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Star Wars Outlaws might be a little too close to Uncharted for its own good

A character shoots stormtroopers in Star Wars Outlaws.
Summer Gaming Marathon Feature Image
This story is part of our Summer Gaming Marathon series.

The Star Wars video game universe is expanding once again. Set to release on August 30, Star Wars Outlaws is Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment’s take on a new type of Star Wars game. It’s a traditional Ubisoft open-world game with shades of Uncharted layered in between its sci-fi action. More crucially, it’s telling a fully unique story in the Star Wars universe. It’s clear where its inspirations draw from for better, and certainly, for worse.

Set between the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Outlaws follows main protagonist Kay Vess, an outlaw scoundrel embarking on a series of quests to make it in this cutthroat galaxy. It’s a strong concept, letting players live out their lives as more of a Han Solo figure instead of a Jedi. But after a recent hands-on demo with Outlaws, I’m not sure that the potential is paying off just yet.

Not-so-uncharted territory

Clearly drawing inspiration from the Uncharted video game series with its climbing, gunplay, and quippy characters, Outlaws feels a bit like a relic of the past. Granted, it’s hard to get a sense of a game like this in one sitting. This could just be a difficult game to show a small vertical slice of when the bigger picture could be more interesting. However, the three sections I played left me wanting more.

The first section saw Kay and her trusty alien companion Nix working their way through a broken-down reactor. I walked from room to room as the floor fell out from under me. Yellow grates showed me where to climb, and I slowly made my way to the bottom of a massive hole to turn the generator back on. After turning it on, Kay remarked that she would need to climb back up to get what she came here for. After more climbing, I finally reach the room, go to grab the mysterious item needed, and two guards bust down the door, entering me into a stealth section.

A character stands in a wide open area in Star Wars Outlaws.

As I crept around corners, hitting X to knock the guards out, I couldn’t help but feel like Outlaws felt a bit antiquated. I’ve done and seen missions like this countless times before, but this time it has a new shiny Star Wars skin on it. It all culminated in a climactic chase through the areas I just traversed with the walls crumbling around me, narrowly escaping death each time. I hopped on a speeder bike, and the demo faded to black. It was a fine but muted start.

The other two demos focused a bit more on combat, which has Kay switching between the two modes on her blaster. The ion shot lets you overheat droids and open switches, while the standard module is your typical red laser used to decimate anything in front of you. You’ll be able to customize and upgrade your blaster throughout the game, but I didn’t see much of that in the preview.

Outlaws focuses a lot on stealth, but I never felt I had enough tools to succeed in the situation. One wrong move, and the rest of the level became a firefight through small arenas. I usually had to take cover, shoot my blaster, and work my way through the old-fashioned way.

There’s still hope

Where Outlaws shines is in its cities, towns, and villages. While I only got a glimpse of the larger world it looks to portray, each area I saw was bustling with street vendors, alien races, and the general vibes that make Star Wars so popular. It’s hard to capture the essence of the bigger picture in a demo, but I think Outlaws could go above and beyond. Telling the story of a scoundrel trying to make it instead of a larger-than-life Jedi lets the story breathe and not have to fit into the grander narrative of affecting the canon.

A ship flies through space in Star Wars Outlaws.

The final section of my demo showed off some of the space combat and gave me a better sense of the scale Massive Entertainment is looking at. There wasn’t a loading screen between outer space and the planet’s surface, and that’s an impressive feat. Sure, some foggy weather was used to cleverly mask a load, but it didn’t hard cut or break the sense of throwing on your ship’s boosters and coming in hot onto the surface. I had multiple options for where I could land, showing that a planet doesn’t just feature one location, but a collection of many.

Despite having reservations about its disappointingly safe action-adventure formula, I walked out of my demo with some hope. I’m optimistic that Star Wars Outlaws can cut through a sea of media with a more intimate story, rather than another grand adventure with enormous stakes. If it can keep that momentum up, I imagine I’ll have an easier time trudging through any rough patches.

Star Wars Outlaws launches on August 30 on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

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Jesse Vitelli
Jesse is a freelance journalist who can often be found playing the critically acclaimed MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV. In his…
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