Ah, Outlaws. I cruise a lot of gaming forums and I often see people expressing he opinion that developers should just go back and do hi-res remakes of old games. If I were going to make that wish then the game I’d want them to start with is Outlaws, because it sorely needs it. Other popular choices, like Deus Ex or Thief, are still perfectly playable today. Outlaws is not.

In fact, it never was. It always looked terrible, even back when it was released in 1997. Or, parts of it anyway – it’s never clear-cut with Outlaws. To clarify, the actual game looked worse than an angry mother in law, but the cutscenes were beautiful thanks to being hand-drawn.

Back then though, graphics didn’t matter that much and Outlaws had three very important things going for it. First, it was a cowboy game. Second, it was made by LucasArts back when they still made really good games. Thirdly, it was a cowboy game.

I really like cowboy games.
Games I Own: Outlaws
The interface was great despite forcing you to reload guns manually, bullet by bullet

Outlaws however was not an easy game to like, even beyond the fact that it uses terrible, sprite-y graphics and had no mouselook. It had an awkward, meandering structure that was based on the very worst staples of FPS design – spending two hours searching abandoned houses to find the only shovel in town, for example. It also often required you to kill every single enemy in the level too, including ones who had wonky AI and had backed into a corner.

In some places though, Outlaws shone beautifully. The levels, though blocky and crude, oozed character as if they had some sort of narrative illness. Excluding the mine and canyon levels, the missions were universally excellent. The story too was brilliantly and movingly told.

And the music; oh God, the music. It was fabulous, proper cowboy stuff that sounded like it was really being played by a tawny-toothed gunslinger at a honky-tonk piano. You should definitely download the soundtrack.

One other thing I especially liked about Outlaws was the Handful of Missions expansion pack too. The original game cast players as a retired Marshall who went on a vengeful rampage against some people that kidnapped his daughter and killed his wife in an attempt to get his farm. It was moody and brilliant, but the story had a definite end and it wouldn’t really have fit for an expansion to continue beyond that finale.

Games I Own: Outlaws
Zooming in doesn't make the game look any better

So, the Handful pack was a series of flashback missions instead. You’d go around trying to catch a number of vicious criminals, bringing them back dead or alive. You could approach each task however and in whatever order you liked, based out of your county jail. While it was only a bit different from other games of the time, I still remember really enjoying it – so much in fact that it really annoys me that there isn’t a decent looking remake, even a fan-made one, in the works. I don’t think of myself as someone who is bothered by appearances too much and I’ll cope with a lot in the name of good gameplay and story, but Outlaws is unfortunately a bit too dated for me to bear in this day and age.

Random Trivia: Outlaws is filled with easter eggs. Not only does Max (of Sam & Max) make a few secretive appearances, but there are references to Monkey Island too. An early level features a funeral home with a familiar owner, for example – “Stan’s Previously Owned Coffins”.

Number of times completed: Once or twice for the main game, three or four for the expansion.
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October 14 2021 | 15:04