On paper, at least, Exoprimal should be my jam. As a gamer often seduced by simple bombast, and enamoured by cathartic violence, a game I once described myself as “EDF with velociraptors” should be keeping my PS5 warm for months. Sadly though, having powered through what is a pretty tedious 7-odd hours of shooting things to a chorus of repeated soundbites, I then struggled to keep going to the conclusion of the “story”.
And I put those inverted commas there with full intent, as this is trademark Capcom nonsense. And I’m all for that. I’ve fought my way through a mansion filled with zombies and giant spiders because there was an angry dog outside, I’ve hunted graceful species of megafauna to near extinction for “research”, I’ve done whatever the hell we were doing in Dragon’s Dogma. Capcom stories are my bonkers bread and butter. But Exoprimal is not only difficult to fully grasp, it also never makes you feel there’s much at stake. You just massacre dinosaurs in a perpetual “wargame” simulation that bleeds into the real world across multiple dimensions and… Wait! Look! A T-Rex!
Initially, that’s how Exoprimal feels. It’s all spectacle, all the way down. But that takes a handful of missions to become very normal. Hordes of velociraptors (which games still lean on because they’re cool even though they were actually just big chickens with teeth) plop out of the sky as the AI behind the wargames, Leviathan, transports them through time and ensures there’s not much left for the eventual comet to clean up. Now and then there are Pteranodons, and Triceratops and Pachycephalsaurus (which were vegetarians, by the way), and sometimes, apropos of nothing much, a T-Rex.
Later (much later) there’s more variety, the dinosaurs come in greater number and more than one species at a time like they’re queuing at the bus stop. But it takes so long, and by the time it began to mix it up I didn’t care. It also doesn’t help that when the story takes a turn and the wargame steps up a notch, it’s still kind of randomised. But this is also compounded by the fact that there’s only one mode at present, and it flits between PvE and PvP matches seemingly at random. You can opt for either, but sometimes I’d try to launch into PvP and it would all be bots.
What Exoprimal does very well is the design of the Exosuits. There are plenty available, and only a few need to be unlocked through play, although the Rigs and loadouts, which determine your skills, abilities and weapons, can be increased and upgraded. You can even switch Exosuits mid-match, which is nuts. It means you can start with a DPS class and switch to Support whenever it’s needed. Although I lost several matches when someone swapped out of Witchdoctor into a different Exo and didn’t say anything, leaving us without a healer.
Movement feels fast and fun, the shooting is genuinely cathartic at first, and each suit has a different weight that pulls realistically when you jump, run, or dodge. It makes the initial missions where you’re trying out all the suits incredibly fun, until you eventually find a couple you’ll bounce between. I particularly enjoyed Witchdoctor and Vigilant, and stayed away from the more cumbersome big boys. The melee classes are as effective as the ranged, and there’s enough variety in the weapons and Rigs to develop a Suit a certain way, even if the build economy lacks some nuance.
But it’s hard to argue against Exoprimal because of what it is. We know Capcom by now. We’ve seen what it can do. And this is not Capcom playing by halves; this is a definite and deliberate foray into PvPvE and as such it will certainly grow and evolve. There’s nothing half-arsed here, but it is intentionally focused on one mode and has a bizarre lack of respect for your time. The Seasonal Pass is, of course, present and correct, so while you’re burning through samey missions until you’re seeing two of everything and both of them are dull, you’ll be unlocking cosmetics, skins, decals, emblems and what-have-you. If you’re into that, then it’s there.
Also, people will absolutely have fun with this. It is simple and effective and those with a higher tolerance for repetition will gleefully plug away until the sun comes up and call everyone else weird for not being as into it as they are. That’s fine. That’s live service in a nutshell. But I played several hours of Exoprimal in beta and hoped for more than that in the finished game. I can’t even get invested in the story, because the characters are so generic and the stakes feel non-existent. So instead I’m just shooting dinosaurs over and over while escorting some random McGuffin and an enemy player occasionally appears. Or a T-Rex. And that’s fine for an hour or so. But not for nearly 10.
Exoprimal is fun in short doses, and there’s absolutely a foundation to build on here. Like many live service games, this could be something very special in a few months or even years. But right now it’s going up against games that not only respect your time but which are also trying new things and attempting to push the envelope, instead of just giving you stuff to shoot and a seasonal pass to chip away at. For those who crave some mindless catharsis, Exoprimal is great. For everyone else, maybe not so much.
Shooting is cathartic
Fun with friends
Exosuits are very cool
Action can be very repetetive
Story is nonsense
Environments are a bit bland