Exoprimal is a multiplayer team-based hero shooter, twisting PvE and PvP elements together to create a hybrid that’s half Earth Defense Force, half Overwatch. You’re decked out in an Exosuit – think Anthem meets Iron Man and you’re there – with different suits bringing a unique set of skills and weaponry into the sci-fi fray.
And what a fray it is. For reasons that will become clearer as you progress through Exoprimal’s story, you are a test subject for Leviathan, an insane AI that forces you to take part in a series of wargames. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill wargames though, as you’re facing off against huge numbers of dinosaurs, ranging from vicious Velociraptors and hard-headed Pachycephalosaurs to the almighty T-Rex.
Except this isn’t just about facing off against dinos. Leviathan also pits you against a rival team, hoping to take ‘meaningful’ data from your combat exercises. While it’s a good excuse for Exoprimal’s repeated rounds, there’s an interesting time-travelling, dimension-hopping tale to uncover alongside the other members of the Hammerhead crew, even if the Analysis Map – the collected data and cutscene repository – manages to make War and Peace look straightforward. It presents the game’s lore and database in a series of convoluted, non-linear branches, wrapped around a circle where random sections unlock as you progress. It’s unhelpful, and frankly completely unnecessary.
I’ve played Exoprimal a lot. Not just here at launch, but through every beta test and preview period, and its greatest mistake is that at no point has it fully shown its hand, including the first three or four hours of the final release. You and your teammates will undoubtedly be asking “Is this it?” after a couple rounds, and the resounding answer is “No, it’s not,” but I can see people tuning out before they get there. Fifteen hours in and there’s new levels, enemies and modes appearing, and while it makes sense from a narrative point of view, it doesn’t do Exoprimal any real favours as a multiplayer title. There’s so much to enjoy here; rounds are chaotic, competitive and gloriously silly, but you have to grind in the truest sense of the word to get there.
This is where its release into Xbox Game Pass makes a huge amount of sense, with people likely to be more willing to check it out as part of their subscription. Hopefully, that will translate to a strong community and strong word of mouth to get people involved. With cross-play enabled, there’s a good chance that enough people will be online at all times, and there’s plenty of dino-based antics to sink your teeth into. Weirdly, you can’t currently party up with players on other platforms right now, which makes little sense when everyone is logged in with their Capcom ID. This needs sorting as soon as possible to keep the community playing.
The primary mode is Dino Survival, and you’ll come to know its number one mission type within moments – Dinosaur Cull – as you run to an area of the map and despatch the set number of prehistoric creatures you find there in the fastest time possible. You’re racing against the other team here, but you can’t directly interact with them. Each time you complete an area though you find out whether you’re ahead or behind, and you can see the ghostly holograms of the other team as they attempt to do things quicker than you. It’s a horde mode through and through, and with the huge number of enemies you have thrown at you, and the light feedback you have from many of the characters, it feels very much like a Musou game. That might tell you whether or not Exoprimal is for you or not.
Once you’ve completed the first set of objectives, you move to the final round, and for many, many hours this will be Transport the Data Key. It’s a mode we know well via Overwatch, though things are slightly different here. You have to ride your Data Key along rails to its upload space, protecting it from dino attacks along the way… but the enemy team is here as well, trying to do exactly the same thing. You have a choice of tactics here. Do you stay with the cube? It only moves with players in its proximity, and it’s only in the final moments where the two teams come together, often leading to a final showdown that can be a lot of fun. Alternatively, you can seek the other team out. Damaging their cube freezes it in place, and you can hold them back for long enough that you’ll more easily complete the objective.
The wrinkle here is the introduction of the Dominator. This allows one team member to gain control of a large dinosaur, and head over to wreak havoc on the enemy team. If you’ve been behind in the opening section, you’re generally the first to receive it in the final round, and it can make a huge difference to a game’s result. That’s only if you make the most of the opportunity, though. If you’ve played Monster Hunter Rise you’ll recognise Capcom’s creature handling, and its chaotic and slightly obtuse accuracy means that it’s not quite the guaranteed win it might seem to be.
After feedback through the preview period, Capcom have allowed players to choose between PvP or PvE in Exoprimal. While choice is great, it feels as though you’re really missing out without going up directly against a human team, and opting for the PvP route basically means that you have to do the horde mode race twice. However, mixing the two with the third matchmaking option keeps things fresher, and you get the benefit of 1.2x the experience as well.
There are micro-transactions and a season pass, which is always a disappointment in a full-price title, especially when Capcom have proven with Monster Hunter to be one of the best publishers out there for free ongoing support. Exoprimal looks to have some elements of that free support, though, with a Street Fighter 6 tie-in, a Monster Hunter one further down the line, and plenty of Exoprimal variants on the roadmap as well. It’s all about balance though. Progression through player levels, Exosuit levels and the season pass feel just right, with most successful matches bringing some kind of increase or unlock.
Each Exosuit has a full range of specialist customisation, and you can equip them with different Rigs and Modules to tune their handling to fit your personal playstyle. Rigs bring extra weaponry or skills, starting with a powerful cannon, but also offering additional shields, movement and support attributes too.
Modules enhance each Exosuit’s weaponry or skills in a very clear way, adding damage, speeding up reloads or shortening cooldown periods. There’s a bunch of universal Modules that are usable by all of the suits, but as you level up you’ll unlock specific ones for each character. It becomes really engaging, swapping out and setting skills for each suit, but as with everything else in Exoprimal, it takes a few hours to get there.