Exoprimal is a cool word. It’s one of those words that evokes certain concepts while simultaneously being, in fairness, gibberish. For a game about strapping on a robotic Exosuit to smash dinosaurs into the concrete, it’s about as apt as humanly possible. It’s also a pretty cool game, in so far as it has more outward swagger than the entire Kardashian family combined. Perhaps fittingly, it’s also both very pretty and not all that deep.
You play as a soldier who everyone calls “Ace” whose job it is to travel through interdimensional portals to battle against an omnipotent AI that’s taken over the world. And you do this primarily by wiping out literal hordes of dinosaurs with extreme prejudice. Even if you spend time analysing the plot, it’s a flimsy concept at best. You and your team of generic mercenaries tick every single box on the video game team checklist.
There’s the grizzled old leader who used to the the best, the tough (read: needlessly rude and perpetually pissed off) female badass, the British-accented tech nerd who will no doubt somehow bond with female badass, a robotic AI maid (yeah, okay, that one is lesser seen), and you: unbeatable superstar who’s amazing at everything and constantly saves the day but who everyone will treat like a moron for no good reason. It’s basic, but it works. There are also additional characters, such as alternate versions of the team and a guy whose accent may possibly be Australian who turns up now and then when you need to be rescued or mansplained at.
Facetious analysis aside, there is a level of intrigue in Exoprimal’s campaign. It’s a mad concept, for sure, but it does throw up a lot of questions and create a compelling enough mystery – particularly concerning the fates of the alternate universe versions of the team. But still, the story is in service to the gameplay here, and really only exists as a shaky framework to rest all these giant dinosaur balls on. Because when you’re summoning a T-Rex through an interdimensional portal to wreak havoc downtown, you won’t care why you’re doing it.
When deployed into the field you’ll be in a huge Exosuit, of which there are currently around a dozen. They fill in team roles like Assault, Support, and Tank, and you can switch between all the ones you have unlocked at a moment’s notice, allowing you to mix and match tactics with the other members of your team. The AI is sufficient to get the job done, but you’ll have a much, much better time playing with friends or even strangers.
Your job in most cases is to smash, blast, and cut your way through hordes of dinosaurs dropped in by the AI overlord. It was originally a training program, now repurposed to wreak havoc and prevent you from completing your objectives. You’ll often face off against another team (imagined as an alternate version of your squad) to complete those objectives faster.
Obviously, this makes absolutely no sense. There is only one “you” on your team, so I don’t know where the other Exosuits are even coming from, but it doesn’t matter. Exoprimal is balls-to-the-wall mayhem and it leans so heavily into it that it simply never feels weird to be launching rockets at a stampeding triceratops. There so much going on during each encounter that tactical thinking is for nerds and the minute you get the option to deploy a motherfucking T-Rex you will do it without question or conscious thought.
There’s a lot of variety between each suit, and they can be customised further with skins, paint jobs and decals in the hangar. How they play makes a massive difference though. The primary Exosuit is probably my favourite, though, as it just presents a solid mix of offensive functions with a decent level of defence and maneuverability. Other exoframes provide various star spreads but wildly differing weapon and ability loadouts. There’s one with a sword, for example, another that can fly.
The whole thing heavily evokes the latter entries in the Earth Defence Force, only instead of giant ants it’s velociraptors. Even playing multiple rounds with multiple different suits, I was always left a little shell-shocked at just how wilfully chaotic Exoprimal is. For some reason, each suit has a different AI personality, with different genders and voices. I don’t know why this is, unless it’s just to help cater to the hero shooter crowd. It’s not a problem, just a weird thing worth pointing out.
Exoprimal is great fun though. And it kind of has to be, because it’s about as deep as a bowl of soup so far. Yes you can swap out suits and change loadouts, but it throws a T-Rex at you in the first mission and from then on does little to try to really wow you beyond that. It’s having the cake before the party and then just kind of hanging around to see if there’s more cake later. And then there is, but it’s the same as the first cake and you’ve got to eat it anyway while pretending to be grateful. Yeah I lost the thread of that one a bit, too.
Ultimately, this is Capcom’s answer to the live service model and as such, it’s probably going to do fine. Capcom will support it with content and season passes, and if you disengage your logic motors there’s a damn fun experience to be had (though of course the build we played is not final, and balance changes could happen between now and launch). The accents are pretty awful all round and there’s no point in trying to make it all make sense. Exoprimal is simply chaotic, cathartic fun, of a kind that we just don’t get much anymore, and I’m excited to see more of it when it launches.
Exoprimal is coming to PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S|X on July 14th, 2023.