD player when the game disc was inserted.

Outlaws wasn't perfect, and the great music can't save that either. But it sent a clear signal that the shooter genre was capable of far more than just staging monster battle plates in dark sci-fi worlds. The fact that the Wild West is a fascinating location for a video game was finally clarified – long before masterpieces like Red Dead Redemption 2.

If you don't know Outlaws or just want to experience it again: Up GOG.com and Steam the retro classic has been available again for a few years, the price is five euros.

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